Thursday, April 8, 2010

Supports, Lifts and Separates

The supporting characters are the staples that hold a comic book together. Or the glue, if you've got a trade paperback. Either way, a tribute now to the little people who've made She-Hulk the perpetually-on-the-verge-of-cancellation superheroine she is today.

Back in 'Savage She-Hulk' in the 1980's David Kraft designed a tepid love triangle when the newly hulkified lady simultaneously dated the card-carrying creep with the unfortunate moustache, 'Zapper' Ridge, and the self-loathing filthy hippie Richard Rory. Yeesh. Archie Andrews gets Betty and Veronica, and Jen had Zap and Rory? She made the right choice in the end: leave L.A. for New York and forget she ever met them.

Morris Walters and Louise Mason were supporting cast in 'Savage She-Hulk' and 'Sensational She-Hulk' respectively. Morris was the trigger-happy Sheriff Daddy who gets his exercise jumping to conclusions and hunting the green monster he thinks killed his daughter. Perfectly sensible, if you want She-Hulk to have a General Ross analogue chasing her so she can pointlessly do everything her famous cousin has done. Weezi was the former golden-age masked heroine Blonde Phantom, plucked from obscurity by Byrne and re-imagined as a silver-haired Angela Lansbury-style mentor who wanted to be Jen's sidekick and thus cheat death by becoming a comic book character again. Moe brought drama and pathos, Weezi brought comic relief and staggering concepts about the nature of faked reality. They were married off and vanished together once more from She-Hulk's life. For better or for worse.

Shulkie's time in the 'Avengers' cemented a fast friendship with Janet Van Dyne, the Wonderful Wasp, crying out for a super gal-pal since the early sixties. More so at that time, fresh out of the worst break-up in Marvel history. (Unless you retroactively count Gwen Stacey and Norman Osborn. Yeeeurgh!) Janny and Jenny, tall and small, on the loose in a mansion full of hunks to rate and date. Best friend Jan is dead now, of course. Dead as a comic book doornail. Expect her return from the grave in 2012.

'Secret Wars' gave us Titania, and 'She-Hulk' gave us Mallory Book. An arch-foe for work, and an arch-foe for play. Great characters, at least once Dan Slott wrote a backstory for Skeeter with some heart in it.

Howard the Duck and Awesome Andy- She-Hulk's soul siblings in funny book exile. Tough as nails on the outside, mushy romantics on the inside, oddball cult favorites who gravitate to the odd girl out.

'Fantastic Four' gave Jen a replacement family worthy of her greatness, and a handsome Indian chief with the best chemistry yet. Stan and Jack's burly buddy of John Storm, dusted off by Byrne, may mostly have been quiet man-candy but he could handle himself around superheroes, and I thought he was quite a catch for Jen, frankly. Still not sure why they broke up.

Luke Cage, John Jameson, Tony Stark, and Hercules: playing to modern portrayal of She-Hulk as a 'cape-chaser', she had one-night stands and one imploded quickie marriage with these famous superstuds. Wish Peter David had slowed down to tell me more about Herc, since banging him had been a long-term fantasy of Jen's and David just dispensed with it in a page where you blink and miss it. Of course, he ALSO didn't explain how Jen met Skrull Jarella, the thunder-stealing, focus-pulling lovelorn sidekick who couldn't die. (Couldn't die? Or WOULDN'T die?)

Speaking of thunder-stealing and focus-pulling, now we have Jen's semi-friendly niece and nephew from barbarian futures, and a cruel Red She-Hulk (or She-Rulk, if you like) here to snap her neck and take her place. Cause that's what Marvel does these days. (O.K., I'm being a bit alarmist, I kind of like Lyra.)

Last but never least, Ben Grimm. The ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing is the idol a' millions, and he has his own family, loves, concerns, and yet-to-be canceled comic. I've enjoyed the flirtatious dynamic between them in such diverse places as Marvel Two In One 88, the '90's Incredible Hulk cartoon, Thing/She-Hulk: The Long Night, and especially the filthy innuendo in Twisted Toyfare Theatre. Ben and Jen is not quite the forbidden-but-often-imagined Superman/Wonder Woman team-up, but I kind of like the idea of an ElseWhatIf World where orange and green Bennifer are shacking up.
Also, I'll settle for friends who let friends crash on their fancy Baxter Building couch.
It's probably safer.

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