Potential Spoilers for Jessica Jones below.
David Tennant is most definitely not playing a good guy in the upcoming Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones. He’s not even playing a compellingly noble bad guy with anger management issues like Kingpin in Daredevil. Nope, judging by the first trailer his character is just straight-up evil, using his mind control abilities to psychologically torture Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones. In fact, even though he’s left mostly off-screen, the majority of the scenes in the trailer involve other characters talking about him. Perhaps in reaction to the positive response to Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Kingpin in Daredevil, Jessica Jones is promising us another amazing villain, arguing that the best Marvel villains are on TV, not in the movies.
Cool, but who the heck is this guy? They call him Killgrave, but isn’t he also called The Purple Man in the comics? If so, am I right to think that’s a particularly stupid name for a villain? What’s all that talk about Killgrave having previously done horrible things to Jessica?
Well, gather round and listen to all the potential spoilers we might glean from the comics. Jessica Jones was first introduced in Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydosbook’s Alias in 2001, the title referring to Jessica’s P.I. firm Alias Investigations. Over the course of the 28 issues, she worked multiple missing person cases and occasionally worked on the periphery of larger stories involving Captain America, Daredevil and Spider-Woman.
We never knew how she got her superpowers or why she stopped working as a superhero until Alias ended its run with the story arc “The Secret Origins of Jessica Jones.” Turns out, she gained super-strength and flight via radioactive chemical exposure during a car crash which killed the rest of her family. Orphaned and taken in by the Jones family, her powers developed while she was a teenager attending the same highschool as Peter Parker. After witnessing Spider-Man defeat Sandman, she was inspired to become her own super hero, adopting the moniker Jewel.
Alias was published under Marvel’s then-brand-new imprint MAX, an R-Rated offshoot which ignored the Comic Code Authority. That meant they were free to take Jessica Jones to some remarkably dark places, but Marvel was hesitant to associate any of its major characters with that kind of content. So, rather than give Jessica/Jewel a well-known villain to fight Bendis and Gaydosbook selected a relatively obscure Daredevil villain.
Here’s how the rest of it went down according to io9.com:
Killgrave, better known by his villain name, The Purple Man, first appeared in Daredevil #4 in the 1960s, but had faded from Marvel Comics almost entirely by the 1980s —that is, until Alias.
Killgrave was a former spy who, while on a mission, was doused in a mysterious gas that turned his skin purple and gave him the power to overwhelm the minds of other people using pheromones. Basically, Killgrave could get people to obey his every command. Adopting the Purple Man moniker, Killgrave turned to violent crime: most infamously his kidnap and mental torture of Jewel.
Following a minor run in with Killgrave, Jessica fell prey to his mind control, and became a horrifying tool for the criminal. For eight months, Killgrave abused Jessica psychologically and physically, using his powers to make her want to stay and endure his torture, in a sort of mentally-induced Stockholm syndrome. Eventually, in a fit of rage, Killgrave commanded Jessica to kill Daredevil, sending her to Avengers Mansion. The further she strayed from Killgrave, however, the less strong his grip over her grew. But it wasn’t enough for Jessica to break free.
She attacked the Scarlet Witch (mistaking her red costume for Daredevil’s), and with the Avengers unfamiliar with her career as Jewel—and unaware that she was under Killgrave’s control—they attacked Jessica savagely, as she tried to flee the Mansion. Only the pleas of then-Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers got the team to stop attacking her, but they left Jessica in a coma.
When she awoke from her coma, Jessica underwent psychic therapy with Jean Grey to ensure Killgrave could never control her again—but Jessica was still traumatized, and horrified with the world of superheroics. The violation she’d endured at the hands of Killgrave, combined with the fact that no superhero cared enough about her to realize she was missing for nearly a year, saw her discard the Jewel persona and become the P.I. we met at the start of Alias.
So, you know, good family fun.
After Alias ended its run, Jessica was folded into the rest of Marvel continuity, appearing in the Spider-Man offshoot The Pulse, working in the background in The Young Avengers, etc. She’s picked up her old superhero identity of Jewel a couple of times as well as forged a new identity as Power Woman to honor her husband, Luke “Power Man” Cage.
The Purple Man did re-appear and haunt Jessica and Luke Cage, trying and failing to manipulate them into killing The Avengers. Beyond that, he continued on being evil, as you’d expect, but not so explicitly linked to either Jessica or Luke. Last I checked, a group of children he’d fathered thanks to mind control teamed up to take him down except he improbably survived because, you know, comics.
How will all of this play out in Jessica Jones? I’ll be stunned if we see Jewel attacking The Scarlet Witch, and it’s unlikely that The Purple Man’s re-appearance in Jessica’s life will be because he’s trying to trick her into killing The Avengers. I have no idea what his goals will be, and as a certain former Doctor Who actor would say that’s fantastic. I look forward to the surprise.
All the episodes drop November 20th.