Variety reported on Friday that Marvel will be bringing Alias by Brian Michael Bendis into the television realm under the title AKA Jessica Jones.
If they had stopped there, I would have no reservations. Alias is tailor-made for television. It centers around Jessica Jones, a private investigator who briefly flirted with a career as a superhero. Her origin story as both a superhero and a self-loathing gumshoe are very well realized, and the vibe of it melds with the bright, shiny world of superheroes in a variety of amusing and realistic ways. Episodes could tackle superpowered done-in-one cases while dealing with Jessica’s backstory. When written by Bendis, Jessica Jones tended to be so entertaining that you didn’t care what she was up to, you just wanted to follow her around. Alias had an engaging main character, a great supporting cast, a powerful premise, and flexible story format.
It’s hard to mess that up, but the following three elements make me skeptical.
1.) It’s on ABC.
Mainly because both Marvel and ABC are owned by Disney, but I don’t begrudge any of the involved parties for wanting to take the easier route in that regard. What I do wonder is if ABC can master the correct tone for the kind of series AKA Jessica Jones would need to be. Jessica Jones has sex, does and has violence done to her, and drops f-bombs by the score. When I consider that kind of (non-reality) show I think of AMC, HBO, or Showtime. Not ABC.
Not that ABC doesn’t have its share of well-done genre television. LOST was a crazy explode-y time for everyone, and they’ve been keeping Nathan Fillion in tight pants for the past few years now. As a network, they seem to do a good job at providing a delicate touch and letting showrunners establish their tone.
But AKA Jessica Jones, to not sacrifice any of the edge the character needs, would need the kind of tone that Bendis provided in the original 24 issue maxi-series. I definitely could not picture that on ABC.
2.) It’s being adapted by Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter behind the Twilight movie adaptations.
That is a scary thing to say to anyone regarding anything. (Just attach “the same [so-and-so] behind the Twilight movie franchise” to the end of your sentence and watch the smiles fade.) But Rosenberg is no newcomer. Her executive producer chops include Dexter, Birds of Prey, and more. Given that history, it stands to reason that the Twilight films were just gruntwork to build capital (Though that’s probably the case for everyone involved with them.) for a production Rosenberg really wants to do. Something cool like AKA Jessica Jones.
But I’m conjecturing on that point, and I’m personally not a fan of any of those series, so it makes me very unsure as to how Rosenberg will tackle this. Rosenberg doesn’t yet have a tonal identity as a producer. Is AKA Jessica Jones her shot at establishing that? Or does she simply not have it?
3.) Jeph Loeb and Joe Quesada are producing, with Bendis as a consultant.
Jeph Loeb has written some excellent books in his career as a comics writer, but I’m hard pressed to come up with something he’s worked on recently that I’ve enjoyed. (Or, like any of the recent Ultimate line, something I’ve not outright hated.)
His television work is similarly fraught. Heroes showed a few glimmers of hope in its initial season but then quickly blew up into a convoluted mess involving time travel, conspiracies, the same FX shot of a destroyed cityscape, and large batches of characters that we either never got to know or that changed their personalities just as we were getting to know them.
The addition of Quesada and Bendis to the team are musts. Bendis is the creator and Quesada the Chief Creative Officer behind Marvel’s entire television venture. But adding Loeb in the mix indicates (to me) that he’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting from Marvel’s end. Without a showrunner that carries a strong vision for the series, what might we end up getting from Loeb this time around?
So far, the entire production has an almost-but-not-quite affectation to it, but it’s still early yet and, make no mistake, I am already hooked. I have to see how this turns out. It could be a brilliant series with a grounded take on superheroes that shows like No Ordinary Family or movie adaptations like Watchmen haven’t been able to provide. Even though Jessica Jones is highly intimidating, I can’t think of another comic title that would be less intimidating to audiences not familiar with the Marvel Universe or comics in general.
Plus, I have to know who gets chosen to play Jessica Jones. Perfectly casting that role could make all the difference.
Chris Greenland doesn’t have anything against Eliza Dushku, but please not Eliza Dushku.