Patsy Walker (a.k.a. Hellcat) has rarely been one of the Marvel Universe’s central stars. She’s died and, unlike many of her comic contemporaries, stayed dead (narratively and/or culturally) for a pretty long time. However, her character (at least, a version of her) returned to the spotlight in Netflix’s thoughtful, dark, and moving Jessica Jones. As a result, we’ve all been given a fantastic treat in the form of Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ regular monthly series Patsy Walker, A.K.A., Hellcat. With all the struggles and emotional heaviness in the air around us, I wanted needed something fun today. Well that led me right to Patsy Walker, the best best friend anyone could hope for!
This is a bright, bubbly, beautiful series that reminds me a lot of my beloved Squirrel Girl in the sense that it’s filled with light. There is a happiness, an overwhelming positivity in this series. It’s quick, quirky, and cartoony in the best possible way. It’s witty too, filled with the type of jokes I could see myself or my friends making…as well as the types of jokes I wish I was fast enough to make :). I love the characters. I love their relationships. And I love that we can all learn a little from Patsy Walker about what we want, and what we need, in our life.
Patsy Walker is one of the darker characters in Marvel’s canon. Her childhood was exploited and turned into a rom-comic to be sold (with great success) by her Machiavellian mother, Dorothy. Then, on her deathbed, Dorothy wills the rights to the entire series to Patsy’s “best frenemy” Hedy Wolfe. Patsy wasn’t with her mother at the time as she was busy in hell since her mother tried to make a deal with Satan to trade Patsy’s soul/life for her own. You know your life’s been trying when you survive something like that only to choose to look for happily-ever-after by marrying the Son of Satan, retiring from superheroics wed to Daimon Hellstrom. Things got even darker as Hellstrom became possessed, Patsy went insane, and took her own life. In hell, her spirit was forced to take part in gladiatorial combat until she was ultimately revived by Hawkeye…who believed he was reviving his wife Mockingbird. So, yeah, it’s heavy.
But none of that darkness pervades Kate Leth and Brittney William’s Patsy Walker, A.K.A., Hellcat…but it isn’t ignored either. It is clear that Patsy has a deep darkness in her past but she is working very, very hard to put that behind her and begin again. As a result the comics radiate positivity and faith in other human beings. There are few characters more deserving of living the doom-and-gloom lifestyle than Patsy Walker, but she refuses to dwell in the darkness. Rather she wants the light. (If only there could only be an inter-company crossover so she could show a certain someone *cough, Bruce Wayne, cough* the importance of letting go and moving on.) Patsy rarely even discusses her past in the series. When she does bring it up, she never talks about it at length. She won’t let her past and her sadness define her or weigh her down for too long.
That’s a powerful example. And I hope we all have a friend like that, someone who’s always showing us – by their brilliant lived example — how to transcend the darkness every day. We all get hurt. We all falter. We all feel overwhelmed to the point of just wanting to give up at times. In those moments, it’s a Godsend to have those people in our lives who show us how to keep going forward. And Patsy Walker doesn’t just keep going forward but she does so with a smile on her face. How we look at the world is important. Everything from all the world’s major religions to Quantum Mechanics affirm that, in one way or another, our perceptions shape our reality. That makes it all the more important to be as positive as possible. And having people in our lives like Patsy certainly helps!
The series begins with Patsy being laid off as an investigator for her best friend Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk). While bouncing around at a few odd jobs (including the hilarious stint in retail seen above) Patsy meets a new Inhuman named Ian Soo. He’s trying to use his recently-acquired telekinetic powers to rob an armored truck. After a quick, obligatory super skirmish, Patsy tries to convince him to use his powers for superheroing instead. Ian however sees no appeal in that life style.
Inspired by Ian’s desire to have a normal life, she starts her own business – The Patsy Walker Temp Agency. The idea is to find super powered beings who just want a job and a normal life and have no desires to fight to control or protect the world. It’s a novel idea right? Can you imagine having super powers and not wanting to fight (or commit) crimes?? I guess it could happen right! In fact, it’d probably be far more common than comics would lead us to believe. I mean, I can see myself using telekinesis to grab things like pens and remotes more frequently than stopping bullets. And I could totally see using mind reading powers to make test proctoring easier without having to worry about cheating. But this is a topic rarely explored in comicdom and it’s fun! Patsy only ends up on this vocational path because she was willing to be open with Ian and see the best in him when they met, even if he was doing criminal things.
This is a pretty recurring themes in Patsy Walker, A.K.A., Hellcat. In every issue, Patsy strives to see the best in all people and all situations. In fact, much of the first story arc deals with her trying to find all the newbie Inhumans, mutants, and super-powered beings Casiolena (a sorceress from Asgardia) is gathering into a world domination-oriented army. But Patsy isn’t seeking them out to battle or arrest them. Rather, she’s seeking them out to see if they’d rather do something positive with their lives. When she gets interested replies, she hires them!
If we’re lucky, we also have friends who look at the world in this way too. It is so, so easy to look around us and see nothing but negativity because, you know, it’s everywhere. Negativity can be crippling. We can’t fight for a better world without hope. We can’t marshal hope without any sense of positivity and possibility. And it is difficult to be positive when it feels so damn hard to lift our heads up even to take just one more single step forward. In these moments, we turn to those around us who radiate positivity. From them we can get a sense of hope and, from that hope we can find strength.
Patsy Walker elevates the mind and the soul. In addition to being an endless source of positivity to those around her, she’s also just plain fun to be with. Her adventures – both in and out of costume – are hilarious. The banter and hijinks always put a smile on my face. You want to hang out with Patsy because you know you’ll be laughing before too long. You also know you’ll be heard and cared for too. We see this through all of her relationships in the comic – Jen, Ian, her childhood friend Tom Hale, her landlord Sharon King, her new assistant Jubilee (yay!), and all of her super pals.
While the book is almost always bright in tone, it also has a few somber moments too, especially issue #8 when Patsy learns Jen is in a coma as a result of the opening battle of Marvel’s Civil War II. It is a comic that allows itself to be silent and sad, open and honest. You see that Patsy is the type of friend who’s there to make you happy, hang out, and have fun but she’s also the first by your side when you’re in need too. Don’t we all want someone like this in our lives? And when we realize we have people who perform these roles in our lives, aren’t we all a little in awe of the blessing they are?
Bailey, one of Casiolena’s crew, is surprised to learn Patsy talked Jen into helping with the legalities surrounding her boot theft so Bailey could avoid jail and reform her life. Jen assures her, “You really couldn’t ask for anyone better to have your back than Patsy, Bailey.” I think it becomes abundantly clear, as you read Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ Patsy Waker, A.K.A., Hellcat that Jen is right. We all deserve to have a friend like Patsy Walker. This sort of unconditional love, support, and faith in us is the type of thing that leaves you feeling like you can take on the world. It’s a good feeling when you know you have someone in your corner who believes in you like that, who helps you to transcend all the darkness around you and live positively in the light of hope and have fun doing it. But, more importantly, perhaps in reading Patsy Walker, A.K.A., Hellcat we’ll realize that we should all strive to be a friend like Patsy Walker to someone else. After all, what better gift, what greater blessing, could we give to those we love?
So how about we all head out today, give someone a hug, tell them we love them, and just take a moment to truly enjoy the simple pleasure of being present to someone. I promise the world will be brighter for it. Then maybe we can all treat ourselves to an issue or two of Patsy Walker, A.K.A., Hellcat to help us keep our own spirits up too huh? 🙂