Ladies and gentlemen, the Kingpin has arrived. Not too long after Marvel announced Charlie Cox as the leading man in their upcoming “Daredevil” television series on Netflix, they’ve now revealed exactly who the blind super hero will be squaring off against in the series’ initial thirteen episodes. That bad guy is, of course, the Kingpin, and he will be played by Vincent D’Onofrio. This casting choice has been met with pretty much universal acclaim; D’Onofrio’s specific brand of gravitas and intensity, previously seen in films like “Full Metal Jacket” and “The Cell” and as the lead of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” will serve Marvel Studios’ kingpin of crime well.
It’s been a decade since Michael Clarke Duncan brought the villain to life in 2003’s “Daredevil” feature film, meaning that mainstream audiences may have forgotten just what makes the Kingpin such a threatening foe. There have even been a few more definitive Kingpin stories told in the comics over the past decade, making now the perfect time to revisit — or discover — the Kingpin’s best schemes.
“In the Clutches of…the Kingpin!
(“Amazing Spider-Man” #50-52)
While he may be most known as a Daredevil villain nowadays, the Kingpin actually got his start as a member of Spider-Man’s colorful rogues gallery. Wilson Fisk made his debut in the classic “Amazing Spider-Man” #50, where he sought to capitalize on Spider-Man’s apparent early retirement by staging a hostile takeover of New York City’s crime scene. Spidey pulled his costume out of the garbage can just in time to stop the Kingpin’s reign of terror and rescue the kidnapped J. Jonah Jameson, but this early defeat did not hinder the criminal mastermind’s desire for power.
“The Kingpin Must Die!”
After a few more run-ins with Spider-Man, the Kingpin finally tried to retire from crime by selling out his criminal allies to the police. His ex-lieutenants didn’t take to kindly to being sold out, so they kidnapped and seemingly killed his wife Vanessa. Bad move, criminals. This enraged the Kingpin, driving him to violently take over every mob in New York City and put him right into conflict with his new archenemy — Daredevil. Kingpin hired Bullseye and Elektra to kill the masked vigilante, thus beginning a deadly dance that this quartet of characters would continue for decades.
It’s entirely likely that no Kingpin story will ever top this tale by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend Karen Page sells out the hero’s identity to the Kingpin, and the crime boss systematically destroys every facet of Matt Murdock’s life. This story arc features Matt Murdock — not Daredevil — going up against Kingpin’s might and being found wanting. This story, more than any other, cements Kingpin as DD’s most ruthless adversary; the only person that’s ever caused the hero more pain than Wilson Fisk is Daredevil himself. Odds are a number of elements from this classic will work their way into the Netflix series.
(“Daredevil” volume 2 #46-50)
Many of Kingpin’s defining stories involve the mob boss reclaiming his criminal territory; “Hardcore” is Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s take on that tried and true Kingpin story. After time spent recuperating in Europe from injuries inflicted upon his eyes, the Kingpin returned to Manhattan, determined to win back his empire by any means necessary. The interim kingpins all feared Fisk’s return, and rightfully so, but Daredevil canceled the imposing villain’s comeback tour. The two duked it out again, with Daredevil commenting on the circuitous path of defeat and return the two had been traveling on for years. At the end of the battle, Daredevil claimed the kingpin title for himself, demanding every criminal to straighten up or get out of his city.
“Return of the King”
(“Daredevil” volume 2 #116-119 & #500)
Wilson Fisk had had enough. He retreated to a small fishing village in Spain where he met and fell in love with a civilian woman. He became a father to her two children and lived with them for a year; the Kingpin finally knew peace. Of course that all came undone once an assassin calling herself Lady Bullseye tore into their home and ripped Wilson’s newfound family from him. Hell-bent on revenge, Kingpin sought to usurp control of the ninja organization known as the Hand. Daredevil got involved, of course, and took the leadership role for himself, thus thwarting the Kingpin’s plans.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the Marvel/Netflix “Daredevil” series.