Comics/Graphic Novels

Jessica Jones Has Some Amazing Friends – and Enemies

Caroline Pruett

Staff Writer

Caroline Pruett writes about comic books at Fantastic Fangirls, where she tries to use her powers for good. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolinePruett.

Recently, Netflix and Marvel announced three additions to the cast for the upcoming television series, A.K.A. Jessica Jones: an enemy, a friend, and a character whose loyalties (and identity) are not yet clear.

A.K.A. will be based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s comic Alias. The flagship title of Marvel’s adult-themed ‘MAX’ line — sort of an HBO to the rest of Marvel’s network primetime — Alias made waves with its explicit content, but it won fans with the complexity of its heroine, Jessica Jones, a former superhero struggling to make it as a private investigator.

Jessica at desk, smoking

We’ve known for a while that Jessica will be played by Krysten Ritter, an actress who has shown her chops in drama (Breaking Bad) and comedy (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 and Amy Heckerling’s gal pal vampire movie Vamps, which you should watch immediately if you’ve ever wanted to see a mashup of Dracula and Clueless.) (If you’ve never wanted to see a mashup of Dracula and Clueless, we probably aren’t friends.) Mike Colter, who has guest starred on The Good Wife, will appear as Luke Cage, a longstanding Marvel character who is Jessica’s friend and (at least in the comics) her eventual husband. Luke has been an established hero since 1972 – the first African-American character to headline a Marvel title — and after A.K.A.‘s initial run, Luke is scheduled to get a Netflix show of his own.

Over the past few weeks, new announcements have added to what we know about the cast. The most prominent newcomer is David Tennant, set to play Zebediah Killgrave, a villain known as the Purple Man. Tennant won legions of fans when he starred in Doctor Who, and many who never quite got over the Tenth Doctor’s departure have squeed at this announcement. (They’ve also done what Internet fans do and photoshopped pictures of Ten until his skin is purple. We at Panels are not partaking in this practice, but if you can’t resist googling “purple Tennant,” none of us will judge you).

David Tennant holding a skull

If you’re still here, enjoy David Tennant holding a skull. Because he’s Hamlet, not because he’s evil.

Tennant is a talented and versatile actor who can rock a pinstriped suit and a pair of Chucks like nobody’s business, so I get the excitement, but fair warning: Killgrave is a Very. Bad. Guy. His powers are unsettling, his role in Jessica’s life is likely to tie in to the character’s formative trauma, and he doesn’t even have a big brother who Daddy liked better to blame for how badly he turned out. (Sorry, Loki fans.)

This could make for some great television. It could also, frankly, be a mess. The Killgrave arc of Alias skirts right up to the edge of being exploitative and in horrendously bad taste. For me, the way Bendis and Gaydos execute the story, and the way their work pushes the medium and genre of superhero comics, avoids toppling over that extreme, but in places it’s close. Whether an adaptation will be able to strike the right balance remains to be seen. If it’s done well, though, Tennant is less likely to play a fun, campy villain than a stone psycho who freaks you the hell out.

With an enemy like that, Jessica needs friends, so I was happy to hear about the addition of a second new cast member: Rachael Taylor as Patricia “Hellcat” Walker. I don’t know Taylor’s work at all (though apparently she was in a SyFy movie based on Marvel’s Man-Thing? Did this happen or have I been victimized by a Wikipedia hoax?) I do know Patsy Walker, a character created for 1940s romance comics and transformed into a superhero in the 1970s. Basically, she has an amazing costume and makes a great feisty sidekick, most recently in She-Hulk.

Patsy Walker riding a white wolf

Sometimes Patsy rides a wolf, just ’cause

A.K.A. will presumably try to ‘modernize’ Patsy (so far, they’ve given her a job at a radio station and redubbed her ‘Trish,’ though I feel like the name ‘Patsy’ has a better chance of a hipster comeback than ‘Trish’ has of sounding like anything but your grade school friend’s mom.) (Apologies to the lovely Trish-es out there, I know you’re all Hellcats deep down).

What matters for the sake of the show, though, is Jessica having a female friend. In the comics, this is Carol Danvers, who is always dropping in to give Jessica life-improving tips and set her up with suitable men. Carol can come across as condescending, and Jess can be a brat in reply, but there’s no doubt they deep down love each other.

Carol Danvers is now Captain Marvel in the comics, and the character is slated to star in her own movie. Hellcat Trish will have to take up that mantle in TV Jessica’s life. There’s no reason they have to have the same kind of relationship as the comic book characters, but I hope it’s just as interesting.

The mot recent and most mysterious announcement regards the casting of Carrie-Anne Moss as “a no-nonsense woman who could prove a powerful ally to Jessica…if Jessica doesn’t completely alienate her first.” Other sources refer to the character by the name “Harper,” and she doesn’t have a clear comics analogue. Maybe she’s a client to Jessica. Maybe she’s an associate of Killgrave. Most relevant at the moment is that she’ll be played by Carrie-Anne Moss who starred as Trinity in The Matrix: Why Isn’t This Movie about Trinity? (That’s the real subtitle, right? I know that’s what I call it.)

Carrie-Anne Moss

Why WASN’T that movie about Trinity?

So that’s about all we know for now. How do you feel about these casting choices? What hopes, or fears, or questions do you have about A.K.A. Jessica Jones?