When you make a living as a private detective in the Marvel Universe, there’s no such thing as a simple case. No matter what job you take on, you should expect some twists and turns that lead somewhere strange and dangerous. Jessica Jones fans know that solving weird mysteries is a common occurrence for the super-powered P.I., but in her new series from her creators writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos, Jess has inadvertently uncovered some of the Marvel U’s darkest secrets.
The first case in the new series led to Jess learning all about the cosmic life and death cycle of the Marvel U while investigating an entirely different sinister conspiracy. As a side effect of her undercover investigation, she drove a wedge between herself and her husband, Luke Cage. In the series’ current arc, Jess is trying to repair the damage done to her family as she navigates the treacherous world of super-powered espionage in order to discover who’s trying to kill former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill, and why.
CBR spoke with Bendis about returning to Jessica’s world alongside Gaydos, the nature of her cases, and how the launch of the upcoming Defenders comic starring Jessica, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil will impact the book.
CBR: At its core, Jessica Jones is a series about a woman discovering the dark secrets of the Marvel U and what it costs her to uncover and deal with these revelations.
Brian Bendis: That’s the surprise of the series. If everything is working well on a book, you can have this thing that you sell to the public and you deliver on it. That’s what the book is about, but then all of a sudden there’s this other thing. And if the other thing actually accentuates what the book is about and doesn’t conflict with it, you can pleasantly surprise an audience. That was the idea here.
A lot has happened in the Marvel Universe over the past ten years, cosmic and seismic events. We’re all normal people, too, and that allows for unique mysteries and detective stories, ones that I’m going to lean into. With that came this overwhelming feeling that “something happened, and no one is talking about it.”
That’s exciting and fun to write, because it works if you don’t read anything but Jessica Jones. It also works if you have a little knowledge, or you know everything about the Marvel Universe. Those are the best ideas. They’re hard to find, but for this book they’re the right ones.
Were these mysteries a lot of what you were doing with the first Jessica Jones series, Alias?
She’s a detective, which means she’s going to look under every rock. And looking under rocks will lead her to discover something that someone was hiding or no one wanted uncovered. So there’s always going to be that aspect to the book, but that’s on a personal level.
I think we’re dealing with a bigger scale this time though. Part of the reason that’s important to me is she’s a mother, a wife, and she’s having a difficult time at home. Balancing work and family when there’s no real difference between the two is something I relate to, and something I think a lot of people can relate to. So that’s the intimate part of the book as she deals with these bigger issues.
Right, last time she had a series she didn’t have much to lose. Now she he has a family.
Exactly, which means now she he has everything to lose.
The first major secret Jessica uncovered was the sort of life and death cycle of Marvel’s multiverse. There was almost a Lovecraftian-style cosmic horror vibe in her reaction to that revelation. Was that your intention?
Anytime you’re doing these big, giant events and you’re right in the heart of the blazing sun of the battle, the imagination of any writer worth a damn is going to wander down to the street and wonder what characters like the Ben Urichs and Willie Lumpkins are doing. You ask what they’re doing, and then you say to yourself, “I bet there’s the real story.” A full tip of the hat to Kurt Busiek and Marvels for helping to illustrate that.
The great stories of our large-scale conflicts, like World War II, are these little stories we’ve told over the decades, and you can’t help but wonder the same thing about these big events. You can look at Jessica’s book as the one that will always discover those different perspectives on how the Marvel Universe runs itself.
In this latest arc, Jessica is investigating the secrets of S.H.I.E.L.D. as she tries to uncover who’s out to kill the organization’s former director, Maria Hill. Since Hill’s successor ended up being Steve Rogers, it feels like this story could become a Secret Empire tale rather quickly. What can you tell us about that?
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can comment on that without spoiling anything. My hesitation to say anything about Secret Empire is out of complete respect to Nick Spencer. Nick has been given too rough of a time for trying to tell his story, and I don’t want too add to his woes by accidentally spoiling something. I really think he should be allowed to tell his story, and I don’t want to say anything that would get in the way of that happening.
I can say though that the events in Nick’s books have completely decimated Maria Hill’s world. As one of her co-creators, that gave me this opportunity to dive into her as a person, which doesn’t happen a lot because of the nature of when she shows up in other books, her function in those books, and her relationships to the other characters in those books doesn’t have her opening up a lot. Some guest stars can really emote, but she’s not one that can. In this instance, though, where she’s been knocked on her ass and coming to Jessica because she literally has no friends, we’re going to have this opportunity to find out more about her and what’s going on in the intelligence community of the Marvel Universe during all the tumult of this year. So, there’s that.
I love Maria, and other than Matt Fractions’s run on Iron Man, we really haven’t had the opportunity to explore some of the cooler aspects of her character. So this is a great opportunity to do that, and I know that a lot of people who like Maria like Jessica, so this is a nice place to do it.
Both characters were born around the same time and the same events in the Marvel Universe, and even though they’re very different types of characters, they carry a lot of shared history. It’s a lot of fun to write.
One of the first people Jessica goes to see in her investigation into who’s trying to kill Maria is a crime lord I don’t believe we’ve seen before. What can you tell us about Raindrop?
Raindrop Lilley is a new character. She’s going to be showing up in Jessica Jones, Defenders and other titles. She is not a Kingpin. She’s more like a facilitator. There are a few people like this in real life that she is based on. I think the thing in movies though that she’s the most like is almost a punk rock version of Jody Foster in Inside Man. She knows who everybody is, moves all the pieces, and it’s all dangerous. Yet she seems to be above it all.
With the new Jessica book and the new Defenders series, we’re going to start populating the streets with both old favorites and new characters. It’s been quite a few years since some new faces have popped in. Jessica was one of the last ones, and that was 2001. I’m sure there are other characters I’m forgetting, though! Please don’t write me. [Laughs]
Raindrop is one of, I hope, a smattering of new and interesting characters that we’ll be debuting.
What else can you tell us about the second arc? How does it compare to the first one?
It’s more intimate. Jessica is really running around in the shadows in this one, and she was kind of living a lie in the first arc. In this one she’s flat out back to being Jessica. It’s Jessica on her feet and being herself, but the case is way over her head. We’re having a lot of fun.
Typhoid Mary is coming. Night Nurse is coming. Luke is coming back. Danny Rand will come back to the book. Matt Murdock is in it. There’s a lot of fun to be had.
Let’s talk a little more about what artist Michael Gaydos and colorist Matt Hollingsworth are doing on this book. They’re like Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser, in that when it comes to noir comics, they compliment each other’s styles perfectly.
I’m so happy to be back working with Michael. I’ve known him since college. We weren’t friendly in college, though, because he was too good, and I was too petty.
I love that we have shared this experience together like you would not believe. It’s been amazing to be alive and watch how Jessica has ballooned from cult figure at best to an international television star thanks to Netflix and how they run their amazing organization. Then we got to come back to the book, have a purpose to the book, and Mike is better at his job on every conceivable level than he was on the first run. Everything is just crisper. He’s better at drawing everything, and it was great the first time. So it’s better than great. That’s been fantastic.
I’m working with Matt Hollingsworth on both this and Infamous Iron Man, and I’m so grateful to be back working with him. We’ve worked together almost the entire time I’ve been at Marvel. I look at Matt Hollingsworth and Justin Ponsor in the same light as other people look at the great cinematographers. I think those two colorists are among the greatest of all time. If you compare them to people who are working in film today, I’d compare them to Roger Deakins or Emmanuel Lubezki. They’re amazing.
I’ve also recently noticed that the movies are getting real close, visually, to scenes in the comics. If it enhances the story they’re telling, you might see a cinematographer take a nod from the colorist of the original work in terms of palette and lighting. When a cinematographer recognizes a colorist’s choices like that, it’s a lovely thing to me. As I’ve said before, colorists don’t get the respect they deserve. So it’s nice to see them getting these nods from their peers on the shows and the movies.
You saw some of that in the recent trailer for Netflix’s Defenders. There are a couple of shots right out of the Jessica Jones comic. They even matched the shadow and tone. I was truly flattered and honored that they had done that because I had read those scripts and I didn’t get the reference. Then when I saw it I immediately noticed it. It was really lovely. So that was a situation where I thought, “They included Mike and Matt’s choices as well. That’s awesome!”
So returning to Jessica with Michael and Matt for this new series has been a pretty rewarding experience.
Yeah. When you return to a character, you’re pretty much up against yourself, and not in that normal way you are everyday. You’re literally up against yourself. I was very grateful and relieved that me, Mike and Matt were up to the task, and the audience was forgiving enough to see us as not having missed a beat. I have no control over that, but I was relieved that those were some of the first reviews we got from people.
Finally, we know that Jessica’s world is going to change and grow due to her exploits in books like Defenders and Secret Empire. It sounds like those books will have an impact on Jessica’s solo adventures going forward.
Yeah, everything that’s going to happen in the Marvel Universe, and particularly in The Defenders, will reflect on Jessica Jones.
There are certain books, and both Marvel and DC have them, where the audience would prefer that they not tie into things. So with “Jessica Jones” there will be a gentle nod that colors the book and connects it to the larger Marvel Universe. Defenders is really where you’ll feel her connection.
I can’t promise this every single day, but when I’m at my best, I like to layer things so you’re getting rewarded for whatever level you’re reading at, and not punished at any level.
Jessica Jones #9, by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth, with a cover by David Mack, arrives June 7.