Friday, December 17, 2010

Jessica Jones to TV?

Sez Variety, Marvel/ABC are turning Brian Bendis' seminal new-millenium mature-audiences Marvel series "Alias" into a TV series. For obvious reasons, it's been retitled "AKA Jessica Jones."

This is actually really interesting... but a betting man would have to lay money against it actually working out.

Okay, here's the thing: The keyword when talking about Marvel or DC characters, even "sideline" ones like Jessica Jones, is insularity. Continuity-driven "universe" comics are insular to the point that certain characters can only exist within them.

Quick example: Batman works on his own. You can yank his origin, m.o. and "look" out of connection to anything else in his or anyone else's books and "Batman: The Concept" is still unique and holds up. On the other hand, The Punisher - demonstrably - doesn't. Taken on his own - devoid of connection to anything else in the Marvel Universe - Punisher is just Mack Bolan in a funny shirt, another one of a thousand wronged-urban-vigilantes clogging up the cineplex and Popular Fiction shelf. What makes Punisher interesting as a concept is putting someone like that in the Superhero realm; having a no-nonsense gun-toting vigilante suddenly show up in a world where crimefighting otherwise takes the form of guys in colorful spandex bonking crooks on the head and dropping them off at Police HQ. He's a genre-commentary character. Metafiction.

So is Jessica Jones.

For the uninitiated, the hook of "Alias" has Jones as a minor/mostly-forgotten (re: retconned into existance) Silver Age superheroine who quit the biz after a particularly horrific encounter with a supervillain (kidnapping, imprisonment, sexual-assault and mind-rape - "Alias" was a mature-audiences-but-still-in-continuity book) who presently works as a private eye. It was a damn good book, and she's remained a pretty solid character over the last decade in a broad story-arc of her "re-integrating" into the costumed-heroine life.

In other words, she's another genre-immigrant a'la Punisher: "What's it like for a standard-issue (if gender-inverted) Spillane-style bitter/jaded/self-hating/scarred gumshoe character to operate in the same world as Spider-Man etc?" That's pretty much the whole appeal of the book: Having this more "real" character type as a fresh perspective on the usual superhero stuff, and alternately seeing various superpowered types filling the roles of "old buddy," "best galpal," "last-minute booty-call," etc. Take all the Marvel Universe trappings away and, however well written, and there's not much to differentiate her from, say, Olivia Benson or Kate Beckett, just off the top of my head?

So the question becomes: Exactly how far do they carry this? Would a network "go-ahead" with a prime-time series built around a hard-bitten, all-business female lead... who's prone to bumping into (and on semi-regular speaking-terms with) caped-crusaders, aliens and all manner of costumed oddities? ABC/Disney and Marvel are under the same roof now, so they could do it and even use (some) of the "real ones" if they did... but would they? "I'm looking into an assault case. Suspects include an unemployed construction worker, a car salesman and a 7'10 Russian hitman dressed like a rhinocerous." I'd watch it, but would it ever get to air? Or will it just be a Marvel-branded "lady detective" show?


Sssonic said...

Whether or not it winds up using Marvel's greater cast of superheroes depends, I would guess, on when it's being released in relation to "The Avengers". If it's too far from that movie, odds are they won't use Marvel's heroes, but if it is being developed to coincide or tie in with the movie, given its deliberate choice to open the floodgates of the Marvel universe to the movegoing public, I imagine "AKA Jessica Jones" might well take the plunge and use Marvel heroes itself.

ZAENGO said...

i disagree with your statement that the punisher can't be interesting when not standing alongside other, more fantastic marvel characters. "Punisher:MAX" was really good. Granted, they were basically just Garth Ennis crime comics, but he handled the character really well. You say the Punisher is just Mack Bolan in a funny shirt, but how exactly is that bad? the whole "one man war on crime" thing is universally badass.
I do agree with everything else you said though. Im hoping this turns out well. Alias is a cool comic, and i hope it gets the treatment it deserves.

Lucas Neumann said...

Yep... Garth Ennis' Punisher MAX pretty much nules your "Punisher doesn't work out without super-heroes" argument. And most of your text really, because if they did make something good out of the Punisher without resorting to spandex heroes, by your logic, so can they with Jessica Jones right?

Anyway, I don't think this will really get out of the paper though.

Joe said...

Much as I loved Alias, you're on the money here, Bob. I think FX will definitely have more luck with Bendis' Powers series, since its continuity is self-contained. How much you want to bet this is ABC's attempt to head FX off at the pass?

I suppose they could bring in all the Marvel cameos but I have the sinking feeling it would end up being Marvel's Smallville.

Scott Glasgow said...

The series is going to be penned by the franchise writer for the Twilight movies.

Which means two things, yes, this series will get made, and yes, it will be terrible.

Bob said...

I think the most-likely scenario is it'll be an X-Files/Kolchak/Angel type thing, i.e. there'll be scifi/supernatural elements to the stories and the "world," and there'll be a version of her I-used-to-be-one-of-those backstory; but she won't have been flying around and calling herself Jewel, with "super" supporting characters/cameos probably limited to scaled-down references or MAYBE folks without costumes or nicknames like Luke Cage. It'll be "Marvel Presents: Buffy Summers grows up to be V.I. Warshawksi," basically.

As it happens, I never really cared for Ennis' Punisher. Not "bad," just never grabbed me. In fact, trying to get back into it a few years ago is what led me to initially observe that Frank Castle is one of those characters who's only interesting in-universe; though I'll concede this puts me in the minority. I think that's why "War Zone" is the only Punisher movie that's come close to working, because they DID have him running around as a "normal" action hero in a stylized, over-the-top comic-flavored world, complete with insane Batman-style bad guy.

Nick said...

I think the most-likely scenario is it'll be an X-Files/Kolchak/Angel type thing, i.e. there'll be scifi/supernatural elements to the stories and the "world," and there'll be a version of her I-used-to-be-one-of-those backstory; but she won't have been flying around and calling herself Jewel,

Given the "AKA" in the title, I'm slightly more optimistic than that. Especially since, as you mentioned, Marvel/Disney still has the reins, and they're tying pretty much all their still-available properties into the new Avengers timeline, so this probably won't be any different.

Of course, I doubt they'll get RDJ, Chris Hemsworth, etc., to play themselves in the cameos, but there are backup characters who would be good as well.

Here's hoping they bring in Joss to write some episodes.