Guest List: Kate Leth on the Music Behind Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!

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In Guest List, Paste’s favorite artists and auteurs reveal the music that’s inspired some of their most seminal works.

Kate Leth has been a socially engaged creator since day one, from her autobiographical Kate or Die! webcomics to founding the Valkyries, a community of female-identified comic shop employees, to writing gigs on tie-in comics for uber-popular cartoons like Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors. It makes sense, then, that she would solicit Twitter’s help in compiling a playlist for Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, her first ongoing title at Marvel Comics.

Drawn by Legend of Korra’s Brittney Williams, Patsy Walker draws from all aspects of the character’s long and winding publishing history: high-drama romance comics, a stint in Hell after a tryst with Satan’s son, cat-clawed heroism alongside the Avengers and her recent run as one of the go-to BFFs among the leading ladies of the Marvel U. It would have been easy to wipe the slate clean on yet another C-list character, but Leth runs full-speed toward Patsy’s messy background and emerges with a surprisingly relatable (and unsurprisingly fun) story of a complex young woman ready to accept her history and forge a future on her terms.

With the first issue hitting racks earlier this week, Paste chatted with Leth over e-mail to get the inspiration behind the girl-power playlist that percolates behind the pages of Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!

Kate Leth on the role music plays in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!

I don’t listen to music when I’m writing. I work in total silence, or white noise at best—I’ve got the world’s shortest attention span and even instrumental music is distracting. Great intro for an article about music, right?

That being said, I make playlists for certain books more and more often. I listen to them when I’m thinking about the story, when I’m walking around on days I’m scripting in between sessions, to get myself in the right mindset. The A.K.A. Hellcat! playlist was compiled to be fun, loud, a little aggressive and heavily populated with female artists, as well as more than a few nods to cats. “Stray Cat Strut,” “Cat People,” “Hell Cat,” etc. I love a good pun. Overall, the playlist goes a little harder than the comic—it’s pretty lighthearted—but it provides some layers to the character we might not see. She’s fun and bubbly, but I can see her jamming down the street with angsty girl rock playing… Or maybe that’s just me, projecting. Either way, these songs have become part of who Patsy and Hellcat are as characters.

The Playlist

“I Love Myself Today,” Bif Naked
I wanted this song to start out a playlist that otherwise works best on shuffle, because I think it sets the tone. Bif Naked, tattooed Canadian musical wunderkind of the early-2000s, growls this defiant tune about loving herself in spite of what others might want, or want her to be. It’s a flip-off that’s also fun. It suits Patsy’s inner dialogue when she’s getting ready to rumble.

“Show Me Love,” Robyn
This is on 90 percent of the playlists I’ve ever made. I love Robyn, and I love this song! Here we see the flipside of Patsy Walker, the romantic one. It pines, it dedicates, it swoons, but it also manages to be a little tough with Robyn’s low voice on the verses.

“Boys Wanna Be Her,” Peaches
This song is meant for strutting and looking deadly. It’s centrally about a girl everyone wants, regardless of gender, but they also want to emulate her. This ties into Patsy’s fame, her childhood status as an idol, but it’s also very sexy, which I think matches who she’s becoming now. Plus, Peaches is just great. This song is much more Hellcat than Patsy.

“Ex’s & Oh’s,” Elle King
If any song is Patsy’s theme song, it’s this one. I love how clever and cutting this is (“They always wanna come / But they never wanna leave”) as well as being about a woman who has a trail of former lovers in her wake, but owns it completely and is totally sure of herself. It’s just so salty. I adore it.

“My Song 5,” Haim featuring A$AP Ferg
This is the best song on Days Are Gone, next to “The Wire,” in my humblest of opinions. It’s dark, it’s angry, it takes no prisoners. “Honey I’m not your honey pie” is such a great line, very much a “don’t tell me to smile” kind of vibe. I listen to this when I’m angry. I’m not sure if it helps, but it is great.

“Feeling Myself,” Nicki Minaj & Beyoncé
In the original script for issue #1, Patsy’s ringtone was from either this song or “Anaconda,” I can’t remember. I want to believe Patsy and her new roommate would blast Nicki before going out on weekends. Thematically, this one represents Patsy’s shift from defining herself by her love life to defining her life by her self-love, if that’s not too corny. She knows she’s got it goin’ on.

“Outta My Way,” Damone
An ex-boyfriend introduced me to Damone, a band who deserves way more recognition. They’ve got this pop-rock vibe, somewhere between what Avril was trying to be and The Donnas, and it rules. The singer was really young at the time—their first album From The Attic is so perfectly teenage that she sings about high school and working at a car wash—and it gives the music a raw, honest energy. “Outta My Way” is about clocking out after working a crappy day job and going to party with your friends. It’s just such a good pump-up song!

“Boy Problems,” Carly Rae Jepsen featuring Sia
This one’s kind of a no-brainer. “Boy problems / Who’s got ‘em?” Coming from a girl who went to Hell over dating the son of Satan? Uhhh, yeah. Patsy’s got ‘em.

“Take It Off,” The Donnas
Much like “Outta My Way,” this is a song I play when I’m getting ready to go out (or take a scary phone call). It’s so ferocious, full of growls and sexual innuendos. It’s no little-girl love song, it’s something to yell before pouncing. Meow!!

“Demons,” Sleigh Bells
I felt really good about my song choices when [JESSICA JONES SPOILER ALERT, KIND OF] Trish blasts this song in her headphones during the last episode of Jessica Jones. It made me love her, this bizarre Walker from a different world, knowing that she listens to alt angry girl music. Our Patsy is very different from Trish, but I felt a connection. I’m sure it was just the choice of a writer who likes Sleigh Bells, but who cares? It’s a great song!