A Brief History of ‘The Defenders’: Jessica Jones

Mike Delaney
TV Marvel
TV Marvel

Marvel’s upcoming The Defenders series is the culmination of several years of hard work and interconnected storytelling. Uniting the street-level heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, The Defenders aims to be the small-screen version of the epic team-up that resulting in The Avengers. These four unlikely heroes are brought together to battle a greater threat that none of them can handle alone.

Marvel Defenders

As the release date of Marvel’s The Defenders draws closer, FANDOM looks back at the comic book and television history of each member starting with …

Jessica Jones is the (relatively) new girl on the block – except she isn’t really

Of all the heroes appearing in The Defenders, Jessica Jones is a relatively new addition to the Marvel Universe. Debuting in the first issue of Alias in 2001, Jessica Jones is a sardonic and sarcastic former superhero turned private investigator. Jessica is introduced to readers as she is “now,” with her story slowly revealed through flashbacks. Despite her relatively recent introduction into the Marvel Universe, Jessica has been present throughout much of its history. We just did not know it until now.

Jessica Jones’ connections to the Marvel Universe go back almost to the beginning. Jessica is revealed to have been a student at Midtown High, the same school that Peter Parker attended. She had a crush on him and was going to ask him out literally just before he received the fateful bite from a radioactive spider that would turn him into Spider-Man.

Using the name Jewel, Jessica was a superhero for several years. She knew Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) and tangled with the likes of Doctor Octopus. Jessica’s superhero career came to a crashing halt when she encountered the Purple Man, a villain who had the ability to control people through pheromones. Jessica fell under his control for eight months, and he made her complicit in his crimes. Eventually, he sent her to kill Daredevil. Being away from the Purple Man lessened his control, leaving Jessica disorientated. She ended up attacking Scarlet Witch simply because she was wearing red. The Avengers retaliated for her unprovoked attack, although Jessica was recognised and saved by Captain Marvel.

Alias Investigations — the other side of the Marvel Universe

Now disillusioned with superhero life and still recovering from her ordeal at the Purple Man’s hands, Jessica starts her own private investigation business. The cases taken by Alias Investigations take Jessica into the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe. Marvel took full advantage of the mature rating of their MAX imprint titles. Alias is full of swearing, sex, and the kind of storylines that would make Aunt May blush. In fact, the very first word of the very first issue is “f***.” It is also the word most frequently used throughout the series.

Alias followed Jessica through some of her darkest moments as she struggled to reconnect with friends and family, find love, and still come to terms with what she did under the Purple Man’s control. Alias shows us the side of the Marvel Universe that exists under the colorful surface. It is not an alternate world or a dark future — it is just the world in shades of grey.

But Jessica Jones is too good a character to keep confined to the MAX titles, and she was soon brought into the lighter and softer side of the Marvel Universe. Of course, this necessitated some changes. She lost her trademark cursing (replaced by the ever present use of “@£%!”) and other less desirable personality habits. But these changes came about through character development and were explained by Jessica’s recovery and growing sense of self-worth. After years of on-again, off-again dating, Jessica and Luke Cage had a daughter, Danielle. They were also married. The establishment of a family and a sense of stability in Jessica’s life serves as the catalyst for her finally getting back on track.

One Standard Superhero Origin Story — Just Add Radiation

Jessica’s superhero origin story is pretty standard, and almost a throwback to the origin stories of yesteryear. Her family was involved in a car accident, colliding with a military convoy carrying radioactive material. While the crash killed the rest of her family, Jessica survived and fell into a coma. After recovering, she discovered that the exposure to radioactive chemicals gave her superpowers.

Even then, Jessica’s power set isn’t really unique or even noteworthy. She has the standard superpower package of super-strength, limited invulnerability, and flight. Her upper strength limit is unknown but she can lift police cars with ease. Jessica also often plays up her invulnerability; while she is more durable than a normal human, she can be hurt. She has bluffed that bullets won’t hurt her but, in truth, Jessica isn’t sure if she is actually bulletproof or not.

What makes Jessica Jones unique is her weaknesses, not her strengths. She is more often shown dealing with her past mistakes and regrets than she is fighting bad guys. Jessica’s experiences with the Purple Man left her with post-traumatic stress disorder that required months of therapy. It also led Jessica to quit being a superhero altogether. Jessica would also regularly self-medicate with alcohol to ease her troubles. The comics never brush aside Jessica’s problems, but instead, make them as integral a part of the character as her powers.

A superhero by multiple names

These days, Jessica Jones only goes by her real name. For a time, though, she was the superhero known as Jewel. She reprises the name for a while as a member of the New Avengers. Of course, in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the alias is mocked. Jessica refers to it is a “stripper’s name, a really slutty stripper.”

But Jewel is not the only alias that Jessica has gone by. After her ordeal at the hands of the Purple Man, Jessica briefly adopted the identity of Knightress, a violent vigilante in the mold of the 90s anti-heroes. Recently, to honor her husband and to be a role model for their daughter, Jessica took on the name Power Woman for a while.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones.

Jessica’s story from the original source material makes it the perfect addition to the darker and grittier side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe seen in the Netflix series. Marvel’s Jessica Jones adapts many of the elements of Jessica Jones’ backstory. At the same time, it alters some parts because the MCU is not a direct adaptation of the mainstream Marvel comics.

Jessica’s origin story is much the same, involving a car crash and the death of her family. Although now there is a hint of government testing in how she obtained her powers. Carol Danvers role is taken by Trish Walker, who in the comics is the hero Hellcat. The broad strokes are there though. Jessica was briefly an aspiring hero who fell under the sway of Kilgrave and she was only able to break free of his control after he made her kill Reva Connors. Sinking into depression and alcoholism, Jessica quits being a hero and starts her own private investigation agency. She develops an obsession with Reva’s husband, Luke Cage, which eventually becomes physical before he learns the truth.

The only thing that keeps Jessica going is believing that Kilgrave is dead. Until evidence starts to mount that he survived a fatal encounter with a bus and has returned. Kilgrave is obsessed with Jessica and convinced that she loves him without the need to be controlled. Through manipulation and Machiavellian plotting, he sets out to prove it. Kilgrave’s reign of terror is finally ended after Jessica realizes that killing Reva had the unintended side effect of rendering her immune to his power. Now able to confront him without fear, Jessica kills him. Finally free, Jessica begins to pick up the pieces of her life.

Mike Delaney
Star Wars fan and general pop culture addict. Only two beverages worth drinking are tea and whisky.
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