Who is Jessica Jones? A brief guide to the star of Marvel’s new series for Netflix

Who Is Jessica Jones? A Brief Guide to the Star of Marvel’s New Series for Netflix.

Who Is Jessica Jones? A Brief Guide to the Star of Marvel’s New Series for Netflix.

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Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 11 2015 5:24 PM

Who Is Jessica Jones? A Brief Guide to the Star of Marvel’s New Series for Netflix.

Jessica Jones as Jewel on the cover of The New Avengers.
Jessica Jones as Jewel on the cover of The New Avengers.

Cover of The New Avengers Annual No. 3

Following the massive ratings success of Daredevil last April, Marvel has announced its second TV series for Netflix, Jessica Jones, which will premiere on Nov. 20. By way of announcing the premiere, on Thursday they released a cryptic teaser for the series, starring Krysten Ritter, which shows a few purple paint splatters and some disembodied voices saying, “Jessica.” If you didn’t know the character before watching the teaser, it wouldn’t be of much help.

So who is “Jessica”? The air of mystery befits Jones’ character—unlike Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, or even Daredevil, hers has never been a household name. In many ways she’s an afterthought; Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos created Jones in 2001 to star in a detective series called Alias. Bendis’ original idea was to use Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) in the series, but the continuity was a bit awkward. Enter second Jessica.

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Because they were working backward, Bendis and Gaydos interwove Jessica Jones’ origin story with the stories of other Marvel superheroes. For instance, Jones went to high school with Peter Parker and even developed a crush on him, but just as she was about to reveal her feelings, he was bitten by a radioactive spider—go figure.

In a separate and more crucial bit of backstory, Jones’ father’s boss (one Tony Stark) gives him tickets to Disney World, but while the Jones family is on holiday, their car collides with a military convoy carrying radioactive chemicals. Jessica is left in a coma, and her family is killed.

When she recovers she realizes that (predictably) she has superpowers. These include that she’s pretty much weapon-proof, has superhuman strength, and can fly. She does a brief stint as a white-body-suited superhero named Jewel, but a villain called Purple Man brainwashes her and forces her to attack the Avengers; once she snaps out of it and realizes what she’s done, she gives up Jewel’s identity for good.

After the whole Jewel disaster, Jessica tries to reinvent herself as Knightress, a lone-wolf vigilante who keeps tabs on supervillains. It’s as Knightress that she first meets Luke Cage, the superhero who is expected to be the star of Marvel’s third series for Netflix—the two fall in love, eventually marry, and have a daughter named Danielle (they have their pick of superhero nannies). She develops friendships with both Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel) and Patricia Walker (also known as “Trish,” “Patsy,” and Hellcat).

The Netflix series—which appears to be based on Alias—picks up after Jessica trades her spandex for a detective’s badge and opens her own private investigation firm, Alias Investigations, specializing in superhero activity. Her work brings her into contact with characters like Daredevil, Scott Lang (a.k.a. the Marvel movies’ Ant-Man), and Black Widow. Beyond the Alias series, Jessica appears in Secret War, Young Avengers, New Avengers, and dozens of other titles.

Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter.
Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter.

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

As is typical of Marvel, Jessica's Netflix series is part of a master plan. Marvel will bring her, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and another superhero called Iron Fist together for a crossover series called The Defenders based on, you guessed it, another comics series. Cage and Iron Fist will reportedly get their own series in 2016, but at present there's no set date for The Defenders.

Given her strong relationships with other heroes, her crime-fighting savvy, and her rich history in the Marvel universe, the show’s creators should have plenty to draw from when it comes to the Jessica Jones series—not to mention plenty of opportunities for tie-ins with Marvel’s other movies and TV shows in its Cinematic Universe. Jones’ name might be generic, but her story isn’t.