Mariko Tamaki discusses the return of The Leader!

The Leader has come for Jen Walters again. And this time, he’s conscripted her biggest fan in the fight.

On December 13, writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Jahnoy Lindsay present SHE-HULK #160! Jen has barely started to deal with the trauma still lingering after Civil War II and now she finds even more difficulty coming her way. Trapped between the two most Hulk-obsessed people on the planet, Jen has to ask: what do they want from her?

Mariko stopped by to give us a couple of clues!

Marvel.com: At the start of this series, we found Jen dealing with some serious stress. How has she been progressing through that emotional journey?

Mariko Tamaki: It’s been a messed up couple of months for Jennifer Walters.

After she lost her cousin, Jen has really struggled to deal with the trauma of that and her own experiences with Thanos.

Post-Civil War II, she’s been working at a new law firm where she’s tried to focus on other people’s problems instead of her own. But you can’t treat trauma like a headache, like “Well, this sucks but it will go away.” It won’t go away! The more you avoid a thing like trauma, the more it shows up in your life. Jen wants to treat her pain like a cramp and shake it off and just focus on other people’s monsters. But no matter what she does, her monster stands there waiting all the time and it’s constantly messing with her.

Marvel.com: And so the grey state comes in.

Mariko Tamaki: Yeah, the grey state acts like a heightened version of Jen’s previous green state. Everything about grey Hulk seems bigger and angrier. And being grey kind of makes it hard to connect to Jen.

Being grey is basically like rage. Pure. Rage.

Marvel.com: Tell us a little bit about The Leader and his history with The Hulk.

Mariko Tamaki: The Leader is a brain (a very big brain, thanks to gamma radiation) and a schemer. He’s a tactician. The same way gamma radiation made Hulk and She-Hulk’s rage and anger larger than life, the Leader’s ambition, ego, and desire for domination and power, are also larger than life.

Of course, the problem with big plans tends to be that they always get foiled, and the Hulk has been a foil for The Leader time and time again. So the plans get a little more evil and a little more intricate every time…

Marvel.com: What makes him so obsessed with Jen!?

Mariko Tamaki: Aside from the ongoing backstory of Leader vs. Hulk, to paraphrase “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Jinkx Monsoon, I think there might be two reasons you go after a person: you go after the person who’s good at the things you’re not good at, and you go after someone who’s good at the things you are good at.

I think for The Leader, She-Hulk seems kind of a double threat in that regard. She’s smart and strong. Also, I think at some point you pick the person you want to destroy and, once you’ve committed to that, you just have to follow through.

Marvel.com: Professor Robyn Meiser Malt shows up in this arc as well! What inspires her in this story?

Mariko Tamaki: Robyn, a scientist working with The Leader, is a huge, huge fan of She-Hulk. Robyn acts as my investigation of a kind of fan. What happens when you put someone up in a place beyond being admired? What singular thing does the object of your desire become and how does that connect to your own vision of self?

Now, at the start of issue #159, she works with The Leader. Jen gets drugged and restrained in a bunker with this woman who sees Hulk as an answer—kind of the exact opposite of how Jen sees herself. Robyn has turned Jen into this fairytale, a story that (with some help) has filled up her whole brain with this singular vision…a very dangerous singular vision.

Marvel.com: If you could give Jen one piece of advice, what would it be?

Mariko Tamaki: You need to ask for advice…and I don’t think Jen would ask for advice. Fortunately, I do think Jen might be on the cusp of leaning into, instead of avoiding, her pain. I think the more you explore it, the more you understand it. But that’s just me.

Pick up Mariko Tamaki and artist Jahnoy Lindsay’s SHE-HULK #160 on December 13!

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Mariko Tamaki fills us in on what Legacy has in store for Jen Walters!

The Leader is back on the scene to wreak havoc (it’s kind of his thing), but this time the big-headed ne’er-do-well strikes our hero when She-Hulk is at her weakest. Dealing with her new grey state has been challenging enough for Jen to face as it is, but what will happen when she is forced to face herself… literally?

SHE-HULK #159 by writer Mariko Tamaki with art by Jahnoy Lindsay presents their Legacy offering — JEN WALTERS MUST DIE: PART 1! Catch it on November 8th at a comic store near you.

We grill Mariko Tamaki on SHE-HULK Legacy and her strongest foe yet: herself.

Marvel.com: How has Jen Walters been holding up lately? Walk us through her state of mind, personally and professionally.

Mariko Tamaki: Professionally, Jen is good. Great, even! Work is busy because she’s got a full case load. Personally? Yeah, she’s burying everything under that workload. She’s still in a place where she’s not the Jen/Hulk she wants to be, but she’s determined to power through because she thinks it will be possible to deal with all the things she’s dealing with BY powering through… she is, of course, not entirely correct.

SHE-HULK #159

Marvel.com: Jen does so much to help save other people, but why is it so much harder for her to save herself (from herself)?

Mariko Tamaki: I think dealing with your own stuff is a whole other skill set. It’s like knowing how to explain how to play baseball and knowing how to play baseball. It’s a whole extra bit of uncomfortable work! And delving into that pain and discomfort is something Jen is afraid will undo her, so she’s mostly avoiding it. Helping people feels good, so she’s focusing on that.

Marvel.com: What has it been like working with a new series artist (the wonderful Jahnoy Lindsay)?

Mariko Tamaki: I have been incredibly lucky to work with so many amazing artists on this series. I love working with Jahnoy!

Marvel.com: Jen recently opted back to the title “She-Hulk.” Is she a little torn on whether it’s right to take on Bruce’s title of “Hulk” in light of his tragic passing

Mariko Tamaki: I don’t think Jen is concerned with being called Hulk or She-Hulk. Jen is very busy and also, most importantly, Jen knows who she is. She is Hulk and she is She-Hulk!

Marvel.com: What does the Marvel Legacy mean to you personally as a reader of and a writer for the brand?

Mariko Tamaki: To me it means going big, bringing something somewhat colossal to the story. The Leader is the perfect person to bring in now. He’s so striking and evil.  I love writing him. With the Leader, we wanted to go big with the villain in this issue, to connect a novel foe with Jen’s current mental state.

Marvel.com: How does Jen feel about her grey form? What does she like and dislike about that new development?

Mariko Tamaki: Being grey Hulk is still sort of out-of-body for Jen, literally. It’s a powerful but still unfamiliar feeling. Also it’s connected to trauma, to being in pain, and that’s not an easy thing. It’s not a form she completely trusts, at this point, and for good reason… as we shall see.

Charge over to a comic store near you on November 8th for SHE-HULK #159 by Mariko Tamaki and Jahnoy Lindsay, everywhere Marvel comics are sold!

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Mariko Tamaki and Jahnoy Lindsay detail Jen Walters' intro to Marvel Legacy!

She-Hulk continues to struggle with the trauma she experienced during the events of Civil War II, but the villains of the Marvel Universe don’t plan on waiting for her to adjust. The Leader has picked up on Jen’s current state—and believes it might be the perfect time to strike.

Marvel Legacy takes on a green hue when SHE-HULK #159, by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Jahnoy Lindsay, lands on November 8!

Jennifer Walters needs to come to terms with her new Hulk form if she wants to stand a chance against the Leader’s latest wicked plan. Will she be able to stop fighting herself long enough to confront her old foe?

We spoke with Mariko and Jahnoy to find out.

Marvel.com: She-Hulk has been through a lot since Civil War II, but this threat from The Leader could be the biggest one yet. What has brought him out of the woodwork?

Mariko Tamaki: The Leader has always been lurking, waiting for an opportune moment. And Jen finds herself in a place where she’s a little vulnerable—an ideal time for him to strike.

Marvel.com: As she continues to grapple with her new Hulk form, does Jen even feel like she’s able to face someone like The Leader?

Jahnoy Lindsay: Definitely—Jen still has a lot to work out within herself, but she’s still She-Hulk. She’s ready to take on anyone!

Mariko Tamaki: Jen would never back away from a threat. That’s just not her jam. Even if she’s not sure how she will manage something, it’s really not in her DNA to walk away. So yes, she’s in a place where she doesn’t completely understand her new Hulk form, but she’s always going to step up.

Marvel.com: She-Hulk’s solo series has dealt a lot with Jen’s PTSD following the events of Civil War II—and we’ve explored this focus before. Will that theme continue through Marvel Legacy and into this new arc?

Mariko Tamaki: There are a lot of layers to trauma—so as a theme, and as an experience, it has a lot of twists. For Jen, this feels like a new twist because the previous battles she’s faced, since Civil War II, have been with people she once tried to help. And that couldn’t be further from her situation with The Leader. The Leader wants to end her, and she’s going to have to fight him from a very liminal and complex space. She’s dealing with trauma…but it’s also super villain time.

Marvel.com: Jahnoy, you’re working on this book for the first time. How has everything been so far?

Jahnoy Lindsay: A lot of fun! I’m just really excited and appreciative of the opportunity to contribute to such an important part of this characters story

Marvel.com: And you two are teaming up for the first time—what has your collaboration been like?

Jahnoy Lindsay: Working together has been pretty cool. I think there’s still a lot for me to learn about making comics, so I’m glad to be able to work alongside such an experienced writer like Mariko.

Mariko Tamaki: I am loving what I’ve seen so far.

Marvel.com: What about this new story are you most excited for readers to see?

Mariko Tamaki: The Leader has been a cool character to write for sure. I mean, he has a giant brain, you know? That’s intriguing.

Jahnoy Lindsay: It may be a bit selfish, but there’s a new character we’ve introduced who I just love drawing and learning about, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that person will be received.

Check out SHE-HULK #159, by Mariko Tamaki and Jahnoy Lindsay, on November 8!

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Mariko Tamaki examines the long-term fallout for Jen Walters’ recent trials!

Civil War II had some pretty dramatic ramifications for a lot of folks across the Marvel Universe, including Jen Walters. Recently, in HULK, we’ve seen the erstwhile She-Hulk trying to recover from the loss of her cousin, Bruce Banner, and put her life back together.

We caught up with writer Mariko Tamaki in advance of HULK #4 on March 22 about how Jen will cope, and what we can expect from her story moving forward.

Marvel.com: Jen has always had a belief in the justice system, which has led her to defend people who aren’t necessarily popular in the public eye. But the way things went down with Hawkeye really affected her. Has it changed her outlook on the justice system?

Mariko Tamaki: I don’t think it has. My take on it is that, she goes back to work because she has an enduring belief in the justice system. Regardless of how she might feel about what happened to her cousin, I think she still feels everyone deserves a trial. I’d consider this one of the more complex aspects of Jen, but I think it grounds a character to have these kinds of core values. I also think that, while this is a sustaining belief of hers, it doesn’t cover over the other feelings she has around what happened to Bruce.

And I’ve always liked that we get to see Jen as a working super hero. She still goes to the office every day and does her lawyer thing, in addition to punching out bad guys in space.

Marvel.com: Bruce, a family member, could uniquely understand what Jen goes through. How has losing him changed her?

Mariko Tamaki: It’s a pretty significant loss in her life. Losing someone like that can feel life-changing. Those people help to shape your world, and when you lose them, it can feel like you now have a piece missing. I think that’s the place where we find Jen right now.

Marvel.com: It seems like Jen feels, to an extent, like Carol Danvers let her down, because her decisions in part led to Bruce’s death. So that relationship has been affected, too. How has that impacted Jen?

Mariko Tamaki: We see Jen kind of isolating herself from everybody right now. Part of this issue, and this series, entails looking [at] how she has specifically separated herself from her friends. She has made a distinction between her old life and her new life, but I see that as a false dichotomy because her old life still exists, those people go on living. At the moment, we won’t see her dealing with her specific feelings about anybody, as much as we’ll see her trying to block out whatever she feels about everything that has happened.

Marvel.com: Jen is trying to rebuild her career, and move into a new phase of her life. What do you think that will look like for her moving forward? How will it be different from the career and life she had pre-Civil War II?

Mariko Tamaki: Well, we’ll see her in a liminal space, still trying to figure that out. Of course her super hero identity is a key part of her story, but right now, she doesn’t quite know what that will look like. She’ll always find herself feeling pushed toward life as a super hero, and now she faces the question of how to respond to that. For example, she finds herself drawn to her new client, Maise, who needs more help from her than a regular client would. So even when she might consciously choose to distance herself from her super hero life, she still moves in that direction. We could imagine an alternate reality where Jen retires to Florida and everything is cool. But that’s not the interesting story. What I find interesting is how our resolutions butt up against our destinies, and I see Jen as destined to fight for justice as more than just a lawyer.

Marvel.com: In issue #4, Jen will face her client’s fear, which is so strong it becomes a force of its own. Does this in some ways parallel Jen’s own experience? She has had to face some of her own anxieties lately.

Mariko Tamaki: I wanted to put Jen in this space with this person who I see as maybe a little farther along down this path than Jen, and who has taken a similar but different route. Jen has decided that being the Hulk feels like too much and she doesn’t want to do it, and Maise sees the entire world as too overwhelming, and she just wants to close herself off from it. And I like this idea of having a manifestation of dark, psychic energy. For Jen, her anxieties and traumas manifest through her transformation, and for Maise, they manifest in a different way. Jen feels drawn to Maise’s story because she can relate to what Maise has gone through.

Marvel.com: Would you like to mention or tease anything else?

Mariko Tamaki: I’ve had a lot of fun working with artist Nico Leon, colorist Matt Milla, and editor Mark Paniccia. I’ve really considered it a privilege to work with someone who adds so much—we see so much happening in the background of this comic that could make up a complete story in and of itself, thanks to Nico. And I hope readers enjoy that part of it too, because in every scene, you’ll see the foreground, but also something really weird or interesting in the background, and I recommend people check that out as they read it.

Follow the next steps in Jen’s journey through HULK #4 on March 22!

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