Thursday, May 29, 2014

POBB: Response to David S. Goyer and Chris Mazin

Pick of the Brown Bag Special Edition
Response to David S. Goyer and Chris Mazin
Ray Tate

In this week's forthcoming POBB, I review Batman 66, Batman/Superman, Batman and Frankenstein, Birds of Prey, the final issue of Forever Evil, Justice League, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Rocket Girl, but today I'd like to address David S. Goyer's and Craig Mazin's screed on the She-Hulk, as transcribed from podcast by the Mary Sue ...

"Craig Mazin: The real name for She-Hulk was Slut-Hulk. That was the whole point. Let’s just make this green chick with enormous boobs. And she’s Hulk strong but not Hulk massive, right? … She’s real lean, stringy…

David S. Goyer: She’s still pretty chunky. She was like Chyna from the WWE.
Mazin: The whole point of She-Hulk was just to appeal sexistly to ten-year-old boys. Worked on me.

Goyer: I have a theory about She-Hulk. Which was created by a man, right? And at the time in particular I think 95% of comic book readers were men and certainly almost all of the comic book writers were men. So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy. It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids getting the shit kicked out of them every day… And so then they created She-Huk, right? Who was still smart… I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could fuck 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 fuck."

Goyer and Mazin of course speak out of their asses.

The whole idea of introducing female relatives as counterparts to male superheroes began with Doc Savage and his illustrious cousin Patricia Savage.

Lester Dent debuted Pat in Brand of the Werewolf.  Dent of course never intended for Pat to be Doc's paramour, and he never injected even a hint of subtext in their tales.  Doc's crew accepted Pat as one of the boys, so to speak.  However, had he wished, Dent could have stripped away Pat's blood relationship with Doc and made her merely a love interest.  

I qualify the phrase because being the love interest is a less notable position in the hierarchy of fiction.  One can see in the James Bond novels that love interests are fleeting.  They disappear in story after story, or worse they fall victim to the villain of the piece.

While death can strike a previously undisclosed relative, usually a writer invents a cousin, sister or brother for a different reason.  A relative can enter and leave the hero's life, without friction.  A femme relative generates a different dynamic.  For example, the male figure can feel overly protective of his female cousin, as Doc did, without suggesting an ulterior motive or being identified as a male chauvinist.  On the flip-side, she can shield him, without the fellow knowing it.  A female cousin can spot a treacherous femme fatale, as Pat did, without being accused of jealousy.  There's a purity in the idea of cousins working together for common justice.

Although some friends and partners of the opposite sex have been successful in fiction, the consistency of such a partnership is rare.  

A line will likely be crossed, or a relationship will be teased, and the potential for romance will take over the story.   Dent created Pat Savage to evolve into a constant.  

The links between Doc and Superman are well known, and Pat Savage likely influenced the development of Superman's cousin.  

Acton Comics #252

Like Dent, Otto Binder and Curt Swan could have just as easily introduced Supergirl as a mate for the Man of Steel.  When one thinks about it, that would have been the expected course of action, given the Lana-Lois-Superman triangle.  The Powers That Were however aimed for something else, chastity that would grant Supeman family and attract a wider audience.  Namely little girls.

Jumping far ahead to the early seventies, when the Equal Rights movement gained steam, Stan Lee co-created or catalyzed a trio of woman-based comic books.  

The Cat, Night Nurse and Shanna the She-Devil failed to attract a large enough audience to warrant further publication, but Lee and the Marvel Bullpen continued their attempts.  In the late seventies, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman arose from the era of imagination.  These two ladies were successful, thus paving the way for more female creations.  

In 1980, Stan Lee himself teamed up with John Buscema to create She-Hulk.  She-Hulk is in fact Jennifer Walters, the attorney cousin to Bruce Banner.  The mob mortally wounds Jen.  She transforms into She-Hulk through a blood transfusion from Bruce.  

Her original appearance was clearly not meant to arouse.  The book indeed was called Savage She-Hulk.

Or Lady Hulk if you received it in Norway.  
Included here since one of the geniuses felt the name She-Hulk degraded the character.

Lee and Buscema left after the premiere.  David Kraft, Mike Vosburg and Chic Stone were the driving force behind future issues of Savage She-Hulk.  Vosburg is renowned in the field as a good-girl artist, and though he eventually toned down She-Hulk's ferocity, he knew what was palatable and what was not.  I bring up appearance for a reason.  Pat Savage while bearing some of the family traits prevalent in Doc Savage, gold-flecked eyes, bronze skin, didn't have his physique.  She was all girl.  Not all man-woman.  Why should the She-Hulk then possess the body of the Hulk?  Why also should women who are attractive and present themselves as such be called sluts, or in this case "Slut-Hulk?"  There's a lot going on in the conversation between Goyer and Mazin, and none of it's pretty.

After She-Hulk's series folded, the creative team of Jim Shooter and Greg Laroque paired She-Hulk with Janet Van Dyne, thus giving Shulkie a wardrobe she could not tear out of, otherwise Jan would never speak to her again.  After serving in the Avengers, She-Hulk leaped into The Fantastic Four.  It is here where John Byrne turned She-Hulk into a gorgeous Woman of Jade and later made her the star of a bizarre comedy series Sensational She-Hulk.  Savage no longer applied.  

A bad artist can turn a good character into a sex object, but throughout She-Hulk's fictional existence, eighteen out of twenty artists and writers chose to respect her.  

They considered her somebody who could heave a tank and smack through a brick wall without harm.  She-Hulk is power.  In fact every female super hero, from the first Woman in Red... the everlasting argues for equal opportunity in serving justice.  Goyer and Mazin do a disservice to not just She-Hulk but all these past creations.  If you look at Goyer's and Mazin's phrasing, it can be applied to any hero not just the Hulk and She-Hulk.

You can parody these champions.  Slash-fictioneers have done so long before professional adult entertainers.  There's nothing wrong with such spoofs.  The purpose of the creations cannot however be doubted, and David S. Goyer and Chris Mazin exhibit arch ignorance about a comic book history that reflects the inroads made by women throughout each era.  From Pat Savage to She-Hulk, these heroines are far more than the sex objects that Goyer and Mazin imagine them to be.

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