When the first trailer for the movie “The Hulk Woman: Sworn Lawyer” appeared online, Marvel fans were quick to compare Jen Walters, breaking the fourth wall, with Deadpool. But the comics about the Hulk Woman are more than ten years older than Deadpool, and her relationship with the audience is completely different from his. While Wade Wilson breaks the fourth wall to make meta nods to the audience, Jen establishes a closer relationship with the viewer, breaking the fourth wall to share her inner thoughts, feelings and insecurities.
John Byrne introduced Jen’s self-awareness in the TV series “Sensational Hulk Woman” in 1989, a couple of years before the Mercenary with a Mouth broke the fourth wall for the first time in Joe Kelly and Pete Woods’ “Deadpool #28”. In these early comics, the destruction of the fourth wall by the Hulk Woman was used as a fun way to deconstruct the comic book environment. She argued with Byrne himself and appealed to the editor Renee Witterstetter. In Byrne’s latest issue, The Sensational She-Hulk #50, Witterstetter tied Byrne up and locked him in the toilet while he and Jen searched for his replacement.
Her destruction of the fourth wall in the Disney+ series is very different from her destruction of the fourth wall in the comics. In the series, she does not mention writers and does not specifically call viewers viewers. Instead, she treats the viewer as a confidant who exists in another dimension that none of her characters know about. She can tell the audience anything, because they exist outside of her world.
When Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, at least in the movies, it’s usually to share an inside joke with fans or to strike a blow at the franchise itself. When Colossus detains Poole and tells him: “Are you coming to talk to Professor Xavier,” he asks the Silver X-Man if he means the version of Xavier played by “McAvoy or Stewart?” and then he tells the audience, “These timelines can be so confusing.” Before chopping off his own hand to free himself from the custody of Colossus, Deadpool tells the audience: “Have you ever seen 127 hours? Watch out for spoilers!” He mimics Ferris Bueller to tease the sequel in a post-credits scene. None of the destruction of Deadpool’s fourth wall gives viewers a deeper understanding of his emotional state. His winks to the public are another means of referring to pop culture.
On the other hand, the self-awareness of the Hulk Woman gives her the opportunity to share her innermost desires, insecurities and disappointments with the audience. As she explained in the first episode, Jen has to control her emotions and restrain her irritability. She tells her cousin Bruce: “I’m perfectly in control of my anger. I do this all the time: when I get booed on the street, when incompetent men explain my own field of knowledge to me. I do this almost every day, because if I don’t, they’ll call me emotional or difficult, or they’ll just literally kill me.” Breaking the fourth wall gives Jen an opportunity to express the anger she usually has to keep to herself.
Jen is much more attractive than most other superheroes—and, for that matter, most other TV characters—because she can tell the viewer exactly how she feels at any moment. When she arrives at her new job and her boss throws a scoop that working in her annoying Female Hulk form is a job requirement, she tells the audience everything that comes to her mind: “I’m fully qualified, but now everyone here will always think that’s the only reason I got a job. It’s so unfair! I should be able to enjoy getting an amazing new job, and I can’t.” She sees a conference room full of people in suits laughing hysterically (which could also be a caricature of patriarchy) and says, “These dodos have never encountered this on their first day at work.” When her boss asks what she thinks about a conversation she wasn’t listening to, Jen awkwardly replies that she’s “agnostic” and then confesses to the audience: “I’ll spend the rest of the year worrying about what I just said. ”Everyone can relate to over-thinking an embarrassing statement. Her boss will probably forget about all this in a matter of seconds, but Jen will still be thinking about it in a few months.
Breaking the fourth wall in “The Hulk Woman” offers the kind of introspection that constantly appears in superhero comics, but is rarely seen in their films and television adaptations. Since this introspection usually appears as thought bubbles on the page, it is difficult to transfer it to the screen. In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, voiceover narration was used, and in John Watts’ Spider-Man films, Peter Parker received a high-tech suit with a built-in intelligent artificial intelligence. someone he could talk to. The head writer of “Hulk Woman” Jessica Gao came up with the easiest and most effective way to put thought bubbles on the screen, forcing her lead actor to simply express his thoughts directly into the camera.