Wilson Fisk: Who is the Kingpin of Crime?

Move Over, Scarface

Norman Osborn:Something occurs to me — either Spider-Man is destroyed, or you get Oscorp. Whatever happens, you win.”
Kingpin:That’s why I’m the Kingpin.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series “The Spider Slayer” (Season 1, Episode 2)

A police informant looks around nervously. He has evidence that will allow the police to take down Wilson Fisk, a notorious crime lord. He is travelling by armored car to a safehouse and guarded by a S.W.A.T. team. The car stops, still miles away from the safehouse. The squad members start to move. Three of them gun down the others.

The informant is hurled from the truck and rolls to a stop in front of someone. He looks up and sees Fisk, who grabs him by the head and squeezes. The informant screams in agony until his skull shatters. The Kingpin wipes the gore from his hands and tells his men to dispose of the evidence.

The Kingpin is Marvel’s biggest crime boss in every sense of the word. His empire encompasses all of New York City and has survived countless heroes, police, and criminals trying to tear it down. So who is The Kingpin? How did he become a criminal? Why haven’t the heroes stopped him? Let’s find out.

Pawn to King: Kingpin’s Backstory

Daredevil: [narrating] “Years ago, God in one of his darker moods crammed much of the world’s spite and cunning into a quarter-ton sack of flesh and named it Wilson Fisk.”

Daredevil #16

The Kingpin debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 in 1967. He was created by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr., who based the character’s appearance on Sydney Greenstreet of The Maltese Falcon fame. The name Kingpin came from a Mafia term for crime boss.

Wilson Fisk was a kid from a bad neighborhood who was constantly bullied because of his weight. He studied martial arts and used his new skills to beat the crap out of his bullies. He then forcibly recruited them into a gang. Their exploits drew the attention of crime boss Don Rigoletto, who took Fisk under his wing.

Fisk learned the inner workings of crime while serving as Rigoletto’s enforcer. He eventually assassinated his boss and took over over as the new boss of Rigoletto’s criminal empire. The Kingpin expanded his empire, absorbing lesser gangs until only groups like The Maggia or Hydra could oppose him.

At some point, The Kingpin married a woman named Vanessa Marianna. Fisk temporarily retired to be with her, but was eventually drawn back to a life of crime. Kingpin and Vanessa had a son named Richard Fisk, who grew up to become an anti-hero called The Rose.

Demonic Spiders: Kingpin’s History

The Kingpin: “These so-called super-criminals think so much of themselves, with their powers and weaponry. But they are fools. For the greatest power of all is that of the human mind. And when it comes to that power- there is no one who is a match for The Kingpin.”

Deadly Foes of Spider-Man #4

The Kingpin began a crime wave when Spider-Man temporarily retired. Ironically, the crime wave convinced Spider-Man to come out of retirement. The two fought repeatedly, but Spider-Man was never able to find evidence linking him to any crimes.

A more persistent enemy appeared in the form of Matt Murdock, who opposed The Kingpin as both a lawyer and the hero Daredevil. One of Daredevil’s former lovers told The Kingpin his secret identity, which Fisk used to ruin his life. Daredevil retaliated by kidnapping Vanessa, who had been knocked into a coma during a gang war. He then blackmailed Fisk into leaving the country.

The Kingpin finally met his end during the series Secret Wars. As the heroes tried to prevent the Earth from being destroyed, The Kingpin invited a group of crime lords and supervillains to an end of the world party. Unfortunately for them, The Punisher learned where they were and slaughtered everyone.

Checkmate: The Kingpin’s Powers and Personality

Landon:Why would you help them?
Kingpin:There is no profit to be made in the destruction of the planet! It is very bad for business.”

Spider-Man: The Animated Series, “The Spot” (Season 3, Episode 12)

The Kingpin has no superpowers, but he doesn’t need them. He’s a giant of a man with nearly superhuman strength. The Kingpin is built like a sumo wrestler, where his apparent fat is actually muscle. Rather than rely on size and strength, The Kingpin has mastered several fighting styles. He’s fought Captain America to a standstill and regularly battles the superpowered Spider-Man and the ninja-trained Daredevil.

You’d expect a crime boss to have plenty of guns, blades, and explosives, but the Kingpin’s signature weapon is straight out of science fiction. He wields a diamond-tipped cane hiding a built-in disintegrator ray. It’s a handy weapon, but has been phased out in favor of his physical abilities and manipulations.

Fisk presents himself as an affable philanthropist in public to distance himself from criminal accusations. Beneath the surface, he is the only one keeping the criminal underworld together. He’s skilled enough that even S.H.I.E.L.D. works to keep him in power to prevent a massive gang war from engulfing New York in a power vacuum.

The Actors who play The Kingpin

The Kingpin debuted in 1967’s Spider-Man, where he was voiced by Tom Harvey. Character actor Stanley Jones voiced the Kingpin in 1981’s Spider-Man. Walker Edmiston voiced the role in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Roscoe Lee Brown’s portrayal of The Kingpin in Spider-Man: the Animated Series got him an Emmy nomination.

Lord of the Rings John-Rhys Davies played The Kingpin in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. The Green Mile’s Michael Clarke Duncan played The Kingpin in 2003’s Daredevil. He later reprised the role in Spider-Man the New Animated Series. Emmy-nominee Liev Schreiber voiced the Kingpin in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Last but not least, Law and Order’s Vincent D’Onofrio played The Kingpin in Netflix’s Daredevil. This incarnation played up the Kingpin’s human side instead of the vicious crime boss persona. It’s also heavily implied that he suffers from a mental condition, possibly autism.

Didya Get All That?

The Godfather as a supervillain.

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