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The Netflix television show Marvel’s Jessica Jones has been out for a few weeks now, giving even non-bingers time to watch some or all of the series. In the show, Jessica’s best friend is Trish Walker (played by Rachael Taylor). In the original comic Alias (upon which much of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is based), Jessica’s friend and confidant is actually Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Since Marvel is now giving Captain Marvel her own film, they changed the character to Trish Walker.
Patricia Walker, albeit mostly a minor character, has been important at times in Marvel Comics history. She is usually called Patsy Walker and has the superhero alter ego Hellcat. In the same way that I wrote about the Top 5 Comic Appearances of The Purple Man in advance of Jessica Jones, here are the five biggest appearances of Patsy Walker in Marvel Comics history.
Although Patsy Walker first became Hellcat in the Avengers’ comic and she began to train to work with that team, the first superhero team she actually joined was The Defenders. Hellcat would later become a member of the Avengers, but much of her early superhero career would be as a member of The Defenders. She would even marry fellow Defender Damion Hellstrom, Son of Satan (that character’s bio is rather, uh… complicated). The Defenders #46 is the issue when Hellcat joins the Defenders for the first time. If you want to read some Hellcat stories, The Defenders comics of the late 1970s and early 1980s are a good place to start. Considering the Marvel Netflix series are leading to a Defenders team-up, I think it would be cool if Hellcat was a member along with Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Although this wasn’t the first time that Hellcat received her own series, it may be the best so far. Plus, since it’s modern, it fits with some recent Marvel story lines, which may be more familiar for contemporary readers. With Kathryn Immonen writing, David Lafuente on interior art and Kathryn’s husband, Stuart Immonen, on covers, Patsy Walker: Hellcat was a five-issue limited series spinning out of Civil War and the “50 States Initiative.” It was established that Tony Stark was seeking to station heroes in all parts of the U.S. rather than having nearly all of them in New York City. So Patsy Walker: Hellcat begins with Walker stationed in Alaska of all places.
Patsy Walker begun as a character in a funny “girl’s comic” during the first wave of Timely/Atlas/Marvel Comics. However, there were many of those characters back then and the majority of them were left behind once Marvel’s Silver Age began with superhero comics in the 1960s. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided to bring Walker (and her friend Hedy Wolfe) back into the then modern age with an appearance in the crowd at the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Most Marvel characters at the time actually appear in this issue, but Lee and Kirby bringing Walker into the world of superhero was a really important step that lead to her revival and eventual evolution into Hellcat.
As I mentioned in the entry above, Patsy Walker started in the period before Marvel Comics was Marvel Comics. Back then, Timely/Atlas Comics published many different genres of comics, including funny-romance comics (in the style of Archie), and Patsy Walker was a big hit for the company. She has a long successful comic career under different titles (Patsy Waker, Patsy and Hedy, etc.), even into the 1950s when the original Timely superheroes (Captain America, Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch) were losing popularity. Marvel’s Jessica Jones neatly referenced Trish Walker’s comic book past as a marketing push from her time as a kid star. Although the Timely Patsy Walker comics might not be of interest to modern readers, they are still important to the history of Marvel Comics and to the development of Patsy Walker. Miss America Magazine #2 marks the first ever appearance ever of Patsy Walker.
Once Walker was re-introduced into Marvel Silver Age continuity in Fantastic Four Annual #3, writers starting using her more frequently. One of those writers was Steve Englehart, who was writing Avengers in the mid-1970s. He brought Walker in as a supporting character before Walker is inspired to become a superhero herself called Hellcat in Avengers #144. The costume actually had previously been worn by Greer Grant as “The Cat.” Grant would later become the Avenger known as Tigra. Hellcat didn’t stay in the Avengers for too long, soon joining the Defenders, but Avengers #144 marks an important moment where she became Hellcat for the first time. Though Hellcat never became a huge character, she has consistently appeared and has remained Patsy Walker’s primary role in the Marvel Universe since the 1970s.
Marvel has wisely planned for a bit of renewed interest in Trish/Patsy Walker and Hellcat thanks to Marvel’s Jessica Jones. This month the synergistic minds at Marvel Comics will be launching a new Hellcat series, written by indie comics creator Kath Leth (of “Kate or Die”) with art from Brittney Williams, called Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat!. It looks to have more comedy involved, which is in some ways returning Walker to her Timely roots. If you want to learn more about Patsy Walker, check out that new series as well as some of the above comics!