Is TV ready for Jessica Jones?

Jessica as drawn in Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos' 2001-2004 series 'Alias'

We’ve spent a month here at the bunker touching upon the portrayal of women in comics and lamenting the lack of strong, believable female leads so today’s announcement from Marvel comes as a rather pleasant surprise. It seems that the merry Marvel marching band have teamed up with ABC and writer/producer, Melissa Rosenberg (you’ll know her from the Twilight movies and Dexter) to produce a prime time TV show based on the character of Jessica Jones.

Now, if you’re not a big comics fan then there’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of Jess so I’ll do my best to give you a quick rundown. Jessica was once a fairly unremarkable superhero by the name of Jewel but she quit that lift following a traumatic encounter with a villain called Purple Man (you’ll have to take my word that he’s scarier than his name implies) and set up her own detective agency. From here she chain smokes and smart mouths her way through a string of super hero related cases with a kind of modern noir feel. Her adventures are all available to read in a series called Alias (no relation to the TV show of the same name) and you should damn well pick them up if you’ve not already.

Alias a solid gold choice for a TV show. It’s a story about a fearsomely intelligent but heartbreakingly damaged woman, trying to leave an old life behind but constantly being drawn back in. It’s witty, it’s sad and it’s got one of the best female leads in comics, a woman who’s problems are her own and a woman who overcomes them on her own. The real question is perhaps, is American TV ready for such an edgy character as Jessica Jones? The themes in Alias are hardly what you’d call family friendly and elements that make the character work (ie the balance of strength and vulnerability) are so specific that a heavy studio influence would likely derail the entire thing.

Jess as depicted in a fabulous cover from New Avengers. (The baby is Jess and Cage's daughter, Danielle)

I’m defaulting to a stance of cautious optimism on this one. There’s a lot of scope to balls this one up but at the same time Rosenberg is a solid choice and since Jess is one of my all time favourite comic characters, it’s hard not to be excited. It’s also worth pointing out that of the four big comic-to-tv projects in the works right now, three of them have female leads (the other two being DC’s Wonder Woman and Raven with Guillermo del Toro’s Hulk bringing in one for the boys). Throw in that a Jessica Jones series has a good chance of featuring Luke Cage and things are starting to look pretty good for moving comic book properties away from the endless parade of white, male front men. Diversification in our industry is an excellent thing and if Jess is a part of that change it then I’m more than pleased.

I wonder if they’ll include that bumming scene though…

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