There are many stories throughout the ages of comics of superheroes stepping away from the super-heroics for one reason or another. In that pantheon, Jessica Jones is somewhat unique.
After all, it is after she has already retired that Brian Michael Bendis introduced the world to Jessica Jones in Alias in 2001. As a private investigator, Jessica comes to terms with her past and the traumas that lead her to give up her mantle as costumed superhero Jewel. Most supers decide to give it all up in the middle of a comics arc… all the better for maximum dramatic effect! Here are some memorable heroic hiatuses over the years:
Iron Man – The fact that Tony Stark hardly ever says “no” to a good time has become an key characteristic of his over time, though it didn’t particularly start to take root until the Bronze Age of comics. Writer Denny O’Neil ultimately led Tony down the perilous path of alcoholism from Iron Man #200 onward, to the point where Stark had to give up the suit to his pal James Rhodes in order to get his life back in order. (Rhodey didn’t suit up in the War Machine armor for another several years yet.)
Batgirl – Barbara Gordon has abandoned the cowl a couple of times, an early instance being when she ran for Congress in place of her father, Commissioner Gordon, on a prison reform platform. (A jerkbag ex had returned to crime – get ’em, Babs!) In Detective Comics #424, the amazing Ms. Gordon won her seat in Congress. Of course, more popularly known now is Barbara’s career shift as a result of the controversial The Killing Joke which left her paralyzed, after which she became The Oracle, a powerful figure providing information and hacking services to other superheroes.
Doctor Strange – At the start of the 1970s, Stephen Strange had been riding a wave of popularity after the close of the psychedelic 1960s, and yet Marvel decided to take him out of commission. In a storyline resolving across both The Incredible Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner, Strange decided to hang up the Cloak of Levitation. Writer Roy Thomas wanted to kickstart a new series called The Titans Three which included Hulk, Namor and the Silver Surfer. Stan Lee, however, pulled rank and said “no” to including the Surfer – and so Doctor Strange was brought back for the new team now dubbed The Defenders. (Yep. Completely different than Netflix’s team. Fancy that!)
Black Widow – Bleurgh, poor Natasha (then Natalya) Romanov(a). She probably has the lamest “retirement” anecdote of all; back in the 1960’s, Marvel pulled the former villainess (and brunette) out of the game so that she could, essentially, set up house with her then-boyfriend Hawkeye. (zzzzzzzzz…) Thankfully, although her relationship with Clint Barton hit the skids – despite being renewed once and again in the decades to come – Natasha returned to active duty as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Avengers #57, the black catsuit made its first proper appearance, and a superhero took her place among the A-listers.
Martian Manhunter – Oh, J’Onn J’Onzz, torch bearer for an entire people! Where we humans of Earth could certainly use his extraordinary skills, his home planet of Mars needed J’Onn more; Justice League of America #71 introduced a civil war between rival factions of Martians, which culminated in a battle that the JLA waged to devastating effect. Martian Manhunter retired in order to help his people rebuild their planet, and did not return to DC Comics lore for fifteen years. (JLA #228 marked his triumphant return.)
The Thing – Poor Ben Grimm, subjected to multiple storylines over the years where he is gifted his human form back, only to have it taken away again! As a result, he has retired from The Fantastic Four a lot; what’s interesting about the FF roster is how much star-power has been drafted at various points to replace Ben on the team. Usually, it’s someone with considerable muscle; Luke Cage joined at one point, and the most memorable was probably She-Hulk’s tenure as the Four’s brawn and brains. Yeaaah, Jen!
Cyclops – Few superhero retirements have been steeped in this much tragedy: At the conclusion of Chris Claremont’s epic Dark Phoenix saga of X-Men, in which Jean Grey sacrificed herself to save the team, only to rise again as an evil entity and die again… her bereaved husband Scott Summers threw in the towel. What’s key about Cyclops’s retirement is that it brought about significant X-Men lore to come; while off the team, he hooked up with Jean Grey clone (?!?!) Madeline Pryor and fathered Nathan Summers a.k.a. Cable, soon to become a fan favorite in part due to his BFF status with one Wade Wilson…
An entire generation of superheroes in Watchmen – Talk about key plot points! A huge premise informing Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel of superhero angst is an alternate United States timeline which involves one super hero (Dr. Manhattan) being accidentally created during the Atomic age. The spiral of historical events that results including all costumed superheroes – in this American history, having been in place since WWII – being forced into retirement in 1977 as a result of the Keene Act, a national law outlawing vigilantism. By this time, of course, Richard Nixon has managed to circumvent term limits and ends up still president in 1985. By which time, one Rorschach is still going despite the law against supers… and he uncovers a big, big secret….