Later this year, Netflix will premiere its next Marvel series, Jessica Jones, starring Krysten Ritter as a failed New York-based superhero who reinvents herself as a private detective. We’ll also get to meet one of Jones’s chief allies: Patsy Walker (played by Transformers actress Rachael Taylor), a hero in her own right as Hellcat.
Patsy is poised for a breakout beyond Jessica Jones. Marvel, which has been dramatically expanding and diversifying its comics roster over the past two years, continues apace with the launch of the female-led Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat!, written by Kate Leth and illustrated by Brittney Williams.
Here’s the exclusive first look at the debut issue, due on shelves in December, timed to the Netflix series release (although the new comic will not necessarily be treading the same ground as the show).
‘Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat’ No. 1 cover by Brittney Williams (Marvel)
While casual fans likely won’t recognize Patsy/Hellcat as part of the Marvel A-list, the character has a long, wild history — from her 1944 origin as the star of a teenage rom-com comic book (she and pal Hedy were Marvel’s Betty and Veronica) to her 1970s transformation into a supernaturally powered Avenger.
Leth, whose comics C.V. includes Adventure Time and Fraggle Rock titles, offers a three-point primer on the new Patsy:
1. “She’s a superhero martial-arts wiz [who] can sense mystical energy! She learned how to fight on the moon, so you know she’s good.”
2. “Out of the costume, she’s a twenty-something girl looking for work and purpose in New York City.”
3. “Her mom wrote weird romance comics — Patsy Walker! You can totally read them! — about her teen years and her childhood frenemy has reprinted them, as if being a superhero wasn’t enough to contend with!” [This is Leth’s nod to Walker’s comic-book beginnings in the ‘40s.]
As you can surmise, the rebooted Hellcat is not some somber superhero suffering from a case of the Dark Knights.
“Kate and Brittney are cooking up a series here that’s like a superhero version of Trainwreck or Broad City — a comedic and action-packed story about a woman figuring out her life,” says series editor Wil Moss. “Except Abbi and Ilana have never had to deal with crime waves, a supervillain temp agency, or an ex who is literally the son of Satan.”
‘Hellcat’ No. 1 variant cover by George Pérez (Marvel)
Despite the outré storylines, the creative team seeks to make Hellcat accessible. “A lot of my inspiration comes from my everyday life,” says Williams, who draws inspiration from Disney, manga, and classic superheroes. “Whenever I go out shopping to the store or just hanging out with friends, I find myself people watching. I really want readers to relate to Patsy’s world so I study the world around me.”
‘Hellcat’ sketches by Brittney Williams (Marvel)
Relatability is also key for Leth, who like Williams honed her craft online before crashing the mainstream. The writer also stresses the significance of broadening comics beyond their male-centric wheelhouse.
“I think it’s important for people to be able to see themselves in comics, movies, music, et cetera. Women are a huge portion of the audience and growing all the time; we see that in sales numbers, cosplay, merch, con attendance and more,” she says.
“Plus, most of my favorite Marvel comics have women at the forefront — Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Captain Marvel, Silk, Spider-Gwen — and I’m just thrilled to join the party.”
Watch Yahoo’s Katie Couric on the rise of female superheroes: