Dec 1, 2015

You Must Read Before You Watch Jessica Jones! (And Other Instructions to Avoid)

You Must Read Before You Watch Jessica Jones! (And Other Instructions to Avoid)
Travis Hedge Coke

What You Must Read Before You Watch

Nothing. If the people making this fairly costly and released-a-season-all-at-once television show want you to understand something about a character, place, or event, they’ll let you know in the show. That’s how television works.

I am sure that school trained you to believe that to enjoy something good, the most, be it a book or a tv series, you should do prep work, know all the references, identify the differences in adaptation, the underlying metaphors or considered resonances and no, you don’t. You’re smart. You can work stuff out on your own. You know if a character’s arc is exciting or moving for you. You understand whether or not you got a joke, and if you didn’t get it, it wasn’t funny for you. Move on.

Prep work is important to scholarly analysis, but most of us aren’t analyzing Jessica Jones on a scholarly level. You’re watching a hopefully entertaining show.

So, watch it. If you like what you see, then go seek out comics that introduced the characters or did them well. Go see any Marvel movies you haven’t seen yet, or watch Daredevil again. Whatever rocks your rocker. But no amount of comics or movies or information is going to make Jessica Jones work for you if the show, itself, doesn’t do it.

The Super Rare, Little Known Comic

It’s hard to know whether you’re overwhelmingly naive, sometimes, undereducated, or if the other side, making you feel so, is full of it. When someone starts namechecking storylines you’ve never heard of or saying “ultra rare” or “this little known comic from 196_” it can feel intimidating, even if you’re pretty versed in comics, because we all have our blindspots, stuff we haven’t seen, read, or even heard of.

It’s mostly bullshit. There aren’t really that many “little known” modern Marvel comics. Jessica Jones, as a character, hasn’t existed, yet, for twenty years. Her list of appearances, at all, isn’t that huge. There are no “little known” Jessica Jones comics, in the relative scheme of things. And “rare?” No. Alias, where she first appeared, is regularly and readily available in collections. You can read Jessica Jones comics without any hassle. And, you do not have to buy the single issues that were printed monthly at the time. Anyone trying to get you to, is banking on you not realizing that like Sherlock Holmes stories, these comics have been collected into larger volumes that are reprinted regularly to keep copies on the shelves. So don’t click on that “super ultra amazing rare first appearance” issue unless you’re a collector of general ephemera. Buy a new copy of the whole arc of Amazon or at your local bookstore of comics shop.

First Appearances

First appearances are important to collectors, but in terms of a character or a tv show, they’re just not. While the first appearance of Nuke, Patsy/Trish Walker, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage or Killgrave may be very good comics, they aren’t going to tell you more about the character in this or that episode than that episode will, that applies to that episode or the character in that episode. If you’re going to read a comic, read it because it’s good, not for historical significance or because a character first appeared there. Early Patsy Walker comics, of which I am a ridiculously huge fan, are not going to give you what Trish Walker on Jessica Jones is giving you. The first appearance of Nuke has a high chance of actually messing up beats of Jessica Jones for you.

Character Biographies from the Comics

Don’t be suckered by these, either. They are fun. I like them. But they won’t tell you anything about the character on the show, just where that character is different after you’ve seen the show. Reading them beforehand can lead to confusion when your brain inevitably misremembers information from these bios as being present in the show whether they were or not. Some, like a recent CBR article, have factually incorrect (and some other misleading) information presented in a very nice format (and it’s a respectable site), and someone’s going to be citing, in three months or three years, that Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, was Jessica Jones’ old, bestest friend in the comics. They’ll believe it, and they’ll believe it because of that writeup.

I love Wikipedia, too, but it’s so easy for wrong information to be presented in a respectable format, there, written with conviction, even with footnotes, and be purely, even malignantly wrong.

Just watch the show. What you need to know, what there is to know about the characters in the context of the show is there. What isn’t, may not be true of those versions, and even if it is, it’s unnecessary to anything.

Cranky fans like me can’t be completely trusted. I’m giving advice here, and I hope that it’s helpful, but so do most of the people presenting straightforward 5 Comics You Must Read Before… articles or BUY! BUY!!! ULTRA RARE 1ST APPEARANCE WRITTEN BY INDIE SENSATION BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS! ads.

Fans are, well, fans. They’re more passionate than the average person, even the average viewer. They’re going to be louder about their likes and more intense about their dislikes in regards to the thing. They’re going to know more stuff, but they are also likely to speculate much, much more. Fans make stuff up in their heads and can convince themselves, and surprisingly large clusters of fans of the silliest, most unlikely things, at least for short periods of time.

You do your thing. You can’t trust the fans to have perspective, but if you can’t trust yourself…

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