Secret Invasion: How A Jessica Jones Villain Inspired Marvel's Epic Thriller

Like previous Marvel cinematic efforts, "Secret Invasion" on Disney+ draws direct influence from a comic book event by the same name. Changes are made to adapt to the new medium, but the basic premise remains. A group of shape-shifting aliens known as Skrulls have infiltrated every world power, disguising themselves as politicians and superheroes. And the driving force behind the storyline is that the audience has no idea who they can trust.

While the Skrulls had been around since the 1960s in the comics, "Secret Invasion" was their time to shine. It's the natural culmination of what they could really do, and writer Brian Michael Bendis turned toward another underutilized antagonist for inspiration. While providing an oral history of "Secret Invasion" to Marvel, Bendis explained, "One of my big ideas was an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style story with the Skrulls, like I was doing with Purple Man in Jessica Jones [ALIAS]. The Purple Man was always used for laughs for most of his appearances prior to Jessica Jones, but when I had seen him, even in those books, I go, 'That sounds terrifying! Like this is a guy who can do all that? Let's play it for horror.'"

The Purple Man also dates back to the '60s but became a far more sinister threat when he became affiliated with Jessica Jones and tortured her. This version of the character made his way into the Netflix "Jessica Jones" series, played by David Tennant. But it's this kind of insight that can turn a C-list villain into a global threat.

Brian Michael Bendis and his team kept a tight circle to prevent leaks

The Skrulls always had shape-shifting powers, assuming the identities of the Fantastic Four in an early appearance. However, "Secret Invasion" took that skillset and put it on a global scale, creating a genuine political thriller where anyone could be an imposter. But this was an expansive story where someone could've been a Skrull for years in previous comic book issues without anyone knowing. Tom Brevoort also spoke with Marvel about Brian Michael Bendis' plan and how he planted the seeds, "He knew who he'd intended to be Skrulls, at least some of them, while writing all of these issues. So he wrote them accordingly; he wrote them planting that, planting them in certain positions or saying certain things or what have you, that he could then go back to later and go, 'Ah, see? Here's a flashback to that with a different context that helps to show you what's actually going on.'"

Of course, there was still the matter of ensuring nothing leaked that revealed who was a Skrull. So to prevent such information from divulging, they kept the inner circle small. Bendis stated, "It was in my original NEW AVENGERS pitch, and it was a 'We're going to do these storylines and all of them will lead up to' —the arrogance of this— 'issue #50 of NEW AVENGERS will reveal who was a Skrull the entire time,' and that would entail us in editorial knowing right now who the Skrulls are, never letting anyone know outside the circle because gossip and websites and nonsense that easily leaks, so let's keep it to two or three people. We'll know who everybody is, and we'll go for it."

Massive comic book crossover events were nothing new, but few had the kind of ramifications affiliated with "Secret Invasion," where it could recontextualize comics from the past. And given how it's now a series on Disney+, it's a story that's resonated for fans long after the twist was revealed.