How long does it take for a character to go from cynical cash grab to beloved hero? Well, in the case of She-Hulk, roughly 9 years.

She-Hulk was created as a direct result of The Bionic Woman. That character was created as a female spin-off of the Six Million Dollar Man. And, as there was no female version in the source material, Universal and the creators of the Six Million Dollar Man had exclusive rights to the character. And of course, the profits.

Fearing the same would be done with the Incredible Hulk – a popular show airing on CBS at the time – Marvel hastily put out their own female version of the Hulk to retain the rights if this did happen.

And so in 1980 She-Hulk debuted in her own comic created by Stan Lee and John Buscema. This original series could be graciously described as a “contractually obligated legal requirement.” After that She-Hulk would make guest appearances in other books and teams, most notably becoming a member of the Fantastic Four written and drawn by John Byrne, who evidently took a shine to her and relaunched her solo series in 1989 with the publication of The Sensational She-Hulk.

This series broke with convention, it broke with tradition, and it broke the fourth wall. This was a series that was unlike anything being made at the time. Sure, there had been characters in the past that occasionally broke the fourth wall, but not to this degree. She-hulk not only addressed the audience, but she also pleaded with the writer and editors to change storylines, she utilized layouts and panels to travel to different locations, and she ripped thru pages to move the plot along. The physical comic book itself became a part of the story. And the reader themselves were not simply passive viewers but actively engaged in the telling of the story. And the series poked fun at the tropes and clichés of comic books, the publishers, the creators, and the fandom. It was a satire, a parody, a deconstruction of the medium itself. All while being extremely funny and entertaining.

She-Hulk went from being a legal loophole to one of the most dynamic characters in comics starring in one of the most important and innovative series in its history. It went on to inspire multiple imitators and helped redefine how comic book stories could be told, all while not taking themselves too seriously.

In a word…it’s sensational.

This article originally appeared as the introduction to episode 90: Sensational She-Hulk.

The Collected Edition is a comic book podcast where the hosts discuss the famous and infamous runs and story arcs throughout the history of comics. Please subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Sticher, IHeartRadio, and Spotify.