The Superhero Who Exists Because Stan Lee Was Scared Of Universal

By Michileen Martin | Published

The creation of superheroes, like that of any fictional characters, find many sources for inspiration. The creation of one Marvel superhero–one whose popularity has increased in the last couple of years–came about specifically because the late Stan Lee insisted that his guys beat Universal Television to the punch. Specifically, Lee quickly conceived of She-Hulk and fast-tracked her first solo comic book series before Universal could come up with a similar character.

Corporate Synergy

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You could argue it was a type of corporate synergy that lead to the creation of She-Hulk.

In the ’70s, Marvel was learning to make bank with comics based on licensed properties from film studios and toy companies. By the late ’70s comics from licensed properties Marvel made comics for like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, The Micronauts, and Rom were putting more money in the company’s coffers than the magazines based on Marvel’s own superhero creations.

Part of that corporate synergy was Stan Lee’s push to get more original Marvel properties adapted to the big and small screens, which in turn–in a roundabout way–lead to She-Hulk’s introduction.

The Incredible Hulk TV Show

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Decades before Disney+ cornered the market on live-action Marvel TV shows, there was The Incredible Hulk on CBS. Bill Bixby starred as David Banner (rather than Bruce) who, when enraged, would transform into the eponymous green-skinned man-monster who was played by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno.

Lasting from 1977 to 1982, the show went on to spawn three made-for-TV movies that aired between 1988 and 1990.

As retold by Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, She-Hulk became inevitable when, a couple of years into the run of The Incredible Hulk, Stan Lee became worried that Universal Television–the studio producing the series–would create their own female Hulk character, thereby securing the rights to her.

Stan Lee hurriedly threw together the first issue of Savage She-Hulk, and David Anthony Kraft took over as writer with the second issue.

From what Kraft told Howe, it was not a job he was looking forward to, but one he did, “under duress.” Kraft elaborated, “It was like, ‘We need to create a character called the She-Hulk, and we need to get it out in the next thirty seconds.'”

She-Hulk Went Against The Marvel Grain, But Not For The Reason You Think

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From what Kraft says in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, the creation of She-Hulk was an unpleasant surprise to a lot of the creators at Marvel, but not because of her gender. As a spinoff of the Hulk, she was the exact type of character that, for decades, Stan Lee had been trashing DC Comics for using.

Kraft told Howe, “I grew up on Marvel Comics, and remembered Stan making fun of how DC had endless iterations of the characters: Super-Monkey, Super-Horse and Streaky the Super-Cat… We were all pulling our hair out and wailing and bemoaning the day that Marvel had to create a She-Hulk.”

For better or worse–and whether you want to lay blame at She-Hulk’s footsteps or not–Marvel has certainly come to look a lot more like DC since then. She-Hulk has since been joined by Red Hulk, Red She-Hulk, and Skaar, Son of Hulk.

And we won’t even get into all the different iterations of Spider-Man.

A Hit, Nonetheless

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Regardless of why She-Hulk was created, she quickly became a hit with the fans. In the ’80s, she was a regular member of the Avengers. After the first Secret Wars event, she replaced The Thing in the Fantastic Four–arguably becoming the most popular FF replacement member and the one still the most closely associated with the team.

She-Hulk: Attorney At Law


While She-Hulk’s solo titles have never set the world on fire sales-wise, John Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk proved to be a huge inspiration for Disney+’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

Though it was largely praised by critics, fan reaction to She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was mixed. Releasing in 2022, the series coincided with what seemed to be a downturn in Marvel content on both the big and small screens. Whether or not we’ll see Tatiana Maslany in the role again remains to be seen.