Wednesday, July 30, 2008

She-Hulk and Sex

One of the things I want to do here in terms of content - or whatever we're calling it - is to explore more of the female heroes in comics and other kinds of storytelling. Lisa Paitz Spindler has a really cool feature on her blog called Danger Gal Friday, and - with apologies to her - I want to do something similar here. I'm not going to commit to a weekly feature, but I'd like to profile some of the great heroines.

In addition to that, there are a few women characters - mainly in comics - with whom I'm so in love that I'll need more than a single profile piece to do justice to them. Wonder Woman is one of those. She-Hulk is another. I don't know She-Hulk very well yet, I just know that she's very cool, has a great look, and seems to be one of the most interesting characters Marvel has going for them. Plus, there's the whole Hulk connection and the Hulk is also awesome.

So consider this my first attempt of many at trying to dig into her a little bit to see what makes her tick. I want to start by looking at an aspect of her that gets a ton of attention, and was in fact one of the first things I noticed about her when I recently started picking up her comic during the "World Without a Hulk" storyline. She-Hulk likes to have sex with lots of different people.

I don't have any historical background on this yet, so I don't know when it became a part of her character. Dan Slott touched on it a lot during his run, but I remember the X-Men comics that Chuck Austen wrote where she slept with Juggernaut. Slott later explained that event away so that it never happened, but my point is that sex's being a large part of She-Hulk's character (relative to other superheroes anyway) predates Slott.

As with any aspect of a character that becomes predominant, I'm interested in tracking down the history of how she came to be portrayed this way. But I'm also interested in the discussion that's sprung up around the issue.

In a sort of exit interview to his run, Slott talked about the Juggernaut and why he wrote that out of She-Hulk's story. "She would sleep with everyone else besides Juggernaut," he said. And it wasn't long in the discussion of that interview before that part of her became a major topic. One commentor wrote that Slott "started the book off with She-Hulk getting kicked out of Avengers Mansion for dragging home her 'party boys'" and "continued to make her the Paris Hilton of the Marvel universe by having her sleep with Tony Stark."

When another reader asked why "She-Hulk is so loose," one reply was that she's been "written as Very Uninhibited for decades," lending more weight to my theory that this predates Slott. After that, the thread goes back and forth for a bit between people who'd rather not know about superhero sex lives and those who don't see a problem with it. It's when this person chimes in that things become interesting:
As for She-Hulk sleeping around, who the **** cares? If people have fun by having a very stimulating sex life, good for them, I'm jealous. On the other hand it doesn't make sense that She-Hulk would be able to sleep around. She's likely the strongest woman in the Marvel Universe. How could she possibly avoid killing all her lovers? That bit was the reason that sleeping with the then-reformed and touchy-feely Juggernaut made sense to me. He'd be one of a very short list of options, which might have made her pretty desperate after a while, unless she finally managed to bag Hercules.
This person disagrees:
Clearly, She-Hulk CAN have sex with non-superhuman men and have them survive, because we know she already HAS. Wyatt Wingfoot, Tony Stark, Zapper Ridge, John Jameson, Mika, etc, are all non-superhuman men who have enjoyed (and survived) sex with She-Hulk.

The subject of possible injury HAS been raised on-panel though. John Jameson expressed concern about it in issue #2 of Dan's second volume of SHE-HULK.
It goes back and forth some more until She-Hulk's new writer Peter David gives his opinion:
I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to side with the "not a good idea" contingent. I think any normal man who would have sex with She-Hulk is courting disaster. I don't care how stiff your stiffy is: She-Hulk's vaginal muscles alone, if she were to orgasm, would be enough to earn you a trip to the E.R. ... Is it possible that She-Hulk can't reach climax? I suppose. That would explain her bed hopping: An ongoing quest to find a man who can send her to Happyland.
It's at that point right there that I want to stop thinking about it. A little before then, actually, but David makes an interesting point and from a storytelling standpoint, I like how he connects his speculation with her established pattern of behavior. I don't necessarily agree with his speculation, but I think it's cool that he figures out how to support it with evidence from past stories.

And the reason I don't agree with his speculation is completely subjective anyway. It's basically rooted in my not wanting to dwell on the scientific details, especially when "She-Hulk likes to have sex with a lot of different people" is by itself a perfectly reasonable explanation for her having sex with a lot of different people. It's fine to show her as someone who enjoys a lot of different partners; bringing her vaginal contractions into the discussion just weirds me out as a reader.

In other words, I'm really interested in a story about a woman who's having trouble making emotional connections and is trying to fill that emptiness with lots of different physical ones. I'm interested in rooting for her to discover the folly of that and to finally form an emotional attachment with someone who loves her too. That would be a really cool character arc for her. I'm not so interested in the story of one woman's pursuit of an orgasm.


snell said...

Man of Kleenex?? She should hook up with Superman next crossover...

Jason Copland said...

"bringing her vaginal contractions into the discussion just weirds me out as a reader."


You're such a prude, MM! :P

Michael May said...

Ha! I probably am. :)

Christian Zamora said...

Real nice article! :) I actually like She-Hulk a lot and one of the reasons is she's not pretending to marry in a white dress and if she likes sex, she has sex. The vaginal contractions also weird me out, a lot.

In my own blog I did a very little article about her sexual interests, but my blog is very different than yours, lol.

Anyway, I'm linking your blog just because I like what I just read :D

Siskoid said...

I've always liked women who could break me in half (physically or emotionally, I suppose). Three guesses where that came from.

Michael May said...

Ha! I don't know, but I have the same deal. It's not worth doing if there's no risk. :)

Lisa said...

I'm touched that my Danger Gal Fridays could spark a similar idea for you. At some point we should collaborate and cross-post on a character.

I don't know much about She-Hulk (sadly for me). While I agree with you that She-Hulk's vaginal muscles are no one's darn business but her own, if fans ruminate on Superman's sperm at least the treatment is equal. Has there been similar speculation on The Hulk's sex life? Surely he would have just as many obstacles connecting to another human as She-Hulk does.

I think she might kill any human man she has that much fun with, but I suppose there are men out there who wouldn't think that's necessarily a bad way to go.

Interestingly, this sort of conundrum happens all the time in Paranormal Romance novels, where the hero is a werewolf, vampire, demon or some other sort of "superhuman" and the heroine is just a Normal Girl. Often, it turns out the heroine has her own unrevealed superhuman identity.

I'm just starting into Kresley Cole's series where the heroines are often Valkyrie. While certainly many women read comic books, I often think that Paranormal Romance functions similarly for many female readers.

Michael May said...

Ooh! A cross-post would be really cool. We should email each other and figure that out.

As far as the Hulk's sex life goes, there's currently a comic called Son of Hulk, so someone's obviously been thinking about this. I'll be reviewing it soon, so I'm sure I'll have more to say about that.

And as for Kresley Cole: Valkyries are very cool. I think I need to read a series of books about them.

Heather Massey said...

Lisa Paitz Spindler is the Queen Of All Danger Gals.

Anonymous said...

Actually from a realistic standpoint her vaginal muscles would do that but i would like to point out that many super powered characters have had sex with normal humans and had them come out fine because they can control it to a great degree after so long for example Superman & Lois, Hercules and his many trists with mortal women, Rogue from the X-men, Wonder Woman, Supergirl (Linda Danvers) and Ms Marvel.


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