Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Why no Hulk-girl? 

During a lull in this past week's Shabbat-table conversation the topic turned, as it often does, to superheroes. At one point, I noted that the major male Superheroes all have complementary female crime-fighters: Batman has Batgirl, Superman has Supergirl, and Spiderman has Spidergirl. But I suspected, based on the viability these female characters derive from their attractiveness, that there would be one male superhero who wouldn't have a spandex-clad companion -- the Hulk would have no "Hulk-girl". We all nodded our agreement. After all, the Hulk's major characteristics are being huge, green, ugly, and outfitted in Rambo haute-couture:


I would have left my interesting little theory there on the table, except today my blog is hungry and must be fed. So I've decided to promote this super conversation to the rank of "postworthy", probably couched as a scathing indictment of sexism in comics -- shocking, I know.

The first step was to Google a bit, just to confirm the obvious. Of course, this is always the most dangerous phase in the life-cycle of any young post, still so vulnerable to facts. This was no exception. As it turns out, the Hulk actually managed to scrounge a date for the Justice League prom: She-Hulk.


Well, apparently we weren't sufficiently steeped in the culture of this particular artform to realize that no marketing niche goes unfilled. Nevertheless, the merest glance at the exceptional She-Hulk is enough to show this rule is proven in its breach. Where the Hulk is big, green, ugly and pathologically unfashionable, the She-Hulk is merely big and green. Otherwise, she looks like a glamourously dressed aerobics instructor in green body paint. If she and Hulk head out for a night on the town with their super-friends at the disco, the doorman ushers her to the front of the line, while pointing her big brother to the donut shop down the street.

To be fair, these more recent models are a bit more airbrushed than the original She-Hulk illustrations:


Here She-Hulk has the more savage posture and style of her brother, no longer clad in a shiny leotard but a strategically ripped, tight-fitting cocktail dress. Clearly, the illustrators have a hard time convincing themselves that they could sell a comic about an ugly, brutish, green woman. In fact it seems to me they've drawn inspiration from a certain Orion slave girl:


Apparently they are not going where no man has gone before.

As I turn back to the task of patching together something coherent on the topic of "Peak Oil", I'll leave you on an optimistic note about the rights of green women to be anything but gorgeous and well-manicured. While She-Hulk didn't break the sexist comic book mold, she at least cracked it enough that decades later the world is ready for Fiona:


If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: