"Okay, now. This is your second chance," She-Hulk warned readers on the cover of 1989's Sensational She-Hulk #1. "If you don't buy my book this time, I'm gonna come to your house and rip up all your X-Men." (Covering the book's 1993 final issue is a fourth-wall-breaking Jennifer Walters: "Hand over those X-Men comics!") As written by John Byrne, the green-skinned lawyer cousin of Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, smashed through the fourth wall before Deadpool — and his live-action counterpart played by Ryan Reynolds — addressed the reader (or the audience) directly.
"For me, foundationally, I felt like first and foremost the fourth-wall breaking and the kind of meta-humor and the self-awareness [was the most important element of the comics to keep]," head writer and executive producer Jessica Gao said during a virtual press conference. "Because it was the John Byrne run that made me fall in love with this character, you know? It was just so lighthearted and fun and refreshing. So that was always kind of a foundational element."
Gao, whose credits include episodes of Robot Chicken and Rick and Morty, revealed the show's approach to the fourth-wall breaks, which underwent "a lot of evolutionary steps."
"How much should she talk to camera? Is she talking directly to the audience? Is there another meta element? Is she talking to somebody else that's more behind the scenes?" Gao said. "At one point, there was an iteration in the scripts where instead of talking directly to camera, there were text boxes that were editor's notes — like the comic books, how there were editor's notes in comics — and she was actually interacting with the editor's notes that would be on screen."
Gao aded, "I mean, we did eventually scrap that idea, but we went through a lot of different versions of how she would do it."
Ultimately, carrying that convention over from the comics "was about finding the balance," explained director and executive producer Kat Coiro. "Breaking the fourth wall does connect to the audience and draws us in, but not so much so that we're not connecting to her story in the world that we've built."
For Maslany, She-Hulk's awareness and acknowledgment of the audience "feels like it's her superpower engaged within the meta element of the comics."0comments
"It's like an extension of her superpower," Maslany explained. "She's like, 'I know I'm talking to camera. I know you guys are watching this.' And there's something about that super-hyper-awareness that is who she is."
Marvel Studios' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is streaming August 18 on Disney+.