Stan Lee was fed up and ready to throw in the towel as a comic book writer. It was the early 1960s and DC’s Justice League was dominating sales. After 20 years of toiling on western and romance at Marvel Comics, Lee was done. But his devoted wife, Joan, offered some crucial and pivotal advice, “Before you quit, why don’t you write one comic you are proud of?” As reported by THR. The rest, as we all know, is superhero history.
So, the underlying story of Marvel Comics amazing success, which resulted in Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, The Avengers, Daredevil, and Black Panther tilted on the counsel of one woman. And perhaps as a consequence of Joan’s words, Lee brought a humanity and relatability to his characters that was truly unique and resonated with fans. Heroes such as Spider-Man struggled to pay the rent as much as much as they fought their various super-nemeses, and readers loved it, according to Paste.
I mention all of this because today is International Women’s Day, and (not coincidentally) also the debut of Jessica Jones Season 2 on Netflix. A series that illustrates Lee’s cornerstones of humanity and reliability better than any other live-action Marvel show or movie… and none of it would exist without the timely nudging of Lee’s wife Joan, who sadly passed away last year (after 69 years of marriage).
It was in the spirit of Stan and Joan that Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos created Jessica Jones in 2001. Jones first appeared in ‘Alias,’ a comic published under Marvel’s mature MAX label. Jones in Alias was every bit the acerbic, hard-drinking private eye who appears in the Netflix series. Krysten Ritter’s portrayal was spot-on, and (incidentally) the character was also Marvel’s first female-led movie or TV series.
Jessica Jones became an overnight symbol of female empowerment, and Season 2 dives even deeper into the issue. The storyline this season involves a filmmaker who abuses women, which is a strange and darkly fortuitous coincidence, according to Ritter who spoke with THR:
“We finished shooting before the #MeToo movement, and we were all kind of like, ‘Wow.’ It’s a completely crazy coincidence. When all of that started coming out, we were all texting each other: ‘Holy shit. We’re doing this on our show!’ The #MeToo movement started in October, I believe, and we finished shooting on Oct. 1.”
Marvel has a knack for capturing the zeitgeist, and Jessica Jones is at the forefront of changing expectations regarding women in popular media, particularly entertainment. Ritter explains:
“It’s pretty intense and uncanny, but also it’s cool and exciting to have a show that can express the anger that a lot of people are feeling. … The fact that we participate in a huge social conversation? It’s amazing. It doesn’t happen every day that you’re on a show you love doing and acting in that also inspires a lot of social conversations.”
While the big Marvel headlines these days focuses on The Avengers and Black Panther, it’s fitting that Jessica Jones is the character who best epitomizes the classic Marvel traditions of real-world relevance and societal reflection, as defined by Stan and Joan Lee. Happy International Women’s Day everyone!