Art by Esad Ribic
Wilson Fisk was a poor and obese child. As he grew up, he began bodybuilding and training in the art of sumo wrestling as a means of self-improvement as well as self-defense. He educated himself through stolen books and took an interest in political science. He took to using these skills in his criminal enterprises, vowing to never become anyone else’s subordinate. He also knew the importance of never being directly connected to his own operations, and he stayed out of the line of fire whenever possible. This was the start of his path to becoming the Kingpin.
Fisk was careful to invest his ill-gotten gains in above the table businesses, the first of which was an Asian spice company. Long into his career, he met a woman named Vanessa, whom he quickly fell in love with. She gave him a tranquility that he could find nowhere else. They married and had a child named Richard.
It was after his power had been firmly established in New York that the modern age of heroes began. He was wary of their potential threat to his organization, and he made a point of avoiding them at first. When Spider-Man briefly retired, he took the opportunity to make moves against the international criminal enterprise, the Maggia. He united a number of smaller gangs and initiated a criminal uprising throughout New York. However, Spider-Man returned and challenged the Kingpin. The truly damaging blow, however, came when J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle outed Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin of Crime.
He was further challenged by Spider-Man in following plans and even clashed with his own son, Richard, then disguised as the Schemer. He was later invited to head the Las Vegas contingent of Hydra, and he had Richard serve as his right hand man. The available resources gave Kingpin the opportunity to achieve even greater power, but, upon discovering that the Red Skull was subverting his authority behind the scenes, rejected the organization and abandoned his plans with them.
After the numerous failures and dangers that assailed Wilson, Vanessa pleaded with her husband to abandon the identity of the Kingpin. He acquiesced, and the two moved to Japan. She persuaded him to turn over information on his former colleagues to authorities. His associates were angered by this, and they made an attempt on her life that Wilson was led to believe was successful.
He moved back to New York and returned to his criminal activities. He turned information on his rivals over to authorities through the vigilante Daredevil. This depowered the Maggia and gave Fisk the opportunity to even further increase his influence in the New York. Kingpin then began making inroads into the city government through Councilman Randolph Cherryh. When the politician became elected to the office of mayor, Daredevil discovered the criminal connection. He also found that Vanessa Fisk was still alive. He promised to return her to Wilson if he convinced Cherryh to deny the position. Fisk agreed. This was the beginning of the vicious rivalry between Daredevil and the Kingpin.
It was around this time that Kingpin hired insane super assassin Bullseye as his main hitman.
He soon stumbled upon the then heroin addicted and impoverished Karen Page, former secretary to Nelson and Murdock. Fisk had, at this point, been inconvenienced by the two attorneys on a number of occasions. Upon offering to feed her addiction, Page gave the Kingpin Daredevil’s secret identity of attorney Matthew Murdock.
With this information, Fisk relentlessly targeted Murdock. He had the man rendered impoverished and disbarred. Upon being confronted by Murdock, Kingpin assaulted him and left him for dead. Daredevil survived the experience, but Fisk continued his assault on the hero. He sabotaged his personal relationships, continued to inhibit his law practice, and sent more threats against his life, such as the insane mutant seductress, Typhoid Mary.
After much abuse, Murdock found a weakness in the Kingpin’s armor, and he exposed Fisk’s criminality to the public. He took his wealth, his power, and his position away from him. He also sent Vanessa into hiding in Europe. Fisk was able to escape incarceration, but he was left completely broken.
He resurfaced in Japan as a part of the Stark-Fujikawa company in Japan. There, he came into possession of the Elixir Vitae, the only known cure to the then-rampant mutant Legacy Virus. This led him to conflict with the X-Men and Shang-Chi. He had intentions of using the cure to regaining his wealth. However, Storm destroyed it. Regardless, his corporate gains allowed him to once again obtain a footing in the New York criminal underworld.
He gained an adopted daughter in Maya Lopez aka Echo, whom was the daughter of a deceased enforcer formerly in his employ. Though Fisk himself killed the man, he convinced Maya that the killer was Daredevil. After Echo and Daredevil clashed, she realized that the true murderer was the Kingpin himself. Echo went after Fisk and temporarily blinded him in the assault.
Fisk lost his empire once more when an employee, Samuel Siikes, and his own son, Richard, staged a coup against the Kingpin that left him severely wounded. Vanessa killed Richard in revenge and fled abroad. Fisk himself killed Siikes and also left the country. He attempted to take back his power, but Daredevil beat him back and pronounced himself Kingpin. This led to Fisk being incarcerated at last.
However, this was short-lived. Fisk had left little evidence of his criminal dealings. He was constantly being antagonized by other inmates in prison, making him a legal liability in the eyes of the federal government. He had another advantage in his knowledge of Daredevil’s secret identity, and he leveraged this information with the FBI. Murdock was arrested, but the FBI reneged on their negotiations and kept Fisk in prison with Murdock. The hero was able to stage an escape with Fisk, but he betrayed the man as well, leaving him in prison with a wounded knee from fellow inmate Bullseye.
Fisk tried to angle a release through collaboration with Tony Stark during the Super Hero Civil War. He claimed that he knew of a base of operations for Captain America’s forces. In reality, it was a hideout for the Hammerhead. Fisk also put out a hit on Peter Parker, whom revealed his own identity as Spider-Man in accordance with the Superhuman Registration Act. This led to the shooting of May Parker. Spider-Man retaliated by brutally beating Fisk, promising to kill him if he ever threatened his family again.
Vanessa Fisk came into contact with Murdock, on the run in Europe from his own legal issues, and arranged for the lawyer to take on Wilson’s legal battle. She passed away shortly after, and Matt Murdock aided his nemesis. He had all charges dropped, but on the condition that Fisk was exiled from America. Fisk agreed, and went to visit the grave of his wife.
When Daredevil took control of the Hand and established the supernatural prison, Shadowland, Wilson Fisk saw this as a new opportunity to strike at his foe. He returned to America and began working against Daredevil, leading Luke Cage and Iron Fist to challenge the Hand as well as summoning the Ghost Rider to go after Daredevil. When Daredevil was defeated by his former comrades, Fisk took control of the Hand.
Fisk next hired Hobgoblin to steal an experimental metal from Horizon Labs, a company that employed none other than Peter Parker (whom had since wiped the knowledge of his secret identity from the world through a deal with Mephisto). Spider-Man and Black Cat pursued the metal and destroyed the sample. The resulting explosion brought down Fisk Tower.
He ran into conflict with Spider-Man once again (this time the “superior” incarnation that was in reality the mind of Otto Octavius in Peter Parker’s body). The Web-Head attacked Shadowland and destroyed the Hand’s base of operations in New York. Fisk went underground once again and faked his own death.
He resurfaced in San Francisco, where Daredevil had relocated in the interest of soul-searching and starting a new law firm. This new ploy involved using the Owl as a human computer processor, Lady Bullseye, and Ikari to manipulate Matt Murdock through his loved ones, Foggy Nelson and Kirsten McDuffie. He also took advantage of the crazed vigilante, the Shroud, whom ended up killing Ikari. Daredevil was able to gain the upper hand once more and defeated the Kingpin.
In the new world that formed after the new Secret Wars, Wilson Fisk has established a company called Fisk Industries and has regained his wealth once again. He has shown himself to still be interested in criminality by using the Inhuman, Janus, to avoid the premonitions of Ulysses, whom has made it difficult for the criminal faction. Kingpin has used this advantage to set up a number of new criminal allegiances and his new plays remain to be seen.
He has a new solo series aptly called, Kingpin, set to be released in coming months. Of course, I’ll let you know how that is here, as I will most certainly be trying it.
Wilson Fisk is a man who started in rags and made himself into a proper emperor. He has used ruthlessness and brute strength, but he also believes that intellect is the greatest weapon. He is not without the capacity for love, being more committed to his now-deceased wife, Vanessa, more than anyone else. He has also shown something of a code of honor, almost always living up to his end of bargains and not killing when it is unnecessary.
Admittedly, Vincent D’Onofrio’s superb performance as Wilson Fisk in Netflix’s Daredevil series is part of what has drew me to the character originally. He brought the character to life in a manner that I had never seen before. However, it was Fisk’s intrigue, intelligence, and determination in the comics that maintained my love of the character. He’s a ruthless and terrifying crime lord, and this is what earns Kingpin the position as my 6th favorite Marvel Villain of all time.