The story goes that back in 2001, Bill Jemas (then president of Marvel Publishing) was so enamored of Brian Michael Bendis’ script for the first issue of a potential new series that he immediately decided to publish it. The only problem was that the first word on the first page of the script was … not a word the House of Ideas was used to printing.
Giving Alias a home was one of the reasons for Marvel MAX, the adult-targeted imprint best-known for … well, best-known for Alias, frankly, although Garth Ennis’ run on Punisher is also well worth checking out. The series fit interestingly in the Marvel universe — it told the story of an ex-superhero, now a private investigator, who found herself caught up in the seamy side of superpowered life in New York. Michael Gaydos’ art gave the series a feel of realism very separate from the polished look of superhero comics — a feel reinforced by the use of other artists to draw Jones’ flashbacks to her time as a superhero.
Despite her superhuman strength and toughness, Jessica Jones relied more on quick wits, dogged persistence and empathy to solve her cases. Today, most of us think of Bendis as one of the chief architects of the Marvel universe and the guy who wrote umpty-million chatty issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, but back in the day he was better known for street-level crime comics like Jinx, Torso and (edging into superheroes) Powers. Alias fit right in.
The critical success of Alias — and Bendis’ ever-growing cachet at Marvel, one imagines — made Jessica Jones one of the new fixtures of the Marvel universe. And now she’s got a show coming to Netflix.
So what should we expect from the new show and its tough-as-nails protagonist?
So, the basic idea is that the Jessica Jones character is going to be integrated into the Hell’s Kitchen setting of previous Marvel/Netflix outing Daredevil. That show didn’t seem afraid to draw very directly from the comics — notably, of course, Frank Miller’s definitive run on the title, but also more recent interpretations of the character. But Daredevil also made some significant changes to its parent story, in particular by giving the character of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) a much more active role.
Jessica is actually pretty firmly tied in to the Marvel universe — she’s pals with Carol Danvers, went to high school with Peter Parker, and has a run-in with utility Marvel supporting character Rick Jones, not to mention her romance with Bronze Age comic star and later New Avenger Luke Cage. There is an upcoming Captain Marvel film, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see much of that action. Cage, however, is going to be the protagonist of his own Netflix series, played by The Good Wife‘s Mike Colter, and we know we’re going to be seeing a fair amount of him in Jessica’s show. This fits with the more adult tone of the Netflix series and the comic’s focus on Jessica’s love life — or, initially, sex life.
Krysten Ritter (of Breaking Bad and Veronica Mars) plays our hard-drinking heroine, and David Tennant will be taking on the role of her main antagonist, The Purple Man.
Man … the Purple Man. If you had to pick one Marvel villain to adapt to the small screen (well, OK, not one, since we’ve already seen characters like Kingpin, Owl and even Gladiator) you wouldn’t necessarily choose the Purple Man, whose mind-control powers skirt the border of sexual abuse, then jump over the border and just plunge right into it. Handling this is going to be the real test of the show … but seeing how they deal with it is going to exciting.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones premiers on November 20th.