Oh God Help
In today’s culture, what with the kids and their Game of Teen Wolf and their Sense of Right Alliance 3: Dawn of Deadpool, being a comic book nerd has never, ever been more in fashion. What was once sacred, hallowed ground, kept to a small group of a few, has now become a part of the public consciousness, but without losing any of its inaccessibility and pretentiousness. Not comic books, mind you, I’m talking about the people. “Oh, you’ve never heard of Nowhere Men? I don’t blame you, it’s not quite the… average persons’ cup of tea” or, even more obnoxious, “I don’t know, I think that they made a serious blunder in not exactly imitating this one specific, obscure nugget of the source material.”. That’s right, comic hipsters are out there, and they are out for blood. I mean it, they will go straight for the jugular. Which is why I’m here. In this brand new, weekly series that I’m not shamelessly plugging at all, I’m going to give you all of the information, trivia, and self-righteousness you’ll need in order to hold your own in the cutthroat world of knowing more than someone else about comic books. And so, without further ado: Let’s fake an education in comics.
But seriously, who is Jessica Jones though
Ok, let’s break this one down real quick so that I can get to the nitty gritty (God I love saying that).
SCENARIO: You’re out with some friends, maybe having some red wine and discussing strong female characters in media. Someone brings up Orange is the New Black, and the conversation shifts to what you’ve been binge-watching lately. As the conversation comes to you, you begin to panic, and spit out the first show that you remember seeing an ad for while scrolling through your queue: Jessica Jones.
“Oh, isn’t that a Marvel show?” A friend asks.
“Y-Yes? Yeah. Yes. Definitely.” You reply half-heartedly. You think you might be in the clear here. You watched a few episodes, you can bullshit your way out of this, right? Not so, because one of your friends also watched it, but with the added benefit of having read like, one issue of New Avengers beforehand, and decides to make a point in order to establish nerd dominance.
“I don’t know, I thought it was a rather strange choice to choose a character who does nothing other than be a housewife to a black stereotype as Marvel’s first really strong female character. I think it cheapens the whole thing, why not pick, say, Squirrel Girl.”
Ok, first of all, I want you to slap that person really, really hard in the face, because frankly, they’re insufferable, don’t really know what they’re talking about, and Squirrel Girl is overrated anyways.
Second, the time has come for you to reassert your dominance. This person has called your credibility into question, and now you will crush them. And here’s how you’re gonna do that.
Step One: Concession and Origin Stories
Ok, so here’s the deal: Jessica Jones wasn’t always the stone cold badass that she is today, and this pretentious douche attacking you isn’t quite wrong when he calls Jess’s status as a strong female figure into question. So, you’ll allow them some points, namely that:
- Jessica was, in fact, originally a girl with a crush on Peter Parker
- This was the entire basis of her character for a long time
So they get that there. Also, they get:
- The fact that it was later established that the night Peter disappeared from school and got spider powers, she tried to masturbate to pictures of the Human torch.
Yeah, there’s really no dancing around that, is there? Arguably, you could make a case for the championing of being open about female sexuality, but I think it’s best to stay away from that unless you’re really confident. But here’s the thing: In terms of superhero origin, Jessica is right up there with the rest of Marvel’s characters: tragic accident in which she loses her family and gets superpowers from toxic waste. Now, here’s the question: how do we work that to make her look good? Simple: other female Marvel characters often got their powers or career through more meek, voluntary means, or as the consequence of a strong male figure in their life. Jessica, however, got the standard accident treatment, which we will spin into Jessica’s life being utterly obliterated by a cruel act of fate, and with her climbing out of the wreckage as a stronger, more powerful woman, both metaphorically and literally. Because, as I’m sure you know, Jessica has the powers of:
- Superhuman strength
- Superhuman durability
Ah-hah! Bet you didn’t know about flight, did you? Well, it doesn’t come up much these days, because turns out Jessica gets airsick and isn’t really great at flying anyways. But we’re gonna focus on the positives and say that if anything, the show sold Jessica as a bit weaker than she really is, taking away one of her powers. However, you could say that this gives her more room to grow on the show as well, meaning that an already strong character is going to keep getting stronger. Moving on.
Step Two: History and the Purple Man
Alright, here’s where we drop some real bombs. So Jessica Jones functions as a kind of Rick Jones character (who is, incidentally, kind of her cousin? maybe? it’s unclear.), where she has either met or interacted with basically every really important Marvel character, from Thor to Captain America. And yet, none of them really take over her life or overshadow her own influence, so she kind of kicks way more ass than Rick Jones ever has or will. Also, she’s been an actual, established superhero, more than once, so suck on that, person who thinks that she’s just a glorified housewife.
You might remember that suit from the show, when Patsy Walker (Who, by the way, is a great strong female character who also ends up being a superhero. Little tidbit for ya. Her name is Hellcat, look her up, maybe she’ll be a future article.) tries to design Jess a super suit, which she immediately shuts down. Here, Jess made the suit and superhero identity of, ahem, Jewel. Get it? Because she’s beautiful and strong. Use that line. Twist it to suit your will. It’ll work, trust me, the hypothetical person we’re describing sucks and is stupid. And frankly, at the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, it’s not a bad line. Any who.
Here’s where we get to the problematic area that is Purple Man.
So in the show, Purple Man (referred to as Killgrave, which is his last name, to be fair) has raped Jessica with the aid of his mind control powers. It’s a huge part of her character and the source of a great deal of trauma, driving her to alcoholism in order to cope. It also, in a rather brilliant display of showwriting, isn’t the entirety of her character, allowing her to be her own woman without being the sort of stereotypical rape victim character we see all too often when someone wants to try and be progressive. Seriously, feel free to bring that up in just, like, day to day life, it’s fantastic. I will never, ever not champion this show for that. HOWEVER. Here’s where things get tricky.
Technically, in the source material, Purple Man never raped Jessica. Now, what is a great thing for Jessica is not so much a great thing for our argument here, and is likely an example of weak-sauce censorship, because come on, he clearly did something to her.
I know we’re dealing with a touchy subject here, but for the love of god, tell me she wasn’t used for some creepy sex stuff immediately preceding this panel. There’s creepy sex stuff happening right there in that panel, for christ’s sake! Come on!
But I digress. And, I would like to make very, very, very clear, I am not calling for the rape of female comic characters in order to make them stronger, because that would be awful. What I am calling for is an end to the pointless neutering of storylines, but that’s another article. The real point here is that while this is definitely watered-down when compared to the show, it’s still a powerful moment in her life, and definitely shows how much stronger she becomes as a result of not letting it dominate her life.
Something else noteworthy to come out of this event was that for a brief while after escaping Purple Man’s abuse, she became a hardened, darker character named Knightress. Which, while being a terrible name, is still a cool place for her to go after what happened.
It was during this period that she first met Luke Cage, who, by the way, is so much more than a black stereotype and also definitely going to be in a later article. Together, they stopped a crime and bonded while watching over some children to keep them safe, because they are a perfect beautiful interracial couple that isn’t defined by being interracial. Now strap in folks, because here’s where we hit the real shit.
Step Three: The Inspiration
Okay, so this person is now going to make a move about how they downgraded an apparently strong female superhero character into a private eye. Notably, private eyes are like… 6 notches below superheroes on awesome career paths that children want to be when they grow up. But guess what, douche: that totally happened in the comics too, because Jessica was super depressed.
See that guy? That’s a guy who hired her, and found out that his wife both cheated on him and was a mutant. He didn’t handle the news well, so Jessica didn’t handle him well, because that’s how Jess do. She doesn’t care about anyone except for Luke Cage, who she kind of maybe did some butt stuff with after this happened. But that’s good! She’s a badass and still sexually adventurous, without being a sex object! Because guess what, person who’s about to argue that the (awesome) sex scenes in Jessica Jones amount to objectification! Turns out most women like to have sex, regardless of how strong of a woman they are! Because sex is pretty great, isn’t it? I guess you wouldn’t know though, hypothetical nerd person. Because you are a douche, and people don’t like you.
This brings us to our next big point: Jessica is a real person in a world of Gods and Monsters. She is real, damaged, and she is human. She goes through very real, very horrible struggles, and she comes through them changed, like anyone would. Just like on the show.
A ton more things happen during the run of Alias in the comics, most of it pretty comic book-y, but that’s not really important right now. What is important is that, just like in the show, Purple Man turns up again. Basically, he’s got a whole plot, just like in the show, but it ends with him trying to mind control her into killing a few other superheroes. What our friend Zebediah (yes, really) doesn’t know here is that Phoenix put in psychic defenses against Purple Man’s powers, meaning that Jessica is free to absolutely beat the shit out of Killgrave. And she totally does. It’s rad. Also she defeats the source of her greatest suffering in life.
However, there is a problem with this in that Phoenix had to give Jess the power to do so. Here’s where we’ll switch tack to use some stuff from the show: namely, that she gets over Purple Man’s power on her own, and (SPOILERSSPOILERSPOILERS JUST SKIP DOWN A BIT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN JESSICA JONES) snaps his jabroni neck.
Now that’s a strong female character in every way, and it is still accurate to the source material, because most of these plot concessions are to get around Marvel not having the rights to certain characters, or the money to pay, say, Chris Evans to show up for one episode. So in essence, Jessica Jones kicks ass, and she has been for years.
Step Four: Motherhood
So Jess and Luke have a kid after a while. Her name is Danielle, and literally every Marvel character loves the little baby. Even Wolverine. Especially Wolverine. And if you want a pretty good fact to drop on people, Squirrel Girl ends up being the baby’s nanny. That’s right: Squirrel Girl, a character so powerful that she is referred to as the Anti-Life, takes a job under Jessica Jones. Wanna know why? Because Jessica Jones is a god damn badass, and you’d best respect her. Also, this isn’t really related, but this is my favorite thing to ever come out of comic books:
What’s important to note here is that Jess needs a nanny because she’s going back to being a superhero, because it’s totally possible to be a mother and a successful working woman at the same time, you really don’t need to give up either one unless you want to. Also, she and Luke get married after she has a kid, so you can do that whenever you want too. Take that, person who likes to manufacture outrage about things to seem better than people. I think I may have forgotten exactly who was attacking you in the original hypothetical. Whatever, just use all of it, I guess.
Also, during Civil War, Jessica takes Danielle into hiding and effectively guards the baby from all kinds of threats, because she’s a kickass mom and a kickass woman. She proves that female characters don’t have to be cliches or one dimensional devices, they can be real, and they can be strong. And more importantly, she does this without coming off as preachy, like how Wonder Woman can sometimes.
Okay, so you should have enough information there to seem like you know what you’re talking about when someone tries to step to you on Jessica Jones. But, just in case, here’s some fun little facts and stuff:
- Galactus and his first battle with the Fantastic Four is implied to have a hand in Jessica’s origin, with the cosmic radiation from the event effecting her recovery from the chemicals she was exposed to.
- Flash Thompson, who bullied Peter Parker, also bullied Jessica Jones.
- She dated Scott Lang, a name you may recognize from Paul Rudd’s starring role in Ant Man.
- Daredevil has operated as her lawyer on a few occasions, and in return, Jess and Luke served as his bodyguards when his identity was made public.
- Purple Man makes some very meta comments about the nature of comic book plot structure, implying that he is semi-aware of the nature of his existence in our world.
- Jess wrote for the Daily Bugle for a while.
- Jessica Jones has some strong connections to the Young Avengers, Kate Bishop in particular. They bonded over shared experiences with sexual abuse.
- One time Wolverine held Danielle and was able to make her stop crying when no one else could. It was pretty great.
- Stan Lee may or may not have officiated her wedding.
- Once Luke got possessed by a demon and Jess had to beat it out of him.
- She was, uh… she was there when Spider Island happened, I guess.
And there you go. Everything you need to know in case of nerd emergency. If you’d like to know more, either out of genuine interest or because you still feel unprepared, I would heavily suggest reading Alias, and maybe The Pulse. Also, any part of New Avengers that she shows up in.
Good luck out there folks. We’re doing this again next week for someone else, so I want you sharp and ready by then. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Peace.