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Just because David S. Goyer is currently hard at work on DC Entertainment properties in both film (Batman V. Superman) and television (Constantine) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any opinions about Marvel characters — even though many fans of Marvel may wish differently.
During an appearance on screenwriter John August’s Scriptnotes podcast alongside Andrea Berloff, Craig Mazin and Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Goyer talked about his theory about the character She-Hulk.
“So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy,” he said. “It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids who were getting the shit kicked out of them every day…. And so then they created She-Hulk, right? Who was still smart, so it was like, I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could f— if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying?… She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk, then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could f—.”
(Goyer isn’t alone in this take on the character; Mazin said that her “real” name was “Slut-Hulk,” adding that the “whole point” was to make a character with “enormous boobs [who is] Hulk strong, but not Hulk massive.”)
Reaction to the comments has not been kind; at the Mary Sue, Alan Kistler misunderstood Goyer’s remarks to mean that the character had been literally created as a sex object for the Hulk, as opposed to a sex object extension of the Hulk fantasy for the reader, complaining that “She-Hulk is not portrayed as the only woman the Hulk can have sex with because first and foremost, they’re cousins, and the Hulk has had several romantic interests in the comics,” adding “it’s an extremely offensive thing to say about a female character.”
On social media, response was equally dismissive. “If it’s any comfort, Goyer has ALWAYS hated us and all that we enjoy,” one tweet read. “Those comments about She-Hulk reveal some pretty deeply rooted misogyny on the part of Goyer, huh?” went another.
Think pieces have already appeared in response, claiming She-Hulk as a feminist hero, which, while true of her current incarnation, glosses over the origins of the character as much as Goyer does. The truth is, as stated multiple times in interviews, Stan Lee and John Buscema created She-Hulk neither as sex object nor feminist icon, but simply as a way to secure the rights to the concept in fear that the 1970s TV series The Incredible Hulk would launch a female spinoff, a la the then-contemporary The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.
The original Savage She-Hulk series from 1980 was certainly guilty of much of what Goyer and Mazin accuse the character of being: Unlike her male counterpart, She-Hulk didn’t transform into something with freakish proportions, nor lose her intellect and become a rampaging monster. Instead, she became a taller, more sexually aggressive, attractive woman who just happened to be green.
The She-Hulk that fans appreciate — the sarcastic, intelligent, self-assured character worthy of the praise she’s getting in response to Goyer’s comments — didn’t happen until years after her debut, thanks in large part to the writing of Roger Stern in Mighty Avengers and John Byrne in Fantastic Four. (Other writers who deserve praise include Dan Slott and Charles Soule, both of whom have written the character’s solo title in recent years.)
That She-Hulk is worth celebrating today doesn’t mean that Goyer’s theory of her roots is entirely off base, or that he should be vilified for sharing it. Instead, it suggests that She-Hulk has grown past whatever base origins — sex object or copyright-securing object — to become something that means so much to so many, and inspires such passion in fans. It could be worse; she could be Spider-Woman.
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