As gritty interpretations of superhero storylines become the norm, it seems a long time ago that edgy storylines involving flawed characters were considered shocking. Back in 2001 when Alias #1 hit the shelves, it was during a period of time when Marvel was choosing to transition from focusing on its brightly-colored legacy characters to exploring the depths of its more troubled ones. Comic fans were introduced to Jessica Jones, formerly a flashy costumed superhero, now a cranky, whiskey-swilling, F-bomb dropping private investigator.
It was a risk for Marvel to put so much emphasis on an unknown superhero as part of their new Marvel Max line of comics, but she was part of a cadre of famous misfits including Punisher, Deadpool, and other superheroes that needed a way for their mature themes to be expressed. As The Defenders airs on Netflix and as we anxiously await Season 2 of Jessica Jones, take a look at 17 things you never knew about Marvel’s best Defender. She may have had a rocky road to success, but the contribution of her compelling story and tenacious attitude prove that she deserves to be considered one of the most influential comic characters of recent decades.
17. SPIDER-MAN INSPIRED HER TO BECOME A SUPERHERO
After being orphaned in a car accident on a trip (paid for by none other than Tony Stark), she’s in a coma for several months and misses lots of school. When she comes back to class, she struggles to connect with anyone and feels particularly isolated. Along comes a spider, er, Peter Parker, who attempts to befriend Jessica but she’s not having any of it.
When she sees Spider-Man take on Sandman right there in Midtown High, however, she’s drawn out of her shell and inspired to use her newfound powers Of strength and agility for good. She adopts the alias of Jewel and gets herself a nifty costume. She fights crime but isn’t splashing the front of the Daily Bugle the way Spider-Man is. The superhero gig gets her super-friends like Ms. Marvel, though, even if it ultimately doesn’t pan out.
16. SHE’S HAD RELATIONSHIPS WITH SEVERAL SUPERHEROES
Like with actors and flight attendants, constant interactions and an intimate understanding of the industry you’re both in make for a lot of office romances. It helps when your partner knows that a late night entails fisticuffs and dodging bullets/laser beams/mind control and any other weird power or gadget some villain is wielding.
Jessica briefly dated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clay Quarterman, but he was small potatoes, so she moved onto Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, and even managed to “catch the eye” of Daredevil, though it didn’t help that she’d been used by Killgrave to try to assassinate him when they first met. She’d had a crush on Peter Parker for years but it was unrequited. There was lots of casual sex with Luke Cage, until they decided to make it official.
15. HER ARCH-NEMESIS WAS ORIGINALLY DAREDEVIL’S
Zebediah Killgrave (or “Kilgrave” as on the Netflix show) has the distinction of being the arch-nemesis of Jessica Jones, but he first appeared in Stan Lee and Joe Orlando’s Daredevil #4 as a foil for Daredevil. He was described as a physician and international spy who, after being sent to a chemical refinery to gather top secret intelligence, was doused with a nerve gas that dyed his hair and skin purple.
The “Purple Man” had, through this chemical bath, acquired the ability to control people’s actions with pheromones that he emitted. He can literally make someone slice their own throat, and in the case of Jessica Jones, do all sorts of degrading things (both sexual and otherwise). It’s his distinction as a recurring villain for Daredevil that ties him into the Jessica Jones storyline, since he uses his mind control powers to imprison her and make her attempt to assassinate Daredevil.
14. HER ORIGINAL ALIAS WAS JEWEL
The tough, often prickly attitude of Jessica Jones doesn’t exactly scream traditional superhero, especially given her penchant for wearing her standard sneer and an inconspicuous wardrobe. Before she became everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed PI, she ran around in a skintight number (no cape though) and called herself Jewel. Going up against the Purple Man (aka Zebediah Killgrave) helped her cut her teeth on real superhero action, until he started controlling her mind.
He sent her off to succeed where he failed in killing Daredevil, which led her to the Avengers hangout spot and a major butt-whooping. Luckily, her BFF Ms. Marvel was there to fend off Iron Man, Vision, and Scarlet Witch from pulverizing her. The ordeal resulted in her being in a coma, and when she came to she decided the superhero gig wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
13. SHE WORKED FOR THE DAILY BUGLE
After she was Jewel, and after she spent time as a PI, Jessica Jones went to work for J. Jonah Jameson over at the Daily Bugle. She’d recently become pregnant with Luke Cage’s daughter, and at the Bugle she could be a superhero specialist and consultant rather than worry about being involved in anything too overly gung-ho.
Naturally, her boss had her trying to determine Spider-Man’s true identity, an assignment which she took on with gusto. She accepted the assignment and promptly began charging all sorts of expenses to his accounts, but the money wasn’t going to fancy dinners or mani-pedis. She was funneling all the money to soup kitchens, orphanages, homeless shelters, and hospitals. And she did it all while never giving up Spidey’s true identity.
12. SHE MARRIED LUKE CAGE
Back when she was going around doing the costumed superhero gimmick, Jessica Jones met Luke Cage. She had recently tried to attack The Avengers at the behest of Killgrave, and only realized the extent of the trauma she caused after she woke up from a coma after the resulting fight.
She wanted to give fighting crime on the side of the good guys one last try, and so was going after Owl when Luke Cage arrived on the scene to help her out. They developed a fast friendship and later, when she became a PI and started up Alias Investigations, the friendship turned romantic. They were on again off again for a while, but eventually they became committed when she got pregnant in Alias #28.
11. SHE WAS WITH PETER PARKER WHEN THE SPIDER BIT HIM
Because of how the character of Jessica Jones was initially developed, and because of the ever-growing web-like network of intertwined superhero storylines, she had to be carefully inserted into the pasts of several well-known characters and integrated into the Marvel Universe as a whole. This not only made for an interesting story arc with intriguing plot points, it also gave legitimacy to her character’s legacy.
She was made to go to Midtown High, where she crushed on fellow classmate Peter Parker, and where she was actually present when he was bit by the radioactive spider that gave him his powers because they went on the same field trip. This could only be achieved with some clever bits of dialogue that pieced her into the story (and had her looking quite different…and really nerdy).
10. HER ALCOHOLISM HELPS TO DROWN OUT MIND CONTROL
It’s no secret that Jessica Jones drinks. A lot. In the Netflix series Jessica Jones, she has a bottle of whiskey or vodka on hand at all times. She’s dealing with some pretty heavy PTSD around her imprisonment by Kilgrave, and the horrible things that he made her do during the months she was enslaved by him.
While at first heavy drinking may seem to be a coping mechanism for the trauma, her superhuman abilities actually nullify a lot of the effects (in other words, she’d have to drink A LOT to get wasted), so it really serves another purpose; the binge drinking helps to drown out the “voices in her head.” The “voices” being, of course, Kilgrave and his attempt to re-establish a link with her mind.
9. SHE TURNED MARVEL R-RATED
In 2001, the year that the Alias series debuted, the outdated Comics Code Authority was broken by Marvel Comics and from that Marvel MAX was born, the R-rated, sexier, edgier place where only certain storylines could be told. Characters like the Punisher and Deadpool got free range to do anything they wanted, however they wanted, in as much graphic detail and with as much graphic language.
It was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, and Alias was one of the first titles, ending in 2004 after 28 issues. It was the only way the story arc of a strong young woman overcoming the depravity of a twisted captor’s manipulation could be explored and valued for its contribution to the Marvel Universe as a whole and for comics in general.
8. SHE WAS AN AVENGER
Admittedly, Jessica Jones had a rocky relationship with the Avengers, given that she almost killed one of them while trying to assassinate Daredevil. But after the X-Men were able to, with the help of Jean Grey, put a firewall into her brain that kept out any further mind control from her arch nemesis Killgrave, she was no longer a threat to them.
After the birth of her daughter Danielle, she regularly kicked it at Avengers Tower with Luke Cage, living off the fat of that superhero life. As an honorary Avenger, she helped out with everything except saving the world. Though she’d sworn off the legit superhero stuff long ago, she now had a duty to protect her daughter, and thus became a member (and sometimes leader) of the New Avengers.
7. ONE OF HER BEST FRIENDS IS MS. MARVEL
When Killgrave used Jewel as a weapon by taking control of her mind and fixing her on the assassination of Daredevil, it led her to the Avengers HQ, where upon seeing Scarlet Witch in a red costume, she attacked blindly. She ended up getting trashed by Iron Man and Vision until Ms. Marvel comes along and makes them stop, she being the only superhero around that actually knows or has heard of Jewel.
Though Jewel goes into a coma, when she wakes up she commits to rehabilitating her body and mind, and leans on the friendship of Carol Danvers. It’s that friendship that helps Jessica Jones the most when she feels demoralized about what she did to the Avengers, though it sucks that she couldn’t help Ms. Marvel kick her alcoholism.
6. SHE POPPED OUT A KID
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage got it on and Jessica gave birth to a bouncing baby girl, delivered by none other than Doctor Strange in his mystical townhouse in Greenwich Village, the Sanctum Sanctorum. She was named Danielle after Luke Cage’s partner and best friend Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist). With both your parents being Defenders with super strength and healing abilities, you might have a chip on your shoulder to prove yourself.
Luckily, because there’s no shortage of alternate universes and future storylines in the Marvel Universe, in Ultron Forever #1, Danielle Cage is depicted as Captain America. Jessica Jones never assumed she’d be a mom, or even make a good one, but she found the right partner and had a super spawn to be proud of.
5. SHE’S PSYCHIC
It was on a trip to Disneyland (paid for by her boss’s dad, Tony Stark) that her parent’s car would collide with a truck carrying radioactive material, leaving her down two parents but gaining new powers. She has super strength, can be invulnerable for a time, fly (albeit she feels not well), and with the ability to read minds.
Now, she’s no Jean Grey, but it’s an ability that The Purple Man put to good use connecting with, which is probably one of the reasons she doesn’t use it much, as it leaves her mind too open for his mental attacks. She uses this ability a little in the Netflix series Jessica Jones, but it seems to always drain her of energy and leave her vulnerable for attacks by either Kilgrave or other people he’s controlling.
4. HER CHARACTER WAS ORIGINALLY SPIDER-WOMAN
When co-creator Brian Michael Bendis originally brainstormed the story arc for the Alias series, it was supposed to star Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman. However, the plot was too dark and gritty, and the powers that be thought it was too edgy for a landmark character. Which was good news, because he got to create a whole new character instead in Jessica Jones, former superhero who left the life and spandex behind to open her own private investigating company, specializing in superhero related cases.
Jessica Jones could therefore be allowed to explore issues of PTSD, depression, rape survival, and all other plot points too daring for a typical superhero of the time period. She was also an injection of fresh blood into a universe that, while heavily populated with superheroes, didn’t have many that were as refreshingly cynical and vocal about the business.
3. SHE HAD SEVERAL SUPERHERO IDENTITIES
Most people familiar with the backstory of Jessica Jones are aware of her former superhero alias of Jewel, but she’s had a few other identities. After her embarrassing first run-in with the Avengers while trying to assassinate Daredevil, she didn’t much care for the perky concept of Jewel and so became Knightress, which was supposed to be her edgier persona.
Instead of a pearlescent costume, she donned a black bodysuit with a red mask reminiscent of Scarlet Witch’s head dress. It was as Knightress that she first ran into Luke Cage. Later, when they would both be a part of the New Avengers, she took the identity of Power Woman to Cage’s Power Man. None of her other identities stuck though, and she always reverted back to plain old Jessica Jones.
2. SHE REFUSED THE SUPERHERO REGISTRATION ACT
During the events of Marvel’s first Civil War, when the Superhero Registration Act was drafted, effectively curtailing the autonomy of superhumans and placing them and their powers under federal regulation, Jessica Jones wasn’t having any of it. Her friend and onetime crush Spider-Man was playing Switzerland, but Tony Stark and Reed Richards were very much in favor of it, citing instances of vigilantism by superheroes, abuses of power, and the fact that their abilities could cause catastrophic destruction if unchecked.
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage followed Captain America’s lead and went underground. To her, taking away the liberties and personal freedoms of superhumans was a level of control that she couldn’t support, especially given her history with Killgrave, and combined with her fiercely independent nature.
1. SHE WAS ALMOST ON ABC (AND STILL KIND OF IS)
It’s hard to imagine the sort of storylines depicted in Jessica Jones the Netflix series as being appropriate for a “family network” like ABC, home of several shows that are typically maudlin. But back in 2010, ABC executives were indeed in talks to have Jessica Jones be on their network. The show was slated for a 2011 premiere but eventually ABC decided to pass.
Now, low and behold, as the Netflix series proved widely successful with its groundbreaking themes, Marvel Television’s Senior VP of Original Programming Karim Zreik announced that a “Jessica Jones-esque show” would be headed to ABC after all. Of course, the series will no doubt be mercilessly compared to Jessica Jones, and since it’s ABC and not Netflix, be prepared for its themes to be much less brutal.
Are there any other tidbits about Jessica Jones we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section!
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