Marvel Comics’ Jessica Jones is not exactly an A-List player. She’s not a B-lister either. She’s way down on the food chain, a D-lister. Most nerds have never heard the name before. Heck, many life long comic book fans don’t know who she is. This is about to change in a big way. Earlier this week, in a move that created a borg-like nerdgasm across social networks, Marvel and Netflix announced a stunning partnership: four televisions shows surrounding street level comic book characters, culminating in a minseries event, The Defenders. Of these four, Daredevil is the most recognizable. Over the last few years Luke Cage has upped his stock with runs on various Avengers comics and spin-offs. Iron Fist has had a cult following for years. However, since Jessica Jones is largely an unknown, let’s take a few minutes to get a run down on her history and why her presence in the line-up is a great thing for fans.
Jessica Jones was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, starring in the series Alias (no relation to the t.v. series) for Marvel Comics’ Max imprint. Max is analogous to DC’s Vertigo imprint; it publishes adult oriented content willing to take greater creative risks than in the standard superhero fair. Unfortunately, Max is practically defunct, drifting alone, in an iceberg, waiting for a team of intrepid Marvel Comics creators to breathe new life into the concept.
Alias was part of the first generation of Max titles. The story centered on Jones, a former superhero making her living in as a private investigator. Why give up a life smashing robots and saving kittens? Jones found herself under the control of a villain known as the Purple Man, whose pheromones render victims susceptible to mind control. He humiliated Jones, turning her into his slave. Jones broke his control, but only after he tricked her into attacking the Avengers. She retired from private life. A bitter, wounded Jones leverages her superhero connections to eek out a living solving crimes involving super-powered beings (that need to be solved on the down-low) Despite her trauma, Jones isn’t depicted as fragile or neurotic. She’s a hard-nosed, sarcastic survivor looking to restore a measure of dignity to her life. Sometimes she succeeds. Sometimes she fails. Even though the series was cancelled years ago, Brian Michael Bendis shepherded her in to the mainstream Marvel universe. She even has a child with Luke Cage.
The inclusion of Jessica Jones in the Netflix adventure could yield big dividends for Marvel. Unlike the other characters involved, Jessica is short on continuity baggage. No one is going to nerd rage over changes to her story arc. What short history she does have is neatly tied to both Luke Cage and Daredevil (Guess who’s been Matt Murdock’s go to private eye). She fits neatly into the street crime aesthetic of a boots-on-the-ground cadre of shows set in New York City.
More importantly, as the Marvel cinematic universe grows so do the desires of the fan base. Marvel Comics fans are looking for diversity in the 21st century. Cage is black, and Iron Fist can be rewritten as any ethnicity without problem. Over the last two years though Marvel has seen a increasing demand for female superheroes. There has been talk of adding Captain Marvel to the mix, but a Jessica Jones program shows the bigwigs are listening. Giving a D-lister her own show is another big, bold move for a company with a storied history of big, bold moves.
By David Arroyo