Patsy Walker is a survivor.
The character better known today as Marvel Comics heroine Hellcat made her comic-book debut in 1944 as a typical, All-American girl who spent most of her time ensuring her boyfriend wouldn’t fall into the clutches of a Veronica Lodge-esque frenemy, Hedy Wolfe.
Patsy was one of many Archie knock-offs published by the then-Timely Comics. Unlike most of her compatriots – barring, of course, the ubiquitous Millie The Model – Ms. Walker had staying power.
In fact, Patsy’s gentle adventures were continuously published by Timely/Atlas/Marvel from the Golden Age of Comics to 1967. The only other characters from the House Of Ideas to exceed that feat were our girl Millie and Kid Colt, Outlaw.
As Marvel concentrated more and more on super-hero titles, you’d think a character like Patsy Walker would have faded into oblivion. Our girl, however, was made of sterner stuff and during her comic-book heyday had made a fan by the name of Steve Englehart.
Recalling that Stan Lee & Jack Kirby integrated Patsy into the “proper” Marvel universe in the historic Fantastic Four Annual #3, Englehart – who was writing the solo adventures of Hank “The Beast” McCoy at the time – “thought it would be cool to bring her in as a real character, with things to do. Part of my ‘training’ as a Marvel writer was writing romance stories and Westerns, but Patsy (Walker) was defunct as a comic by the time I got there…. Still, as a fan, I had collected everything Marvel, including Patsy Walker and Patsy and Hedy … so I knew them as characters….”
Although The Beast’s solo series didn’t last long, Englehart added Patsy and Hank to the pages of another comic he scribed, The Mighty Avengers, where she adopted the heroic identity of Hellcat.
The rest of course is history, which unfortunately includes an ill-advised wedding to the Son Of Satan, a descent into insanity, suicide and a stint in Hell itself.
Sheeesh … bet Patsy looked back fondly on her rivalry with Hedy at that point!
Once again, however, the plucky Patsy managed to outwit death and soon returned as an active member of the Marvel Universe. Much to the delight of this reader, Kathryn Immonen wrote a short four-part tale and a breezy mini-series that incorporated Hellcat’s paper-doll past into Patsy’s character.
More surprisingly, Ms. Walker even co-starred in a recent mini-series with a modern version of Millie The Model, proving that just about any character can pop up in a comic-book these days with a tweak or two.
The following story takes place during a simpler time in Patsy’s history, when super-teams took a backseat to raising enough money to buy a fall outfit. The art, interestingly enough, is provided by a talent who has demonstrated more staying power than many of today’s professionals could even imagine: Al Jaffe.
Jaffe, better known as the mastermind between Mad Magazine’s long-running Fold-Ins feature and the immortal Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions series, is the humor publication’s longest-running contributor. Amazingly, only one issue of Mad since 1964 hasn’t contained any new material from the cartoonist.
During his earlier years in the comics industry, Jaffe enjoyed a fairly long run on Patsy Walker comics. Given the demonstrated tendency of both character and creator to stick it out for the long haul, it’s no wonder the two joined forces.
From Miss America #43, published in 1952 by Atlas Comics – or whatever name Marvel was using at that moment – here’s Patsy Walker in her small-town girl prime as delineated by the legendary Al Jaffe.