If you thought Jessica Jones was just a film noir-styled exploration of trauma and empowerment, think again – because it’s also a chance for Marvel’s most dedicated fans to seek out all the comic-book references, Easter Eggs and callbacks to other properties hidden within the episodes.
Fairly early on in the series we’re introduced to a wannabe client of Jessica’s (Krysten Ritter) called Robert Coleman, who claims he’s actually a super-fast hero called The Whizzer but actually just seems to be a troubled man with a pet mongoose.
Later, though, it turns out Robert’s claims were legit, clearly connecting him to the original Marvel comics superhero The Whizzer, who was a cohort of Captain America in the 1940s (some of Marvel’s first superhero comics, under the brand Timely comics, were published during World War Two).
Wearing a yellow costume mirrored by the Netflix Whizzer’s yellow hoodie, the comic-book version of the character was called Robert Frank, and gained his abilities from an infusion of mongoose blood injected by his father, Dr Emil Frank. Emil himself is referenced in the Netflix series: Robert’s pet mongoose is also named Emil after the comic-book Whizzer’s dad.
Spider-Man’s most famous catchphrase is riffed on a couple of times in the new series, with the Whizzer (see above) opining in an early episode that “With great power, comes great mental illness.”
In a later episode the phrase is addressed even more directly, when Jessica and her mother (Janet McTeer) are debating whether to become proper heroes in future.
“If you say with great power comes great responsibility, I swear I’ll throw up on you,” Jessica retorts.
How exactly Spider-Man’s mantra became so famous in a world where he’s not a pop-culture phenomenon may remain a mystery. In the comics, Jessica and Peter Parker were old friends, which could explain the reference.
Speaking of Spidey’s best-known utterances, one of his other stereotypical sayings – “My Spidey-sense is tingling!” – is mocked by Jessica when Trish’s boyfriend Griffin Sinclair (Hal Ozsan) suggests his testicles give him a sense of impending danger.
“Because of your Scrotey-sense?” Jessica deadpans.
I mean, how IS Spider-Man so famous in this world??
Jessica’s adoptive sister Trish Walker (played by Rachael Taylor) has an interesting history in Marvel’s comic-book universe, having once been an Archie comics-style romantic heroine in a cutesy comic strip before being rebooted into supernatural superhero Hellcat in the main Marvel universe.
Within the comic world, Trish’s past as lovable “Patsy” was retconned as a stint as a child star, a background replicated in the Netflix series – but now it looks like the series will turn Trish into a hero too.
A couple of times during season two Trish’s Hellcat persona is referenced, from an early scene where she scratches at the eyes of an attacker (in the comics, Hellcat has special attacking claws) to a later episode after she’s attempted to give herself special powers through a dangerous medical procedure via use of “a feline distemper vaccine.”
“You’ve just used up two of your nine lives Miss Walker,” a nurse comments of her survival.
By the end of the series, it seems Trish has developed “catlike” reflexes after that procedure, an ability not related to the original Hellcat (though she was very agile, this was a natural ability, with her powers instead based around forcefields and psychic senses) but definitely in keeping with her feline super-identity.
Jessica spends a bit of time with her young new neighbour Vido (Kevin Chachon) this series, which means plenty of chat about his personal hero – former leader of the Avengers Captain America, as played by Chris Evans in the Marvel movies.
Vido has an action figure of Cap that he takes with him everywhere, and just like the MCU version of the character the figure has lost his shield (Vido just misplaced his, while the real Cap gave his up after defeating Iron Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War) and had it replaced (Vido makes him a new one like Letitia Wright’s Shuri did for Avengers: Infinity War).
While this version of Jessica can’t claim to personally know Captain America, the comic-book version certainly did – she briefly fought alongside the Avengers, and her first PI case concerned Captain America’s then-girlfriend.
Speaking of Captain America: Civil War, that film’s prison for super-powered folks is referenced frequently throughout Jessica Jones season two, specifically as a place for Jessica’s super-strong mother Alisa to be sent to protect others.
Last time we saw the Raft it was being liberated by Captain America himself, however, suggesting security might need to be beefed up in future…
The painting of Jessica created by her neighbour Oscar is also a nod to her source comics, with the artwork actually painted by artist David Mack. Mack frequently drew covers for Brian Michael Bendis’ original Alias: Jessica Jones stories, and is well known for his work on the character.
A rose by any other name…
Jessica’s middle name in the series is revealed as Campbell, a nod back to the character’s comic-book origins. In Alias, Jessica was originally named Jessica Campbell before being adopted by the Joneses, with the mother of her new family giving her name to Jessica’s mother Alisa in the series. Confused yet?
Hippy Doctor Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie), who experimented on Jessica and her mother to give them abilities, has a much darker counterpart in the comic-book world – he tries to create super-villains and eventually joins with an alien symbiote to become one himself.
At one point during the series Jessica undergoes hypnosis by a doctor called Dr Maynard Tiboldt. In the comics Tiboldt is a supervillain who goes by the name of The Ringmaster, and also uses hypnosis to further his schemes.
Sadly, though, the Netflix Tiboldt isn’t wearing the hypnosis hat that gave the Ringmaster his sway over the populace.
While references to Jessica’s most recent appearance in Netflix team-up The Defenders were largely absent in the new series, there were a couple of nods to another prestigious client of lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss): Danny Rand, AKA the billionaire hero Iron Fist portrayed by Finn Jones in his own spin-off series and The Defenders.
At the end of Jessica Jones season two, Jeri starts her own law firm but holds on to her association with Rand, meaning that Moss’s Iron Fist guest appearances may continue in that series’ second run.
Chance of Fog
References to Rand weren’t the only Netflix series crossover, with Daredevil’s pal and former legal partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) popping over for a quick scene with Jeri where he commiserated over her diagnosis. Wasn’t much point to his appearance, but hey, always nice to see him.
We also get another appearance from frequent Marvel Netflix criminal Turk Barrett (Rob Morgan), who has popped up in pretty much all of the Defenders series thus far.
And finally… the obligatory Stan Lee cameo
It wouldn’t be a Marvel property without legendary creator Stan Lee making a brief appearance, though as has become traditional for Marvel’s “street-level” Netflix heroes his appearance is far less flamboyant than his frequent forays into the main movies.
In Jessica Jones season two, he can be glimpsed on an advertisement placed on the back of a bus, as well as on certain cabs, for a personal injury firm called Forbush & Associates. Given that he previously appeared in an Iron Fist advertisement as an NYPD Captain called Irving Forbush, this firm may not be entirely on the level…
Forbush, incidentally, is another Marvel deep dive, calling back to a spoof superhero called Forbush Man from the company’s early comedy comic book days.
Jessica Jones season two is streaming on Netflix now