It has been almost two years since the conclusion of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s memorable run on Young Avengers. In addition to winning a GLAAD Media Award, the title broke new ground by having not one… not two… but literally an entire team that consisted of characters who identified as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or at least a little curious (I’m looking at YOU, Kate Bishop). Readers were also treated to cameo appearances by notable “out” characters like Victor Borkowski (Anole), Julie Power (Lightspeed), and Lucy in the Sky (Karolina Dean).
Few Marvel titles of equal queer caliber have since come close to healing the ga(y)ping wound left in Marvel’s monthly lineup after Gillen and McKelvie closed up shop. Books like The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, Spider-Gwen, and Silk all feature off-beat, quirky, and often underestimated Strong Female Characters that many, if not most, gay readers identify with and root for. However, the LGBTQ themes and/or characters in these titles are few and far between.
Enter: Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat, Marvel’s latest addition to its monthly catalog of female-led titles. Yes, “IT’S PATSY!” and she’s here to add some always-welcomed queerness into the Marvel Universe.
To be fair, the gay appeal of Patsy Walker was there to begin with. She’s a former supermodel turned (oft-ditzy, yet well-meaning) C-list superhero with enough relationship baggage to helm a Bravo reality series. Paging Andy Cohen!
In addition, Kate Leth and Brittney Williams (a) have sprinkled the first two issues with a plethora of LGBT characters, settings, and references. There are no big “coming out” speeches, “Yep, I’m Gay!” magazine headlines, or any of the usual pop culture clichés that often plague LGBT themes. Instead, the creative team presents them in such a matter-of-fact way as to completely normalize them and make them virtually indistinguishable from their hetero counterparts.
Totes BFFs: Within the first few pages of issue no. 1, readers are introduced to Ian Soo, a newly empowered Inhuman with a telekinetic ability. After Patsy thwarts his misguided attempts to rob an armored truck, the two bond over life directions, superhero codenames, and the lack of a cinematic adaptation of Wicked. It quickly becomes clear that Ian is destined to become the Will to Patsy’s Grace.
Bye, Felicia: One of the fantastic aspects of Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat is that it almost acts as a direct sequel to Charles Soule’s She-Hulk (prematurely cancelled in April 2015). Many of the series’ supporting characters have joined the lean, mean, lawsuit-slapping machine in appearing in Hellcat, including Sharon King, depowered mutant and landlord extraordinaire. It was confirmed in the Gwenpool Holiday Special that Sharon is married to New York City paralegal, Ellen King (currently appearing in Daredevil). Unfortunately, after discovering that Patsy has set up residency her building’s storage closet, she has to send our titular hero packing.
Bookish bears: Nothing can make a gal temporarily forget her woes like some retail therapy with her GBF. They pop in to Burly Books, potentially one of the last “mom and pop” LGBT bookstores left in Brooklyn, where one can pick up such classic literary gems as Big Book of Plaid, Beer with a Queer, and Butts: Volume IX.
Burly Books is also the location where Patsy is reunited with her old high school pal, Tubs (just going by Tom, these days). Taking a cue from Howlett and Hercules in Greg Pak’s X-Treme X-Men, Patsy’s old friend is representing for the Marvel bear community.
Much to Patsy’s initial chagrin, Tom reveals that his shop is quite a purveyor in reprinted volumes of Patsy Walker, the comic book series written by Dorothy Walker and based on the high school hijinks of her daughter’s circle of friends . The stories have since been reissued by Hedy Wolfe, Patsy’s longtime best frenemy and all-around “mean girl.” Thanks to Hedy’s generous stipend for the use of his likeness in the new editions, Tom was able to open his dream bookstore.
Reunion cocktails are later served at a swanky Brooklyn club (thanks, gentrification) and the ginger hipster bear bonds with She-Hulk over shots and arm-wrestling. Who wouldn’t?
The shade of Hedy Wolfe: Patsy soon takes up employment in a retail shop that might as well be the ninth circle of Hell. Screaming babies. Entitled millennial customers. Insufferable management. Not even time spent in literal Hell could prepare her for The One-Stop Crop Top Shop. It is here that Hedy Wolfe breezes back in to Patsy’s life with a backhanded attempt to clear the air… all while not-so-subtly throwing side-eye and shade galore at the countless fashion violations in her proximity.
All gay elements aside and with two issues under its belt, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat has proven to be energetic, upbeat, fun, and rife with fantastic character interaction. Kate Leth and Brittney Williams have created a book that not only compliments Marvel’s other female-led titles, but easily stands out with its own unique voice.And that voice is definitely “family.”