Northern Exposure: Immonen talks "Patsy Walker: Hellcat"

The heroes of Marvel Comics will face a heat wave this summer, but for Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat, things will be getting much, much cooler. In the five-issue "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" miniseries, which begins in July 2, writer Kathryn Immonen and artist David Lafuente send the title character to one of the most unexplored and chilly locales in the Marvel Universe, Alaska. CBR News spoke with Immonen about her work on the project.

"Patsy Walker: Hellcat" came about as the result of the well-received Kathryn Immonen Hellcat story that appeared in the pages of "Marvel Comics Presents," which featured artwork by her husband Stuart Immonen. "Stuart and I had a fantastic time with the 'Marvel Comics Presents' story and I hope that it showed in every panel," Kathryn Immonen told CBR News. "It went over well enough that editor Nick Lowe mentioned they would be receptive to another submission. I penned my 'Patsy Walker: Hellcat Christmas Special' proposal while obsessing over endurance car races in Mongolia and polished it while sitting stuck on a Montreal-Toronto train in a snowstorm--so of course, she's going to Alaska! 50 states is a lot of states, somebody's got to do it."

Immonen finds Hellcat to be most compelling when the character's personal life mixes with her costumed exploits. "Here we have a character that pretty much blackmailed Iron Man into letting her put the costume on in the first place. That's fun!" said the writer. "And while I think that pre-continuity Patsy Walker has done quite a lot, Patsy Walker: Hellcat has had a lot done to her. Yet, for all that, she comes up smiling pretty much every time.

"I also have the tangible benefit of a character that's been dormant for a little while so, as a writer, you can jump in the pool and not worry over much about her immediate past swimming up to you and biting you in the ass," Immonen continued. "There's something about Patsy that's quite irrepressible and, as the character will say, 'Just because I'm optimistic, doesn't mean I'm stupid!'"

Unlike many Marvel characters, Patsy Walker made her comics debut over thirty years before she donned the Hellcat costume. From the 1940s-1960s, Patsy appeared in a variety of teen humor comics published by Marvel's precursor Timely Comics. A brief appearance by Patsy in 1965's "Fantastic Four Annual" #3 established that her youthful adventures were part of the Marvel Universe and in 1976's "Avengers" #144, Walker's life changed dramatically when she donned the Hellcat costume for the first time.

"I am crazy for the hybrid construction of not only her character but also the first comics ('Miss America' and 'Patsy Walker') in which she appeared," Immonen said. "If I'd known Patsy in high school, I would have hated her guts except that I would have been too busy trying to be her best friend. It's a little infuriating that she seems to get what she wants just by asking. And you can't really hold it against her because she's able to punch you in the ear and make you feel like it was your idea. You'd probably thank her, too. She's up for any challenge, I think, but is probably a little too trusting. And she has terrible taste in men. I mean, really terrible."

"Patsy Walker: Hellcat" #1 finds the registered hero graduated from her Initiative training classes, but not exactly thrilled at being appointed Alaska's official superhero. "It seems that Patsy's been making the best of bad situations (perceived or actual) forever," Immonen explained. "Would she prefer Hawaii? Probably. But she's totally willing to stand up and do her job. As far as she's concerned, she's here to help."

For Patsy, helping out in Alaska means navigating a primeval and often desolate landscape. "You've no idea how unexplored this particular Alaska is," Immonen remarked. "She sets out for Anchorage and then it all goes south--or north. I guess it depends which way you're oriented. Hellcat's Alaska is a land of ancient crazies and even more ancient magic. Less 'Lost in the Barrens' and more 'Lost Horizon' and then�"more Carpenter than Capra."

In contrast to other states in the Marvel Universe, Alaska won't be getting its own super team. "Iron Man sends Patsy in solo," Immonen stated. "They're a little understaffed and I guess he was watching old episodes of 'Laverne and Shirley' while he was talking to her because I think he's clearly of the 'Come on, how much damage could she do?' mindset. Hellcat is, however, obligated to depend on the kindness of strangers. I wanted to do a story where the personality traits upon which she relies in order to get the job done don't seem to work quite so well in this new environment. Everybody loves Patsy, except when they don't and then she's got trouble with a capital K-POW."

Patsy's adventures in "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" are decidedly upbeat. "If someone's looking for the Patsy Walker story where all her exes come back from the dead or 'Nam or both, and beat her to death with her own arm and, oh yeah, it's also an 'Aquaman' crossover event because she goes shopping in his closet for a new prosthetic limb and what does she care as long as it has a corkscrew and a nail file -- then this is not that story," Immonen said. "And while it's not a comedy either, the constant is Patsy and, frankly, I think she's hilarious. She's also got this not well developed psychic power and a background as a detective but she's also a cheerleader and an ex-model. She's got great instincts in a lot of ways and, honestly, Hellcat's greatest asset as a superhero is Patsy Walker."

Working with an interesting character like Patsy Walker is just one of the many facets Immonen enjoyed about "Patsy Walker: Hellcat." Another was the chance to collaborate with artist David Lafuente. "The only thing that could be better about David Lafuente is if he turned out to be David de la Fuente, international cycling star. But he assures me he is not," Immonen remarked. "I would say that working with Stuart has made me a little lazy in some ways, partly because he's sitting in the same room with me but also because, after so many many years, we really speak the same visual language, have the same references etc. It is fantastic to be working with David who is so ridiculously talented and ready and who also constantly surprises. He's got enough enthusiasm for all of us and it shows in the care and detail he is putting into this book. His Patsy is so glamorous and grounded. Boy, I just love it."

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