So it’s a ball boiler inside the Manhattan office building because although I’m pretty sure air conditioning existed it did not become ubiquitous until after the war that the good ol’ US of A was sliding into. What we’re looking at is an open window on an upper floor and somehow (are we pigeons?) we get inside and behold! Three middle-aged men, suit jackets draped over chairs, ties loosened, discussing the comic books they edit. They have had solid successes with characters a couple of young guys named Bill Everett and Carl Burgos brought in. The topic under discussion: more! More of Burgos’s Human Torch, of Everett’s Sub-Mariner: and yes, of course, more profits, and maybe this year’s Christmas bonus will be worth more than a subway token. Then one of the three (wise men?) has The Idea: Combine ‘em! Put them in the same issue…no, put ‘em in the same story.
And so they did, and a few months later your grandpa (great grandpa?) was sitting on a porch swing with his best gal reading about the meeting of Subby and The Torch, and being scolded by Best Gal for wasting time and money on those stupid funny books! (Okay, skeptics, can you prove that this stuff didn’t happen? Go ahead, Mr. Philosophy Dude, let’s see you prove a negative.)
Whatever the particulars, regardless of what did or did not actually occur, the Torch-Sub-Mariner stories went on sale and the few readable copies left are very early examples of what would later be a comic book staple, the team-up.
And then, the passing of years and The Justice Society of America, the Marvel Family, and a plethora of other costumed teams, until the arrival of the X-Men just abut the time when comics as a whole were getting a mighty, second wind and emerging from a decade-long obscurity, victims of the Eisenhower era witch hunts.
Comics were back!
And movies were following the trail they blazed. After a few single-hero flicks, the movies found the X-Men and a billion dollar franchise was born. Hold it! – not exactly born: rather, evolved from earlier existence as comic book characters. Fortunes were, and are, being made. More of them to come.
And the fossil who goes by my name can kick back and realize that the Netflix video enterprise, a first cousin to the movies mentioned above, is a super-group comprised entirely of character I’ve worked on. Yep, The Defenders, starring Iron Fist and Power Man, who were partners in their comic book home, and Daredevil and Patsy Walker.
Patsy made the giant leap from comics about post-teens to grim superheroic private eye Jessica Jones. Patsy’s light and bright escapades were closely related to other Marvel stuff like Millie the Model and if you didn’t know that, well, now you do.
As of this writing, I’ve only seen two of the Defenders programs and so have not earned the right to have an opinion about the whole series.
Catch me next week. Maybe by then I’ll have earned the aforementioned figured out the subject of the preceding 517 words.
I must have encountered Archie Comics while I was still young and innocent before the brassy hell we knew as high school — and military high school at that – before I began my ten-year abstinence from reading comic books. I can’t remember a time when Archie and his pals and gals weren’t on my radar somewhere (though the blip was probably dim and small. One of those deals where I knew something but didn’t know I knew it.)
The Archie posse was one of a bunch of similar groups that were sprinkled throughout the media in the years immediately before and after the Second World War. But the genre was born decades earlier, in the 1920s when the younger set began to be identified as a consumer group with few bucks in their pockets. The fictional teens got a boost from a series of movies starring Mickey Rooney as the lovable Andy Hardy, and then came the comics featuring guys and gals with names like Candy, Binky, Corliss Archer, Henry Aldrich, Patsy Walker. True confession: I once, briefly contributed to the Patsy scene. Way more fun than high school.
These stories, which might have been mistaken for sitcoms on a dark night, featured slightly cartoonish but attractive adolescents romping their way through high school and related activities – dances, games – and having disagreements with both peer groups and authority figures These squabbles weren’t serious and did not seem likely to put the teens on the path to juvie. Detention was all they had to worry about.
They were no respecters of media boundaries, these scamps. Some had radio shows back when network broadcasts were major sources of light entertainment. and young master Aldrich appeared in a series of movies. Most perished when comics were attacked by the political and muckraking witch hunters of the 50s and early 60s.
But not Archie. He continued to appear wherever there was a decent comic book store from his war-era debut straight on through to the present. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that he and his crew are on the tv. Yep, there they are in a weekly show titled Riverdale, Thursday evenings on the CW.
I could never identify with the comics’ Archie, who seem to have his friends, male and female alike, grafted to his hip. I was a loner (with a uniform). But Marifran was pretty much a typical teen who hung out with kids I didn’t know and did teenage things. (She also went on dates with me. I don’t think I wore my uniform.) The CW Archie doesn’t reflect my adolescence, which was to be expected, but it’s nothing like Marifran’, either.
This Riverdale is a series saturated in angst and gloom and the video Archie is involved in stuff the comics Archie would never have heard of, including an improper relationship with a teacher. Tch! So Riverdale’s world mirrors ours. It ain’t a barrel of laughs, but It’s well-enough done to merit another look. Maybe.
If so, I hope you and yours are all healthy and safe.
Jonas, of course, is the huge winter storm that not only dumped record-breaking amounts of snow on the Mid-Atlantic States and Eastern Seaboard up to Boston, but also caused major coastal flooding in areas that are still recovering from Sandy, like the Jersey shore. An 84-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was shut down, and 500 cars, trucks, and buses were stranded in the blizzard for almost a full day, with the National Guard delivering medicine, food and water, and gasoline (to keep the cars running and warm) to hundreds of people.
Governor Shamu – I mean New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – finally got the message and left New Hampshire, where he has been campaigning to come back to the state that he ostensibly governs. Everywhere there were travel bans; Mayor Bill de Blasio even banned food deliveries. The airports, of course, cancelled all flights. The U.S. Postal Service – Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds – ignored its motto. The supermarkets were cleaned out – I walked down to my local market at about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and the only thing left was Soylent Green. And all I wanted was Diet Pepsi and a pack of Salem 100’s.
But compared to many, I was lucky. My power never wavered, my steam radiators steamed. The most I had to worry about was digging my car out yesterday in order to go to work Sunday – and even that turned out incredibly easy, because my downstairs neighbor Lois, her wonderful husband Corey, and their kids did all of the work for me. In fact, all I had to do was clean the windshields and make sure that I could pull out of my parking spot easily. On top of which Lois saved that spot for me by parking her car so that it takes up two spaces, so that when I got home all I had to do was text her to come down and make room.
Yes, those whose cars take up two spaces in my parking-challenged city usually make me curse like a sailor – okay, that’s not hard, but otherwise I doubt I would be able to get to the hospital tomorrow for fear of driving around and around and around the blocks upon reaching home for hours, so today I forgive them and myself.
Aside from the walk to the Soylent Green store and not having to dig out my car, I basically did absolutely nothing, which sometimes is the best thing in the world. I played solitaire on the computer, I did the New York Times crossword puzzle, and then I caught up on Jessica Jones, courtesy of Netflix. I realize I’m a little behind the curve here.
The eponymous, hard-drinking anti-hero is played by Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Veronica Mars), who is joined by Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, Rachael Taylor as Patsy “Trish” Walker, and David Tennant as Killgrave. JJ is dark and ugly and all about the underbelly of the superhero fantasy – the trauma, the amorality, the death, the pain, the anger, the fear, the regret, the isolation. It’s the post-traumatic stress syndrome of the genre. There is no joy in this world. Booze is for dulling the memories, sex is for physical pleasure, marriage is just a road to the inevitable divorce, and love is denied – or at least suspect. Anyone and everyone connected, even incidentally, by the “power enhanced” is scarred physically or emotionally or psychologically, or left for dead or dead. No one is innocent. And no one gets out alive. Not really.
So pretend that I’m Killgrave and that I have the power to control your mind:
In case you haven’t done so yet, watch Jessica Jones.
The other day at a comic shop I saw a flier for the upcoming Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1. It was advertised having writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams attached. I think it’s great that the two of them are on this book, as I enjoy the work they’ve put out over at BOOM! Studios. However, it did start getting me thinking about the direction the comic industry is going. A direction that it may not want to go in.
We’ve seen the big two added more books with a woman lead. This has been great. A lot of them have at least one woman creator attached as well. We should absolutely be thrilled by that and support those efforts.
Just off the top of my head I can think of Amy Reeder on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Kelly Sue Deconnick’s recent Captain Marvel run, G. Willow Wilson and and Sana Amanat’s work on the new Ms. Marvel, Marguerite Bennett on the all woman’s Avengers team titled A-Force, and of course Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! just at Marvel.
Over at DC we have Amanda Conner on Harley Quinn, Amy Chu on Poison Ivy, Ann Nocenti followed up by Genevieve Valentine on Catwoman, Gail Simone followed up by Babs Tarr on Batgirl, Meredith Finch on Wonder Woman, Annie Wu on Black Canary, Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage on DC Bombshells and Emanuela Lupacchino on Starfire.
That’s a pretty hefty list for right off the top of my head, and I could have even missed one or two. We should be proud of the comic industry for having more women being involved in the creative process. However, you’ll also see the problem I was getting at before. All of the women creators are working on comics starring women… and not much else.
Just to be clear, I am not at all speaking on behalf of any of the creators listed, or making any judgments on the work they choose to do. I think they’ve been doing incredible work, and I’ve picked up most of the mentioned titles that are currently available. My concern lies with the pattern of the big two pairing up women on women lead books while not doing that with books that have a man in the lead.
It’s very possible that some of these instances they asked creators the characters they wanted to work with and these are the results we have. I highly doubt that was every single instance. We have had a long history of men, particularly straight cis white men, writing women in comics. Many of which have been great. I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Soule on She-Hulk and Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman. However, I’m starting to get concerned that we’re moving more towards compartmentalizing creative teams, and that’s not a good thing.
How many women can you name who’ve worked on Batman? Sure, you might have thought Devin Grayson right off the bat. You’ll probably be racking your brain for a while after that though. Becky Cloonan did a fill in issue on Scott Snyder’s run a few years ago. And yes, Genevieve Valentine is currently one of the eight writers on Batman and Robin Eternal, the other seven being men. We haven’t had a woman creator have a lengthy run on either Batman or Detective Comics. Mostly fill-ins.
Okay, how about Superman? Louise Simonson had a huge impact on the character. She was integral to the Death of Superman storyline, and she created Steel. You’re gonna need to think real long and hard to come up with too many more names than that. Sure, Ramona Fradon did many of the Super Friends comics, but that’s most of it. Justice League comics are even more male dominated. As are The Flash, Green Lantern, and so forth. Ramona did work plenty on Aquaman and Plastic Man, but we did already mention her.
How about over at Marvel? Let’s start with Spider-Man. Sara Pichelli did co-create Miles Morales with Bendis, but beyond that there isn’t much else. Louise Simonson did some work on Spider-man as well, but I did already mention her with Superman. And those examples aren’t exactly examples of long runs on Amazing Spider-Man or even Spectacular Spider-man.
And the X-Men? Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti did a lot of work in the X-Universe, but again, both of them have already been mentioned for other contributions. I can also add Majorie Liu for her work on Astonishing X-Men, but you get the idea.
Again, to clarify, I am not knocking or belittling any of the contributions these creators have made. I admire the work they have all done and continue to do. I’m highlighting all of this to make the point that this is still a very male dominated industry, that women have not had all the same opportunities over the years as men whether it was deliberate or not, and that this should change. I also understand that the comic book industry is small. Smaller than I think we realize sometimes. Even still, this situation could be better.
I’m not asking for Superman to spin the earth backwards in time and fire the DC editorial teams of yesterday and replace them all with women. I’m not asking for Kitty Pryde to project herself back in time to do the same thing at Marvel. The past is the past. It was a different time, and there is very little we can do just dwelling on that. What we do have to do is acknowledge the past and understand it as we move forward.
I think Scott Snyder is doing great things with Batman, but maybe when he’s done with the title Genevieve Valentine or Amy Chu might have some great ideas of where to take him next. After seeing the kind of work that Amy Reeder has done on her title Rocket Girl with Image, maybe she’s got a great run for someone like Iron Man that she could be working on. Maybe the next big Superman creator will be a woman none of us have heard of yet.
I believe the best stories are yet to come. Many of the popular comic characters are decades old and have mostly been handled by male creators. One way to revitalize these decades old characters would be to get creators with different perspectives.
As a queer man have enjoyed a great deal of comics that involve exclusively straight characters. People from all backgrounds enjoy all sorts of stories. Someone with a different background could help flesh out other characters in these stories as well. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and many others have both men and women in their stories, and people from all walks of life.
It’s not only important to have representation in the main character or characters, but characters off to the sides and in the backgrounds as well. More women tackling comics like those I mentioned could be a way to help revitalize these titles, and hope it’s something that’s being considered.
For those of you who are old enough to watch Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix, you might have noticed her bestie, Trish Walker AKA Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Patsy Walker was the star of a comic book series from the 1940’s through 1960’s that reminded us a lot of the Archie comics, maybe even better. Then thanks to Jack Kirby & Stan Lee, Pasty was written into a Fantastic Four comic and slowly but surely found herself a superhero in a cool catsuit with retractable claws (watch the video…we explain it).
For those of us who might need to wait on the show, Patsy will be starring in a new comic series being released on December 23. We’re very excited about Marvel’s “Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat!” by writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams and in this week’s episode will get you all caught up on Patsy’s backstory so the you will be excited too. And as a bonus give you some background on Jessica Jones and Anya’s She-Hulk impersonation.
Hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a nice one. I used some of the time off from the work I had to finish up Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I’ve read articles like this one about how the show is queer-inclusive, and have seen that term being thrown around elsewhere since. I’m using my column this week to make what I feel is an important point: Jessica Jones is in absolutely no way queer-inclusive.
Please be advised that there are SPOILERS ahead for both Jessica Jones and Daredevil.
Prior to Jessica Jones premiering, speculation was abound that she may end up being Marvel’s first queer lead. She is not. The speculation was based on her close relationship with Trish (Patsy) Walker. Trish and Jessica are sisters through adoption. They do tell each other they love each other. That’s because they are sisters. No other reason. This isn’t opening the door to a queer relationship later on. They both have a very full and active sex life with exclusively cis male partners in the show.
The fact that this caused speculation of any kind shows just how starved audiences are for queer representation in comic book properties, and I hope that Marvel takes note. That being said, let’s please end any continued speculation on Jessica Jones’ sexuality until we have a real reason to think of her as anything but straight.
Jessica Jones features one important queer character, Jeri. In the comics the character of Jeri was a man, so in the show they gender swapped that character while keeping the sexuality of that character the same. You could make the argument that she could easily be swapped with a man and it would have had no impact on the show at all outside of reducing the queer representation.
Jeri is a cis white lesbian, or at least an assumed lesbian since we don’t know about her sexual history beyond her ex and her current lover. Her lovers are also cis white and assumed lesbians. Unlike Jeri, they’re both blondes. We even get a “steamy” fully clothed almost sex scene in Jeri’s office with her assistant that goes out of its way to make sure we don’t see anything too scandalous, despite the show being described as “sex positive.” Wow, that’s some extensive queer representation there! Seriously though, one of those characters couldn’t have been openly bi, nonwhite, or something else to be even a little more inclusive?
Making Jeri an assumed lesbian in the show was a smart move for Marvel. It allows for two additional, albeit minor characters, to also be queer, thus upping the level of perceived queerness in the show. However, that’s not how being queer-inclusive works. This is New York City in 2015. Even more so, this is Hell’s Kitchen.
This is a place in New York City that currently has a fairly large and well known queer population. Largely cis white gay or bi men, but still very much a queer population. By not showing queer characters in the background, active queer bars or clubs that Jessica could have gone into, a case someone can try to hire her for involving a queer character, even openly queer people living in her building, Marvel is hetero-washing New York City. Whether this is intentional or not, it’s something that needs to stop happening and we can and should demand better. This isn’t a demand for more representation than we deserve. It’s a demand for accurate representation of the world as it is now, and without that I can’t consider this show queer-inclusive and you shouldn’t either.
Getting back to Jeri, she’s also not a particularly good person in the show. She’s shown as more likely than not being unfair to her ex and trying to keep her ex from money that she’s entitled to herself. Jeri also seemingly manipulates her current lover into killing Jeri’s ex. That’s right, one of the minor lesbians kills the only other minor lesbian. This all occurs while Jeri thoroughly betrays Jessica in a way that results in people getting killed and Kilgrave gaining the upper hand.
So not only do we have little queer representation, the representation we get drops from three characters total to two. One of them winds up in prison and the other one continues being a cutthroat lawyer and an untrustworthy friend of Jessica’s. Clearly queer viewers got some strong characters in this show to look up to!
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is not queer-inclusive. If anything, it hetero-washes its setting, just as Daredevil did. I’m not discouraging anyone from watching and enjoying this show, but I am discouraging people from spreading around the notion that this show is queer-inclusive.
That’s not the only diversity related issue Marvel’s Netflix shows have been lacking in, like how both shows feature only one older black man in a senior position helping our heroes that gets killed towards the end. What’s up with that? But that’s another story for another column.
Well, I’ll be swoggled! I do believe that’s Patsy Walker moving across my television screen. Haven’t seen her since we stopped working together at Marvel Comics a half-century or so ago. Wonder if she still hangs with her friend Hedy Wolfe. I heard that she became a superhero named Hellcat and the hero thing could put a strain on friendship, particularly if Hedy remained just a girl on the go-go. And who is this, coming to join Patsy? Darned if it isn’t Luke Cage, otherwise known as Power Man. (Brace yourself for a spoiler.) Didn’t he marry Jessica Jones somewhere along the line? Are they still an item? According to the story that’s materializing on my screen, they are, though I don’t see any wedding rings. Oops! Getting late. I’d better change the channel and…
Here we are, back in the “real world.”
What the first paragraph of this blather refers to is a TV series titled JessicaJones, currently being streamed by Netflix. I haven’t seen it all yet – dang it, I’m old! – but that will be remedied in a day or two. Meanwhile, so far, so good. Acting, writing, action scenes, cinematography: check, check, check and check.
It’s not exactly a bundle of cheer. The story is grim and violent and the characters match the plot. What the film makers have done is to conflate superhero action with film noir, the bleak crime stories that flourished in movie houses in the 30s and 40s, and still poke their heads up now and then, here and there. It’s an existential world, noir is, where it isn’t a good idea to trust anyone, the rule book is generally useless, and cities are places of menace and shadows and ugly surprises.
Add some superheroism and you have Jessica Jones.
She’s not doing a solo. A few months ago, Marvel and Netflix gave us Daredevil, which was also heavy on the noir and looked a lot like Jessica Jones. The creative folk at those companies have found a neglected niche and are filling it admirably.
So Marvel has some characters that adapt well to a noirish treatment. What about Marvel’s arch rival, DC Comics? Any noir possibilities there? You’d certainly think so. One of their flagship characters is a night crawling avenger who is on a lifelong crusade against crime and who does not report for work at a police station.
Batman, of course. And in the course of his 76-year existence, Batman has occasionally qualified for noirdom. But only occasionally, in bursts. Want someone to blame (or credit?) How about Robin? Eleven months after Batman’s debut, he acquired a kid sidekick, a sunny lad clad in bright colors. Not the stuff of dark, perilous alleyways. Then there was a decade of inconsequential stories as the comics world recovered from witch hunts, and another few years of a comedic take on the series, and then…
Well, finally! In the comics, and in the movies directed by Christopher Nolan, a dark Batman. And a television series that is based on Batman continuity, though Batman himself appears only as his preadolescent self. Robin’s still around, but maybe not as prominent as he once was.
So both Marvel and DC are in the noir business, to one degree or another. If this were a contest, who would we judge the winner? Does anyone care?
Well, Jessica Jones, you have my interest. So: I haven’t seen all thirteen episodes of Marvel and Netflix’s Jessica Jones yet (hey, la Casa de Emily gets busy around the holidays), but I did get in a good four episodes with my Marvel watch party buddies, and all of us were left wanting to see more.
I was excited about Jessica Jonesbefore it came out and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. The show is in line with Daredevil in feel, but possibly even grittier in atmosphere; and by that I don’t mean harsher – I mean more real. Jones is a relatable “superhero,” primarily because she’s not a superhero. She’s a regular person in many ways – in the sense that she’s not perfect, she doesn’t have her life together, and she’s not stellar at picking the wisest way to handle a crisis.
She’s also rude, abrasive, and somewhat paranoid – but given the world she lives in, instead of putting me off that actually makes me like her, because it’s probably how a lot of us would react if we were dealing with the guilt, trauma, and danger she’s experienced. And I mean, yes – she also happens to have superpowers. But they are not the biggest focus of the current storyline, nor are they a solution for her problems. I like that, because I like seeing the less-than-perfect side of a “gift” like superpowers. And, because the sheer normalcy of her issues highlights the challenges raised by her special abilities.
I also really enjoyed seeing those abilities slowly being displayed. With Jones, you don’t get a lot of flashy, showy superhero stuff – what you get is someone who’s trying to do her job like a regular person, but resorts to lifting a car’s back wheels off the ground just as much as is needed to stop the criminal she’s trying to serve a subpoena on from getting away. You get someone who, rather than leaping tall buildings in a single bound, jumps high enough to awkwardly shimmy onto her best friend’s balcony when she needs to borrow some money. That’s not to say that her powers aren’t impressive (and I am sure I will see more as I continue the season); but that the way they are introduced is the more interesting for being revealed in very utilitarian situations.
And then, of course, sometimes for being abused – as when a couple who are enraged by the destruction that took place in New York during the Avengers movie tries to take out their anger on her as one of the superpowered bunch. Instead, they end up being treated to a rage-tantrum in which Jones tears up their house while, quite rightly, pointing out that she’s also dealt with unfair loss and pain, but isn’t blaming random people for her suffering. (And I also liked the allusion to The Avengers and the consequences of the destruction in the city – too frequently superhero stories don’t really address the collateral damage and trauma to civilians caused by Spidey or Superman or the Avengers or whoever pursuing a bad guy across a city. I don’t like the awkward way Jones refers to other superheroes without naming them, and I’m not sure if that’s because of a rights issue or weird scripting – but that’s a small complaint).
It was also a treat seeing Luke Cage’s abilities being brought to light. The introduction of his fighting style was pretty hilarious – the way he rolled his eyes at the barroom brawlers trying to pick a fight, and then knocked one out with the most casual backhand I’ve ever seen. And it was perfect for the style of this show and the aforementioned utilitarian aspects of superpowers being highlighted. The introduction of Cage generally is something I’m enjoying; including the slow build of his backstory and character as he gets to know Jones and more about her past impact on his life is revealed.
That’s another thing the show is doing well – the slow build. I realize that a lot of people may want to see a pilot that is chock-full of information and really grabs them in one sitting; but since this show has the opportunity (as did Daredevil) to grab an audience over a series of episodes that are all immediately available to watch, I don’t mind that it’s taking advantage of that still rather new media “format” to adopt a somewhat decompressed style of storytelling. It makes some aspects of the story, like the introduction of new characters, such as Patsy/Trish Walker, feel much more natural and real. While the initial focus of the show is Jones, and we don’t, at first, even know exactly what her past relationship with Walker is, the development of that and of Trish’s personality, from a perfectly put-together radio host to a more nuanced person who deals with a troubled childhood and a current intense fear of danger after what happened to Jones before the events of the show, is enjoyable because it’s not particularly hurried. There’s no info dump, and that’s a relief.
The decompressed style also allows for incorporation of characters like Will Simpson and Malcolm Ducasse without the feeling that they’re being thrust in our faces, and with a greater chance that we won’t see plot points involving them way ahead of time. It allows us to feel with Jessica as she, e.g., discovers that one of the few people she regularly interacts with and has generally tried to help and sort of look after is actually spying on her and betraying her movements to her enemy. In other words, it makes them less predictable bits in a Jessica Jones-centric story, and more like parts of a fully imagined world she happens to move through and interact with without knowing how any of her choices are going to pan out.
That world has a great noir-ish feel; it’s definitely not today’s New York, but is older in style and more homey while at the same time feeling more dangerous. (Although I did notice the reference to the 5th Avenue – Bryant Park entrance to the 7 line and wonder if that little homage to the newest way to handily access the Javits Center for New York Comic Con was intentional.) Yes, there are big fancy glass-and-metal skyscrapers housing, e.g., high-powered attorneys who pay Jessica to deal with difficult issues; but there are also neighborhood bars that have clearly been around forever and are definitely not part of some big chain or conglomerate, and buildings that may not be up to code but definitely have a lot of “character.”
Jones’ New York is both a setting I feel like I’m experiencing through her eyes, and a place that fits well with the world as seen through the lens of Daredevil; which bodes well for an eventual melding of the two. I like the way it does feel just slightly different from Murdock’s world; and hope that when Cage gets his own show, and Iron Fist his, we also get slightly shifted perspectives of Hell’s Kitchen through their personal experiences and views.
Speaking of high-powered attorneys, I’m enjoying Carrie-Anne Moss’s role as Jeri Hogarth, a hard-nosed, cynical lawyer who is also in the midst of an acrimonious divorce from her wife while engaged in that most clichéd of affairs, a romance with her younger, prettier secretary Pam. I’m also enjoying the way they’re exploring that side-plot – through sad little scenes like Jeri taking secretary Pam to lunch and running into wife Wendy Ross-Hogarth, who reveals to Pam that they are about to enter the restaurant where Jeri proposed to Wendy. The whole scene is awkward and painful for everybody in a way that is very realistic, and I appreciate as well that it shows this interaction with a same-sex couple, highlighting that the ugly issues involved in divorce span across all pairings in relationships.
In the same vein I appreciate that all of the women of this show are allowed to be unlikable. They’re allowed to be harsh, and imperfect, and paranoid, and weird, and humorous, and passionate, and ruthless, and loving, and conflicted, and scared, and tough, and smart, and successful, and fatalistic, and stupid, and angry, and cruel, and destroyed, and determined – and all in the mixed-together, messy way that real people are. There are no female characters in this show who fall into a stereotypical category; and the same goes for their relationships with the other characters.
And as we’re talking about relationships, one of the most important ones is Jones’ relationship with the villain of the story, Kilgrave, and it’s as fascinatingly disturbing as he is. We get to see glimpses of her past with Kilgrave as the plot moves along – and it’s creepy and sad to see the Kilgrave of flashbacks playing with her like a living doll subject only to his whims, dressed up for a night on the town, or told to casually dispatch an innocent woman using her superpowers. It’s sad as well to see her current suffering from the PTSD left over from what Kilgrave made her do. It heads up the point that no matter how strong she or any hero is, they can still be vulnerable, and their powers are not a magic cure-all.
It also addresses how slow to heal psychological wounds can be. As we see more of Kilgrave in the present we see how truly sadistic his use of his powers really is, Krysten Ritter realize that the magnitude of his past abuse of Jessica could be anything. When he, for example, doesn’t even allow people to retain the basic dignity of using a restroom to go to the bathroom when he’s bending them to his will, it shows his inherent cruelty and his all-encompassing disregard for anyone but himself. And when we realize how much of his will is focused on exacting revenge on Jones, who managed to defy him and also left him for dead, her paranoia and barely controlled reactions start to make a whole lot of sense.
I also appreciate that the show doesn’t try to present any of this as acceptable – it’s wrong, and twisted, and not even the littlest bit okay. And it results in a view of the villain that’s intriguing because it shows us just how petty and pathetic he is, despite how powerful he also is. The contrast between what he can do and what he uses his ability to do shows how truly despicably small he is; and reflects perfectly the truth of an abuser’s personality. It’s a nuance that a lot of shows don’t manage to get across; but this show really sticks the landing.
Yes, indeed there are many things this show is doing well; and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me as I finish the season. So off I go to see what other crazy things are about to go down in Jessica Jones’s New York; and until next time, Servo Lectio.