www.cbr.com

Patsy Walker Celebrates the Absurdities of Her Comic Book Life

The other day, I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how Richard Howell and Peter David's Soulsearchers and Company originated as a pitch by Howell to Marvel for a Patsy Walker and Daimon Hellstrom occult detective comic book series. In that article, I mentioned that Howell had done a What The...?! story with Patsy that I thought was particularly clever. Well, that story is this one!

Before we get into the story itself, let's talk a little bit about Patsy Walker so that we can fully appreciate Howell's wit here. Patsy Walker debuted in the 1940s as a female version of Archie Andrews, as Timely Comics was a big fan of basically following whatever trends were popular in comics at the time. Of all of the various Archie Andrews knock-offs from different companies, Patsy Walker was by far the most successful. In fact, Patsy Walker remained one of Marvel's most popular books for the next DECADE plus! Even when Marvel launched their superhero series in the 1960s, they kept on making room for new Patsy Walker comics. She was just too popular. Eventually, though, Patsy's sales petered out a bit and they tried one last ditch approach to keeping it afloat by having Patsy graduate from school and become a career woman. It didn't work and both of her ongoing titles ended in the late 1960s.

Continue scrolling to keep reading Click the button below to start this article in quick view.

A few years after being in comic book limbo, Steve Englehart introduced Patsy Walker as a supporting character in the Beast feature in Amazing Adventures. Patsy was now married to her longtime sweetheart, Buzz Baxter. She discovered the Beast's secret identity and asked for a favor in exchange for helping him out. The feature ended before we saw what she wanted. We eventually learned that she asked the Beast to make her a superhero. Once he joined the Avengers, she held him to his promise and he eventually helped her get the special battle suit that Greer Nelson used to wear as the Cat. Patsy became Hellcat. She joined the Defenders and discovered that her mother had written a series of comic book starring her. Her mother, though, was also involved with demons. Patsy married her Defenders teammate, Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. So that's where Patsy was at in 1992 when Howell wrote and drew this story in 1990's What The...?! #7.

The issue opens up with Patsy back in her high school days, with her frenemey, Hedy Wolfe (they literally just cribbed the Betty and Veronica relationship from Archie Comics) when they're interrupted by superhero fare...

Of course, Howell has a lot of fun with the way that Patsy Walker comics (like most humor comics of the era) would have readers suggest outfits and sometimes, there would be cut-outs where you could cut out dresses for Patsy to wear like paper dolls.

Soon, Patsy is in her Hellcat costume and she is facing off against a monster...

But wait, she's back to her Patsy Walker days!! The villain is along for the ride, hilarious enough. There is a good bit about how she has to just freeze during the paper doll bits...

She is spending some time with Buzz when suddenly...

A later comic book had turned Buzz into a super-villain and now, Patsy is fighting him as Hellcat, with a clever bit involving her using the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe...

She then travels back to her Patsy Walker days, with her younger brother drawn in the old art style of the Patsy Walker comics (which were based on Dan DeCarlo's art)...

She then ties in with the revelations about her mother's dealing with demons and Patsy breaks the fourth wall to defeat her mother, but ven with her mother defeated, Patsy still enjoys the tone shifts in her life...

What a clever short story by Howell and his art was brilliant moving between the genres and eras.

Okay, I KNOW that you folks have some other good suggestions for A Wall Between Us, so drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

Guy Gardner Green Lantern header
Guy Gardner: Why the Worst Green Lantern is Really the Best Green Lantern

More in CBR Exclusives