Writer and Artist: John Byrne
Inker: Al Gordon
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“THE NAKED TRUTH”
After posting my review of THE SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK (Marvel Graphic Novel #18) I had several people point out to me that this wasn’t the first time that John Byrne wrote a story involving She-Hulk’s nudity. That is correct. Which is what brings me to this particular issue of The Fantastic Four today. I didn’t regularly read John Byrne’s Fantastic Four when it was out, but I caught a few issues here and there, including this one, which I’d forgotten about. So I dug through my longboxes until I found my copy, and re-read. It didn’t make much of an impression on me as a kid, but reading it as an adult definitely give it a new perspective.
This story takes place during the time that She-Hulk was temporarily a member of the Fantastic Four, taking The Thing’s place (for reasons which I don’t really remember, other than it had something to do with Marvel’s big “Secret War” miniseries). This issue is pretty much a She-Hulk solo story, with the rest of the team only making minor appearances. That’s a little odd considering that this issue is #275 of the title, wouldn’t that be considered some type of “anniversary” issue? You’d think you’d want to feature the whole team in some important story, instead of what we got here.
She-Hulk is minding her own business sunbathing topless on top of the Baxter Building (The FF’s HQ). She’s laying face down, reading a book. A photographer flies overhead in a helicopter, and the pilot intentionally flies close by her so that the wind created by the helicopter’s blades will blow off her towel and cause her to turn over so that the photographer can quickly snap pictures of her bare breasts. She-Hulk tries to catch the helicopter but they get away. She-Hulk tracks down the photographer and finds out that he was working for a man named T.J. Vance, who publishes a magazine called The Naked Truth. She pays him a visit, first in her human form as Jennifer Walter, and tries to threaten Vance with legal action, but he refuses to back down, even when Jennifer turns into She-Hulk in front of him. According to them he’s already pre-sold 3 million copies of the next issue, when his average circulation is 100,000. It turns out there’s nothing She-Hulk can d0, as a public figure in a public area at the time, he had the right to take pictures and publish them.
So She-Hulk resigns herself to the fact that the magazine will be coming out. The comic skips ahead a month, and The Human Torch shows up with a copy of the magazine. But good news!
I get that the bit at the end about the green-tinted glasses is supposed to be funny. But how is this supposed to good news to She-Hulk? Just because the photos were re-colored, she says no one can recognize her? Really?
Now, even though the woman in the above picture has had her skin photo-shopped a completely different color, you all still recognize who that is, right?
And then there’s the fact that all that will realistically do is bring even more publicity to the magazine, probably turn that issue into a collector’s item, and then they publish the correct photos in the next month’s issue, that will probably sell twice as many copies. Whatever.
This doesn’t feel quite as pervy & degrading as the later graphic novel story does. I mean, the bottom line is it’s still a story where She-Hulk’s body is exposed against her will. I suppose there is a legitimate story idea here, as the Fantastic Four are public figures who don’t hide their identities, so they are sort of like celebrities. And the issue of how they’d have to deal with tabloids and paparazzi is a valid one, but did it have to be by having She-Hulk getting photographed topless? And it couldn’t even be that she was just laying out somewhere topless, thinking she was in a secluded area, and got unwittingly snapped by a sneaky cameraman. No the pilot and cameraman had to force her to turn over so they could photograph her. That just seems even worse, making She-Hulk more of a victim.
I admit, it’s hard for me to judge this story strictly on its own merits, without taking into account not only the later She-Hulk story, but also the Superman/Big Barda porno story Byrne did, without seeing a pattern here, where John Byrne seems to think having powerful female superheroes being degraded sexually, in ways which never happen to male superheroes, makes for good stories. But I tried. In addition to the main She-Hulk story, there’s also a subplot involving Johnny Storm hooking up with Ben Grimm’s ex-girlfriend Alicia, and feeling guilty about it. Plus there’s a flash forward that shows Reed and Sue being very concern about something that has happened to their son, which the cliffhanger says will be revealed next issue.
So overall I guess it’s an okay issue. Nothing spectacular to me, I wouldn’t have any reason to recommend specifically tracking this one issue down by itself, but if you’re interested in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four then you would want to get this just to complete your collection.