The “Kingpin” series by Matthew Rosenberg and Ben Torres serves as a turning point in the history of the character as he returns to Manhattan on a quest to make his city a “better” place as a legitimate businessman. However, like Victor Von Doom’s current stint as the Infamous Iron Man, it seems Wilson Fisk may have difficulty turning over a new leaf.
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Considering his checkered past and our current fascination with fact-checking, we thought it only prudent to dig into the history of Wilson Fisk as he attempts to reinvent himself as his city’s newest savior. Here are 15 things you should know about the Kingpin before you buy into his new line of “alternative facts.”
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by Marvel Comics.
15 HE HAS HOLLYWOOD LOOKS
Perhaps the first thing you should know about the Kingpin concerns his distinctive appearance. Although we like to think of Kingpin as Daredevil’s arch-nemesis, he was originally created by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. as a Spider-Man villain, debuting in 1967’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #50. Romita had a specific look in mind for the rotund villain and based the crime boss’s physical appearance on actor Sydney Greenstreet.
A versatile actor, who appeared in numerous hit movies throughout his brief career, Greenstreet came to acting late in life and co-starred in some of Hollywood’s most iconic flicks. He appeared alongside Humphrey Bogart in both “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Despite a shortened career due to lower billing and medical complications, Greenstreet made an indelible impression on his audiences and continues to live on in the form of one of Marvel’s most notorious villains.
14 HE’S GOT A BIG BRAIN, TOO
It would be easy to underestimate the Kingpin’s intelligence based on his looks alone. However, we all know better than to judge a book by its cover. Doing so in the Kingpin’s case, would be tantamount to suicide. A master manipulator and self-taught graduate-level political science genius, Kingpin prefers to work through criminal proxies, keeping his hands so clean, the government’s had a hard time making charges stick to Marvel’s version of the “Teflon Don.”
His mental acuity and strength of will are so great, he’s displayed the ability to thwart psychic attacks. Even the Purple Man’s formidable mind control abilities had no effect on him, as illustrated by his ability to refuse blowing his own brains out with his obliterator cane (more on that weaponized walking stick later). Arguably his greatest strategic accomplishment to date was the ruination of his arch-enemy Daredevil, orchestrating the hero’s fall from grace in both his civilian and superhero identities.
13 ANTI-BULLYING POSTER CHILD
Okay, so maybe upon first glance, a murderous criminal mastermind isn’t the best poster child for an anti-bullying campaign, but hear us out, because it does make sense in a twisted, cynical way. As a child, Wilson Fisk was teased mercilessly for his weight. He vowed never to be a victim of bullies ever again and dedicated himself to strengthening his body and mind to the peak of human perfection. As he moved up the ranks of New York City’s criminal underworld, his cold-hearted pragmatism and vicious brutality served him well, until he inevitably took up the mantle of undisputed Kingpin of Crime.
Hiring many of the same bullies who tormented him in his youth, the Kingpin was able to recruit an army of some of the most sadistic enforcers and assassins in the city, turning enemies into allies and weakness into strength. Even if he surmounted what would likely be emotionally traumatic experiences in his youth by becoming the ultimate bully, it’s interesting to note that if his former tormentors had left well enough alone when he was young, the Kingpin might have turned out much different in adulthood. See? Bullying is bad!
12 HE'S RIPPED
Much to their eventual dismay, many a hero and villain have underestimated the Kingpin thanks to his immense girth. But if you think that hide is a product of too many cannoli, then you’re wrong -- dead wrong. As some of the Marvel Universe’s most accomplished combat fighters have found out, what appears to be a thick, blubbery layer of fat, is actually a dense layer of muscle. Much like a Sumo wrestler, the Kingpin is remarkably powerful, with surprising speed and agility. His strength is sufficient to squeeze the life out of a man, using his trademark bear hug, or crush a person’s skull with his bare hands.
His fighting abilities are so well-developed he’s fought some of the world’s finest martial artists to a standstill, including Captain America and Daredevil. His extreme bulk also affords him some measure of resistance to small arms fire and edged weapons, providing ample protection for his vital organs. Shortly after returning to New York during "Civil War II," he saved the Inhuman Janus’ life by using his body to shield him from Bushwacker’s arm cannon and later only required superficial stitches to treat the wounds.
11 HE’S A CORPORATE SHARK
Despite several financial setbacks over the course of his career, the Kingpin remains a respected, if feared, financier and influential player on the world stage. He’s owned several legitimate businesses and contributed to countless charities over the years, maintaining a veneer of respectability in the public eye. He is, he maintains, simply a humble spice dealer, a reference to one of his earliest reinventions, when the combined might of Hydra and the Maggia crime families forced him to start over in Japan.
Currently, Fisk sits on the board of the Universal Bank, a conglomerate of like-minded criminal financiers, who pool information and resources to promote their shared agendas. He was recently sighted at a meeting of the Bank in the pages of “The Mighty Thor,” where, along with Shingen Harada, Sebastian Shaw and a host of others, he witnessed the arrival of the Exterminatrix of the Midas Corporation take down fellow board member Dario Aggar of Roxxon. Whether or not Fisk maintains relations with the Universal Bank in the wake of his latest bid to go legit, remains to be seen.
10 HAIL HYDRA!
Typically, when we think of the Kingpin, we think of gritty, street level crime with realistic goals. Even as the head of a powerful criminal organization, the Kingpin prefers to keep it real. Designs on world domination just aren’t his bag, so it should come as a surprise that for a short time, he threw in his lot with Hydra, a global terrorist organization that is all about world domination. So, what gives? Well, it all comes down to the Kingpin’s political aspirations.
You see, Hydra tapped both Fisk and his son Richard to run their operations in Las Vegas. Richard, then known as the Schemer, was set up as a figurehead for the branch and assumed the role of Supreme Hydra. However, after coming into conflict with Captain America, it was revealed that the Red Skull was the true Supreme Hydra and was using the Fisks as proxies. The Kingpin and Son then joined forces with the Star-Spangled Avenger to take down the Las Vegas operation, the criminal mastermind realizing Hydra’s goals for world domination put his own endeavors at risk. Ever since, Fisk has remained much more grounded, believing Hydra’s ongoing obsession with world domination to be patently unrealistic.
9 EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN
Although a devoted husband to his wife Vanessa, Wilson Fisk could never be mistaken for a doting father. His relationship with his son Richard was always dysfunctional at best and abusive at worse. Richard never lived up to his father’s expectations, even when he was unaware of his criminal activities. Upon discovering his old man was the notorious Kingpin of Crime, he immediately set about trying to dismantle his empire, faking his death and taking up the identity of the Schemer.
Later, as the Rose, Richard would once again attempt to bring down the Kingpin from within his own organization, in the process brainwashing Ned Leeds into becoming the first Hobgoblin. Although he was unsuccessful in taking out his father, his failure spurred Richard to become a Punisher-style vigilante named Blood Rose, who went on a vicious rampage through New York’s underworld. His final attempt to rid himself of his father cost him his life, when his mother Vanessa murdered him in cold blood, rather than betray her beloved husband. Evidently, they didn’t believe in corporal punishment in the Fisk household.
8 THE OBLITERATOR CANE
Don’t deny it. You’ve been dying for your very own obliterator cane ever since you first laid eyes on the Kingpin’s in “Amazing Spider-Man” #50. Not only does it have one of the coolest names for a weapon around, it can shoot a laser beam from its tip, powerful enough to disintegrate a handgun -- or a rival’s head. The cane is also capable of projecting a concentrated blast of sleeping gas that immediately renders its victims unconscious upon deployment.
He’s also been known to use the cane to bludgeon or impale his victims, depending on the situation. Although the cane has been mostly absent in recent years, as creators focused on the less super-villainy aspects of the character, we can only hope Ben Torres’ cover for “Kingpin” #1 heralds the weapon’s return. Reformed or not, what self-respecting organized crime boss could resist stepping out on the town without such a snazzy walking stick in-hand? It’s fashionable, functional and it’ll clear a path through the paparazzi like a hot knife through butter!
7 DOMO ARIGATO, MR. FISK
One of the more interesting aspects of the Kingpin’s character is his deep connection to the Orient in general and Japan in particular. His affinity for the Japanese culture informs virtually every facet of his person, from his business acumen to his fighting regimen. His passion for Sumo wrestling and other martial arts bled over (quite literally) into the rest of his life to such a degree that he’s retired or retreated to Japan on more than one occasion.
The first instance was early in his career as Kingpin, after the Maggia and Hydra teamed up to force him out of Manhattan. Upon retreating to Japan, Kingpin was able to use his illicit wealth to open a legitimate spice business, the first such legal enterprise he ever owned. Fisk subsequently returned to Japan at the behest of his wife Vanessa, who pressured him into giving up his criminal ways for a time. Although he has so far never been able to stick with rehabilitation for very long, it is clear that the Kingpin’s love for Japan is deep and abiding.
6 A BLACK CAT CROSSED HIS PATH
As one of the most powerful criminal masterminds in the 616, never mind the Big Apple, the Kingpin has access to an unfathomable array of people and resources. He’s bankrolled numerous criminal endeavors (for a healthy cut, of course) and employed some of the most feared assassins on the planet. So, when Felicia Hardy approached the Kingpin to amp up her Black Cat persona, he took advantage of her feelings of inadequacy and put yet another piece on the board in his most recent campaign against Spider-Man.
Unbeknownst to the Black Cat, the Kingpin’s scientific quacks gave her superhuman probability-altering powers that gave bad luck to whomever crossed her path. Believing she was finally able to hang with her superhuman beau Spider-Man, all the Black Cat succeeded in doing was putting her lover in constant danger, exactly as the Kingpin intended. Ever the master manipulator, had his plan worked, the Black Cat would have unwittingly killed Spider-Man with her probability powers, an unfortunate victim of “bad luck.”
5 A DEVOTED HUSBAND
Despite some pretty monstrous acts committed over the years, Wilson Fisk isn’t a total monster. He does have a few redeeming qualities, chief among which is his undying devotion to his beloved wife, Vanessa. Although they were far from being the next Bonnie and Clyde, Vanessa and Wilson Fisk did love each other. They raised and subsequently killed a child together, their selfish love for each other outweighing the love of their son Richard. Or so it would seem...
Mentally and physically shattered by the murder of her son, Vanessa attempted to exact her revenge on both her husband and Daredevil, both of whom she blamed for the tragedy in her life. Although she would die before she could manipulate the perennial adversaries into killing each other, her plans did force Matt Murdoch to successfully defend Kingpin in court, clearing his name and freeing both men to continue their cycle of violence with a fresh slate. Vanessa’s reanimated corpse was recently used by the Jackal in an attempt to get the Kingpin in "The Clone Conspiracy," but he was disgusted by the “abomination” and snapped its neck without an ounce of remorse.
Whether you consider it irony or poetic justice, we couldn’t imagine a more appropriate punishment for the Kingpin than his blinding at the hands of his onetime assassin, Echo. Maya Lopez was the daughter of one of Kingpin’s enforcers, a Native American man named Willie Lincoln. Unbeknownst to Maya, Fisk had her father killed but agreed to raise Maya as his own daughter. When her photographic reflexes and ability to mimic sound and language was discovered, her adoptive father couldn’t help but use her in a plot to murder his enemy, Daredevil. He isn’t called the Kingpin of Crime for nothing, right?
Maya became one of Fisk’s pawns after she was introduced to Matt Murdoch as a potential romantic interest and then convinced her that his alter ego, Daredevil, murdered her father. Thanks to her photographic reflexes, Maya was able to ambush Daredevil and only refrained from killing him after realizing he was Matt Murdoch. She immediately attacked Fisk, furious at his betrayal and shot him in both eyes, blinding him. Fortunately for Fisk, in comics there are such things as double eye transplants for just such an emergency.
3 HIRED THE RUNAWAYS
One of the few people aware of the villainous team, The Pride, outside of Los Angeles, the Kingpin once praised their operation as efficient and basically above reproach. He comes into contact with the Pride’s renegade offspring as a middleman of sorts, something of an odd role for someone called “Kingpin.” Unbeknownst to the Runaways, Fisk hires the fugitive teens on behalf of an elderly woman named Lillie McGuirty, promising them protection from the government if they stole an artifact for him.
When they decide to renege on the deal, the Runaways, escape to the year 1907, where they meet up with Lilllie’s younger self and provide the spark for a deadly turf war between her street gang and a rival crew. Although the whole scheme was an attempt by the elderly Lillie to avoid the tragic violence of her youth, her meddling was unsuccessful in changing the past. We’re still not sure why the Kingpin was involved, except maybe to lend some street cred to the Pride’s relatively unsubstantiated badass reputation. But, if you think his uncharacteristic appearance in a bizarre time travel story was strange, wait until you get a load of our next entry.
2 HE WHOOPED THE RED SKULL
In what was one of the most epic throwdowns in supervillain history (okay, so maybe we’re overselling the fight, just a little bit), the Kingpin and the Red Skull stripped down to their skivvies and chucked their knuckles under an impenetrable dome. Maybe we should set the scene, here. This little slobberknocker took place in “Captain America” #378, during the “Streets of Poison” storyline, which saw Cap hooked on a designer drug that the Red Skull was slinging on Kingpin’s turf.
Still stinging from that whole Hydra debacle in Las Vegas, the two villains decided to settle their differences the old fashioned way, mano-y- mano and because neither combatant trusted the other, it was decreed the match would be boxers (Kingpin, thank the gods) versus briefs (Red Skull and still damn disturbing). The Kingpin ultimately won the bout by falling on the Skull and crushing him beneath his massive weight. And they said Cap was high? Perhaps we should just chalk up this whole out-of-character fiasco to an editorial pipe dream.
1 TOO LEGIT?
His new ongoing series isn’t the first time Wilson Fisk has attempted to walk the straight and narrow. His wife Vanessa managed to convince him to retire from a life of crime, after both he and their son Richard almost died during a battle with Hydra. In fact, over the years, despite a stint or two behind bars, Kingpin has remain untouchable by the law and outwardly maintains the charade of a “simple spice dealer.” More recently, in Netflix’s live action adaptation of “Daredevil,” Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin attempted to portray himself as a concerned citizen and philanthropist dedicated to combatting poverty and cleaning up the streets of his city.
With Rosenberg and Torres’ series following a similar direction, we can’t help but wonder how reformed the Kingpin really is. Even if he is sincere in his rehabilitation and his desire to improve his city, can someone so tainted by violence and greed truly turn over a new leaf? If so, our next question is, “who will pay the price?” This is a man used to getting his way. What happens when politics and his past catch up to him? If the past is any indication, it ain’t going to be pretty.
What do you know about the Kingpin, that we don't? Let us know in the Comments!