This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on August 6, 2016.
The Kingpin returned to the pages of Marvel Comics last month in Civil War II: Kingpin by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artists Ricardo Lopez Ortiz and Dalibor Talajic. He’s a villain that looms large in the pantheon of super villains from his very start, in spite of having no superpowers. In addition to comics, you can find him in movies, television (live action and cartoons), video games, and top ten lists across the internet. Wilson Fisk has had an indisputable impact on the superhero genre. But we would like to go one step further…
We would argue that the Kingpin is the best Marvel villain ever.
Where He Comes From
Kingpin was created by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #50 where he began his career as a particularly imposing mob boss. Even in the pages of Spider-Man filled with gangsters like Hammerhead and The Big Man, Wilson Fisk stood out. Eventually his nefarious plans spread from Spidey’s stories to those of Daredevil, where comics legend Frank Miller defined him as ol’ horn head’s arch-nemesis. It was his shadow that loomed over almost every famous run on Daredevil including those of writers Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and Mark Waid.
While Kinpin’s greatest stories have largely existed in the pages of Daredevil, he has been a constant force within the large Marvel Universe, playing a key role in events like “Acts of Vengeance”. His consistency has led to his inclusion in a variety of mainstream adaptations. He was a major figure in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Michael Clarke Duncan portrayed him as the lead villain in the 2003 film Daredevil, and the role was then assumed by Vincent D’Onofrio in the highly acclaimed Netflix series of the same name.
What Makes Him Unique
On the surface Kingpin is another in a long line of Marvel gangsters including the likes of The Owl, Hammerhead, Madame Masque, Tombstone, and The Hood. What makes him extraordinary is just how seemingly ordinary he is. Unlike all of these other examples, Kingpin lacks a schtick. He does not possess any superpowers or a defining gag. He is simply a man, albeit one with incredible wealth, physical prowess, and mental acuity. In many ways he is the inverse of a character like Batman, representing a normal man dedicated to becoming their peak self, but dedicated to greed instead of service.
His name speaks for itself, as he is almost always on top of the situation. No matter how many times he may be defeated by Daredevil, Kingpin is rarely removed from his seat of power and seems to be only a few moves away from regaining it when he does fall. He is the ultimate master of every other crime lord in the Marvel Universe, and those who challenge him meet a grisly end eventually. That he is the only power player seemingly not caught up in the antics of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man speaks for itself. He towers above those who might be deemed his peers.
Why He’s The Best
While Daredevil is The Kingpin’s arch-nemesis, his status in the Marvel Universe makes him a worthy adversary for any hero. The Kingpin does not only present classic villainous plots, but is infused with the real threats of organized crime. He is a trafficker of children, a smuggler of drugs, a murderer, and a thief. His destructive capabilities do not lie in a magical amulet or rocky exterior, but in the organizations he constructs. Even when beaten or captured, crime does not cease. Money continues to be made, and The Kingpin remains on top.
As the leader of Marvel’s underworld, he poses a problem larger than any one hero can hope to solve. His ability to organize and plan means that even though he can not take Thor or Hercules in a fight, he can ruin their lives. Superheroes care more about their communities than themselves, and that is what The Kingpin threatens. Even if Iron Man could win an arm wrestling match, he can’t stop a neighborhood from being torn apart by systemic gang violence.
Nowhere is The Kingpin’s true potential better revealed than in his rivalry with Daredevil. Daredevil has beaten The Kingpin to a pulp and locked him away before, but doing so has nearly broken him. The Kingpin is responsible for the death of Matt Murdock’s first love, Karen Page. He destroyed his father’s Brownstone, controlled him with knowledge of his secret identity, and drove him to both insanity and homelessness. Daredevil may have recovered from these defeats, but he still suffers the same wounds. The Kingpin remains the man at the top of the pyramid after all of his defeats.
Even with his immense capacity for evil, The Kingpin remains no more than a man. He is smart, strong, and cunning, but nothing he does is outside the realm of possibility. Even worse is that he is not a monster, but an understandable human being. His goals are even relatable. Greed, pride, and hatred are all emotions we experience, and they are unleashed in all of their terrible glory by The Kingpin. In this way, The Kingpin exposes the evil inside of each of us. He is a villain that can engage in colorful combat, but also holds an unshakeable, unbearable connection to reality.
The Final Word
Wilson Fisk is The Kingpin, and to be the Kingpin is to be the master of crime. There are no replacements and all challengers are doomed to failure. From his first appearance to his new mini-series, The Kingpin is the master of every situation. Even when he finds himself beaten, in prison or blinded, he is always in the midst of conquering his surroundings. He looms every bit as large over Marvel Comics as Batman does over their distinguished competition. Nothing can permanently conquer him and he requires no superpowers to be the greatest force in any given room.
That’s why The Kingpin is the greatest Marvel villain.