WaPo Columnist ALEXANDRA PETRI Rises to the Challenge with SHE-HULK ANNUAL #1

She-Hulk Annual #1
Credit: Mirka Andolfo (Marvel Comics)
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri
Credit: Washington Post

She-Hulk is one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes - but it's been a little while since she had a solo title. Now, on August 28, Jenn Walters will get a spotlight again in She-Hulk Annual #1. And she's bringing someone with her - Washington Post satirist Alexandra Petri, who makes her comic book debut with the one-shot.

But it's not all fun and games for Shulkie.

Petri promises to bring her signature humor to the title, but the "Acts of Evil" tie-in will pit She-Hulk against the deadly assassin Bullseye, who may have more than a few tricks for taking on a Hulk up his sleeve. Alongside artist Andy MacDonald, Petri will also challenge She-Hulk's perception of herself as a hero in the midst of a crisis.

Newsarama spoke to Petri ahead of She-Hulk Annual #1's August 28 release to dive into what it takes to write comic books, Jennifer Walters' fighting spirit, and how to kill a Hulk - or at least, how to give it a shot.

Credit: Mirka Andolfo (Marvel Comics)

Newsarama: Alexandra, She-Hulk Annual #1 is your first foray into comic books. How’d you come to be writing this story?

Alexandra Petri: I still can’t believe that this happened! I got an email from Annalise Bissa, an editor at Marvel, asking me if I enjoyed Marvel comics and had I ever thought about writing one. I think I used a month’s worth of exclamation points in my response.

Later I sent a bunch of pitches with characters I knew I would love to write for the annual, which had to be themed around two characters fighting who had never fought before— readers are being spared my Asbestos Lady plot-line, but I think they got the better end of the stick with this one.

Nrama: What does it mean for you to be making this jump to comics – with a character like She-Hulk no less?

Petri: I am so excited to get to write something in this medium! It has brought me joy for a long time as a reader and I hope I get to do more of it! And I love She-Hulk. What excited me about her back when I first picked up “Single Green Female” was just how much joy she took in her power — she’s quippy, she’s strong, and even though she knows she’s capable of doing severe damage, she doesn’t see herself as a monster just because she’s enormous and green. She loves it.

Credit: Andy MacDonald (Marvel Comics)

She’s going around like, “Why would I ever want to just be just a regular good lawyer when I could be She-Hulk all the time? She-Hulk is awesome!!” and has to be talked down from that attitude — I loved that so much. Just seeing someone who turned big and green and wasn’t like “oh, god, I’m a monster!” and instead was like “Hell Yes Look What I Can Do!” was thrilling to me. I was fascinated by the idea of the person who responds to having powers like hers with that kind of an attitude, and wondering more about someone who had that response made her a character I really, really wanted to write!

Nrama: Your background is in satire, something that’s been part of She-Hulk’s DNA almost since her debut. Does that inform how you’re approaching this one-shot?

Petri: I think it would be hard for it not to! I love the ”She thought being a lawyer was in her blood until radiation was also in her blood!” of it all! Though I didn’t go as all-out fourth-wall-breaking as I could have, but I think it would be hard not to be somewhat self-aware.

I think this has jokes because everything I write has jokes, but like most things I write there’s also sincerity at the heart of it.

Nrama: Speaking of the story itself, you’re pitting She-Hulk against master assassin Bullseye under the “Acts of Evil” banner. How does a guy like Bullseye plan to take on a literal Hulk?

Petri: Well, let’s just say that I think he’s aware of that challenge and his Devious Plan anticipates using it to his advantage! To a degree? That I hope piques interest and avoids spoilers?

Credit: Andy MacDonald (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: What’s it been like taking on comics as an art form? How have you approached the format of scripting comics?

Petri: Oh man it’s been a lot of fun and definitely a learning process. I read a ton. It was fun to be like “No, my homework now is to Read all the Comics! I cannot stir from this place.”

I actually wound up drawing out the world’s most pathetic comic book by hand on printer paper just to try to give myself a sense of what you could and could not do in a panel and how to pace everything, because it was so different to how my brain is used to working. It’s a lot of stick figures going “RARRRR” with some coffee spilled on it. I think? It’s difficult to read my handwriting, which is full-on doctor-prescription-scrawl-level bad.

My editor Annalise was super patient with me when it came to gently saying “Actually, you can’t show someone doing two things in the same panel! That’s two panels!”

Nrama: And on that note, you’re working with artist Andy MacDonald here, a veteran of Marvel Comics work. How has it been working with him and seeing him bring your script to life?

Credit: Andy MacDonald (Marvel Comics)

Petri: It has been magic, truly!! I now understand how Victor Frankenstein felt when this thing he stitched together out of the human body part equivalents of popsicle sticks and glue sat up and greeted him, except instead of a monster covered in inept stitches it’s a beautiful fully formed creature you want to bring home to your parents. A true delight!!! Especially contrasted to my hideous stick figures saying “RARR.”

He’s been a total wizard. I’ve pretty much been like “My only note is the word 'WOW' in a large font.”

Nrama: Do you have a favorite scene Andy has drawn for this annual?

Petri: Ugh, there are so many! I love the climactic fight scene! But I also love how he draws She-Hulk just chilling in a quiet moment before the crap hits the fan. Ooh, and there’s one crucial panel where he absolutely nails this perfect Bullseye smirk! I just love what he can do with faces!

Credit: Andy MacDonald (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: Bottom line, what makes this “Acts of Evil” story a must-read for She-Hulk fans?

Petri: Well Andy’s art is phenomenal, for starters! And I hope it’s a surprising twist on the “How do you fight a Hulk??” scenario!

It has quipping and punching, but it also finds Jen facing a challenge she can’t use her usual weapons to solve! Spoiler alert: she rises to the challenge!

It was fun to find a way in the midst of this showdown to ask the classic comic question of what really makes you a hero, especially for someone who often has the simple answer of “well, the gamma-irradiated blood, and the rest is my legal training!”

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