David Goyer is wrong. He’s wrong about She-Hulk, and he’s wrong about comics.
Goyer, a screenwriter who has become a major influence on modern comic book movies, best known for his work on the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy and Man of Steel, made some demoralizing and sexual remarks about Marvel Comic’s She-Hulk this week. His comments set the nerd-world ablaze, but some argue that there’s “nothing wrong with what he said.”
During a discussion on the Scriptnotes podcast , Craig Mazin, dubbed She-Hulk “Slut-Hulk,” and saying her existence was “just to appeal sexistly [sic]to ten-year-old boys…the whole point [was to make a character with]enormous boobs [who is]Hulk strong, but not Hulk massive.” Mazin’s brazenly sexist comments were well received during the podcast recording, and Goyer responded with his own two cents about She-Hulk:
“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-Hulk, right, who was still smart.
I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could fuck if you were Hulk… 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’s comments make it clear that he’s never read a single comic featuring She-Hulk, as Jennifer Walters, Shulky’s alter ego, is the cousin of Bruce Banner.
Created in the 1980s, She-Hulk was initially not more than a gender-swapped Hulk, she was savage, unforgiving, and brutal, but she also an exploration into fear and deep-seated emotional desire (just as the Hulk wanted to become stronger, so did Jennifer, but she also wanted to become the ideal woman) That didn’t last long, as Marvel was already telling stories like that with the Hulk; instead, Jennifer became able to retain her intelligence and personality in her Hulk form, eventually choosing to stay as She-Hulk because she was more free, confident, and self-assured as the jade giantess than in her more “delicate” human form.
Where the Hulk is the story of man’s internal struggle, She-Hulk, in the hands of John Byrne, became a feminist story about women choosing freedom—mentally, physically, and sexually—and doing what they want without regard to patriarchal society or gender norms. She-Hulk was strong and smart, qualities typically associated with men, but she was also sexy and feminine, making her an incredible example of second wave feminism.
She-Hulk is much less an “extension of the male power fantasy” and much more a burgeoning example of what women were struggling for at the time: respect and equality.
Yes, She-Hulk is a derivative name, but so are most female-gendered superhero names (think Batgirl, Supergirl, Spider-woman…). The majority of well-known female superheroes have names that are derived from male heroes, often with a suffix like “girl,” “gal,” or “lass” tagged on. While this is an unfortunate trend in comics, it does not diminish the power of the characters or the stories they can tell. Carol Danvers was “Ms. Marvel” (a name which, let’s face it, is pretty derivative), but she was also a significant feminist icon for decades before she ever became Captain Marvel. A superhero’s name may be their identity, but it isn’t the whole of what the character is.
She-Hulk’s name aside, she’s had a large number of long running ongoing solo series, from Savage to Sensational to multiple adjective-less She-Hulk titles; all these titles feature prominent storylines about Jennifer Walter’s job as an attorney, her intelligence, her perseverance, and her strength—not just physically, but her strength of character as well.
Sure, sexual appetite is a big part of the She-Hulk character, but that’s what makes her so unique as a female character. In a sexually repressive era (one that we are not so far removed from), She-Hulk was an example of a woman who was striving for sexual equality—when Shulky has sex, it’s on her terms, and she is proud of her strength and appetite.
Beyond that, it’s the fact that Jennifer is able to retain her personality and intelligence as a hulk, as opposed to one Dr. Banner, that truly sets her apart as a unique hero. She is more empowered and capable than her male counterpart.
Later in the podcast, Goyer goes on to say Martain Manhunter’s name and origin as “goofy,” and essentially says the character doesn’t use his powers correctly, “instead of using super-powers and mind-reading and like, oh, I could figure out if the President’s lying or whatever, he just decides to disguise himself as a human homicide detective. Dare to dream!”
Social media response to Goyer’s comments has been extremely dismissive, ranging from canonical facts (“first and foremost, they’re cousins…it’s an extremely offensive thing to say about a female character”) to calling Goyer out on his innate sexism (“Those comments about She-Hulk reveal some pretty deeply rooted misogyny on the part of Goyer, huh?”). Stan Lee himself spoke out against Goyer’s comments, stating:
“I was looking for a new female superhero, and the idea of an intelligent Hulk-type grabbed me. Never for an instant did I want her as a love interest for Hulk. Only a nut would even think of that.”
The way Goyer words his assertion that She-Hulk is merely created as an object of sexual desire implies that he believes that is the origin of all superheroines. Goyer’s assumption that comics are, and always have been, read by a 95% male demographic is ludicrously off base—prior to World War II, comics were primarily created for and read by women and children—and speaks to a deeper issue within modern nerd culture.
I can only assume, based on his comments, Goyer is one of those fake geek boys who doesn’t know anything about comics.