Last Halloween I penned a post about the history of Satan in the Marvel Universe, which led to a discussion of the romantic pairing of Hellcat and the Son of Satan. As this might be the single worst pairing of any two characters in comics history, I figured I’d have a little fun this Valentine’s Day and take a look back at this romantic mismatch.
Patsy Walker has a loooong, deep history at Marvel—in fact, it goes back to the days before Marvel was Marvel and even before it was Atlas. The character first appeared in Miss America Magazine #2 (Nov. 1944), published by Timely Comics, the earliest iteration of what would become Marvel Comics. Soon thereafter, Patsy Walker was awarded her own self-titled comic book. Patsy would continue to appear in comics, along with her boyfriend “Buzz” Baxter and rival Hedy Wolfe, from the 1940s through the 1960s under the Timely, Bard, Atlas, and Marvel banners. As we can see from some of her covers, these comics were mostly light-hearted, Archie-style, teen humor. And most of them were illustrated by that later legend of Mad magazine fame, Al Jaffee.
In addition to her own title, Patsy Walker also appeared regularly in spin-off titles such as Patsy and Hedy and Patsy and Her Pals. In 1964, after the character graduated high school, the Patsy Walker title switched from being a humor comic to a romance/soap opera title and continued for another year and a half (or so). One of the more dramatic storylines from this era saw Buzz serve in the Viet Nam War and come home with a serious injury. By this time, Al Hartley, who would later go on to greater fame at Archie Comics, was the artist and did some lovely work here:
Also during this time, Patsy and Hedy made a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #3 (Oct. 1965), which established them as a part of the Marvel Universe:
Patsy Walker would return to the Marvel Universe in 1972 when Steve Englehart wrote her into the Beast feature he was doing in Amazing Adventures. Now married to Buzz, Patsy becomes an assistant to scientist Hank McCoy (the Beast). With the sudden cancellation of the Beast feature, subplots involving Patsy would be picked up in the pages of Avengers after the Beast had joined the team.
By this point, Patsy had separated from Buzz, reassumed her maiden name, and revealed her desire to become a superhero. Eventually, when tagging along on one of the team’s adventures, they discovered the old costume of the superheroine known as the Cat (Greer Nelson, who had since transformed into Tigra). Patsy donned the costume and was dubbed Hellcat. Surprisingly, she didn’t join the Avengers after this, but instead wound up joining the Defenders.
As noted, Patsy Walker spent the first few decades of her existence as a teen-humor character. Then she spent a year and a half as a melodramatic, soap-opera-style character. While I haven’t read all of the soap opera issues, I’ve read a few, and it seemed there was always at least some room for levity amongst all the melodrama. So Patsy was always a fun, light-hearted character.
This trend continued into her superhero years. In fact, she was often referred to as the “Happy Go Lucky” Hellcat. Once she caught on with the Defenders in issue #44 (Feb. 1977), almost instantly it felt like she had been a member from the very beginning of the team. She was such a fun and delightful presence on the comics page that she probably would have fit in almost anywhere with anyone. (Anyone but the guy she ended up with, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)
Outside of facing supervillains, Hellcat’s most dangerous challenge during this time was making a pot of coffee.
If you were around in the mid to late 70s, then you might recognize that Patsy’s adventures in coffeemaking were likely inspired by Sergeant Nick Yemana of Barney Miller fame, who made the worst coffee on the planet—though granted, his coffee pots didn’t explode as Patsy’s did.
Also, during her pre-Marvel Universe days as the protagonist of a teen humor comic, Patsy was a boy-crazy teenaged girl. This didn’t appear to change when she became an adult superheroine. One of the funnier examples of this was in Defenders #62 (Aug. 1978), when a bunch of handsome, broad-shouldered, musclebound, male superheroes turned up on the doorstep of the Richmond Riding Academy looking to join the Defenders.
As you can see, Patsy/Hellcat had a real knack for making anything and everything feel fun. She was a ray of sunshine whenever and wherever she appeared.
Her counterpart in this post, however, was a VERY different story.
I’ve blogged about Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, on a number of occasions. Even if all you know of the character are these posts, you know there’s very little of a humorous nature to be associated with him. Without going back and reading all his earliest appearances, I can’t state this definitively, but even just going off the top of my head here, I’m quite comfortable saying there was no levity to be found in any of the Son of Satan’s adventures back in the 70s.
Patsy Walker started as a humor character. The Son of Satan started as a horror character. His name is not figurative; he is literally the son of Satan, and his exploits involve the deepest and darkest of themes. Don’t go reading his classic stories if you’re looking for fun and laughs because you won’t find anything of the sort there.
So how in the heck did such a dark character (one of the darkest in the history of comics, probably) end up matched with such a light-hearted and fun character? Well once again, without a lick of research on the question, I find myself quite comfortable answering this one: it’s because he’s the Son of Satan and she’s got “hell” in her name. This is what inspired writer J. M. DeMatteis to pair the two up. How do I know this? Just go back and re-read everything I just wrote—what other reason could there be? They don’t fit in any other way, just the names. Giving the Son of Satan a love interest named “HELLcat” is a cute idea on the surface, but the actual characters do not fit together AT ALL.
Even in name, it’s not a true fit. As I said, the identification of Daimon Hellstrom as the “Son of Satan” is literal—he is the actual son of Satan. The name “Hellcat” is a figurative term and in modern usage has nothing to with hell or the devil.
Back in the earliest days of comic books, comic characters would fall in love, or be in love, simply because the writer told us so. Not much went into the foundation or development of romantic relationships. By the 1970s and 80s, this began to change, as writers started putting in more work on character development and building relationships between characters. Every once in a while though, a writer could backslide, which is what happened here—these two fell in love because DeMatteis said so. There was absolutely no foundation laid to explain how or why Patsy and Daimon would connect. I don’t think they could even work as friends, let alone lovers.
But whatever. The two first met in Defenders #92 (Feb. 1981) and wound up hitched in Defenders #125 (Nov. 1983). After this, the pair went radio silent for a while, but I do recall a West Coast Avengers story in the late 80s that showed them working as husband-and-wife occult investigators.
But then came the 1990s. And if you know your comics history, then I don’t need to tell you that everything got worse in the 90s. Daimon returned in Hellstorm: Prince of Lies #1 (Apr. 1993), a series that only lasted twenty issues, but this was more than enough time and space to do a whole lot of damage. This being the 90s, it was a requirement that characters be pointlessly ruined and/or utterly destroyed for the purpose of making the strip ceaselessly dark, i.e., “grim & gritty.” Here, Daimon’s infernal nature drives Patsy insane in the first issue, and by the fourteenth issue she commits suicide.
Modern comics being modern comics, she got better, of course. She was resurrected in a story that ran across the Thunderbolts and Avengers annuals in 2000. This was followed immediately after by a three-issue Hellcat miniseries (Sept.-Nov. 2000) wherein she confronted Daimon and we see him reveal that he is not the son of Satan. (A development I absolutely hated then and still hate today.) My recollection is that he was revealed to be the son of Dormammu instead, but my recent research suggests that he was actually revealed as the son of Satannish (who himself was revealed to be the son of Dormammu). In any case, I really don’t feel like digging the back issues out of my basement to verify any of this.
Both Patsy and Daimon have returned in more recent years, bearing little resemblance to the characters I grew up with. While it’s good that they separated the characters later, it would be even better if they simply retconned the whole mess of a relationship out of existence completely.
Patsy deserved better. She was one of the sweetest and most fun characters I have ever come across—just don’t ask her to make coffee for you.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all, and here’s hoping you have better luck in the romance department than Patsy Walker.