Golden Age Showcase: Patricia Walker

I know we just started looking at Golden Age super villains and I promise we’ll get back to them next week but over the weekend I decided to give some credit to another group that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the blog series, women.

Like many people who will probably read this article I spent the weekend watching Marvel’s new Netflix show Jessica Jones.

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For those of you who want my opinion on the show I like it.  It’s engaging, brutal, intense, the action is great, the acting is great, it has an amazing supporting cast (LUKE CAGE!!), and David Tenant is one of the most chilling super villains I’ve seen on screen

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However, during one of the episodes something caught my eye about Jessica’s best friend and step sister Trish Walker.

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Without spoiling too much of the show Patsy is a former child star who has her own talk show, plenty of money, and lots of fans.  During an episode one of these fans approaches her with a comic book for her to sign and talks about how she used to have red hair.  That got me curious and a quick Google search revealed that Patsy Walker was actually a Golden Age teen comedy comic book series that was first published in 1944

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which technically puts her in the Golden Age but what’s really interesting is that she would later become the superhero Hellcat.

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So we have a Golden Age comic book character who was originally part of a non superhero franchise donning a cape and mask to fight crime.  What happened?  Let’s find out.

Origin and Career

In order to understand the early days of Trish Walker we have to take a brief looking into post World War 2 comic book history.  After the Allies won the war and America finished kicking Nazi and Japanese butt the American public grew tired of superheroes and as a result many comic book companies either went out of business or started publishing comics in other genres.  Believe it or not there was a time when superhero comics weren’t the biggest sellers.  Instead comic book publishers started moving into other genres like horror

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westerns

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and romance.

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The original Patsy Walker fell into the teen comedy genre of comics, a genre that is nowhere near as popular as it once was but still lives on in one of the most enduring comic book titles the world has ever known

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Back to Miss. Walker, Patsy was first published in 1944 in Miss America Magazine 

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The character and comic was created by Canadian artist and comic book pioneer Ruth Atkinson

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who was one of the first female artists and character creators in a genre that was (and still is) dominated by the guys.

Patsy Walker was created to be very much a “girl character”.

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She lived the American teenage dream with her suburban parents, had a boyfriend Robert Baxter, and a safe non threatening rivalry with another girl named Hedy Wolfe.  They went on dates

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went to the beach

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and engaged in safe, non threatening, hilarious hi jinks.

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And it all sold like hotcakes.  When the Golden Age of comics ended in 1953 and the whole medium was under siege from angry parents who burned comic books due to fears that it caused juvenile delinquency

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Patsy Walker continued to be published and sell until 1965, with several spin off series lasting even longer.  Fun fact: 1961’s Patsy Walker #95 

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was actually one of the first comic books to be published under Timely Comic’s (they changed their name to Atlas Comics in 1951) new banner: Marvel Comics.  So thanks to this teenage girl who did little more than hang out with her friends and go on dates with her boy friend we may not have the Marvel comic book universe we know today.

So what happened?

The 1970’s happened.  By 1971 superheroes had come back in a big way and teenage comedies were on their way out.  Patsy and her rival Heady had made cameo appearances in the Marvel Universe in 1965 so it was established that they knew about heroes like the Hulk, Iron Man, and Spider Man.

Now here’s where it gets weird and kind of brilliant.  It turned out that Patsy Walker had merely been the inspiration for the teenage romance comics which had been drawn in universe by her mother Dorothy Walker

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Dorothy had pushed her daughter into modeling and acting by acting as her agent (for those of you who haven’t watched Jessica Jones this factors heavily into the show) and her exposure to comic books as well as the stories of the heroes around her inspired Patsy to want to be a superhero.

She married her child hood sweetheart Robert Baxter who was assigned to work security for a government subsidized company called the Brand Corporation.  There she met Hank McCoy, also known as the X-man Beast,  and convinced him to help her become a hero.

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She wound up ending her marriage and while tagging along with the Avengers she discovered a discarded superhero costume and named herself Hellcat.

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Now here’s where it gets weird.  After a brief stint on Saturn’s moon Titan as the guest of alien princess Moon Dragon (no really)

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she came back with enhanced abilities and extensive martial arts training.  She joined the superhero team the Defenders, which is like the Avengers but more down to Earth and is currently in the process of being formed in Marvel’s Netflix set of shows, and met Damian Hellstrom.  Damian was part demon and naturally the two hit it off.

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The two were married despite the rather violent objections of her ex husband managed to live happy lives right up until the point where Damian reverted back to being a full fledged demon from Hell and scared his wife so much she went into a vegetative state and her soul was sent to Hell.

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She spent quite a bit of time fighting demons in a hellish gladiatorial arena before she was rescued by the Defenders.  Her character started taking on more supernatural enemies after her salvation including an attempt by the warlock Nicholas Scratch to take over her home town of Centerville (which was home to a corporation that was founded on her old comic book fame and where her old rival Hedey worked)

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and she helped defeat an extra dimensional ruler Dormammu.

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Nowadays she’s still around in the Marvel Universe acting as an adviser, consort, and friend to other heroes.  And of course she shed her occult and mystical adventures to become the best friend and erstwhile sidekick of Jessica Jones on Netflix.

Although she may only have a small part to play in the comics and TV shows now, Patsy Walker exists as one of the most peculiar titles in all of comics.  She has one of the longest and most lasting reputations in the medium and has transitioned from teenage dream girl, to costumed superhero, to occult demon slayer, to live action hero supporting cast.  Aren’t comics great?

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