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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
attorney and super-hero, formerly of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four
Jennifer Walters, better known as the green-skinned, super-strong superheroine the She-Hulk, is the cousin of Bruce Banner. Jennifer Walter's cousin is better known to the world as the Hulk. Unlike the Hulk, Jennifer Walters has (nearly) always been in complete control of her gamma-powered alter ego.
We do not know the denominational affiliation of She-Hulk. All that is known is that she was raised in a Christian home. It is unclear whether her family was Catholic, Protestant, or some other type of Christian. There is no indication that Walters has ever exhibited any conscious commitment to the religious affiliation of her childhood. As an adult, Walters might best be described as a nominal or lapsed Christian.
Whatever the She-Hulk's actual religious upbringing or her actual current religious beliefs, one thing that can be safely said is that the She-Hulk is not an overtly religious character. There are many Marvel superhero characters for whom a specific religious faith is a core part of their persona. She-Hulk is not one of these.
This does not mean, however, that the character is non-religious. It means that her religiosity is not a central part of how she has been regularly portrayed. Some characters have strong religious beliefs, but reveal these beliefs only rarely. The She-Hulk's cousin, Dr. Bruce Banner, referred to his religious beliefs, including his strong belief in an afterlife, as his "very private faith." (See: The Religious Affiliation of the Hulk.)
The She-Hulk was introduced in Savage She-Hulk #1 (February 1980), written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Buscema.
Jennifer Walters' cousin Dr. Banner identified himself as a lapsed Catholic on The Incredible Hulk TV series. Bruce Banner was explicitly identified as a Catholic in Marvel's Ultimate line. (See The Ultimates 2 #3, published in 2005.) Although the Ultimate comics often feature characters who have been re-imagined with many differences, all characters for whom religious identification can be identified have been the same religion in both their original mainstream Marvel continuity version and their Ultimate version. The mainstream Marvel Hulk, like the Ultimate and TV versions of the character, is almost certainly a lapsed Catholic. There are number of aspects of the character that support this contention.
The fact that Bruce Banner is a Catholic has caused some people to speculate that Jennifer Walters is a Catholic as well. We believe there is insufficient support to draw such a conclusion. At this time, we have left She-Hulk unclassified with regards to her religious affiliation.
Jennifer Walters was raised in Southern California, where her father was a Los Angeles County sheriff. This doesn't really tell us anything, as Los Angeles is home to adherents of every major (and hundreds of minor) religion and denomination in the world. The religious denominations in Los Angeles County that had the most adherents at around the time Walters became the She-Hulk (according to Glenmary Institute research, 1990) were:
1. Catholic Church
3. Southern Baptist Convention
4. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
5. American Baptist Churches in The U.S.A.
6. United Methodist Church
7. International Church of The Foursquare Gospel
8. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
9. Assemblies of God
Jennifery Walters may or may not have been raised in or be a current member of one of these denominations which are most popular in Los Angeles.
In actual practice, it is very rare for any super-hero character to be overtly identified as a member of a specific denomination (religious body), unless the character is Catholic. The precise denomination of Jewish characters (whether Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Hasidic, etc.) is essentially never identified. The precise denomination of non-Catholic Christian characters is almost never identified. Many Christian characters are known simply to be "Protestant" or "Christian." Sometimes a character is portrayed as Christian without even making it clear to which branch of Christianity the character belongs; the character might be Catholic or Evangelical or Anglican or Orthodox or Latter-day Saint or Quaker or a Christian Scientist or something else entirely. It is not uncommon for comic book writers (and fiction writers in general) to be afraid to specifically identify a character's religious denomination, even when they have a specific denominational background in mind for the character. Sometimes editors ask that specific denominational references be removed.
One can be almost certain that a specific religious denomination has not actually been overtly identified by name for the She-Hulk within the comics. Stan Lee may well have thought of the character only as a "typical white Los Angeles attorney", without thinking about what her religious background might have been. Or he might have consciously thought of her as being based on a vaguely Catholic, Protestant or other character type template, as he sometimes did.
Two of these religious groups can be ruled out, however. It is safe to say that Jennifer Walters is not Jewish. She was created by a Jewish writer (Stan Lee), but Lee nearly never created Jewish characters, and when he did so (such as Pvt. Izzy Cohen of Nick Fury's Howling Commandos), he gave them Jewish names.
Possibly Jennifer Walters' family background lies in the Catholic Church (like her cousin). Possibly her belonged to one of these other denominations (Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Latter-day Saint, United Methodist, Foursquare Gospel, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God). However, based on Walters' bahavior when it comes to her dating life and use of alcohol, it is safe to say that she is not a practicing member of either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Assemblies of God.
One interesting bit of religious trivia that pertains to the She-Hulk is that she is one of the very few major super-heroes who has ever had a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) character as a major supporting character. In two of the She-Hulk's series (volumes 3 and 4), a major supporting cast member in the series was Jennifer Walters' fellow attorney (and some-time work rival) Mallory Book, an overtly Latter-day Saint character who is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is regarded as one of New York City's top attorneys.
From: message board discussion thread started 8 May 2006 on the "She-Hulk Message Board" section of the BoardHost website (http://members2.boardhost.com/SheHulk/msg/1147125750.html; viewed 22 May 2006):
Posted by vanhelsin on 5/8/2006, 6:02 pm
I like how She-Hulk is undefined... [on the "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" website].
Meaning her religious orientation has never been defined fully. Yes, Stan Lee was Jewish, as is Dan Slott, but neither gave her a Jewish background, though Dan Slott did mention Sunday School for Jen once.
I'd say keep it vague, since it's never really been an issue for the character...
From: "Atheist representation on the Avengers" forum discussion started 20 June 2001 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?trd=010620110715; viewed 24 May 2007):
Posted by D-Man on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 20:10:53 GMT
...Probably the best comic you could find to figure out who believes in a god or a god, or have deep faith in God or a god would be:
The Goddess uses the heroes' faith and belief in gods and such to recruit heroes.
Here are a list of Avengers who are "believers" so are recruited by the Goddess:
The so-called "non-believers" that the Goddess didn't choose:
Beast (although Beast claims to believe in a god, but Vision counters with "Obviously because your belief in a supreme being is not as deeply felt nor well known as the others.")
Quasar (which was stated in his own book)
From: "Question for other atheists" forum discussion, started 6 March 2006 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?rpl=060307010148; viewed 23 July 2007):
Posted by Mike L on Tuesday, March 07 2006 at 01:01:48 GMT
Arcane and Abigal been to Hell, Abigal rescued by Swamp Thing.
Arcane escaped I think after being a demon for a while.
I'm surprised DCU [DC Universe] Oprah [Winfrey] or Dr. Phil havent booked these peaple to interview: "Today, peaple back from the dead."
Posted by Icon on Tuesday, March 07 2006 at 10:17:00 GMT
IIRC [If I recall correctly] in a She-Hulk issue she actually asks at a trial "How many people in this court have been dead in the past", and thanks to one of the Infinity Gauntlet-related stories, half the people present raise their hands) :-)
Webpage created 17 April 2006. Last modified 23 July 2007.
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