The Marvel Comics Universe is replete with super villains who possess powers and abilities beyond the wildest imaginations of any historic warlord, territory-stealing tyrant or totalitarian tycoon. From the Asgardian God of Mischief Loki, to the planet-eating Galactus, to the universe-conquering Thanos, there seems to be no shortage of powerful evildoers. It’s somewhat odd, then, that a man of flesh and blood with nothing but his iron will, business acumen and physical prowess could rise to become a contemporary of those who could erase entire worlds with a snap of their fingers. First debuting in Amazing Spider-Man issue #50 (1967), Wilson Grant Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin was born from the inimitable imaginations of the late Stan Lee and Jon Romita Sr., perhaps as an answer to the need for more formidable mortal foes. Inspired in part by screen icon Sidney Greenstreet, Fisk was an instant smash with readers everywhere, especially with those who saw him as a refreshing welcome to a universe crowded with zany, campy villains whose outlandish schemes and kooky costumes did little to suspend fan’s collective disbelief.
While The Kingpin’s preternatural abilities may not derive from encounters with radioactive chemicals, super-charged spiders, or stratospheric accidents, his enduring, unconquerable presence has left behind a trail of questions that’s beginning to pile up higher than his personal body count. CBR counts down the many foibles, idiosyncrasies and other puzzling personal flaws that just don’t seem to track when it comes to NYC’s friendly neighborhood crime boss.
19 MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE?
Weighing in at anywhere between 450-650 pounds (of which only 2% is body fat), Wilson Fisk is one big dude. Add to that the ability to bench press well over his own bodyweight, move at a speed that rivals Spider-Man, and maneuver with the agility of a certain crimson wearing blind lawyer, and he’s also one formidable foe.
While other large-framed figures in the comics share these physical attributes (Hulk, Rhino, The Blob to name a few), they’ve all got the one thing Fisk doesn’t: super powers! Still having a hard time imagining this? Check out The Kingpin Boss Fight from PS4’s Spider-Man. Or the time he gave secret-serum super solider Steve Rogers a red, white and blue beating.
18 PHYSICAL INVULNERABILITY
Aside from the pure spectacle that of his physical abilities, is the fact that he’s been shot at, stabbed with katana swords, and Billy-clubbed more times than Spider-Man’s saved Mary Jane. While Fisk’s body may be 500 pounds of pure muscle, his invulnerability to the above mentioned attacks makes absolutely no sense – especially when one remembers he DOESN’T HAVE ANY POWERS.
Wolverine’s secret? Mutant healing. Punisher’s justification for still drawing breath? He’s taken all but a bullet to the head. Matt Murdock’s excuse? Frank Miller likes him too much. But Kingpin’s? Sorry, but training as a martial artist, Olympic weightlifter and Sumo wrestler doesn’t cut it. A bullet’s a bullet, and Lady Bullseye keeps her blades razor sharp.
17 WILL OF STEEL
As fans of the comics (or more recently, Netflix’s Jessica Jones) know, Zebediah Killgrave (a.k.a Purple Man) is famous for his expensive suits, violet-tinted skin and manipulative mind controlling abilities. During their first altercation in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Killgrave infiltrates Fisk’s inner sanctum and confronts him on his own turf.
Purple Man attempts to use his psychic manipulation on the big man, but good ol’ Willie is mysteriously able to resist it. How he can do this when neither Jessica Jones, Daredevil or Spider-Man can resist his deadly charms? This nifty trick is never explained, leaving a Purple Man-sized hole in The Kingpin’s bag of tricks.
16 GENTLEMAN OR GIANT?
The Kingpin has always been a big guy. This can be traced back to his childhood, when he was bullied by the local school kids for his weight. Prior to the filming of Daredevil (2003), director Mark Steven Johnson informed actor Michael Clarke Duncan – then weighing in at over 300 pounds – that he was tooskinny, and needed to put on some extra mass to play the part. The reason? Ever since his comic book debut, Wilson Fisk has been getting BIGGER.
Take a look at his depiction in Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man. His hands alone are larger than most character’s bodies! Cut to 2015, and Vincent D’Onofrio didn’t look an ounce over 200 pounds. So is he super-sized, or just big-boned? Please, someone decide.
15 MADE TO MEASURE
When fans think of The Kingpin, they think of his height, size and signature outfit. No, not some spandex woven super-suit or armour plated battle gear, but a crisp, white suit jacket and purple pants. Add in his diamond-headed obliterator cane, gold chain and ascot (yes, ascot), and you’ve got a look that screams “crime boss”. The only issue with his choice of wardrobe (besides its many fashion faux pas), is how uncomfortable the thing must be to fight in.
Ever try to do anything strenuous in a fancy suit? Try fighting Spider-Man in it. You’d think by now Kingpin would have opted for something more range-of-motion friendly. Maybe that’s why he’s fancies sumo-wrestling.
14 DIAMONDS ARE A GOON’S BEST FRIEND
Fisk may be armed with strength, agility and an impenetrable hide of pure muscle, that doesn’t mean he fights by the rules. Say hello to his little friend, the Obliterator Cane. Also known as the Disintegrator Cane, Fisk’s weapon of choice is a diamond-headed walking stick capable of firing a short pulse of 300 watts.
While the weapon may aesthetically fit his character’s gangster M.O., why he wouldn’t rather carry an actual gun (if only for convenience’s sake) is somewhat baffling. The cane can also shoot out a dose of toxic gas, weakening any enemy combatant who breathes in its fumes. Guess that’s better than a 9mm, right? To each their own.
13 THE MURDOCK PAPERS
Ever wonder how Daredevil’s secret identity made it to the front page of The Daily Bugle? Look no further than Wilson Fisk. Shortly after going to prison – thanks in no small part to Matt’s crimson-wearing alter ego – The Kingpin let slip to the Feds that he knew The Man Without Fear’s secret identity.
While the “Murdock Papers” turned out to be pure fluff, Matt did end up getting arresting and soon became bunk mates with Fisk. And in pure Fisk fashion, instead of ending Matt Murdock’s life, the two instead teamed up to escape prison. Pity only Matt was able to escape unscathed, as Fisk stayed back to tend to a bullet wound in his leg. Talk about a plan backfiring.
12 LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON?
Born into a life of privilege, Richard Fisk grew up believing his father, Wilson, was a respectable businessman who kept his nose cleaner than his collection of white suits. When he found out his dad was actually The Kingpin, Richard went into a deep depression, only to emerge as a B-rate costumed criminal known as The Schemer.
Far from holding his father’s powerful grip over NYC, his villainous antics resulting in him becoming paralyzed and having to be put into a coma. When he awoke, he rebranded himself as an anti-hero known as Blood Rose, who was then shot dead by his mother, for trying to overthrow his father. Maybe Fisk should read a parenting book?
Remember the time The Kingpin killed a man and abducted his daughter so that he could raise her to become a killing machine? Enter “Parts of a (W)hole” (1998) – yet another of Fisk’s failed attempts at fatherhood.Maya Lopez (a.k.a. “Echo”) may have been a gifted young athlete with “photographic reflexes”, but was impressionable enough to be turned into a killer assassin by Fisk, who later wrongfully accused Daredevil for her father’s murder.
The scheme backfired on Fisk, resulting in Maya becoming one more superhero on the block. Talk about a genius plan. Maybe he should have just called Elektra?
10 CITIZEN FISK
Following in the footsteps of J. Jonah Jameson, Wilson Fisk recently decided to run for Mayor of NYC. Not only did he run a surprisingly popular campaign of fear and division, but he also won. Yes, the man who is perhaps the most corrupt resident of New York became its king, to the surprise of millions of readers and fans of the comics.
The reason this one makes the list is the sheer stupidity of the plan. Fisk seeking to become the most powerful person in the city – which he kind of already way – only means that his life is now constantly under the microscope, with all of his crimes (those known and those hidden) threatening to bubble back up to the surface. Smart.
9 MAN VS. MAN WITHOUT FEAR
What’s Kingpin’s beef with Daredevil really about, anyway? Sure the two have never agreed on small philosophical matters (like murder being wrong), it’s not like there was ever a reason for things to get personal between them. Leave it to Frank Miller’s iconic Daredevil: Born Again storyline to change that.
Not only did Fisk succeed in discovering The Man Without Fear’s secret identity, he also used the information to destroy every aspect of Matt’s life; from his job to his mental stability. For this, Fisk received the beating of his life once Murdock returned to full health, and only caused himself more pain than if he’s just hired Bullseye to take ol’ horn head out. Talk about taking the long way ‘round.
Yes, Spider-Man can be annoying sometimes. But did he really deserve to see his Aunt May mercilessly gunned down? According to Kingpin, yes. Back in 2007, writer J. Michael Straczynski showed the world exactly what Wilson Fisk was capable of in his five-part Amazing Spider-Man symbiote-inspired run “Back in Black”.
Having finally had it up to his double chin with Spidey, Kingpin decides to hire a hitman to take out Aunt May. Talk about cruel! It almost drove Peter Parker to the dark side, and [once again] resulted in Kingpin receiving the beating of a lifetime. Call it karma, but no one messes with Aunt May.
7 BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
In the “Parts of A (W)hole” story arc, Kingpin is shot point-blank in the head multiple times by the aforementioned Echo after she discovers he is her father’s actual killer. Instead, the zany adventures of Kingpin continue. Rather than the attack killing him, Wilson Fisk becomes [to the total irony of everyone] totally blind.
This raises several questions. For one, how does a man without superpowers survive multiple point blank gunshot wounds TO THE HEAD? Two, how is simply losing his sight the end result of this (without so much as a scar)? Three, things seem to magically resolve themselves with very little explanation (other than Fisk explaining to Daredevil about a trip to the eye surgeon). Maybe miracles do happen. Sure.
6 ELEKTRA, WITH A SIDE OF NATCHIOS
For a man who is obviously devoted to his wife, he seems to keep his favourite female assassin pretty close. While there’s nothing wrong with Fisk having a few female friends, this relationship is particularly confusing given the fact that Elektra maintains an on-again, off-again relationship with Kingpin enemy number one – Daredevil.
Having one of the world’s deadliest assassin’s on his speed dial might might come with its perks, but is also unwise – especially given the fact that Fisk ordered her dead at one point (see 2003’s Daredevil flick orDaredevil #181). It’s one thing to keep one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer, but Elektra isn’t the kind of enemy you keep close. Wilson’s basically asking for a sai in the back.
5 HIS PET, BULLSEYE
He can kill you with a paper clip just as easily as he can with a sniper rifle from a mile away. His origin story is muddled, told in half-truths, and marred by tragedy. He often kills out of boredom, and was once played by Colin Ferrell. Yes, Bullseye is one strange, sinister, dangerous dude.
The fact that Kingpin keeps him so close, too (without tying his hands behind his back first), is beyond logical comprehension, but makes for a dynamic interpersonal relationship between the assassin and his keeper. Why Fisk chooses to surround himself with such dangerous company means he either likes living dangerously, or he just doesn’t know when to let go of a toxic friendship.
Look, anyone can change. Villains become heroes all the time. But Wilson Fisk trying (and failing) to go straight is something not even the most optimistic reader had their money on. Urged by his wife Vanessa to finally give up his life of crime and become a legit, Fisk relinquishes his title as the Kingpin of crime and retires to Japan.
The change of heart doesn’t last long however (like so one saw that one coming), as Vanessa’s life becomes endangered by a former business associate of her husband. Fisk eventually returns to reclaim his crown, and the rest is history. Long story short, you can take Fisk away from the criminal impulse, but you can’t take the criminal impulse out of Fisk.
4 THE HARDER THEY FAIL
Spider-Man and Daredevil can do just about anything: leap tall buildings, fight crime all night and still keep a day job, and even survive bad movies based on them. So why is it so hard for either hero to take down The Kingpin?
While they’ve both teamed up in numerous storylines over the years, the one thing that can’t seem to do is come up with a plan to bring down Fisk, once and for all. Seriously? A lawyer with an excellent command of the law and heightened senses and his scientific genius radioactive spider pal don’t have what it takes to bring down an oversized bald man with a penchant for ascots?
3 THE GREAT ESCAPE(S)
Wilson Fisk has escaped Ryker’s Island so many times, it’s hard to keep count. Whether because of a crooked system or a crooked conscience, Kingpin always manages to find a way to escape. The Kingpin is above all, a manipulator; one who happens to have a seemingly endless supply of resources at his disposal.
Those two factors in combination make him an insurmountable criminal force, which may explain how he manages to inexplicably escape whatever jail cell he’s thrown into. So if he can’t be killed (which has been covered above), and he can’t be imprisoned, what on earth are the good people of Hell’s Kitchen to do?! Why anyone keeps trying to do either is anyone’s guess.
2 FLOAT LIKE THE VULTURE, STING LIKE THE SCORPION
They say most giants are gentle. Like King Kong, Optimus Prime, and the Iron Giant, Wilson Fisk seems to have a soft(er) side that seems to only lack the care and attention necessary to blossom. Unlike his other fictional contemporaries, he’s also a maniac.
The existence of both dynamic forces inside Kingpin’s psyche make sense in theory, but don’t quite fit the mold of man who has no problem ending his enemies lives with his bare hands. How can such a man also possess the emotional capacity to weep at a painting, or strive to turn over a new leaf when asked by his equally sinister wife? The credulity meter is in the red zone on this one.
1 GREAT POWER, ZERO RESPONSIBILITY
Comics are one of the greatest story mediums in modern culture. What is specifically unique about them is how they often feature characters who face extraordinary setbacks, are tempted to use their power for evil, but ultimately decide to do the right thing. Like most comic book characters (especially the good guys), Kingpin grew up a bullied, underappreciated, isolated child with big dreams but little courage to believe in them.
Unlike most comic books do-gooders, he chose the path of evil. Why he became a villain, and NOT a hero, is perhaps one of the most complex, puzzling, and unanswerable questions about the man. So much for great responsibility.