One of Marvel's unlikeliest heroes is now on Netflix. Starring Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, Rachael Taylor, Mike Colter and Carrie-Anne Moss, "Marvel's Jessica Jones" is ready to be binge-watched, with all 13 first season episodes available on the streaming service. But unlike many of the heroes that have starred on the big and small screens these past few years, Jessica Jones is not a household name -- yet.
Jessica Jones was introduced as the star of the first series from Marvel's mature readers line MAX, a comic titled "Alias" (unrelated to the Jennifer Garner TV series of the same name, though in an odd coincidence, they debuted in the same month). Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Gaydos, the series' gritty adventures set firmly in the Marvel Universe were a hit, both commercially and critically, when it hit comic shops in September 2001.
"Alias" followed the adventures of private investigator Jessica Jones, a previously unknown superhero who, after suffering a great trauma, now lived in a haze of alcohol and self-loathing. As Jones' tale unfolded, her book changed the Marvel Universe, as old characters were reintroduced and given new life. Over the course of 28 issues, Bendis and Gaydos presented a dark, street-level tale whose influence would permeae many other Marvel titles for years to come.
The Beginning of the Marvel MAX Era
Before "Alias," there were no mature reader titles taking place in Marvel's mainstream universe. Yes, Marvel dabbled with some risque material in some sub-imprints like Epic Comics, but as far as the mainstream Marvel U was concerned, it was a PG world -- until the opening pages of Jessica Jones' first issue. The first word in "Alias" was the F-word. And so was the second.
Nor did "Alias" shy away from depicting vivid sexual situations or realistic portrayals of violence. All of a sudden, a company that had avoided working explicitly for decades was fully embracing a more adult sensibility. If "Alias" fell flat, the mature readers experiment might have ended, and fans may have never got to experience books like Garth Ennis' "Punisher" and "Fury" and J. Michael Straczynski's "Supreme Power." Though new MAX material is few and far between these days, the line was a big deal at the House of Ideas for the better part of the 2000s -- and it all started with Jessica Jones' first profane utterance.
Reintroduction of Jessica Drew
Before she resurfaced in "Alias," it wasn't as if Spider-Woman was forgotten; it was more like she had been usurped. Jessica Drew was featured in scattered appearances in the pages of "Avengers" and "Wolverine" following the end of her solo title, but with other women taking up the Spider-Woman mantle, it looked like the first hero to take that name's greatest days were behind her -- until Drew made her first appearance in "Alias," where the character was introduced as Jessica Jones' old friend.
Drew fit right into the noir world of "Alias." More importantly, it was the first time Bendis, a huge fan of the character, got to write the former Spider-Woman. Following her time in "Alias," Drew would once again take on the Spider-Woman identity, join and become a major part of the Avengers, and of the tapestry of the Marvel Universe. She is now once again a solo star, with Marvel's latest "Spider-Woman" #1 released just this week.
Scott Lang's Road to Hollywood Begins
Throughout much of "Alias," Jessica Jones dated Scott Lang. Yes, that Scott Lang, the star of "Ant-Man." At this time, Lang appeared in various places throughout the Marvel Universe, but he was not a major player by any stretch of the imagination. In "Alias," however, Bendis got to fully explore Lang as a man, as a potential boyfriend for Jessica, and as a father.
While things didn't work out between Jones and Lang romantically, Lang's time as Jones' star-crossed lover put the character back in the spotlight. From there, Lang would go on to join the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, eventually leading to Paul Rudd playing the character in a successful Marvel Studios film.
Purple Man: From Forgotten Joke to Truly Evil Villain
The beloved former "Doctor Who," David Tennant, plays Kilgrave on "Marvel's Jessica Jones," and the world will learn just how frightening this mind-controlling puppet master can be. When Killgrave, the Purple Man, first appeared in "Daredevil" #4 (October 1964), the Stan Lee and Joe Orlando-created villain had a unique visual appeal, but not much impact. Killgrave, who has the power to control people via his enhanced pheromones, would return a number of times over the years to challenge Daredevil, but calling the villain C-list would be kind.
When Bendis and Gaydos needed an adversary for Jessica Jones, a master manipulator who could be responsible for the horrors of her past, they transformed Killgrave into Marvel's own version of Hannibal Lecter. The villain was established as Jones' greatest adversary, and since his appearance in "Alias," other writers have followed Bendis' lead, crafting Killgrave as a master villain worthy of feelings of sheer terror.
Spotlight on Luke Cage
These days, Luke Cage appears in many Marvel titles and will be the focus of Marvel's next Netflix series, and it's possible none of that might have happened if not for his role in "Alias." Cage made an instant impact when he first appeared in the pages of Bendis and Gaydos' series, taking part in what was at the time an extremely controversial sex scene. Cage was barely appearing anywhere before he and Jones hooked up, and it seemed as though the character's glory days were behind him. It had been years since Cage last appeared side by side with Iron Fist in their popular shared title, after all.
Thanks to Bendis' deft characterization and respectful treatment of one of Marvel's most famous street-level heroes, the character experienced a surge in popularity. Yeah, Cage's first appearance with Jones was as gritty as it gets, but like Jones, he was soon able to showcase his trademark heroism and morality in the pages of "Alias." Most importantly, Bendis was able to cut his teeth on writing the character, so when he used Cage as a founding member of the New Avengers, his take on the former Hero for Hire was fully formed and ready for great things.
Welcome to the World, Danielle Cage: The Future Captain America?
Even though the relationship between Jones and Cage began as a one-night stand, it ended with both characters finding salvation in each other. The two were eventually married and had a child named Danielle Cage -- named after Luke's long-time crime-fighting partner, Danny "Iron Fist" Rand.
Since then, baby Danielle has been a pivotal part of any book that Cage or Jones appears in. In the pages of the recent Avengers story, "Ultron Forever," it was revealed that in a possible future, Danielle Cage will grow up the wear the mantle of Captain America. Cage and Jones' greatest gift to the Marvel Universe may just be a little bundle of cuteness that could one day become the world's greatest hero.