She-Hulk comic book fans might be a little confused later this week when the character finally makes her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics, the character’s origin happens when Jennifer Walters, successful lawyer and cousin to Bruce Banner, is shot in a mob hit. Her cousin tries to save her but realizes the only way to do so is to give Jen some of his blood. Blood that turns her into a powerful, green superhero, just like him.
Bruce Banner’s blood still does the trick in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, which debuts on Disney+ this week, but the circumstances are much, much different. io9 spoke to Jessica Gao, the show’s head writer and executive producer about the decision to make the change and she, obviously, had thought a lot about it.
“Well, there are several factors. First, the head honchos at Marvel specifically didn’t want it to be the mob hit,” Gao explained. “It just didn’t feel like it fit with everything. But for me, having watched this Bruce Banner, this Hulk, through all the years and all the different MCU movies, it just felt like we saw him be really tortured by this. This was not a gift. He really saw it as a curse. It forced him to not have any relationships. He spent several years, like really, really tortured by it and not viewing it as a good thing. And it took him that long to get to a place where he can just accept it and learn to live with it. So to me, it didn’t make sense for that guy to then willingly give this curse to somebody that he cares about. His cousin, who he really loves. It just didn’t seem right and true to the character and it didn’t make sense to me. So I didn’t want to do that.”
In the show, without giving too much away, Jen and Bruce are in a car accident and, in the aftermath, Bruce’s blood merges with Jen’s. Gao told us why that specific choice was made.
“From a practical angle, we just needed to be able to start the origin story very quickly,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to spend half an hour setting something up...If you do a mob hit, it’s like, ‘Well, then why? What happened?’ Let’s just get to the meat of everything. And also the nature of making it an accident takes a lot of the pressure off of the guilt that Bruce would feel having given this to Jennifer because, in the show, we really see how she struggles with it and how she also, like him, doesn’t really view it as a gift at first. So I think that would really change their dynamic if he was completely responsible and that he made the choice for her.”
Since Jen’s origin is so tied into Bruce’s, it necessitated that Mark Ruffalo’s version of the character be on She-Hulk for an extended chunk of time. And, in doing so, fans get to learn a bunch more about the character’s actions in and around the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. All of which is just because, Gao felt there was an opportunity to tell a story the MCU hasn’t seen yet.
“It just felt like Jennifer is in this very unique position,” Gao said. “Not only is it very unique for you to suddenly become a Hulk, but even less likely is that it’s the second time in your family that’s happened, you know? And she’s one of the few people in the MCU where the thing that happened to her has happened to someone close to her. And so that means that she has somebody who she respects, that she trusts, that she loves and that loves her, who can kind of help guide her through this. It just felt natural and organic that if someone in your family, that you were close to, has already gone through this extraordinary thing, why wouldn’t they be a part of your lives? Why wouldn’t you use them as a resource?”
Speaking of resources, Gao built the entire show around a very specific place she wanted Jennifer Walters to go by the end of season one. Obviously, she couldn’t tell us specifically but everything that happens, with Bruce, with everyone else, was in service of one goal.
“When I pitched the show, I knew that her seasonal arc was going to be a story of acceptance,” Gao said. “Her journey for this entire season is really like, as a whole, her emotional origin story. Very early on, we cover the physical aspect of this origin, but the rest of the season is really about her coming to terms with it and really processing what this means and figuring out how it’s going to fit into her life.”
You can start fitting She-Hulk into your life this week when the show debuts its first episode August 18.
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