If Marvel Studios is looking for new characters to introduce in Phase Four, I present Hellcat! Who the hell is Hellcat and why should you care? Well, if you like a superhero with personality, then you’ll love Hellcat, aka Patsy Walker. She’s funny, brassy, and kick-ass, sort of the female Spider-Man but perhaps less self-deprecating.
Actually, her character predates Spider-Man by nearly two decades. She didn’t start out as a superhero but instead began in the teenage romance genre. Created by Stuart Little and Ruth Atkinson, Pasty made her first appearance in “Miss America #2”, 1944, published by Timely (later Atlas, later Marvel Comics), after which she got her own book, “Patsy Walker”, mainly concerned with life in Centerville, her boyfriend “Buzz”, fashions, hairdos, and her frenemy Hedy. A plethora of other titles was published including one called “Patsy Walker’s Girls’ Life” from the Atlas era. Just about sums her up.
Superhero comics fell out of favor in the late 1940s into the 1950s, putting the industry in desperate straits. Patsy survived, being was one of the very few characters to be continuously published by Timely/Atlas/Marvel from the ’40s Golden Age through to the ’60s Silver Age.
Fun Fact: Patsy Walker #95 and Journey into Mystery #65 were the first two titles to sport the name Marvel
Patsy finally graduated high school in 1964 (held back 16 times?) and she and Hedy became young career girls, slowly moving into the groovy ’60s, although their main preoccupation was still landing a man. However, with the return of superheroes, romance comics were waning and “Patsy and Hedy #110” became the last Patsy comic, ending her run in 1967.
Her crossover into the Marvel superhero universe began in 1965 when she and Hedy appeared in “Fantastic Four Annual #3” as spectators at the site of Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s wedding.
Seven years later, writer Steve Englehart (a legend whose numerous credits include co-creating Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, which was recently announced as a future Marvel Studios film), who was a Patsy fan, decided to properly introduce her into the Marvel Universe in “Amazing Adventures #13” as a supporting character to Beast, aka Hank McCoy, a former X-Men. Patsy was now married to Buzz and her character was decidedly wifey and passive, true to her character as previously portrayed. This run only lasted a few more issues before being canceled, leaving Patsy in figurative suspended animation.
Englehart reintroduced Patsy in “Avengers #141”, having already added Beast to the team’s line-up, giving her some sass and recontextualizing her history beautifully to transition her from a ditzy teen into a flesh-and-blood person of the times, ready and rarin’ to be a superhero. While trapped inside the mammoth Brand Corporation headquarters, Patsy along with Captain America and Iron Man find a cat costume discarded by a previous superhero called The Cat (who became Tigra). Once she dons the costume in Issue #144 and dubs herself Hellcat, Patsy is a natural. It didn’t hurt that one of comics’ premier artist George Perez, just startling to dazzle everyone with his run here on “The Avengers”, knew exactly how to express the Hellcat’s spirit.
While declaring herself not a women’s libber, Hellcat is decidedly unafraid to face down all villains man or woman, including her now ex-husband Buzz who after a troubling stint in Vietnam became a villain working for the Brand Corporation. Here she is in Issue #149, saving the
With her personality, imo Hellcat should have become as big as Spider-Man, but alas, she experienced many ups and downs over the decades, getting married to the Son of Satan as you do, committing suicide, using one of her nine lives, becoming a cog in the wheel of big Marvel events like “Civil War”, and even fighting Hedy for the rights to the old Patsy Walker comics (a bit of a meta move there). Most recently, Hellcat starred in her own series written by Kate Leth and drawn by Brittney Williams that put her more squarely in a comedic vein, which is a better use of her than just as a generic superhero.
Hellcat is perfectly positioned now to become the next Marvel Studios superstar. It should be fast-tracked before Black Widow, Moon Night and anything else on the schedule. Cats are big! Am I the only one who thought Goose the Cat stole “Captain Marvel”?
And who should play Hellcat? Emma Stone, of course.