Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters
Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly… why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we look at the wedding of Hellcat and Daimon Hellstrom…
The Couple: Patsy Walker and Daimon Hellstrom
The Issue: The New Defenders #125
Published: November 1983
Today: Patsy went mad upon the sight of Hellstrom’s dark soul reasserting itself, which lead to her being killed by Deathurge (a skiing mercy-killing spirit who is now a squirrel… I guess?) and sent to hell. She and Hellstrom have met a few times since the Thunderbolts rescued her/brought her back to life, but needless to say things haven’t been great.
Rebecca: To all things there must come an end. In June, we said good-bye to Jessica Jones, the last of Marvel’s Netflix series. But thirty-five years ago, comic fans said good-bye to their own Defenders when several of the founding team members left and were replaced with what would become The New Defenders. The original Defenders disbanded due to a horrifying prophecy involving a genocidal alien race, but the New Defenders decided to become a team because… Patsy Walker’s ex-husband decided to crash her wedding. Yeah, it’s one of those types of issues.
Kayleigh: As we wind down with what is (probably) our penultimate installment, The Wedding Issue comes full circle. Patsy Walker made a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #3, our first Wedding Issue written over three (!) years ago, so it feels appropriate to walk her down the aisle now.
Rebecca: Netflix watchers better know Patsy Walker as Jessica Jones’ adopted sister “Trish”: former child star, popular radio host and wannabe superheroine. But the comic book Patsy has an incredibly long and strange history. Originally starting out as the star of several of Marvel’s (then Timely Comics’) romance titles in the mid-1940s, Patsy got a super-makeover in the 1970s, when she donned another superheroine’s performance-enhancing costume and became Hellcat. Writers since then have mixed her hearts-and-hijinx origins and her fire-and-brimstone love life to varying effect. I’ve enjoyed some of it and been fascinated by her origin, but admit that I mostly know of Daimon Hellstrom in reference to Patsy. So even though I’m pretty skeeved out by the “she had to get a demon to kill her because her heart was broken” end to their marriage, I was interested to see how this cursed couple meshed at their supposedly happy beginning. It turns out they didn’t leave much of an impression at all.
Kayleigh: It’s… kind of weird how Patsy, er, Trish Walker became the big bad of Jessica Jones, huh? Anyway, I may be one of the only people under eighty who’s more familiar with Patsy Walker’s Silver Age rom-com antics than her modern superhero career. My only past encounter with her marriage to Daimon Hellstrom is Marvel Fanfare #59, in which writer/artist Richard Howell puts the hell-bound heroes into an uncanny simulacrum of a ’40s Simon & Kirby romance comic. A hot minute of googling tells me that their courtship briefly involved Satan trying to trick Patsy and Daimon into thinking they were brother and sister, so they were probably a more interesting couple than they appear here.
Rebecca: I feel bad for saying this because J. M. DeMatteis wrote some of my forever favorite Spider-Man stories, but this comic sucks. I’m sure writing a “changing of the guard” story isn’t easy, but sticking both a prophecy about an alien race that’ll destroy the world if the Defenders stay together and a wedding of a former team member is a lot to ask of even an oversized issue. And then on top of that this comic adds a long scene of the new Defenders members coming home drunk (where nobody’s drawn to look drunk) and narration by a freaking elf.
Kayleigh: Pardon the record scratch sound effect, but I have to elaborate on the elf. Steve Gerber’s earlier run on The Defenders featured one of the greatest non sequiturs of all time: the Elf with a Gun. The Elf with a Gun would spontaneously appear throughout the book to shoot a civilian seemingly at random, never encountering the Defenders, and never explaining its existence. This went on for nearly two years! I can’t even comprehend how confused, amused, and infuriated Marvel readers must have been in the ’70s, but that’s why Steve Gerber was a legend. Though the original Elf with a Gun was hit by a truck, DeMatteis later revived the concept and attached the elves to the ridiculous plot here with alien tribunals and an apocalyptic future. The elf’s heavy-handed narration in this issue reveals a big flaw in this era of Marvel Comics writing. Everything, even a joke character symbolizing the chaotic nature of the universe, is at the mercy of Almighty Continuity and has to have a purpose and a backstory and a reward for the fanboys who have been reading since Defenders #25. Something that was funny is now simply annoying.
Rebecca: But even if you concentrate on the wedding itself, it’s a mess—and I’m not even referring to the fart jokes before the vows or the guests eating before the ceremony (hasn’t anyone on the creative team been invited to one of these?). This could have been a story that packed an emotional punch, given that supervillain interrupting the nuptials is Patsy’s ex-husband Buzz Baxter/Mad-Dog. Yet Daimon Hellstorm feels like such a non-presence that I forgot until I re-read the comic for this review that he delivers the final punch to Baxter. Patsy fares a little better and gets some cute moments with her friends before the ceremony, but Beast is more of a viewpoint character than she is. When she’s about to say, “I do!” it’s his emotional reaction the story focuses on. I get that Patsy and Daimon weren’t team members at this point, but it still feels like a bummer that a milestone storyline for such a long-running character puts her in the supporting role.
Kayleigh: I say this with no shade to DeMatteis, but this comic reads like it could have been written by a fourteen-year-old. The Return of the Jedi name-drops, the hokey humor (a baddie actually says “Have a nice trip, see you next fall!”), the elaborate worldbuilding at the expense of clear storytelling, the backwards wedding ceremony? It feels like a very enthusiastic kid’s idea of a great superhero comic, trying to do way too much even with a generous forty pages. And with everything crammed into The New Defenders #125, there are still missed opportunities. Like, hey, the Son of Satan getting married in a Christian ceremony is funny! Do something with that!
Rebecca: Did you enjoy any of the team-building character antics? Because I just found everyone in this issue incredibly grating. I really like Beast! I’ve enjoyed Angel in the past! Gargoyle… well, I don’t know him, but he seems like a nice guy. But all of the moments that try to sell this team as a fun new cast of characters we’re going to want to read another 100 issues about just exhausts me. I can’t even muster the energy to try to read some sort of haters-to-lovers interaction between Valkyrie and Moondragon because they’re both equally unpleasant. I think some of it comes down to the dialogue not landing for me and the rest comes down to this comic just trying to do way too much, but if I like scanning the crowd for cameos in most wedding issues, this makes me want to hide in the corner with a glass of wine and an overstuffed hors d’oeuvres plate.
Kayleigh: It’s hard to enjoy any of the hijinx, like the elf’s wisecracking narration or Hank and Bobby’s drunk dancing, because there’s a kernel of a really dark story here. Patsy’s asshole ex-husband wants to kill her, and it gets surprisingly violent, with Mad Dog biting her and pulling her hair. The flashes of domestic violence here are really sobering, considering that Mad Dog is also a guy who crouches on all fours and howls “AROOOOOO” like goddamn Scooby-Doo. As the resident X-Men X-pert, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of Mutant Force, a bunch of obscure Magneto cast-offs with codenames like Lifter and Peeper. To call them Z-listers is an insult to the letter Z. Also, Beast has a puppy named Sassy who bites a guy.
Rebecca: The fashion in this issue isn’t great, either. Daimon is wearing the generic blue jacket with pinstripe pants that countless grooms in this column have sported. I actually preferred Gargoyle’s brown pinstripe mobster suit. Valkyrie’s purple dress is ugly but I like her hairstyle for the ceremony and will give her credit for wearing something comfortable when she has to cart around a captured Moondragon. (Plus, she later gets to take a bat a supervillain who calls her a “dumb blonde” into a pigsty, which is always fun.) Patsy’s dress isn’t bad—I actually kind of like the silhouette and she looks cute with her flower crown—but the trim reminds me of a tablecloth.
Kayleigh: Moondragon just comes in her cape and skimpy green bathing suit, and I love it. Otherwise, everything is very ’80s and frilly, but Patsy’s dress has more character than the rest of her wedding, so I have to appreciate it for that.
Rebecca: I really feel bad because I thought I’d have something of substance to say about this couple given their hellish ending but… I just don’t. I think if this comic is indicative of anything, it’s that for most of Patsy’s unique history, the Powers That Be just haven’t really known what to do with her, or how to push her beyond her supporting role. As for Daimon Hellstorm… well, he may be the son of Satan who will defend his wife from her shitty ex on their wedding day, but that doesn’t make him interesting. Weird elf character, please play us out… or don’t.
Kayleigh: Haha, and here’s the elf now! Wait, what’s he holding? Oh, oh god no, it’s—