In case you missed the Flight 370 of the comics internet, here’s a post to get you totally up to speed on the latest developments!
May 21st 12:10 pm Mary Sue contributor Alan Kistler posts a transcript of a podcast from the night before called Scriptnotes, a screenwriting podcast run by John August. On this episode, called The Summer Superhero Spectacular, August and Craig Mazin talk with Legend of Conan screenwriter Andrea Berloff, Captain America the Winter Soldier scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and David S. Goyer, probably the single most important guy in the entire DC/Warner Bros film universe, author of the stories of Blade I, Blade II, Blade III, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (League), executive producer of the upcoming Constantine tv show, and a man with a hand in just about every single DC related thing that goes on at Warner Bros.
Kistler transcribed the past of the podcast where Mazin called She Hulk “She slut” and Goyer chimed in with the following:
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 s**t 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 f**k 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 f**k.
Proving that he his misunderstanding green characters also extends to DC characters, Goyer then took a few swipes at Martian Manhunter, a character he will be writing in the upcoming Justice League movie, by most accounts, asking “How many people in the audience have heard of Martian Manhunter?” and after some people responded in the affirmative saying “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?”
May 21st 12:11 pm: All hell breaks loose on the internet as Twitter, show biz sites, comics sites and every site except the one you are reading cry out in unison to mock the man who will write the Justice League Movie and to, of all things, defend She-Hulk. As many pointed out, Goyer has grossly misrepresented She-Hulk — she’s Bruce Banner’s COUSIN not his fuck buddy! And she does have kind of a dumb origin: she was created by Stan Lee and John Buscema to copyright the idea of a “female Hulk” since Marvel feared The Incredible Hulk tv show would spin off into a female version, the way the Six Million Dollar Man had with The Bionic Woman. (these are primitive times we’re talking about.) But as hundred of fans pointed out, She-Hulk, in her day job as attorney Jessica Walter, had actually become one of the most well rounded female superheroines on the stands, with respected runs by Dan Slott and now Charles Soule; heck, even the John Byrne run had its moments.
May 21st 4:15 pm: : The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg hammers the above home with a fantastic post called She-Hulk is a feminist hero, not a male fantasy where she points out that She-Hulk, almost alone among superheroines, is a FEMALE power figure who is so strong she’s freed from all fear and able to enjoy her own sexuality with an agency rarely seen in any female characters:
She-Hulk was sexy, too, of course. But what Goyer seems to miss is that in her earliest and best story lines, She-Hulk’s sexuality is her own. She is not some brain-dead courtesan, but a swashbuckling heart-breaker. Her first love interest is a neighboring medical student, a younger hunk. In Slott’s “Single Green Female” stories, Shulkie brings home a male super-model and then has to figure out how to make sure her Adonis does not get too attached.
The best She-Hulk sex and romance stories succeed because they make an important distinction. She-Hulk is not a male fantasy of how sexual liberation works, where women focus more on making men happy than on their own pleasure. Rather, she is an adventuress with a clear sense of her own gratification and joy.
AND NOW SURPRISE FLASHBACK! In a post on Four Color Princesses by Dee Emm Elms called “People are gonna stare no matter how I dress!” Elms makes a pretty powerful argument that despite her often scanty clothing and art by Greg Horn and Greg Land and the VAST amount of She-Hulk fetish art out there, she is still an icon who stands in for the empowerment of women, representing self-reliance and the power to fight back, a fantasy that a lot of women, particularly battered woman, may find very inspiring. Yes, THAT Shulkie.
Oh yeah, while I was image surfing I found all kinds of amazing images of She Hulk. And I found this one of a little kid whose parents decided to dress their young daughter as She-Hulk. Maybe a little odd…but adorable.
BACK TO THE TIMELINE:
May 21st, 5:45 pm: The showbiz internet begins to question why Goyer is even writing Wonder Woman for the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (League) movie, whose unfortunate title was just announced earlier in the day. Ross Lincoln at The Escapist ties his Martian Manhunter comments—which certainly aren’t very flattering to the superhero world—to Warner Bros’ failure in that department:
It’s been said before, but Goyer almost appears to be ashamed that he’s even associated with comic book films. So it is that the best he can come up with, when asked about one of DC’s most interesting properties, is to delete any trace of the his origin story, misunderstand core aspects of his character, and saddle him with a genericized sobriquet so hackish it almost belongs in a Matrix sequel and plot points that reflect the worst cliches of the last 20 years. I can’t argue that Martian Manhunter isn’t as well known as Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. But using obscurity as an excuse to ignore him shows a painful lack of imagination. Marvel has made billions producing movies about ancient Norse gods and talking raccoons. Meanwhile, DC’s attempt to copy Marvel is being run by someone who thinks the lone survivor of an ancient Martian civilization is too nerdy for audiences to accept. Make of that what you will.
May 21st, 11:11 pm: Rosenberg’s colleague, Michael Cavna tracks down She Hulk co-creator Stan Lee and asks what he thinks of the controversy. Still sharp Stan responds “Never for an instant did I want her as a love interest for Hulk. Only a nut would even think of that.”
May 21, 11:12 pm: “Stan Lee calls David S Guyer a Nut” headlines begin to fan out over the internet.
May 22, early morning: Current She Hulk scribe (and attorney) Charles Soule begins to tweet about the controversy:
Working on She-Hulk #8 today. Man, she's a great lady.
— Charles Soule (@CharlesSoule) May 22, 2014
Don't spread the negative. If people are confused about a character's value, don't waste time hating them. Skip outrage, try outREACH.
— Charles Soule (@CharlesSoule) May 22, 2014
May 22nd, late afternoon: The original cause of the kerfuffle, podcaster.screenwriter
John August Craig Mazin, finally speaks up and says when he called the She-Hulk a She-slut, he was descrying her sexist portrayal, not slut-shaming her:
First off, my point wasn’t that I think She-Hulk is a slut. I don’t. I don’t think anyone is a slut. I don’t think there’s anything shameful about female sexuality or the female body.
What I don’t like is the practice of pushing exaggerated images of female bodies to boys because it sells comic books or video games. Women in comics and video games aren’t accidentally drawn over and over and over again with outsized breasts, long legs and narrow waists. It’s marketing. Having a character remark recursively on that marketing doesn’t negate the marketing, of course. It’s a clever way to defuse criticism with grownups while selling issues to hormone-addled boys. John and I have talked about this issue on the podcast before as it relates to video games (specifically in support of the work done by Anita Sarkeesian).
Bottom line: I wasn’t saying that I think she’s a slut. I was saying I think the people who created her were at one time pushing a visual image of Hulk as Slut in order to make money. And I don’t like that. My comment was entirely about the illustration of a fictional character. It was not a reflection of my opinion of the mind or actions of the character.
While the backpedaling here may have carried Mazin all the way to the Arctic Circle, he’s still wrong. And it’s amazing to me that so many guys are getting it wrong. WOMEN LIKE SHE-HULK! Women enjoy a power fantasy! Women would like to be big and strong and not have to give a fuck about anything! Just like guys!
May 23rd, 10:00 am: Weighing in on this who kerfuffle, The Beat must smh yet again at how many people in positions of authority don’t seem to get the first thing about What Women Want In A Superheroine. Not every female character must be a role model. Some are just well-rounded characters who are…fun. FUN, I SAY!!!
It wasn’t until I started writing this piece that I made a mental comparison of She Hulk and Power Girl. As a kid I always liked She Hulk; but Power Girl’s giant tits repelled me. Why? Both are fun, sexy characters who are superstrong. Neither is shy about showing off their physiques. And yet, aside from the excellent Amanda Conner version, Power Girl is usually portrayed as the passive object of the male gaze. As fetishized as She-Hulk is, if you look at the images on this blog post, she is NEVER passive. She is active, in control, strong, powerful…someone you would like to be for kicks, even if it had its downside, just like it does for Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and every successful superhero. She knows who she is and isn’t ashamed of it.
I dunno, maybe Marvel has it wrong developing Black Widow for films. While She-Hulk might be a tough sell because she’s…a female Hulk, she’s probably Marvel’s freshest, funniest female character. And there’s no one like her anywhere in film or TV.
I listened to a bit of the original podcast, and it’s clear that Goyer and the rest are relaxed and goofing around. Everyone says dumb shit from time to time, but the KIND of dumb shit Goyer used unfortunately fits in with a narrative that isn’t very hopeful for a) a female superhero movie ever being successful in the studio system and b) a DC movie that doesn’t star Batman or Superman ever being successful. I don’t know Goyer or anything about him, but I can guess one thing: This morning, he’s sorry he ever said those things aloud on that podcast.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.