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In the first episode of She Hulk: Attorney at Law we have at least three instances where Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall through narration and speaking or looking directly at the camera and addressing the audience directly as "you".

Certainly there are Marvel characters that have this power (Deadpool being the most prominent example) but it is also not uncommon for movies or television shows to have a character break the fourth wall as a stylistic choice or story-telling device when it is clearly not meant to be a power of the character.

Is this a property or a power of the Jennifer Walters character or it is a property of the show? How are we supposed to interpret it? I suppose this means, maybe contradictorily, to what extent is the breaking of the fourth wall in-universe or not, whatever that means?

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  • I understand that asking "is the breaking of the fourth wall in-universe or out-of-universe?" looks like a redundant or nonsensical question. If anyone has suggestion about how to improve the wording of this nuance, it would be appreciated Aug 19, 2022 at 15:07
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    She-Hulk has a well known propensity to break the fourth wall in the comics so it's in universe as such.
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 19, 2022 at 15:40
  • @Paulie_D: answer? Aug 19, 2022 at 15:41
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    JW broke the fourth wall before DP. I’ll post the answer when I find the issue where she does that.
    – Shreedhar
    Aug 19, 2022 at 16:14
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    It might be worth noting that Bruce notices her doing it. It probably isn’t worth noting that in Iron Man 3 it initially seems like Tony is addressing the audience in voice-over, until the post-credits scene reveals that he’s actually just recounting the events of the movie to Bruce. HULK SMASH PUNY FOURTH WALL is what I’m saying. Aug 19, 2022 at 19:47

3 Answers 3

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As I interpret your question, I think you're asking whether the series is depicting the fourth wall breaks simply as a stylized narrative (House of Cards) or if it's actually something that is happening in the context of her world (The Office).

In Sensational She-Hulk #4, Jennifer's awareness of being in a comic book is expanded on as actually serving a function in the Marvel Universe. She meets Golden Age superheroine, the Blonde Phantom, who's also aware that she's a comic book character. Now much older, she wants to work where She-Hulk does just so she can be a supporting character in an active comic book.

Blonde Phantom, or Weezi, can actually use the comic pages to her advantage. She can move between panels, something She-Hulk hadn't yet learned to do. And she even stops Jennifer from jumping out of the page and attacking the writer, John Byrne, by explaining that they've already been colored and sent to print and that she'd just be attacking the reader instead.

Weezi also explains to Jennifer that the reason comic characters never age is because they remain in publication. The strip Weezi and her husband where in ended years ago, and she had become a widower since. This is her motivation for trying to become an active comic character again, even if it's just in a supporting role.

So in the comics, it has actual function in-universe. We've also seen other characters react to her comments towards the audience, usually with confusion. It remains to be seen if they'll create a comparable functionality in the MCU. So far, we have seen Bruce notice one of her fourth wall breaks, and we see her pretending she didn't say anything. That does imply that she's doing this in-universe, and it isn't just stylized commentary solely for the benefit of the audience. We'll just have to wait and see if they create any lore for her fourth wall commentary, like they did in the comics, as the series progresses.

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Though I did not understand your question completely, I think you mean to ask if the fourth-wall-breaking property of She-Hulk was invented for the show and the answer is no.

As mentioned in the comments she did it way before Deadpool started it:

When you think of fourth-wall breaks, the first hero who comes to mind is probably Deadpool. However, the "Merc with a Mouth" didn’t address the audience until Deadpool #28 in 1997. She-Hulk went there almost a decade earlier.

After She-Hulk’s two-year initial series and subsequent stint as a member of the Fantastic Four, writer/artist John Byrne would create a lighthearted version of Jennifer Walters in Sensational She-Hulk, which began in 1989.

Source

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  • Ambush Bug has been doing it since the first issue of his own mini-series in 1985.
    – GordonD
    Aug 20, 2022 at 9:46
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    One of my favorite She-Hulk Fourth Wall Breaks was in the "Vs." Collectible Card Game. Her card's flavor text says "Hey, wouldn't I look better as a foil?" and the shiny Foil version of her has text "Now that's what I'm talking about!"
    – Josh
    Aug 20, 2022 at 10:02
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    @Josh, one of the best was when she tore a hole in the page and led a group of people to safety by crossing the listing of back issue comics. The entire two-page spread was hysterical. One of the people banged his knee on the staple, and the listing for the comics was full of in-jokes and commentary: "An X-Book! An X-Book! Bwahahaha! A million billion dollars!" Aug 23, 2022 at 21:16
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It's an inherent in-universe power of She-Hulk / Jennifer Walters.

In S01E09 "Whose Show Is This?", the Season 1 finale episode, She-Hulk was able to travel between universes into the MCU version of the real world, meet and interact with the writers of her own TV show, and fight her way to K.E.V.I.N., the AI in charge of Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She was able to convince K.E.V.I.N. to change certain plot elements in the episode and the ending, altering the reality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Gao cites the John Byrne run of SHE-HULK comics for inspiration for this extreme four-wall break, explaining “It felt natural that not only that she was in a show, but that she would have opinions about the show, especially since she just was completely betrayed by the makers of this show. It just felt right that she would go and complain to the ultimate lord of Marvel, which is K.E.V.I.N..”

- ‘She-Hulk’: Introducing Marvel Studios’ K.E.V.I.N. Marvel.com

Sensational She-Hulk #50 (1993) by John Byrne featured a similar plotline where She-Hulk interacted with the editors and writers of her own comic book (including John Byrne), and got to pick and choose how her story would go.

screencaps of Sensational She-Hulk #50

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