Jessica Jones, Iron Age Noir, and Sawbones

Here at Blackfall Press, we love all things superheroic. And, of course, the Marvel Comics/Netflix series have been no exception.  Daredevil really left quite the impression on us–particularly Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and Toby Leonard Moore as James Wesley.  When Jessica Jones landed on Netflix, we knew instantly that we’d spend the weekend binge-watching.

So…we did.  Two evenings later, we finished the series and we’re still debating whether we like Daredevil or Jessica Jones better!

You see, both Daredevil and Jessica Jones stand as exemplars of what makes the Iron Age of Comics so great:  flawed heroes struggling with difficult circumstances, nuanced, complex villains, and setting that drips atmosphere from every pore.  Hell’s Kitchen is every much a character in Daredevil as Foggy Nelson or Karen Page, which provides an unparalleled tone among the current television superhero offerings.

Marvel Comics/Netflix's "Jessica Jones"  (Image is copyright the original IP holders)

Marvel Comics/Netflix’s “Jessica Jones”
(Image is copyright the original IP holders)

It’s that atmosphere in setting that struck me, specifically, in Jessica Jones.  At its core, the comics that inspired Jessica Jones–particularly Brian Michael Bendis’ phenomenal Alias series–have their roots in noir-style private investigation more than spandex-clad superheroics.  Certainly, while classics of Marvel’s stable showed up in Alias, the focus of the series lay in Jessica’s own investigations, which relied more on stake-outs than on super-hearing.  Further, like the hard-drinking private eyes of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, Jessica spends much of her time as a woman apart, holding the world at arm’s length, hoping to keep from harming it…and to keep from having the world harm her any further.

Honestly?  I was pleased most of all that showrunner Melissa Rosenberg chose to uphold the tradition of maintaining Jessica’s inner monologue:  a staple of pulp detective fiction rooted in the first-person perspective.  So many of the great Iron Age comics have utilized this trope, from Rorschach’s journal in Watchmen, to Batman’s brooding narrative in The Dark Knight Returns, to the awe-struck narration of the appearance of The Avengers during Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil.

CSW_10So, where does this leave Cold Steel Wardens?  Well, of course, CSW is no stranger to the private-investigator archetype and our forthcoming Rogues’ Gallery serves as something of a love letter to this pulp-inspired trope.

Allow me to introduce the not-so-humble narrator of CSW: Rogues’ Gallery:  Sawbones.

Sawbones, better known as private investigator Joe Bryson, is one of our convention-favorite characters.  We’ve always billed as something of “the bastard love-child of John Constantine and Kitty Pryde.”  A chain-smoking ex-paramedic, Sawbones put his paramedic and police training to good use, especially when coupled with his ability to phase through inorganic matter. After all, it’s so much easier to find evidence when you can simply walk through a vault wall and take it!

Having worked the mean streets of Smoke City for years, Sawbones has assembled stacks of police reports, psychological profiles, photos, and other evidence into a series of case-files on the various metahumans, mobsters, and menaces that roam New Corinth’s darkest alleys.  Naturally, these pieces of evidence come coupled with Sawbones’ own notes on these  ne’er-do-wells.  The vast majority of Rogues’ Gallery, as such, comes from Sawbones’ perspective–we wanted to build a setting book that a CSW GameMaster can literally hand to their players and say, “Here.  These are the files you find.”

Look for CSW: Rogues’ Gallery to hit Kickstarter this coming spring.  And, as always, keep your eyes peeled here for more info and sneak previews!