Hellcat (Patricia "Patsy" Walker), is a fictional character published by Marvel Comics. Unusually for a superhero, she premiered as the star of a teen romantic-comedy series, and was later integrated into Marvel superhero franchises such as the Avengers and the Defenders.
Redheaded Patsy Walker, her parents Stanley and Betty, her boyfriend Robert "Buzz" Baxter, and her raven-haired friendly rival Hedy Wolfe appeared from the 1940s through 1967 in issues of Miss America, Teen Comics, Girls' Life, and namesake series Patsy Walker and its spin-offs: Patsy and Hedy, Patsy and Her Pals and the single-issue A Date with Patsy. These were popular teen-humor comics from Marvel's 1940s and 1950s predecessors, Timely Comics and Atlas Comics, respectively. Attesting to its quiet popularity, Patsy Walker (along with Millie the Model and Kid Colt, Outlaw) was among the very few titles published continuously by Marvel from the Golden Age of comic books.
Future Mad Magazine cartoonist and "Fold-In" creator Al Jaffee wrote and drew most of the early issues — which, given the tone and the target audience, oddly included Mad founding editor Harvey Kurtzman's bizarre "Hey Look!" one-pagers in several. Jaffee was succeeded by Al Hartley, who would go on to Archie Comics and produce many Christian comic books starring Archie characters and others. Morris Weiss drew Patsy and Her Pals. Millie (the Model) Collins made guest appearances in #92 and 98.
In 1964, following Patsy's high-school graduation, the title switched from humor to become a young career-gal romantic adventure. Patsy Walker lasted through issue #124 (Dec. 1965), with Patsy and Hedy outlasting it to its own #110 (Feb. 1967).
Patsy and Hedy make a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), establishing them in the Marvel Universe. Subsequent comics portray the earlier stories as fictional within the Marvel Universe itself, as having been written by mom Betty Walker though based upon Patsy's own life and friends. The Patsy Walker profile in Marvel Legacy: The 1960s Handbook establishes that Patsy did indeed experience many of the events from these stories.
Walker embarks on a new career in Amazing Adventures (vol. 2) #13 (July 1973). There, she meets Hank McCoy, one of the original X-Men, in his alter ego as the Beast. She has become dissatisfied with married life with Baxter, and helps the injured Beast in return for "just a costume, with some power, or a serum, or something," wanting to become a superheroine.
Shortly afterward, the Avengers, with the Beast and Walker tagging along, invade the complex of buildings belonging to the Brand Corporation. Now a subsidiary of Roxxon, a multinational conglomerate, Brand is also where Walker's estranged husband, an Air Force colonel, is posted. There they find one of superheroine Greer Grant's spare Tigra costumes. Walker immediately dons the yellow cat-suit and dubs herself Hellcat. (Baxter later becomes the supervillain Mad Dog.)
When the Avengers are later captured, Walker breaks free and forces her husband to release them. "This suit seems to know what to do all by itself!" she thinks. "I always was pretty coordinated, with my surfing and skiing — but now I'm Olympic material!" This thought is later echoed by Grant, when Walker lends her the suit while Grant is temporarily deprived of the ability to become Tigra. "This wonderful suit was designed to extend any woman's strengths," claims Greer. Not long after, the Cat costume is contaminated with radioactivity in the Chernobyl-like nuclear disaster engineered by the Presence, and Walker creates a similar outfit of her own. She substitutes ordinary blue clawed gloves and talon-toed boots, retaining only the cable-claws strapped to each wrist. The new costume has a blue cowl instead of yellow.
Although Walker is offered membership in the Avengers, Moondragon persuades her to decline and instead accompany her to the moon Titan for training in psychic ability, and advanced martial arts. Her all-too-brief training period is abbreviated, however, when she dons the Hellcat costume once more, and has to return to Earth to assist Doctor Strange. She befriends and joins the Defenders and is a long-standing member of that team. During her time there, Moondragon revokes her psychic abilities, citing Patsy's ineffective use of them as the cause. She eventually meets her next husband, Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, and the pair retire from superheroics. Ultimately, Hellstrom's demonic inheritance takes possession of him and drives Patsy insane. She is institutionalized and later driven to suicide by the otherworldly being called Deathurge.
Trapped in Hell, Patsy's spirit is used in a series of gladiatorial-like combat scenarios. There, she learns to develop and use her psychic powers. Hawkeye, then the leader of the Thunderbolts, is tricked into returning her spirit to Earth by Daimon; Hawkeye believes he is retrieving his wife, Mockingbird, from Mephisto's realm. Patsy retains the powers that she has developed while in Hell. Now able to manifest a costume at will, Patsy uses a reversed version of the Cat costume in her limited series, with a blue cat-suit and cowl with yellow gloves and boots. In this new guise, Patsy focuses her efforts on combating occult evils, notably Nicholas Scratch (who had based himself in her hometown, Centerville) and Dormammu.
She later returns to her first costume. She joins the new team of Defenders, and remains with them until their dissolution.
She wasn't considered by the Initiative higher-ups as an option for the Defenders, despite Nighthawk's request for her on his team, but it is revealed that she will be acting as an official superhero in Alaska.
In Ultimate Marvel continuity, Patsy Walker has several small but notable appearances. In Ultimate Spider-Man, she first appears as a spokeswoman for a security firm (#11), then as a swimsuit model for Maxim magazine (#14), a talk show hostess, presenting a biography on Doctor Strange (#70), and finally interviewing Norman Osborn (#113). Patsy has taken her "Hellcat" identity in Ultimates and was a founding member of the ill-fated Defenders. Additionally, the Ultimate incarnation of Kitty Pryde has (within the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man) constructed a costume visually similar to the 616 Hellcat's, differing in color and mask design only; Pryde's X-Men codename is "Shadowcat".