Comic Legends: Was Kingpin Originally Going to be Black?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and seventieth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As always, there will be three different posts for each legend this week!


Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, was originally going to be black.



Reader Kevin S. wrote in to ask about a piece of trivia that he found on the internet about the casting of Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, back in 2003's Daredevil.

The trivia was as follows:

The Kingpin, traditionally a large, bald white man◊, was played by Michael Clarke Duncan. He was the best actor with the size that they could find, and even then, he had to gain some weight and wear padding for the role. Ironically, the Kingpin was originally supposed to be black in the comics, but an editor thought it would be racist to have a black villain.

Kevin wanted to know if that was the truth - was Kingpin originally going to be black?

Simply put, no.

The Kingpin first appeared in the pages of the landmark 50th issue of Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and John Romita...

He was featured on the cover of the next issue...

In an interview with Jon B. Cooke. in the Comic Book Artist, John Romita recalled how he created the look of the Kingpin:

CBA: Did you actually co-plot on the Spider-Man books going into the '70s? There seems to be characters like the Kingpin and Black Widow who have a very strong Romita stamp.

John: The only thing he used to do from 1966-72 was come in and leave a note on my drawing table saying "Next month, the Rhino." That's all; he wouldn't tell me anything; how to handle it. Then he would say "The Kingpin." I would then take it upon myself to put some kind of distinctive look to the guy. For instance, if it's the kingpin of crime, I don't want him to look like another guy in a suit who in silhouette looks like every other criminal. So I made him a 400-pound monster; that was my idea. I made him bald, I put the stickpin on him, I gave him that kind of tycoon look.

Romita also told Tom DeFalco in Comic Creators on Spider-Man:

"Facially, I patterned him after two actors: Edward Arnold, an overweight guy with a big wide face and a hooked nose who was a huge star in the 30s and 40s, and another guy named Robert Middleton, who was bald. I took those two guys and put them together."

Here's Arnold...

And here's Middleton...

So, no, it does not appear as though the Kingpin was originally going to be black.

Thanks to Kevin for the suggestion and thanks to John Romita, Jon B. Cooke and Tom DeFalco for the information!

Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:

Check back Saturday for part 2 of this week's (Black Panther-themed) legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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