Motherhood and Marvel’s Jessicas

Jesses and Babies
Drew is Spider-Woman (2015-16) v#1, Jones is The Pulse: The Complete Collection

So, here is a thing I’ve been struggling with writing for a few weeks now. I hope this comes across well enough.

Not to long ago, I came across a comment about the current run of Spider-Woman comics. Post Secret Wars, Jessica Drew gave birth to a little boy, so she is now a mother and a superhero. The commenter (who I won’t name, because I don’t want this individual flamed; I don’t think they necessarily meant anything bad by it, but… well, let me continue) said basically it seems like  Jess just hands her baby off to a babysitter and runs off to have adventures.

Now, this might have been something I completely ignored, if I hadn’t seen this exact same commenter say something about another Marvel mother, Jessica Jones of Alias and the Netflix series fame. Of her character, back when Luke Cage was leading the New Avengers (or even earlier than that, maybe when Cap was still leading the New Avengers and Luke was just on the team), the commenter complained that Jessica Jones’ character had been reduced to just staying at home and looking after the baby.

I didn’t particularly like the Jessica Jones comment when he made it – because Jessica does worry and take care of Dani, but she also fights when she needs to. (In a Spider-Man sense, she’s decided her great responsibility is more directly Dani.) But this really hit me with the Jessica Drew comment. (Jessica Drew’s Spider-Man sense has a protect the world so that it’s good for my baby sort of great responsibility.)

This is PRIME sort of “mother problem” laid out bare, right here.

Two characters, one world. Two mothers, going at being mothers from different angles. And both being judged for it. Both, apparently, doing it wrong.

Let me tell you why they’re both doing it right.

Jessica Jones decided to be a more stay-at-home type. Her character, as written, really was never quite adventurous, and was completely worrisome and neurotic. It makes sense – in my mind – that she’d want to stick close to her baby. Also, nothing wrong with being a stay at home mom.

Jessica Drew decided to be a working mom. She struggles with this decision after having her son. She has what are basically postpartum panic attacks, really. Worried that even leaving the house for any reason is wrong. Her character has always been extremely active, multi-tasking, never really sitting still. She wouldn’t be happy as a stay-at-home mom. That doesn’t mean she loves her son any less. And there’s no reason her comic, which is called Spider-Woman not The Amazing Spider-Mom, can’t cover her work as Spider-Woman, just because the first arc covered her pregnancy/delivery/maternity leave. Also, nothing wrong with being a working mom.

Spider Woman
See, Spider Woman, though, granted, the first volume is called “Baby Talk”, but… the first volume IS about her being pregnant, soo…

A bit of spoilers, Jess J’s pregnancy was accidental. Jess D’s pregnancy was planned. Make of that what you will.

Also, let us look at the accusations themselves. Jessica Jones being “only” a sort of stay at home mom. Even if she were, there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. SAHM’s do IMPORTANT WORK, TOO. But, the statement itself ignores or downplays a lot of what Jess Jones does. After she gives birth at the end of the Pulse series (her solo followup to Alias), she enters New Avengers as Luke’s partner/eventual wife, with their daughter, but not as a member herself, really. Still, when need arises, she does what needs doing. She fights.

During the first volume of New Avengers (post Civil War) by Bendis, Luke Cage gets possessed. Right off the bat, Jessica Jones steps up.

Jess hit luke
Though maybe  she just wanted to hit him… who can say?

They’re able to free Luke, but the whole demon nonsense hasn’t exactly gone away, there’s basically a portal to hell open in the sky over NYC, so Jess and Luke are like, “Oookay, Luke leads the New Avengers, so obvs, he stays… and Jess can fly, so OBVS she takes baby-girl-Cage to gramama’s house in Jersey.”

jess to NJ
Because even if you’re stupid enough to fight demons, you’re smart enough to get your kid out of the way… at some point.

But then Jess Jones comes right back, saves Luke’s ass. He helps her. Then they do teamwork stuff.

Jess Luke Fly
The Jones-Cage version of the fast-ball special!

And they work together as a team – Avengers + Brother Voodoo and Damion Hellstorm – to take out the bad guy.

Then Jess goes back, picks up Dani, and spends time as mom-at-home again.

Later, she becomes a little more active. They get Squirrel Girl as a nanny. Jessica runs around with Carol Danvers and a Spider-powered Clint Barton (And Frog Man) in one of the funnier tie-ins for the Spider Island event. But at heart, she generally always gravitates back home. She says herself that even her first run as a superhero was short and she wasn’t all that good at it (granted, it was cut short against her will). It wasn’t something she was as invested in as, say, Spider-Man or Captain America or Ms. Marvel. She doesn’t need it the same way they do. She has the power, but her drive is more – now – in being a mom.

And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. You’ve got a dozen other characters in an Avengers book being Action Character. Nothing wrong with one of them sitting on the side, holding her daughter, telling the rest of them to be careful as they run off to the Savage Land.

We’ll see how the new Alias series goes when it comes out later this year.

Now, the Jessica Drew argument is valid in so much that she hasn’t stopped going out since giving birth. Jessica Drew did some total BS even while BEING pregnant. She got in a terrible scrape at an inter-species hospital (it was a space hospital, one of the best, recommended by Jessica’s BFF Captain Marvel … ladies really need to stop taking her advice — see Alias for further examples) in her last trimester and had to do some seriously extreme things.

spider woman panel
Which Rodriguez sometimes shows in THE MOST INTERESTING ways.

But, Jessica IS a super person. She’s not just a super person like Jessica Jones is super, she’s also super TRAINED and super WILLED. She doesn’t take shit. You know that whole “I can do this all day” Captain America line? Yeah, that’s Jessica Drew, too. Stubborn to the hilt, with the extra bit of special to back it up.

She goes through hell, has the baby, goes through a bit more hell, goes home. And then worries. A lot. She has a good boss, so she’s got time off. She’s got the time to decide what she needs to do, what she should do. She goes through the classic, some might say clichéd if it weren’t so true, dilemma common to new moms.

But eventually she also decides that what she needs to do and should do and wants to do, is work. That she can do these things, responsibly … as she’s always done them. Better even.

It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her son.

So she’s Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman… which she always was. And a mother, which is new. The stories of her as Spider-Woman, and her work as Spider-Woman wouldn’t change all that much because of being a mom, just the at-home stuff. The after-work stuff. Just because she became a mom doesn’t mean the book is suddenly going to become a domestic tale, and her leaving her son with a sitter doesn’t make her a bad mom or the book a bad representation of motherhood or the character/character’s motherhood.

Added to that, Spider-Woman is a solo comic, unlike New Avengers was. It would be harder to sell Spider-Woman every month if her comic didn’t involve the bit of superheroics she’s known for. Jessica Jones was never really known for superheroics. Her rep was built on a mess of other … messes.

This has been rambly as all hell. Let me try to wrap this up into a point:

To disclaim a bit, I am not a mother. My mom worked away, and my two babysitters growing up were both stay-at-home mom’s who turned that into a job, I guess. My best friend’s mom as a child was a stay-at-home mom, and my best friend’s mom as a teen was a stay-at-home mom. Most of my other friends had moms that worked outside. Economy pretty much demands that, anymore.

None of those moms were any better than any other moms (except mine, of course… my mom was and is the best mom). None of those moms were wrong for what they did or how they mothered (in that way, I mean, I’m still only talking about work/not work).

I have NO idea if Marvel did this on purpose or not, but their two Jess-Mom’s have managed to illustrate two different styles of parenting as a mom. The two HUGE questions women face upon accepting the responsibility of motherhood. And the struggles. There are … god TONS of different panels of Jess J I could have posted here, if I felt like going through MARVEL UNLIMITED.

Luke spends a long time sort of encouraging Jessica Jones back into superheroics, for example, and she decides to go for it, but then a big thing happens and it really dawns on her how possible it is that Dani could lose BOTH her parents. Jessica Jones decides that doing what she’s doing is irresponsible, and goes back to the stay-at-home mom side of the tracks. (Luke hands off the New Avengers and heads out, too, though he still heroes, just not as big as the Avengers do.)

Jessica Drew’s story is new. We’ll see how it unfolds, but – like shown above – the path she’s taken is that of a working mom. Like many a cop, or firefighter, or soldier before her, it’s not the safest job to have, but no day on Earth is a safe one … especially not Marvel’s Earth. Nothing wrong with being out there, protecting other moms of other little babies. And everything right.

These women might be a little different, but they both love their children.



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