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Marvel Reportedly Wanted ‘She-Hulk’ Made Smaller and the Internet Has Thoughts

Tatiana Maslany wears a sparkly dress as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk

The trailer for the Marvel Studios/Disney+ series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law recently dropped, giving audiences their first look at award-winning actress Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters, a lawyer who comes to have similar hulk-like transformative powers as her cousin Bruce Banner. The trailer showed that She-Hulk appears to be comedic in tone, and frankly, I would watch Maslany read the phonebook, she’s that compelling. But the trailer also drew derision online for what looks like some very underbaked CGI, as well as the fact that Maslany’s She-Hulk didn’t feature the rippling musculature her comics counterpart sometimes sports.

Over the weekend, the She-Hulk size discourse grew when Sean Ruecroft, a VFX artist at Industrial Light & Magic, tweeted the claim that Marvel kept coming back to the special effects team with demands that She-Hulk should be made to look smaller. The Tweets are now deleted—as is Ruecroft’s entire account—so while claims like this cannot be fully verified, the fact that an experienced artist shut down his account after the Tweets were widely covered leads me to believe the account is truthful. Ruecroft had nothing to gain by sharing this information, and indeed, nothing to be gained by making up such a story. I hope it was Ruecroft’s own choice to do damage control and delete his tweets and not because he heard from Disney lawyers or angry higher-ups, but I’m not holding my breath.

While Ruecroft did not work on the She-Hulk team himself, he has worked on other Marvel projects, including visual effects for Moon Knight and Spider-Man: Homecoming. He was likely responding to the ongoing fan outcry over She-Hulk’s relatively slight frame in the trailers, offering fans an explanation. CBR has the text of Ruecroft’s tweets, which suggest the original design for She-Hulk was “bigger” prior to studio intervention:

“I was at a company that did VFX for this. Apparently, she was bigger early on, but the notes kept saying to ‘make her smaller,'” writes Ruecroft. “We always roll our eyes (like we did on Sonic) but at the end of the day artists gotta follow orders.”

It’s unlikely that in sharing this anecdote from his company, Ruecroft could have imagined how much it would spread. But if that’s the case, he underestimated the fervor of Marvel fans—as well as the intensity of discourse that seems to always surround female bodies. Female superhero bodies are subject to as much scrutiny and debate, and arguments about Maslany’s She-Hulk sprang up mere seconds after the trailer’s debut.

Walters has had differing degrees of musculature in her comics incarnations, so some fans defended her She-Hulk look as being “comics-accurate.” But it does seem strange that in a time where the Internet goes wild over Natalie Portman’s Thor arms that a Marvel superhero named She-Hulk appears to have even less defined muscles when transformed. It’s especially disconcerting if Ruecroft’s Tweets are accurate and Marvel Studios kept coming back with notes to make She-Hulk smaller and smaller. If this was the case, the studio sorely misjudged its audience.

I first saw discussion about She-Hulk’s size after a Tweet went wildly viral post-trailer. It mocked how frequently the female versions of male characters have a generic, all-too-predictable look:

This tweet, from @xavierck3d, a 3D character artist at Wonderstorm, got over 230k likes and helped fuel further debate in the wake of the trailer’s release.

People responding and quote-tweeting Xavier’s tweet expressed disappointment in how She-Hulk had been rendered, along with speaking more broadly to how often female characters, even those intended to be monstrous or alien, are still given a generically “sexy” form by rigid Hollywood beauty standards.

Others good-naturedly tried to “fix” the original post:

Cosplayers reminded us that we have glorious She-Hulks IRL, CGI be damned:

Some folks pointed out that Marvel Comics had gone more buff with She-Hulk before and received push-back for that—possibly contributing to some of the hesitation here.

But most in the thread continued to beat the drum for a hulkier She-Hulk.

While it’s true that Walters has appeared in She-Hulk form in some comic runs with a physique that more resembles what we saw in the She-Hulk trailer, it’s also true that she has been shown to be much bigger. “It has to be comics accurate” is a strange flag to wave in this case, considering how often characters shift in visual appearance (not to mention gender) from page to screen in both Marvel and DC properties. What I find troubling is Ruecroft’s claim that a design for a bigger version of the character was sized down via studio notes, reportedly more than once. That means someone or several someones at Marvel Studios took a look at a bigger She-Hulk with more musculature and said, “No.” To which I say:

“I DON’T WANT MY SHE-HULK TO PHYSICALLY BE ABLE TO FLY SPIRIT AIRLINES TO FORT LAUDERDALE!” writes Jodi Walker in an article for The Ringer entitled ‘Let She-Hulk Be Huge.’ “Let horny superheroes be huge, and let us be horny for huge superheroes—even the lady ones! Create the world you (I) want to live in, Marvel.” This is what’s most upsetting for me about what seems to have happened here—”comics accurate” or not, we had the opportunity to present the buffest of buff lady superheroes, only some executives at Marvel seem to have been afraid of that idea instead of being excited to break new ground. Are they forgetting that Luisa from Encanto became a universal crush and breakout fan-favorite character overnight?

The musculature discourse aside, I have to agree with those who are less than impressed by the apparent CGI we see for She-Hulk in general. The show doesn’t come out until August 17th, 2022, so it’s possible we aren’t seeing the finished, polished effects. But what they seem to have done looks like it might’ve been better accomplished with skilled makeup artists rather than awkward digital greening. Personally I think it would have been cool to hire one of the cosplayers or body builders to play She-Hulk a la the Bruce Bixby as Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk standard in the ’70s TV show.

What do you think about the direction Marvel Studios has gone with She-Hulk?

(images: Marvel Comics/Marvel Studios)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.