Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Give 'Em Hell, Cat!

When it comes to Marvel heroes, my taste runs decidedly obscure. I have ZERO interest in Spider-Man or Iron Man or Wolverine. But, give me someone that no one else has heard of and I'm all over that. Let's examine one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters, Hellcat.My first reaction to Hellcat was, "How is Batgirl in a Marvel book? She's a DC character!" I mean, blue cowl, red hair... forgive my confusion.Patsy Walker starred in an entire line of comics beginning in the 40s. They were teen comedic/romantic (i.e. girl) comics, a la Archie, involving the misadventures of model Patsy Walker, her boyfriend Buzz Baxter and rival Hedy Wolfe.
In the early 70s, Marvel attempted to launch a line of books starring female heroes, including The Cat.Greer Nelson donned the guise of The Cat and embarked on a crime-fighting career, but her series only lasted four quarterly issues and vanished. Eventually, Greer Nelson was revived and transformed into a REAL cat-woman, Tigra.
Patsy Walker was then revealed to exist in the mainstream Marvel Universe and donned the discarded costume of The Cat, becoming Hellcat.
She debuted in The Avengers, Marvel's all-star super team, but was quickly booted down to the D-List, literally, going on to star in Marvel's team of nobodies, The Defenders...
It was in the pages of The Defenders that I first encountered Hellcat and was instantly enamored. Here's what I loved... she enjoyed being a super hero. As a kid, you relate to super heroes on one level... because you think it would be FUN! It would be fun to have super powers and go on adventures! We should all go on adventures! Who doesn't love an adventure?! But reading comics, you never really got that. Super heroes were all very stoic. They were motivated by tragedy or duty. They took things very seriously. But Hellcat had a BLAST righting wrongs and saving the world! She always had a smile on her face and made snappy comments. I loved her because she loved what she was doing! I connected with that.In a funny twist, her boyfriend from those old teen romance books, Buzz Baxter (revealed to be her ex-husband), adopted the villainous guise of Mad-Dog. Strangely, romantic rival Hedy Wolfe did NOT become She-Wolf. Talk about a missed opportunity.

Then, she married the Son of Satan, who drove her insane and she committed suicide, with her spirit going to HELL! Guess they forgot to RAPE her first and then piss on her. BOO!!! The one fun-loving, free-wheeling heroine out there and you completely DESTROY her?! WTF, Marvel?!Sigh. Well, seeing as she is a fictional character, she... got better. She escaped hell and returned to super hero-ing, and is also now an accomplished author. She temporarily served as the only official super hero in Alaska, re-teamed with her former Defenders teammates and most recently, co-starred in Marvel Divas... interestingly alongside Spider-Man's ex, The Black Cat. TWO cat ladies on one team?!
So despite their best efforts to completely ruin her, Hellcat has persevered and overcome everything that misogynist creators have attempted to hurl at her and retains her fun, feisty personality. Go on, girl!


  1. Jason,
    I have three comments:
    1. The Cat's comic book series was bi-monthly, not quarterly. They missed what should have been the March 1973 issue #3 (it came out in April).
    2. Patsy and the Avengers did not find the discarded costume of the Cat. The costume created for Shirlee Bryant (and the copy donned by Greer Nelson) had a blue "cat's paw" emblem on the chest. (You can see an example in the flashback of Greer on a Chicago rooftop in Avengers #144) My hypothesis is Roxxon heard about Donalbain's plan third-hand, the same way Tony Stark did, and decided to try it too.
    3. Patsy didn't exactly escape Hell. Hawkeye want to Hell to retrieve Mockingbird, but was misdirected and brought the wrong soul back.
    Hope this helps!

  2. Consider me SCHOOLED! Thanks for the notes! It's been ages since I've actually read any of those stories... I may not have read those Avengers since the 80s! But thanks for reading and for the info! Hope that otherwise, you found the write-up enjoyable!

  3. Jason,
    Hey, even the folks at Marvel don't get it right most of the time. Hopefully this will inspire you to go back and read Greer's 4 issues, plus her guest appearance in Marvel Team-Up #8 and final appearance in Giant-Size Creatures #1? You may come up with a better explanation than I did!