A dark purple cloud is heading for JESSICA JONES #13 with a new story arc as part of Marvel Legacy, and writer Brian Michael Bendis is batting down for the storm. “It’s a huge chapter in her growth, it’s enormous. Honestly, you could start the interview that way.” And so we shall.
Marvel.com: As a co-creator of Jessica, you’ve obviously been with her since her debut in the comic world, can you tell me your favorite things about her and how she’s grown since then?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well my new favorite thing about her is I can’t believe how popular the show is and how popular she is, genuinely popular, outside of the comic book world. It’s hilarious, I’ve been the co-creator of Jessica Jones since 2001 but only in the last couple years does that turn heads and impress people outside of our world, and it’s kind of funny.
But all of that means nothing compared to how it’s almost the same feeling I have, like the fatherly pride I have, for my children when they do well outside of the home. When they come home and have succeeded in whatever they tried unrelated to me and my wife, that’s how I feel about Jessica. I feel like everyday I hear how she’s doing in college, or how she’s doing at her new job, and I’m very proud of her. It’s quite a unique feeling. It’s an immense amount of pride that I feel for her and what she means to people.
Marvel.com: Obviously a big point of interest right now is the Purple Man’s return, what was your reasoning behind bringing him back? Did it have anything to do with the show’s popularity, or are the two mutually exclusive?
Brian Michael Bendis: You can’t help but go, oh, if I was a fan of this book boy would that get my attention. No matter where I was in the Jessica Jones fan level, casual to excited, you hear the Purple Man is back, oh boy I better read that. So there’s that, but really there is a story behind it. You can’t just do a shtick for shtick’s sake.
What I wrote the moment Jessica had [her] baby was, well now the worst thing that would ever happen to her is the Purple Man would come back. Because now it’s not just her, it’s the family. It’s Luke and Jessica and the baby, and what the baby means to them, and what the baby means to Jessica as a human. Anybody knows once you have a baby, that’s your number one job is keep the baby alive until the baby can leave, and there is a giant threat in their life. There are many threats in their lives, they have a dangerous life, but he obviously represents the real terror and the only thing worse than the Purple Man grabbing Jessica the first time is what will he do with the baby? And as horrible as that is, there is a very psychological, deep thing behind the two of them, and the past catching up with people when they’re trying to live a brand new life is something a lot of people can relate to. I think that’s the real relatable thing here, the knowledge that you can’t control everything around your life, and that’s what the Purple Man represents to people. It’s pretty horrifying. With a kid even more so, and I have four kids so I know the feeling.
Marvel.com: Branching off that, there are some differences in both Jessica’s and the Purple Man’s lives and how they have evolved over time. Can you tell me a little about that?
Brian Michael Bendis: Absolutely, yes, yes, yes. The relationship they had was very unique to Purple Man. That’s not what his relationships to the, sadly, hundreds of other peoples he’s accosted have been, so that is something to consider as well. Does he, in his messed up head, love her? That was always the question in the first series too. It’s a screwed up question, and it’s a screwed up answer no matter what, but that’s the kind of book we’re telling. It’s for adults by adults, and we’re going to ask tough questions and see what kind of answers we get. People are scared of this, I know they are. There were some genuinely scary things that happened that never happened in another Marvel comic and I’m aware of that and that’s about to happen again.
Marvel.com: Are you trying to maybe one-up that first series and do something even more gut wrenchingly terrifying?
Brian Michael Bendis: Psychological horror–it absolutely is already there because this isn’t people guessing what would happen, they know what will happen. They can imagine it. That kind of horror is almost worse than the actual thing happening. I think everyone can relate to that. Worrying about something is almost always worse than the actual thing, no matter how scary it is and that’s what they’re facing, and you know what for someone like Jessica and Luke, the man with unbreakable skin, this is their biggest nightmare. This is something Luke can’t punch, necessarily.
Marvel.com: How is Luke and Jessica’s daughter going to play into this? That’s obviously going to be her priority this time around, but how will that affect how she reacts to the Purple Man?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well it’s everything. She’s not the same person. Anyone will tell you, parenting changes you. Parenting completely changes your priority list in your head and how you act and how you relate to things.
Also her family has been under an immense amount of duress from the first issue of the new series, it’s so fragile that her moves have to be so specific. She can’t abandon her family to take care of this, or she won’t have it anymore. But at the same time this needs to be taken care of. So what will Jessica do?
It’s a really big deal. I had to get approval, I had to go say hey is everyone going to be okay with this because this is not what you normally see in a Marvel comic. Just wanted to make sure everyone knows where I’m going with this. So brace yourself everybody.
Marvel.com: You’re keeping to the spirit of the original book, and I know Michael Gaydos is doing the art, so what can we expect to see?
Brian Michael Bendis: Michael has been drawing every issue of the book since we returned. It’s all the original team. It’s me, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth on colors, and David Mack on covers. The team from the original series has returned to the series and people can feel it. Michael and Matt haven’t lost a beat, it’s unbelievable how much the style has evolved, but at the same time it just totally feels like Jessica. So people are going to really feel like the old series, but what we’re going to do is completely new things.
Marvel.com: What’s you favorite scene that’s coming up in this new arc?
Brian Michael Bendis: Number one, the biggest difference people are going to see is how Jessica comes for help instead of being a lone gunman. She’s a woman with friends, and then instead of running from her friends, which is part of the problem she had the first time, she runs to her friends.
The other thing is Jessica and Luke have a very intimate moment together early on that I just felt very honest about. I felt very connected to and that made me happy just because I feel other people will feel it too. Because we’re also writing about a marriage, a happy marriage, a marriage they both want and it’s not a struggle so much as a minefield of things that they’ve already laid out as individuals. And I love writing about a marriage of people who genuinely like each other. I have that in my life and I don’t see it a lot in fiction.
Marvel.com: Since you’re using influences from your own life, your kids and your marriage, was it then difficult to get back into writing the Purple Man who’s just this really psychotic, dark person?
Brian Michael Bendis: It is and it isn’t. It is because you’re writing about darkness and you’re writing about scary things that most people would like to pretend don’t exist. The Purple Man to me, part of him represents the unknown that you can’t control, you can do everything right as a human and a parent, and then there is this other stuff.
Happily my kids are very healthy and the worst thing I have to worry about is that my kids are picking up horrible music tastes from their friends, I can’t control it and I worry about the long term damage to them, but at the same time you’ve got to let them be. And everyone has different stories about things that have come into their lives that they have no control over, that either positively or negatively effective their lives and their relationships and that’s what the Purple Man is. Can Jessica and her family survive the ultimate test, which is the Purple Man? And I think people can really relate to that.
Marvel.com: From the perspective of the Purple Man, why is he coming back? What’s his motivation?
Brian Michael Bendis: The Purple Man’s psychology is one of my favorite things to write about because here’s a man who can get someone to do or say whatever he wants, but I think everybody knows you don’t want people to do and say whatever you want. You want them to do or say what you want them to say because you want them to want it. So after years of manipulations the psychology of someone who’s just missing whole parts of the human experience–which is someone liking you back, someone wanting you back, and knowing if you genuinely can muster someone’s love–these things get you after awhile. He’s alone on a desert island, he has no friends, he has no love, and the people who he makes his friends or love, he manipulates them. We’re even going to show that if someone genuinely finds him interesting he will abuse them. He doesn’t allow himself to have a real relationship. The perspective of his world is wholly unique, I think that’s what puts him up there with the Joker and Magneto. We can show you his perspective and it’s unique and it might make you–not sympathize, but maybe empathize with and that makes the story more interesting. For all the horror the fact that you can see where it’s coming from doesn’t make it better, in fact it makes it worse.
Marvel.com: What are you hoping to do moving forward with Jessica?
Brian Michael Bendis: The cool thing is that we have a very unique experience going on with Jessica where there is a character that actually sees growth and change, like legitimate change in her life, and with that comes legitimate new questions and opportunities. Her job right now is to keep that baby and her family safe from basically a hurricane, a typhoon, that’s hitting them and it’s in the same shape as a Purple Man and she needs to keep them safe. So her ability to do or to not do that will affect her tremendously going forward.
Catch the chilling reunion between Jessica and the Purple Man in JESSICA JONES #13!