Following the success of Daredevil, Netflix will continue to explore the adult-oriented, urban crime side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Jessica Jones. If Daredevil seemed like a major shift in tone from the traditionally light-hearted films and ABC shows, expect Jessica Jones to be an even greater move in a new direction. While Jones may not have the long-standing history of the more high-profile Marvel characters, she’s definitely worth your time. I suspect there will be some of us who might still need a little convincing, so here’s everything you need to know about Jessica Jones.
The Comic: Jessica Jones first appeared in Alias #1 in 2001. Created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos, Alias marked a revolutionary shift for Marvel Comics. In an effort to bring more independent comic creators into their fold and work around the all-ages restrictions of the house Stan Lee and Jack Kirby built, Marvel created the mature, R-rated MAX imprint. And thus history was created when Alias became the first Marvel comic to ever publish the word “fuck.” Opting out of leading readers into this historic moment gently, the first word in Alias #1 is “fuck,” capitalized, bolded, and finished off with an exclamation mark. It was clear from the start that Alias was going to be something different, and demolishing polite language was only the start.
Bendis’ original plan was to take the recently depowered Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew and establish her as the lead of a hardboiled detective series. But as the idea evolved, a new character, Jessica Jones was created alongside a laundry list of character defects. Through the magic of comic retcons, she was inserted into Marvel’s established history. Jessica Jones, the former superhero and semi-successful private investigator of Alias Investigations, was written with the kind of complex characterization that comic writers so often attribute to male characters or not at all. Alias easily became one of the best superhero stories ever written, because it’s not about a superhero, instead it’s a psychological drama about a young woman who used to be one. While most comic books focus on protagonists who mostly have it together and are then torn down and rebuilt, Alias begins with Jessica’s life in shambles. In fact the entire thesis of the series is fixing Jessica Jones.
A large part of Alias’ success is that the series’ detective cases, ranging from disappearances, to political conspiracies, mental illness, superpowered junkies, and anti-mutant agendas, all serve to give the reader deeper insight into Jessica. While the cases themselves are always interesting, the biggest mystery of the series is Jessica, and how she went from being a bright and optimistic superohero to a depressed and anxiety-ridden pessimist. Featuring a supporting cast of superheroes and villains, ranging mostly from the C and D-list variety with a few exceptions, Alias offered a different look at the lives of superheroes. Typical of early 2000s Bendis, the series focused more so on deeply funny and moving conversations instead of flashy super-powered fight scenes. If you’re like me and thought the best part of Avengers: Age of Ultron was the Avengers Tower party scene, then imagine that increased ten-fold with all the language, sex, and complications which adult lives include.
But what Alias couldn’t include, or at least not often, were Marvel’s A-list superheroes. Besides the occasional appearance from Captain America, Alias was restricted from using Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, etc., reason being that Marvel simply wasn’t comfortable with Peter Parker calling Norman Osborn a fucker or going down on MJ (think of the kids and elderly). And so Bendis’ desire to make Jessica a bigger part of the events happening in the larger Marvel Universe led to Alias’ end in 2004, with a finale that left this writer misty-eyed. Jones returned in the Bendis-penned series The Pulse that same year, minus all the swearing and sex. The Pulse saw a more emotionally-stable Jessica team-up with Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich to report on superhero news. After 14 issues, the series came to end in 2006. Afterwards, Jessica appeared as a regular supporting character in the Bendis’ Avengers-titles. These appearances have waned somewhat since Bendis moved on to other titles, but it seems likely Jessica Jones will soon return to comics in a big way.
Necessary Reading Material:
Alias Omnibus (currently being reprinted in three volumes as Jessica Jones: Alias) by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
Jessica Jones: The Pulse – The Complete Collection by Brian Michael Bendis and various artists
The TV Show: Development for Jessica Jones (then titled AKA Jessica Jones) first began at ABC in 2010 under showrunner Melissa Rosenberg. Despite the years of development discussions and Rosenberg’s passion for the character, ABC passed on the series. In 2013, Netflix, Amazon, and WGN expressed interest in series, with Netflix ultimately teaming up with Marvel Studios to create a series centered around Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. Melissa Rosenberg was brought on to write and produce the series. She completely re-wrote the original version to take advantage of Netflix’s format and the developments in the MCU since her original pitch. In 2014, Krysten Ritter, Alexandra Daddario, Teresa Palmer, Jessica De Gouw, and Marin Ireland all tested for the lead role with Ritter landing it later that year. Shortly after, Mike Colter was cast in the much coveted role of Luke Cage. Like Daredevil, Jessica Jones will run 13-episodes with the likely possibility for future seasons.
The Tone: While information on the direction of the series has been light in comparison to Daredevil, which had something to prove, the series is said to stick close to the tone of Bendis and Gaydos’ original series. In a July interview with Comic Book Resources, Melissa Rosenberg and head of Marvel Television, Jeph Loeb, discussed the series and promised it wouldn’t shy away from the darkness or personal stakes of the comic. But while Daredevil pushed the envelope in terms of violence and language, Jessica Jones’ darkness will be less visceral and push the boundaries of psychological trauma. Like Daredevil, the series’ look is also said to draw inspiration from New Hollywood films with Chinatown cited as the specific inspiration. Expect Jessica Jones to be less comforting than Daredevil, which had the traditional superhero origins and outlooks to fall back on. If done right, Jessica Jones will challenge our expectations and further Marvel Studios’ intent to create genre stories that just happen to involve superpowers.
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter): The world broke Jessica Jones and left her a mess. She’s guarded, defensive, self-sabotaging, a victim of social anxiety, budding alcoholism, PTSD, and prone to meaningless hookups all in search of an emotional connection. She’s also unquestionably honest (with perhaps everyone except herself) and good-hearted. A collision with a military truck carrying an experimental isotope left her orphaned and comatose as a teenager. When she awoke she discovered she had super-strength and the ability to fly (though she never could stick the landing). Deciding to become a superhero she donned the guise of Jewel. Her brief career came to an end when the Purple Man, a villain capable of making anyone do and see whatever he wanted, kidnapped her for eight months. In the Purple Man’s final act of torture, he sent Jessica to attack the Avengers. The superhero team, recently returned from a stressful mission in space, overreacted and mercilessly beat Jessica. After months of physical and psychological therapy, the Avengers and Nick Fury apologized and offered her a spot on their team as a liaison between the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. Jessica rejected the offer, claiming she was done with the world of heroes and villains. But that world wasn’t done with her. Her career as a P.I. brought her into the world of superheroes many times over, as did her relationship with her boyfriend Scott Lang, and her sometimes sexual partner and future husband, Luke Cage. Jessica came into contact with the Purple Man once more and her triumph over him and ability to find peace within herself is one of comics’ greatest wins. After Jessica became pregnant by Cage, the two married and she eventually returned to her alias as Jewel and finally took the Avengers up on their offer. In the series she will be portrayed by Krysten Ritter of Veronica Mars and Breaking Bad fame. Ritter’s ability to handle both sincere moments of comedy and drama make her a great fit for Jones. There’s no word yet if the series will incorporate flashbacks to depict Jones’ days as a superhero.
Where we’ve seen her before: Jessica Jones will be the character’s first onscreen appearance.
Luke Cage (Mike Colter): Carl Lucas a.k.a. Luke Cage/Power Man first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 in 1972. Originally created as Marvel’s answer to the Blaxploitation film craze, he was defined by his silk yellow shirt, motorcycle chain belt, and penchant for yelling his catchphrase “Sweet Christmas.” A former gang member in Harlem, Cage decided to clean-up his act when his former friend and crime boss planted heroin in his home after thinking Cage took his girlfriend away from him. In prison, Cage was subjected to the abuse of a prison guard. Hoping to escape, Cage volunteers for an experimental super-soldier experiment that left him with super-strength and unbreakable skin. Cage broke out of prison, cleared his name and became a Hero for Hire to clean up the streets of his neighborhood. Often paired with fellow Hero for Hire, and best friend Iron Fist, Cage became a major symbol of justice for the black communities of New York. Always one to speak the truth he develops a friendship with the equally honest Jessica Jones. Though Cage originally denied his romantic feelings for Jessica, the two eventually affirmed their love for each other and Jessica revealed that their one-night stand left her pregnant. As a key member of the Avengers since the mid-2000s, a husband, and a father, Cage always does what’s right for his family and refuses to take bullshit from anyone. The Good Wife’s Mike Colter certainly has Cage’s look down, and though I’m unfamiliar with his performances, the fact that he earned one of the most sought after roles on television speaks volumes. At the start of Jessica Jones, Cage will have already acquired his powers and established himself as a figure in Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen. The show will tackle Cage and Jessica’s relationship, and the character has been described as an integral part of Jessica’s journey.
Where we’ve seen him before: Luke Cage has appeared in various animated series, but Jessica Jones will be his first live-action appearance. Cage is set to receive his own show in 2016. Fun Fact: Nic Coppola changed his name to Nic Cage in reference to Luke Cage. Because if anyone is a real-world example of the down-to-earth, black superhero from the hood, it’s Nicholas Cage.
Trish “Patsy” Walker (Rachel Taylor): Patsy Walker first appeared in the teen-humor magazine Miss America Magazine #2 in 1944. Published by Marvel’s predecessor Timely Comics, Patsy was created to appeal to young women readers. Most of Patsy’s stories focused on teenage romance and her friendly rivalry with Hedy Wolfe. Basically, the series followed the Betty and Veronica format. Patsy made her first appearance in the Marvel Universe proper in Fantastic Four Annual #3 in 1965. Patsy wasn’t introduced as a superhero until Amazing Adventures #13 in 1972. A former assistant of Hank McCoy (the Beast) Patsy accompanies McCoy on a mission with the Avengers and decides to adopt the costume of former superhero the Cat to become Hellcat. Trained in martial arts and gifted with psychic abilities that allow her to sense mystical occurrences, Hellcat became the scourge of the occult. 666 Park Avenue’s Rachel Taylor will be providing a different take on the character as Jessica Jones’ best friend. That role in the comics original belonged to Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel but Marvel’s cinematic plans for the character meant a change was necessary. In the show, Patsy will be a former model and child star who works as a radio host. She and Jessica will reportedly share the same competitive, sisterly bond that Jessica and Carol shared. There’s no word yet if Patsy will also be a former superhero or a potential one.
Where we’ve seen her before: Jessica Jones will be Patsy Walker’s first on-screen appearance.
Malcolm Powder (Eka Darville): A minor character in Jessica Jones’ comic book world, Malcom Powder first appeared in Alias #6 in 2002. A high-school fanboy with an encyclopedic knowledge of superheroes, Malcolm annoys his way into the position of Jessica’s assistant, much to her chagrin. Most of his assistance comes in the form of getting second-hand information for his stoner associates. He has not appeared since the conclusion of Alias. In the show, Malcom will be Jessica’s neighbor and will reportedly play a more central role in Jessica’s life.
Where we’ve seen him before: Jessica Jones will be the character’s first onscreen appearance.
Zebediah Killgrave/The Purple Man (David Tennant): The Purple Man first appeared in Daredevil #4 in 1964. A D-list villain who rose to become one of the Marvel Universe’s most despicable characters, Killgrave was a Croatian physician and spy who was doused with chemicals that dyed his hair and skin purple after his mission went awry. The chemicals left him with the ability to secrete pheromones that gave him control of other people’s will. A master-manipulator and serial rapist even from his early days, Killgrave was most commonly a Daredevil villain before fading into relative obscurity. His biggest moment came when he was made the principal villain in Alias, the source of Jessica’s pain. When he kidnapped Jessica for eight months and took control of her willpower he made her fall in love with him and repeatedly denied her that love, even after making her beg him for it, both emotionally and sexually. He made Jessica watch as he raped other women, made her bathe him, feed him, and tell him how smart he was, before finally growing sick of her and turning her on the Avengers. Killgrave was eventually arrested after convincing a diner full of people to stop breathing because the sound was bothering him. The families of the victims hired Jessica Jones to get Killgrave to admit to the murders, bringing the two into contact again after years since Jessica’s release from his control. Killgrave, now seemingly aware that he was in a comic book, took control of Jessica once again and escaped prison but Jessica was able to override his power thanks to psychic blocks installed by the X-Men’s Jean Grey. He has been a prominent villain in the years since but has had no further contact with Jessica Jones. Former Doctor Who David Tennant will portray Killgrave in the series. He’s sure to be able to capture Killgrave’s pathetic nature and despicable brand of evil. The show will be maintain the history between Jessica and Killgrave and his reappearance in her life will drive the series.
Where we’ve seen him before: Much milder versions of Killgrave appeared in animated form in X-Men and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Jessica Jones will be his first live-action appearance.
And now you’re ready to witness Jessica Jones rebuild her life on November 20th.
Featured Image: Netflix