(Obligatory intro text paragraph - feel free to skip down to the non-italic text one if you've already been reading these posts.) This is the fifth of twelve essays I'm writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. The idea is to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we get to that last one. I'm doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet using the tag #12daysofshehulk on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST - so you can play along at home! Feel free to @ me (I'm @charlessoule) - I'd love to hear what you think of this issue and all the others, whether it's a re-read or you're checking them out for the first time.
As many of you probably noticed (except possibly those who consume their comics as audiobooks, but I suspect that's a pretty small percentage), the art team changed for Issue 5 of She-Hulk. Javier Pulido and Muntsa Vicente stepped away for Issues 5 and 6, while Ron Wimberly did pencils/inks for #5 alongside colors from Rico Renzi, and Ron did the pencils, inks and colors for issue #6.
Why, you may ask? Well, it's pretty simple - the demands on artists to produce the level of art that modern comics readers are used to seeing are significant. It's tough to put out an issue every month and not get behind. So, fill-in teams are used to give the "regular" artists a chance to catch up, maybe even get a little bit ahead. It's very common these days. If you're lucky, you also get to work with a consistent rotating team, so the run can build a strong look and feel over time. That's what I've been able to do with Swamp Thing, for example - for most of my run on that book, Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina have been rotating on and off issues, and it's been pretty seamless (not least because as I understand it, those guys sit next to each other in their studio in Spain, so they can chat about whatever they're working on.)
So, when Javier and Muntsa took a planned two-issue break for 5-6, the question became about who would take over the reins. Even in just four issues, the aesthetics of She-Hulk had become very firmly defined, which meant whoever came on had some big shoes to fill. I talked with my great editors at Marvel about some possibilities for 5-6, and Ron Wimberly's work grabbed me right away. If you're only familiar with him from She-Hulk, do yourself a favor and check out his Prince of Cats or really any of his work. I think he's phenomenal - in particular, I like the way he plays with perspective, and his sense of color is amazing.
I wanted an artist who would be as idiosyncratic and cool as Javier, but who was not Javier. That was Ron, for sure. It's funny - the art on this series could be strangely divisive. Not everyone loved JP (crazy!) and not everyone loved RW (crazy!), and some people seemed to love one but hate the other. There were clearly people who loved both, too - but people don't always take the time to tweet about things they love. I mean, where's the fun in that?
Anyway, let's talk about the issue a little. Issue 5 was our first look at the mystery of the Blue File, the ongoing thread that would run through the full 12-issue arc. You'll note that the tone changes pretty drastically. I mean, Tigra damn near kills Hellcat, and Angie Huang gets shot in the head at the end of the issue. Not to mention Shocker's story, which if you think about it, is pretty sad. He's basically a punch-drunk boxer, or one of those football players with mild brain damage from their skull getting rattled so much. I did this because (as you'll see), what actually happens with the Blue File isn't exactly happy-go-lucky. I needed to start setting up a slightly darker tone here so the ending for the arc would work (hmm...)
Also, I wanted to establish that She-Hulk, as a book, wasn't just one thing. Remember that line from the first issue?
Neither is the series. We can have light, fun one-offs and Giant Dooms all we want, but that's not all She-Hulk's life is about.
Angie and Hei Hei were overdue for a solo adventure, where we got to see Angie's real superpower - FILING!
One thing that I had fun with in She-Hulk (and continue to enjoy in other series) was finding real place names that tied in really well with the story I happened to be telling. So, we get Divide here (the reason for that will be clear once you read Issue 12... spoiler.) In Issue 11 we get another cool one like this - but we can talk about that then. That's also why I set the last issue of Death of Wolverine in Paradise Valley, Nevada. I mean, it just sort of worked.
I tried to get the clerk's dialogue right - all that Fargo-esque northern Midwest dialect business. It's always tricky to work with accents in written dialogue. My suggestion, if you're ever going to try it - use regional slang instead of transliteration of accents. So, you might have a Bostonian refer to a water cooler as a "bubbler" instead of trying something like "I went to the bah in my cah..." As I see it, the first works, the second just drags people out of the story. I don't think you can ever get it perfectly right unless you actually speak the local dialect in question - but it can be fun to try!
The Hellcat/Tigra meeting was also interesting - fun fact, Patsy's Hellcat costume originally belonged to Tigra. They're somewhat linked, continuity-wise. The dialogue alludes to this, but I'm not sure it's something people talk about much. I certainly didn't know it until I researched Tigra a bit prior to writing her. You can find out all sorts of cool, weird stuff once you start poking around in the backstories of these characters. Some have been around for such a long time that it's inevitable that certain bizarre phases in their fictional lives would pop up. Hellcat, for example, was married to the Son of Satan.
Last bit on this issue - writing mysteries is tricky! Figuring out how to dole out the clues, give just enough so that someone could maybe start to put things together... but not too much... it ain't not simple. I hope it worked well, but the key to mysteries is really the ending, and you guys don't have that yet. But soon. Too soon!
Really, it's the entire fight scene with Patsy and Tigra. I think it really showed what makes Ron's work special - that twisty, rubbery physicality that makes action sequences stand out from anything else I've ever seen. I'd love to see something like this animated - I bet it would be amazing.
Favorite character: Shocker! Such a sad sack. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's great Superior Foes of Spider-Man was running when I wrote this issue, and I took their characterization of Shocker as a jumping-off point for how I wrote him here. Love that dude - I dig blue collar heroes (and villains) in general.
Also, I want to make a special point to mention the amazing letterer on the whole series, Clayton Cowles. He approached mountains of dialogue and art deviations from script with aplomb, and figured out perfect solutions for tricky lettering problems again and again. For example, there's this sequence:
The flow is awesome, even though it crosses multiple panels and has twenty zillion words. So thank you, Clayton, you are an unsung hero no longer!
Tomorrow - Blue Part Two, the second part of the Blue File mystery.