(Dee’s note – We continue with the Memorable Moments of Marvel Women series! Today’s blogger is KD. We’re wrapping these up today, so look for the polls to pick the final five up this week!)
Jessica Jones is a rarity in many ways.
She’s a retcon that works – a character seamlessly inserted into the backstory of the Marvel Universe and the background of several other famous stories, an addition to the mythos that enriches instead of cheapening the world she inhabits.
She’s also a fully fleshed-out female superheroine with a job, problems, likes, dislikes, loves and hates that define her more accurately than any Handbook to the Marvel Universe summary of her powers, height and eye color ever could.
And she’s also a woman with superpowers who happens to say “Fuck.” A lot. Loudly, proudly and without shame. It’s one of the things that made me love her immediately and I wasn’t alone.
When Brian Michael Bendis created the series “Alias”, he had initially wanted to use Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman. We’re all lucky that she was unavailable and he had to create Jessica Jones instead. In crafting her story, Bendis was setting out to tell the story of a woman who just happened to have been a superheroine. More importantly, Alias is the story of a woman who had been put through hell and successfully comes out the other side stronger, healthier and in control of her life.
A bit of background – Jessica Jones was a young girl who gained superpowers from an accident that killed her birth family. After awakening from a coma, she was adopted and attended the same High School as Peter Parker. She grows up and becomes a not terribly famous superheroine named Jewel. Before her career could reach the heights of her friend Ms. Marvel or The Scarlet Witch, however, a tragedy occurs. A supervillain known as The Purple Man destroys her self-confidence in the most horrifying way possible.
The Purple Man is an amoral sociopath whose sole ability is to project a pheromone that results in everyone around him obeying him implicitly. When Jessica, in her superheroine persona of Jewel, attempts to stop him from causing chaos, he enslaves her for a period of more than half a year. While he does not sexually assault her physically, he proceeds to use his powers to force her to bathe him, beg for sex and watch him use his abilities to assault and control other women. Most damagingly, Jessica does not escape from him under her own agency – he angrily orders her to fly off and attack other superheroes, which she does without question like all the other commands he has given her. As a result, she is accidentally brutalized for in turn by an angry group of Avengers. With an assist from Jean Gray and out of the range of his powers, she awakens free from his control but is now a deeply traumatized and broken individual. Jessica Jones quickly swears off being a superheroine and becomes a hard-drinking Private Investigator instead.
But here’s the thing – the story of “Alias” isn’t about a victim remaining a victim. It’s about a victim faltering, then recovering and finding her own voice again. Years later, after a string of events that slowly let her rebuild her self-confidence, she ends up confronting The Purple Man again. She ends up finding her power in a beautiful display of everything she is and can do, with one triumphant knockout punch. A punch that belies scene after scene of her slowly realizing (and more importantly, BELIEVING) that she is a good person and that what happened was not her fault. That she is stronger than she ever gave herself credit for and that she deserves to be happy.
I know the character of Jessica Jones isn’t everyone’s favorite but I DARE anyone to keep from cheering when she breaks from a returned Purple Man’s control and knocks him out. With a slight assist from Jean Gray, Jessica Jones confronts the man who put her into a spiral of shame and self-loathing, faces him down, ignores his commands and punches his goddamn teeth out after he calls her a whore. With apologies to Keith Giffen’s Batman/Guy Gardner tiff, this is truly a “one punch!” worthy of being talked about and celebrated.
While listing this moment does spoil the ending of Alias in many ways (sorry!), it is important and deserving of belonging on this list. It is everything that every distasteful scene where a superheroine is held or controlled against her will by a leering supervillain isn’t. This is a major stepping stone in one fictional woman’s story back from the brink to believe she can be whomever and whatever she wants to be again. It is an inspirational moment that – after spending so much time getting to know her and realizing she’s so much more amazing than she gives herself credit for – will make you punch a fist in the air right alongside her.
This Memorable Marvel Moment is Jessica Jones reclaiming and declaring her agency, her strength and her self-confidence in a single splash page.
That’s pretty fucking awesome, don’t you think?