2016 is quickly shaping up to be quite a spectacular year for Marvel and its roster of Strong Female Characters. Ongoing series starring Angela, Thor, Silk, Spider-Gwen, and more will continue with new volumes and, for the most part, the original creative teams intact. Dennis Hopeless will continue writing duties on (now visibly pregnant) Spider-Woman’s title and G. Willow Wilson’s all-female A-Force lineup will battle on past the conclusion of Secret Wars.
Joining these established titles will be James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch, Tom Taylor’s All-New Wolverine (starring X-23), and Amy Reeder’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. With new books and team rosters being announced daily, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.
The trend of bringing both female heroes and underutilized characters to the forefront has been on an upward swing at Marvel for some time and shows little sign of slowing down. Chock full of fun, quirky art and tongue-in-cheek stories that don’t take themselves so nauseatingly serious, the titles starring these characters have been met with critical acclaim and have, in some instances, gone to multiple printings.
Hoping to recapture the same magic that came with the release of The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, Marvel will be shining the spotlight on a character that has gone to Hell and back (literally). This December, Patsy Walker, the former Defender known as Hellcat, is set to star in her own ongoing series from the creative team of Kate Leth (writer), Brittney Williams (artist), and Megan Wilson (colorist). Described as being “an adventure book, a romance book, a crime fighting book” with “plenty of jokes, action, feelings, and sweet fashions,” Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat will find the titular character taking a break from heroics while trying to make ends meet in New York City. Naturally, it will prove easier said than done.
Sure, some readers who have rarely ventured outside the exploits of Iron Man or Captain America are likely scratching their heads and pondering, “Who the hell is Patsy Walker?” With this handy-dandy guide, newbies can bring themselves up to speed in time for issue no. 1 and longtime fans can relish in the moments that made this gal so great.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hopeless Romantic
Created in 1944 by one of the first female artists in comic books, Ruth Atkinson, Patsy Walker first appeared in the pages of Miss America Magazine and would go on to star in her own teen comedy title, Patsy Walker. Following her high school graduation, the stories centering on Walker shifted from humor to a more romantic tone. Spin-off titles, Patsy and Hedy and Patsy Walker and her Pals, further documented the young career woman’s life.
After Patsy Walker was established as being part of Marvel’s 616 continuity in 1965, it was soon revealed that the early romance/comedy stories were fictional works penned by Patsy’s mother, Dorothy, and published within the Marvel 616 Universe. Dorothy had, however, based these stories on actual events and acquaintances from Patsy’s life, including her betrothal and marriage to high school sweetheart and Air Force officer, Robert Baxter. After spending several years traveling from military base to military base, her marriage to Robert came to a bitter end.
Some time later, during her stint with the Defenders, Patsy met Daimon Hellstrom (a.k.a. the Son of Satan). Following the purging of the demonic darkness from within his soul, the two fell in love and soon married. Of course, the wedding ceremony was not without its complications. Patsy’s ex-husband, Robert (now guised as the costumed villain Mad Dog) crashed the event, but was successfully thwarted by the combined effort of the Defenders and Daimon. The newlyweds soon relocated to San Francisco where they became established investigators in matters relating to occult phenomena. Many superheroes sought out the couple for assistance with problems of a mystical nature.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Supermodel Supreme
In addition to publishing biographical comic books based on her daughter’s youthful exploits, Dorothy Walker acted as her daughter’s agent and helped book her daughter on various acting and modeling opportunities. Patsy has periodically returned to this profession, as evidenced in the pages of 2009/2010’s Models, Inc. miniseries.
The events of this story saw Patsy reunited with her childhood frenemy and fashion blogger du jour, Hedy Wolfe, as they are caught up in a New York Fashion Week murder mystery that frames Millicent “Millie the Model” Collins for the crime. As the hunt for clues progressed, Millie’s best friend and fellow model, Chili Storm, became enamored with the idea of becoming a superhero (likely due to her own physical attraction to famous superheroines) and attempted to learn all she could from Patsy.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Intern Extraordinaire
Growing up in a household full of comic books and with a mother who wrote them for a living, Patsy idolized the heroes that graced the works of her mother’s colleagues. During the time when Patsy was living in New Jersey with then-husband Robert Baxter, she met Hank McCoy (a.k.a. Beast). In exchange for keeping his civilian identity a secret, Hank agreed to help Patsy in fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a superhero. While the training did not begin until after her separation from Baxter and Beast’s joining the Avengers, it led to her acquisition of Greer Grant-Nelson’s (a.k.a. Tigra) old costume and the new moniker, Hellcat.
Despite hopes to join the Avengers, herself, Patsy soon agreed to accompany the priestess, Moondragon, to Titan in order to further develop her budding skills. Along with intensive martial arts and agility training, Hellcat’s minor psionic potential was enhanced via bio-electronic implants.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Survivor
Not unexpectedly, Patsy’s marriage to the Son of Satan was not all sunshine and daisies. The couple’s idyllic life was upended when Daimon’s demonic persona returned and, driven to madness at the sight of it, Patsy was institutionalized in a near-vegetative state. Sensing the woman’s desperation to end her own suffering, the otherworldly being, Deathurge, provided a mercy-killing.
Patsy found herself in Mephisto’s afterlife realm where she was forced to fight in a never-ending gladiatorial battle, thus further honing her combat and psychic skills.
Following a failed attempt by the Grim Reaper to turn Patsy and group of deceased Avengers against the living members of the team, Daimon Hellstrom conned Clint Barton into venturing to Hell under the guise of rescuing and resurrecting his deceased wife, Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird). The intent and successful endgame of this ploy was the restoration of Patsy back to life.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. BFF 4-Ever
Following a brief period of depression due to her experiences in Hell and self-perceived failures, Patsy soon returned to the world of superheroics and the Hellcat persona. She squared off against the likes of Nicholas Scratch, the Sons of the Serpent, and Dormammu.
After spending time in Alaska as the state’s one-woman Initiative team, Patsy grew close with fellow heroes, Angelica Jones (Firestar), Felicia Hardy (Black Cat), and Monica Rambeau. The genuine bond that the women shared was proven in their unwavering support of Angelica when the former New Warrior is diagnosed with cancer. Patsy gladly began penning a book and blogging about Angelica’s experiences in order to relay them to other cancer patients.
Further adventures saw Hellcat as a guest of Emma Frost’s birthday party that was interrupted by the mysterious return of Frankie Raye (Nova) and later as part of Misty Knight’s strike team against Caroline Le Fay’s Doom Maidens.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Barfly Brawler
Most recently, Patsy took up a gig working for Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) when the latter opened up her own law firm in Brooklyn. As a private investigator for the notable attorney, Patsy helped solve the mystery of the “blue file” and went head-to-head against Titania and Volcana. Of course, this was after Ms. Walker had a few too many glasses of “liquid courage” and decided to take down an A.I.M. facility.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat is slated to hit the racks of your local comic book shop on December 23rd, 2015. In the meantime, feel free to paw through your store’s long box archive and delve into the fun and oft-overlooked history of this character. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more your speed, take note that Patsy is set to make her debut on Netflix’s Jessica Jones (premiering November 20th) as portrayed by Rachael Taylor