Created Brian Michael Bendis
“My greatest weakness is occasionally I give a damn.”
It’s a big leap, going from saving the world — or at least trying to — on a regular basis to getting the goods on some middle-aged hubby bopping the babysitter, but it’s one JESSICA JONES, former super-hero turned New York City private eye, has decided to make. Alias Investigations deals in the humdrum world of missing people and cheating spouses, but it’s set against a world where superheroes are constantly flitting about, making for some interesting twists on both the P.I. and superhero genres. Like the client who seems more worried that his wife might be a mutant than that she’s possibly been playing slap-and-tickle with the neighbour.
It’s not an entirely original idea (writer Brian Michael Bendis’ own Powers comic book often deals with the same scenarios, almost, except that it features super-powered cops, not a private eye, but this isn’t some cobbled-together world of superheroes. The appeal here is that this is the Marvel Universe where Jessica plies her trade.
Her past as the costumed superhero Jewel (which Bendis made up in its entirety) included a brief stint as a member of the Avengers, but she pretty much sucked at it. Now she’s a private investigator with her own detective agency, Alias Investigations, and she sucks a little less. But she’s still prone to some major miscalculations and bonehead moves.
Through it all, though. she’s refreshingly human. Yeah, she’s foul-mouthed for sure, drinks and smokes and talks too much, sleeps with guys she probably shouldn’t and the mopey brooding can get wearisome, but it’s those flaws and foibles that keep her interesting. Despite it all, however, she actually has good detective chops and despite her protestations, she does “give a fuck.” You ask me, she’s the most convincing private eye Marvel ever created, and the dark, psychological complexities of her cases are drawn out with wit and compassion.
Plus, it’s fun having all those superhero types popping up. Like, Luke Cage (Hero-for-Hire) and Matt Murdock (Daredevil) show up early in the series, and later on, another of Marvel’s private eyes, Jessica Drew (aka “Spider-Woman”) pops up, while Jessica’s dating Ant Man of the Avengers throughout most of Alias (2001-04), the limited run series in which she made her debut.
The other attraction was that Alias was published under the then-new Marvel Max imprint, which meant it wasn’t for kids. The situations were decidely adult, and the language was rougher than normal (though how overuse of the word “fuck” automatically makes anything adult is beyond me….). Anyway, just to make sure everyone knew what was going on, in the very first issue (which revolves around a missing persons case involving a woman who seems to be dating Captain America), Jessica and Luke hook up. No nudity, but you didn’t need to be Marvin Gaye to know they were getting it on. Still, the “adult” nature of the comic drew the ire of the printers, American Color Graphics of Sylacauga, Alabama, who literally stopped the presses, claiming the comic was “obscene.”
“I’m literally stunned,” Bendis said, at the time. “There’s nothing in it that you wouldn’t see on The Sopranos.” Marvel subsequently moved the printing to Quebecor, a printer based in Montreal.
And in fact, despite the sometimes rote use of obscenity, one of the highlights of the book is the dialogue — Bendis has always had a way with low life and smartasses, and he was at the top of his game here, and Alias garnered several awards within the industry, winning the Comics Buyer’s Guide Award for “Favorite Comic Series” in 2003, and the Harvey Award for “Best New Series” in 2002, as well as scooping up nominations for two Eisner Awards in 2004 for “Best Continuing Series” and “Best Serialized Story.”
After Alias‘ 28-issue run, Jessica returned as a “superhero consultant” for J. Jonah Jameson of The Daily Bugle, in The Pulse, a more-mainstream Marvel comic that ran from 2004-2006. A major subplot had Jessica and Luke Cage now living together and preparing for the birth of their daughter, Danielle.
Unfortunately, after The Pulse, Jessica once again donned the Barbie spandex, joining Luke in the Avengers or the New Avengers or whatever they’re called it that week, and all that was good and special about her seemed to be fading. Other writers started writing her, and Jessica was in danger of becoming simply another costumed hero with personal problems.
Fortunately, NetFlix saved her from all that. Jessica Jones, an original TV series, made its debut on the streaming service in 2015, revisiting Jessica’s original incarnation as a down-and-dour private dick not entirely at ease with — or able to escape from — her superhero past. Early shots of Krysten Ritter as a downbeat Jessica in street clothes looked promising, and the show more or less delivered, capturing the grim and gritty melancholy that made the original stories by Bendis so enthralling, while adding in an extra hard dollop of feminism fury and angst. Maybe because Bendis himself, who had become one of the major shapers of the Marvel Universe, was on board as one of the producers.
Although the show did take some serious liberties with the original, it zeroed in on Jessica’s obsessive battle with her nemisis, the manipulative supercriminal Kilgrave. Sure, the use of Kilgrave as a feminist symbol of male oppression was overworked at times, but it was still one hell of a potent metaphor, and one that probably rattled the cages of more than one misanthropic fanboy. And Jessica hooking up with Luke Cage seemed to be a good sign for Netflix’ ambitious plans for their own little corner of the Marvel Universe.
The Show’s success led to the welcome announcement that Jessica would be returning to her street-level roots in 2016 in her own monthly Marvel title, Jessica Jones, with original creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos back in the saddle and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg keeping it all tight and right, with Jessica going down those mean streets once more, instead of flying high above them. A P.I., not a superhero. And now a mother, as well.
It was a welcome return to form for Jessica, and the second season on Netflix was soon announced.
And then Bendis announced in late 2017 that he was leaving Marvel, and heading over to rival DC. The Jessica Jones series wrapped up after eighteen issues, with a heartbreaker of a final issue, leaving the fate of Jessica in the hands of other Marvel writers
Whether these writers would follow the path Bendis laid out for them, or goosestep Jessica back into the spandex world remains to be seen, but the July 2018 debut of Jessica Jones as a new digital-only series, scripted by Kelly Thompson, who had previously handled the scripting chores on Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop (who runs a detective agency of her own in Venice Beach in LA), boded well.
The only problem? It somehow lacked the noirish grit of the original version of the character (or the TV show). Far better was 2022’s The Variants, a new monthly series scripted by Gail Simone with art by Phil Noto that follows a “variant” Jessica Jones who seems more like the original troubled, kick-ass private eye we all fell in love with. A welcome return to form.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Bendis first entered the comic world with Goldfish A.K.A. (1995, Caliber), a series of one-shot crime comics about a couple of Cleveland, Ohio lowlifes, followed shortly after by Jinx (1995-96, Caliber), a sort of prequel that introduced tough-as-nails bounty hunter Jinx Alameda (who shared more than a few bad lifestyle choices with Jessica). Neither book really caught on, but Bendis was just getting started. He’s since become one of the biggest names in the comics biz, bouncing from Image (Sam and Twitch),a slew of both creator-owned and licensed titles from assorted indies (the afore-mentioned Powers, and Scarlet (a provocative and edgy must-read meditation on corruption, vigilantism and personal and social responsibility), to Marvel, where he was one of the dominant forces in shaping the Marvel Universe, thanks to his work on The Ultimate Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Daredevil and others) and now, onto DC, where he’s currently toiling on Superman.
But given his penchant for street-level grit and his noirish crime fiction sensibilites, I’ve just got to wonder — now that he’s at DC — how long will it be before he tackles Batman?
- “… an unflinching dramatization of domestic abuse, a contemporary performance of female sexuality, and a super-strength punch to the testicles of problematic modes of masculinity. Flaws and all, it’s damn brilliant.”
— Alyssa Mercante on the TV show, from criminalelement.com
- “This ran under the MAX line from Marvel, so there are plenty of adult situations and much profanity. Jessica is also drunk during some of her sexual encounters, and the guys she’s with are not, which makes my skin crawl. So fair warning on that front, it’s messy. There are people who hate this series because it’s depressing, and I can see their point, but sometimes you have to see where someone starts before you can appreciate where they end up.”
— 10 Fascinating Graphic Novels About Detectives on Jessica’s original run in comics (July 2018, Planet Jinxatron)
- “Massages makes me tense.”
— Jessica isn’t big on trust (Season One, episode 2).
(2001-04, Marvel Comics/MAX)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
- “Alias Investigations, Part One” (November 2001; #1)
- “Alias Investigations, Part Two” (December 2001; #2)
- “Alias Investigations, Part Three” (January 2002; #3)
- “Alias Investigations, Part Four” (February 2002; #4)
- “Alias Investigations, Part Five” (March 2002; #5)
- “B Level, Part One” (April 2002; #6)
- “B Level, Part Two” (May 2002; #7)
- “B Level, Part Three” (June 2002; #8)
- “B Level, Part Four” (July 2002; #9)
- “The End” (August 2002; #10)
- “Rebecca, Please Come Home, Part One” (September 2002; #11)
- “Rebecca, Please Come Home, Part Two” (September 2002; #12)
- “Rebecca, Please Come Home, Part Three” (October 2002; #13)
- “Rebecca, Please Come Home, Part Four” (November 2002; #14)
- “It’s Raining Men” (December 2002; #15)
- “The Underneath, Part One” (January 2003; #16)
- “The Underneath, Part Two” (February 2003; #17)
- “The Underneath, Part Three” (March 2003; #18)
- “The Underneath, Part Four” (April 2003; #19)
- “The Underneath, Part Five” (May 2003; #20)
- “The Underneath, Part Six” (June 2003; #21)
- “The Secret Origins of Jessica Jones, Part One” (July 2003; #22)
- “The Secret Origins of Jessica Jones, Part Two” (August 2003; #23)
- “Purple, Part One” (September 2003; #24)
- “Purple, Part Two” (October 2003; #25)
- “Purple, Part Three” (November 2003; #26)
- “Purple, Part One” (December 2003; #27)
- “Purple, Part One” (January 2004; #28)
- THE PULSE
(2004-06, Marvel Comics)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
- JESSICA JONES
(2016-18, Marvel Comics)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
A glorious run, with Jessica grappling with marriage, motherhood and the return of the Purple Man, wrapped up withan absolute heartbreaker of a final issue.
- JESSICA JONES
(2018-19, Marvel Comics Digital)
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art: Mattia de lulis
Digital only. So far.
- THE VARIANTS
(2022, Marvel Comics)
Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Phil Noto
SHE’S BACK! Our gal returns in a suitably gritty series that just feels all kind of right. Sure, the spandex crowd are all over the place, but each issue bills it as a “A Jessica Jones Mystery,” promising a real return-to-roots.
- “The Variants” (August 2022)
- “Green Muscle” (September 2022)
- “Two Hundred Shades of Lipstick” (October 2022)
- ALIAS: VOLUME 1 (2002) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Collects issues 1-9
- ALIAS: VOLUME 2: COME HOME (2003) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Collects issues #11-15
- ALIAS: VOLUME 3: THE UNDERNEATH (2003) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Collects issues #10, 16-21
- ALIAS: VOLUME 4: THE SECRET ORIGINS OF JESSICA JONES (2004) | Buy this book
Collects issues #22-28
- ALIAS OMNIBUS (2006) | Buy this book
The complete run, plus the previously uncollected “What If? Jessica Jones had Joined the Avengers”
- ALIAS ULTIMATE COLLECTION: VOLUME 1 (2009) | Buy this book
Collects Alias #1-15
- ALIAS ULTIMATE COLLECTION: VOLUME 2 (2010) | Buy this book
Collects Alias #16-28
- THE PULSE, VOLUME 1, THIN AIR (2004) | Buy this book
- THE PULSE, VOLUME 2: SECRET WAR (2005) | Buy this book
- THE PULSE, VOLUME 3: FEAR (2006) | Buy this book
- JESSICA JONES: THE PULSE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (2014) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Contains The Pulse #1-9, 11-14, and New Avengers Annual #1.
- JESSICA JONES: AVENGER (2016) | Buy this book | Kindle/Comixology
Hits all the key points of Jessica’s spandex days in the Avengers, and her ongoing relationship with Luke Cage, raising their daughter, working their first case together and their breakup.
- JESSICA JONES: BLIND SPOT (2018) | Buy the book | Kindle it/Comixology!
Rounds up (in print) the first three issues of Kelly “Hawkeye” Thompson’s digital-only take on the troubled former superhero turned Big Apple eye, taking over from the recently decamped creator Brian Michael Bendis.
- THE VARIANTS (2023) | Buy the graphic novel
Rounds up issues 1-5. of the mini-series.
- JESSICA JONES
Premiere: November 20, 2015
Created by Brian Michael Bendis
Developed for television by Melissa Rosenberg
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg, Jamie King, Micah Schraft
Directors: David Petrarca, S.J. Clarkson, David Petrarca, Stephen Surjik, Uta Briesewitz., Bill Gierhart, Rosemary Rodriguez
Starring Krysten Ritter as JESSICA JONES
With Mike Colter as Luke Cage
and David Tennant as Kilgrave
Also starring Rachael Taylor, Carrie Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Erin Moriarty, Wil Traval, Susie Abromeit, Phil Cappadora, Nichole Yannetty, Ryan Farrell, Paul Pryce, Kieran Mulcare, Gillian Glasco, Robin Weigert, Wendy Ross-Hogarth, Elizabeth Cappuccino
- SERIES ONE | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray
- “AKA Ladies Night”
- “AKA Crush Syndrome”
- “AKA It’s Called Whiskey”
- “AKA 99 Friends”
- “AKA the Sandwich Saved Me”
- “AKA You’re a Winner!”
- “AKA Top Shelf Perverts”
- “AKA WWJD”
- “AKA Sin Bin”
- “AKA 1,000 Cuts”
- “AKA I’ve Got the Blues”
- “AKA Take a Bloody Number”
- “AKA Smile”
- SERIES TWO
- “AKA Start at the Beginning” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Freak Accident” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Sole Survivor” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA God Help the Hobo” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA The Octopus” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Facetime” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA I Want Your Cray Cray” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Ain’t We Got Fun” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Shark in the Bathtub, Monster in the Bed” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Pork Chop” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Three Lives and Counting” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Pray for My Patsy” (March 8, 2018)
- “AKA Playland” (March 8, 2018)
- SERIES THREE
- “AKA The Perfect Burger” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA You’re Welcome” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA I Have No Spleen” (June 14, 2019)
- A.K.A Customer Service is Standing By” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA I Wish” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA Sorry Face” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA The Double Half-Wappinger” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA Camera Friendly” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA IDid Something Today” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA Hero Pants” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA Hellcat” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA A Lotta Worms” (June 14, 2019)
- “AKA Everything” (June 14, 2019)
- Jessica Jones Goes Pop! | Buy this item
Finally! The P.I./Funko barrier has been breached! After years of hoping the makers of those ever-so-collectable big-eyed vinyl figures would give us some shamus love, we’re beginning to see some light with the release of Jessica and Luke Cage figurines, both taken, not from the comics, but from the TV show versions streaming on Netflix. Hopefully, we’ll soon start to see more TV-based P.I. figures soon. Rockford? Mannix? Peter Gunn? Veronica Mars?
- Krysten Ritter. Author?
Yep. Krysten Ritter, the star of Netflix’s Jessica Jones, has written a detective thriller, 2017’s Bonfire. And not only doesn’t it suck, but it’s been surprisingly well received
- Eyes on the No-Prize
Private Eyes of the Marvel Universe
- Drawn That Way
Lady Eyes from the Comics
- Jessica Jones: “AKA Noir Feminist Fodder”
A smart, tough feminist defense of the TV show, by Alyssa Mercante, from criminalelement.com that’s, in its own way, “a super-strength punch to the testicles of problematic modes of masculinity.”