TIME MA­CHINE

And here’s how Jes­sica Jones was back in the Alias comic that in­spired the show.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Af­ter mak­ing her de­but in Alias #1 in 2001, caped cru­sader-turned-pri­vate de­tec­tive Jes­sica Jones will soon fol­low in the foot­steps of Dare­devil to head­line the sec­ond of Net­flix’s quar­tet of Mar­vel se­ries. “It’s like, ‘They’re re­ally go­ing to give this foul-mouthed PI her own show?’” laughs creator Brian Bendis. “Out of all the things that Mar­vel has got, you’d think that her show would maybe come af­ter Night Thrasher! But here we are with this quite won­der­ful Jes­sica Jones show.”

Start­ing out in the mid 1990s as a writer/artist on se­ries like Jinx, AKA Gold­fish and Torso for in­de­pen­dent com­pa­nies like Cal­iber and Oni, Bendis’s first big break ar­rived in 1999 when he was re­cruited by Todd McFar­lane to pen Spawn spin-off Sam And Twitch. Cen­tring on a pair of homi­cide de­tec­tives, it proved to be an un­ex­pected suc­cess, lead­ing to Bendis helm­ing an­other Spawn tie-in, Hellspawn. Hav­ing al­ready been of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to rein­vent Dare­devil for Joe Que­sada’s Mar­vel Knights im­print and charged with tak­ing Pe­ter Parker back to his roots in Ul­ti­mate Spi­der-Man, he quit with Hellspawn #10 af­ter be­com­ing dis­en­chanted with its “dark hor­ror” only to then be fired from Sam And Twitch as well.

“Joe Que­sada then called about 30 min­utes af­ter it hap­pened, and I said ‘the weird­est thing has just hap­pened’,” re­calls Bendis. “And he said ‘that’s weird be­cause one of the things I wanted to talk to you about was do­ing a crime comic for us, so why don’t you take your Sam And Twitch time and put it to­wards cre­at­ing a ground-level, crime book for Mar­vel?’”

Ini­tially Bendis contemplated ex­plor­ing a dif­fer­ent side to Jes­sica Drew, aka Spi­der-Woman. “But as I was de­vel­op­ing it, it quickly re­vealed it­self to not be about her at all,” he con­tin­ues. “It didn’t match her back­ground or con­ti­nu­ity, and re­vealed it­self to be a whole new char­ac­ter. But I didn’t know how to pitch it be­cause in my head, it was rated ‘R’ and Mar­vel didn’t do those kinds of books at the time.”

Orig­i­nally called Mar­vel In­cor­po­rated, it prompted Mar­vel’s then-Vice Pres­i­dent Bill Je­mas to launch the ma­ture read­ers-fo­cused Max line, al­though not be­fore yet an­other name change. “My other sug­ges­tion was Al­ter Ego, but that was the ti­tle of Roy Thomas’s mag­a­zine, so we came up with Alias in­stead,” says Bendis. “We were off and run­ning and then four months later, there were all th­ese bill­boards around town for JJ Abrams’ TV show Alias and I went, ‘Shit!’”

i n need of an artist, Bendis turned to fel­low Cleve­land In­sti­tute of Art alum­nus Michael Gay­dos. “We didn’t want her to be a big-boobed Bad Girl, as stuff like Lady Death was big at the time, and that wasn’t the kind of story we were telling,” ex­plains Bendis, who, de­spite sign­ing a con­tract to cre­ate Jes­sica Jones for Mar­vel be­fore Gay­dos was in­volved, has en­sured that the artist re­ceives equal credit on the Net­flix show. “With­out the vis­ual com­po­nent that he brought, which was her true hu­man­ity, she wouldn’t ex­ist or feel the way that peo­ple think of her.

When peo­ple see the TV show, even though Krys­ten Rit­ter looks dif­fer­ent to our Jes­sica, she is re­ally liv­ing and breath­ing Michael Gay­dos’s Jes­sica Jones.”

With Bendis want­ing her to be drawn “like a real per­son”, Gay­dos based Jes­sica on his now ex-wife. “Alias was such a strong char­ac­ter-driven book and it was im­por­tant to me to re­ally make the ex­pres­sive na­ture of th­ese char­ac­ters be­liev­able, and es­pe­cially Jes­sica,” says Gay­dos. “I think be­ing in a close re­la­tion­ship for a long pe­riod of time re­ally helped me bring the sub­tle nu­ances of Jes­sica to life. Brian’s writ­ing was also per­fectly re­al­is­tic and ef­fort­less, so I at­tempted to get that same type of feel in the art.”

De­scrib­ing it as “the su­per­hero ver­sion of Chi­na­town”, Alias’s dis­tinc­tive mash-up of the crime and su­per­hero gen­res pre­dated sim­i­larly themed se­ries like Gotham Cen­tral, which it­self gave rise to the Gotham TV se­ries last year. “My notes at the time in­cluded things like ‘what if you’re not a very good Avenger?’” says Bendis, who drew on an in­ter­view with Blade Run­ner ac­tress Sean Young that he’d read in Pre­miere mag­a­zine. “She was talk­ing about how when you’ve been on the A-list and since been get kicked off, you still know where all the good par­ties are, you just don’t get in­vited to them any­more. It would be like a su­per­hero know­ing where Avengers Man­sion was but not get­ting that ‘Avengers As­sem­ble’ call. With Jes­sica, one of those big su­pervil­lain bust-ups didn’t go her way and it ru­ined her.”

Form­ing her own agency, Alias Pri­vate In­ves­ti­ga­tions, Jes­sica re-es­tab­lishes her­self as a de­tec­tive-for-hire and grad­u­ally learns to value her abil­i­ties again. “She doesn’t see her­self as a su­per­hero or even a hero, but we see in the early is­sues of Alias that she will pur­sue a case whether she gets paid or not,” he says. “By any def­i­ni­tion, that’s heroic, and writ­ing about her self-dis­cov­ery and the heal­ing of her bro­ken wings and wounds was some­thing worth writ­ing about. It also al­lowed me to cre­ate this char­ac­ter that fit­ted per­fectly into the world of the books that I loved in the ’70s and ’80s like Power Man And Iron Fist and Ms Mar­vel. It was fun – even though this is a swear word in comics – to ret­con

it’s like, ‘They’re re­ally go­ing to give this foul-mouthed Pi her own show?’

her into the Mar­vel Uni­verse, and find her place in it, and be so rev­er­en­tial that she feels right at home at the same time.”

i ndeed, Bendis ended up team­ing Jes­sica with erst­while Power Man, Luke Cage. “That was a mat­ter of fig­ur­ing out, ‘If Jes­sica is down here at this lower level of the Mar­vel Uni­verse, who would she be hang­ing around and hav­ing run-ins with?’ Be­cause she’s go­ing to bump into Danny Rand (Iron Fist), Jes­sica Drew and Matt Mur­dock, as they would be her peer group,” ex­plains Bendis. “Luke also had a run of bad luck for a while and pulled him­self to­gether. In my life, I’ve found that peo­ple who have been through sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions end up grav­i­tat­ing to­wards each other, even though it’s not nec­es­sar­ily ob­vi­ous why they’re

so con­nected. I had writ­ten her ori­gin sto­ry­line – which was the last sto­ry­line – first, with­out show­ing it to any­body. I knew where Luke landed in that story, so it was easy to open the first is­sue with them hav­ing a fall­ing out and then try­ing to see if they could build some­thing back up.”

If that wasn’t enough, Bendis pre­sented the of­ten-tem­pes­tu­ous part­ners with their tough­est chal­lenge yet in the form of a baby. “Jes­sica had got­ten to a place where she had healed and got­ten over the big one that had knocked her out,” says Bendis. “Around that time, my wife got preg­nant even though the doc­tors told her that she couldn’t. Any­body who has been through a preg­nancy, even if it isn’t a trou­bled one, knows that it’s very scary. You re­alise that no mat­ter how self-in­volved or self-loathing you are, you have to stop that shit be­cause there’s this lit­tle thing that needs you. So Alias was filled to the brim with my neu­ro­sis about that, as I just pro­jected it onto Luke and Jes­sica.”

With Alias com­ing to a nat­u­ral con­clu­sion in early 2004, Jes­sica’s next move was to be­come a su­per­hero cor­re­spon­dent for the Daily Bu­gle in The Pulse, dur­ing which time she also gave birth. With both her and Luke play­ing piv­otal roles in 2006’s Civil War event sto­ry­line, Jes­sica’s ca­reer then turned full cir­cle as she joined the ranks of the Avengers. “I just love sec­ond chances and come­backs,” laughs Bendis. “I thought, ‘If we can write Luke and Jes­sica as a cou­ple and put a baby in their hands, putting them in Avengers Man­sion and hav­ing them still be them­selves would be fas­ci­nat­ing.’ There’s a sense with Luke and Jes­sica that even af­ter all th­ese years, any­thing can hap­pen to them. It could all go to hell at any minute be­cause they’re both wired for that to hap­pen and they’re in a very dan­ger­ous place. But they still have to live their life and try and build some­thing to­gether.”

There’s no PIs with­out smoke Not, per­haps, the typ­i­cal abode of a fu­ture Avenger.

It smarts when you get dou­ble whumped.

You can’t imag­ine Diana Prince say­ing that. Anger is an en­ergy.

Liv­ing with Luke Cage means never hav­ing to carry boxes.

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