Comic Book: The Kingpin

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"

Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as The Kingpin, is a fictional crime boss, supervillain, and regular antagonist to Daredevil, Spider-Man and The Punisher. His over-sized appearance and personality are based on Sydney Greenstreet, a Hollywood actor famous for his roles as criminal masterminds. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist John Romita, Sr., he made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (July 1967). His nickname, Kingpin, is a reference to the title of crime boss in mafia slang nomenclature. He ranked tenth on IGN's list of top one hundred comic book villains in 2009.

Fisk began his life as a poor child in New York City, bullied by his classmates due to his obesity. Fisk began training himself in physical combat, using his new-found strength to intimidate the bullies into joining his gang. He was eventually discovered by crime lord Don Rigoletto. Fisk became Don Rigoletto's bodyguard and right-hand man. Eventually, Fisk killed Don Rigoletto and took control of his criminal empire, immediately becoming one of the most powerful figures in New York's underworld. Kingpin enjoyed a long tenure in his new position, but he had made enemies such as the Maggia crime syndicate and the terrorist group HYDRA. The two groups teamed together to oppose Fisk, causing him to flee to Japan. There, he started a spice business in order to regain his wealth. After earning enough money, Fisk returned to New York and started gang wars, in an attempt to bring down the Maggia. With the criminal world in chaos, Fisk was able to step in and take back control.

While Fisk was a powerful crime lord, he posed as a legitimate businessman, one who made donations to charities, and seemed like a generous, wealthy man. He eventually met a woman named Vanessa, whom he married and had a son with, Richard Fisk. Vanessa did not know that Fisk was a criminal when she married him, and when she found out, she threatened to leave him if he did not give up his life of crime. He temporarily retired from crime, and the family moved back to Japan, until the existing New York gangs lured him back to New York in hopes of getting files he was known to have on the various high ranking individuals which contained "irrefutable evidence of various crimes" against them.

He was portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 Daredevil film. In 2015, he entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe via the Daredevil show on Netflix, portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio.


This villain contains examples of:

  • Acrofatic: Subverted technically, played straight visually. Kingpin is big and wide, yet is agile enough to fight Spider-Man and Daredevil hand to hand. However, Kingpin himself said that very little of his body mass is actually fat, so we can assume he's replaced all the fat he used to have with muscle. Confirmed by Daredevil who compared hitting Kingpin to hitting a brick wall. (Some sources say that his bulk is only 2% fat, even though that's impossible.)
  • Adipose Rex: He's the King of New York Crime and he's bulky (some would say fat... but they'd be wrong).
  • Affably Evil: He's usually polite and somewhat soft-spoken.
  • Archenemy: To Daredevil. He actually began as one of Spidermans worst enemies, but this changed in the 70's. In the Punisher MAX continuity, he is this to The Punisher.
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: In an early issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter is unmasked by the Kingpin and his thugs, but his face means nothing to them. When Spidey starts fighting smarter and proves he's an actual threat, this comes back to bite them - all they have to go on is "white teenage boy".
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: He became a gang leader by bullying the other tough guys at his school which led to him being noticed by the local mafia.
  • Ax-Crazy: He hides it well most of the time, but he's still a brutal thug at heart who enjoys killing people with his bare hands.
  • Badass
    • Badass Normal: The Kingpin has no superhuman powers. However, he is incredibly strong and durable, possessing remarkable strength concealed by his Fat Bastard appearance. He has been shown to be strong enough to hurl people across a room, rip limbs from people (demonstrated under a handshake), crush a man's skull with his bare hands, leave imprints in concrete walls after punching them and even crush one of Spider-Man's web shooters without making any great effort.
    • Badass in a Nice Suit: He is almost always dressed in a white suit.
  • Bad Boss: Fisk has a tendency to execute henchmen who have screwed up or slighted him in some way, or are even just forced to die so that he looks more fearful to the survivors.
  • Bald of Evil
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: In the Daredevil movie.
  • Bastard Understudy: To Don Rigoletto. Fisk learned a lot from the old crime boss, served as his lieutenant and then killed him and took over his criminal empire.
  • Better The Devil You Know: Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Punisher are usually hesitant to take out Fisk permanently. They know that there'll just be chaos without him. In fact, in one story, the Kingpin was legitimately out of the crime business, but he was asked back to New York City in order to help calm the chaos of myriad gang wars.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Fisk hired an assassin from prison to kill Spider-Man after he'd unmasked himself. The assassin hit Aunt May by accident, and when Spider-Man came looking for him Fisk mocked him to his face. Spider-Man responded by beating Fisk to within an inch of his life and promising to come back if Aunt May died.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Despite what he looks like, Kingpin is NOT obese, his body is nearly pure muscle, and his strength is as close to human perfection as you can get without the Super Soldier Serum. He even has a vault that only he can open, because it doesnt have a combination lock, the door is just so heavy that no unpowered human can budge it.
  • The Chessmaster: He's always this, but in his prime in particular he controlled nearly all organized crime on the East Coast and even had a general in his pocket.
  • Classic Villain: As Spider-Man's nemesis. Who better to counteract a short, skinny teenager than a towering, middle-aged body builder?
  • Contemplative Boss: He's prone to doing this in his various forms when in his penthouse.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: He's a mob boss hiding behind the mask of a legitimate businessman and owns several companies.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Kingpin had always assumed that since he usually fought near-equally with Spider-Man, that he was capable of eventually taking the web-head down. And then he was stupid enough to have Spider-Man's aunt shot "as a message." Spider-Man invaded the prison where was living like a king at the top of the status-pyramid, confronted the Kingpin, and then proceeded to kick the ever-living shit out of the Fat Man. The Kingpin never laid a finger on Spider-Man, and Spidey made it crystal clear to everyone watching the fight that the Kingpin never had a chance at all of doing so.
  • Depending on the Writer: He has been the subject of flip-flops of epic proportions: either he thinks drug dealing is rock bottom, or he's single-handedly keeping about half the world's drug barons in business.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: He occasionally lurches into this archetype, particularly in the Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Well, he never seems to use one personally, which is odd for a mobster, prefering to kill people with his bare hands. He is known to have a laser blaster concealed in his cane that he has used in a few stories, but this was phased out as he moved on to being Daredevils enemy.
  • The Don: He's one of the top crime lords of the Marvel Universe, but he actually deconstruct this trope: His wife Vanessa truly loves him, but she and his son had tried to kill Fisk. Fisk is not The Patriarch but a curse on their loved ones.
  • Enemy Mine: A notable - non-canon - example was the inter-company crossover where he apparently sided with Ra's Al-Ghul against Spidey and Batman to save Vanessa. The heroes didn't know it at first, but Fisk was actually helping them, proving to be even more of a Chessmaster than Ra's, only revealing his true loyalties in the end.
  • Entitled Bastard: He has a lot of this in his character and will pull Disproportionate Retribution on people who deny him his way. The Ultimate version was arguably worse, ordering Spider-Man's school blown up while class was in session after Daredevil threatened to kill his wife. And during the threat, he kept pleading with Daredevil that he had done nothing wrong because it "wasn't personal".
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He loves his wife and son, despite the fact that both tried to kill him on at least one occassion. Sadly, both came to tragic ends. He eventually found peace again with a woman in Spain whom he married and adopted her children as his own, only for them to be murdered by The Hand, leading to the Kingpin returning to crime.
  • Evil Is Petty: He seems to really have it in for costumed crimefighters and can never simply try and "kill" them; he has to utterly humiliate them and ruin their lives first.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: When Spider-Man or Daredevil help to take down Fisk, it almost immediately turns worse, as less-refined, less-humane and less-subtle underbosses scramble to take the top spot Kingpin used to occupy.
  • Evil Versus Evil: He's waged war against the Maggia crime syndicate and the terrorist group HYDRA.
  • Evil Virtues: Can be generally counted on to keep his word; genuinely cares for his own family; sees his enemies in Worthy Opponent terms (sometimes) and will treat his underlings with respect so long as they don't fail or betray him.
  • Fat Bastard: He's an incredibly huge person, but depending on the writer this is because his muscles are so huge they make him look fat or that he's a greedy slob with no sense of control. Some split the difference and write that he's got incredibly powerful arm and leg muscles but is fat everywhere else because of overeating—ignoring the more medically likely explanation that, like sumo wrestlers, he is well-muscled everywhere, but eats enough to maintain a significant layer of padding on top of it.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In his own words, he was "an unpopular, blubbery child" before taking up weightlifting, and his career as criminal began as nothing more than a legbreaker in Hell's Kitchen.
  • Gemstone Assault: One weapon he occasionally uses is a diamond stickpin in his tie that can squirt tear gas/ knockout gas into the face of an enemy that he's grappling with.
  • Genius Bruiser: A self-educated, self-made man who rose from humble beginnings to become the greatest criminal mastermind in the New York underworld, he is also a hulking, monstrous brute who is physically a match for Daredevil and even Spider-Man, on occasion.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Fisk started out with a cigarette holder, but switched to villainous cigars after they went out of style. Cubans, naturally.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: This happened in a rather memorable story. Spider-Man and several other New York super-heroes were having a poker game where the winner would promise to donate the winning pool to charity. Fisk crashed the party and asked to be dealt in, offering to add an incredibly large sum to the pool. His only condition was that, if he won, he be allowed to use their contributions to the pool to buy a Cuban cigar. Fisk's actual goal, as they quickly figured out, was to show them up and humiliate them; nonetheless, they agreed. By the end of the story, everyone except Spidey and Fisk had folded, and finally, Spidey won.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: In one storyline Fisk was originally sent to prison for larceny, after one of his dad's scams went south and his bulk prevented him from following his father up a fire escape. Once he comes out, he's got "connections" and uses what he's learned to begin building his criminal empire.
  • I Own This Town: He remained the ruler of New York's criminal underground for a very long time.
  • Kevlard: He appears to be a monstrously obese man who appears to harness the power of Kevlard. However, once he actually takes off his shirt and starts fighting, it's apparent he is ripped as hell.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Trope Namer.
  • Large and In Charge: He's 6'7 and while he weighs close to 400lbs, it's more muscle than fat.
  • Lightning Bruiser: When Spidey, Daredevil and other heroes had their first fights with him, what surprised them most was how damn fast he was, especially considering how he looks like a Fat Bastard.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Every single time he is thrown in prison, no exceptions.
  • The Man Behind the Man: There's a better than fifty percent chance that the supercriminal in a Spider-Man or Daredevil story is taking orders from or has ties to Fisk.
  • Man in White: Usually wears a white blazer or business suit. It's used to reinforce his Villain with Good Publicity status in-universe.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Yeah, he's good at this. To cut a long story short, he was a significant threat for Spider-Man, but he truly began to show how terrifyingly good at manipulating people he was once he became the main villain in the Daredevil comics. In the "Born Again" storyline by neo-noir comics master Frank Miller, the Kingpin finds out that Matt Murdock is Daredevil and begins a months-long plot to systematically destroy his life before finally trying to kill him, putting Daredevil through the trial of his life. He has his hands in every cookie jar, has a general in his pocket, and has spies everywhere. Even after he's jailed, he proves very savvy at manipulating people from behind bars.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Fisk only wears personally tailored designer suits. Of course, given his size, his suits would probably have to be custom made regardless of the quality.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: He is still fully capable of running a criminal enterprise from inside prison and once even tricked Iron Man into eliminating a competitor on the outside for him, able to do so because he still had enough information on the wider criminal underworld to make deals and manipulate the authorities.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: Fisk is currently running The Hand. They are responsible for training Daredevil's girlfriend Elektra and his newer enemy Lady Bullseye up as assassins, and are a magical cult led by demons who worship another demonic creature called The Beast, who recruit members by killing them and resurrecting them as either undead ninja or, if they are named superheroes/ villains, brainwashed killing machines. The Hand started off as politically motivated rebels before being taken over by a more even cult called the Snakeroot, who generally form the Hand's elite.
  • Necessary Evil: The reason why no one has ever made any serious attempts to topple him for good. Fisk is the definition of "too big to fail" in the criminal world - as the ruler of just about all of the East Coast's underbelly, he also keeps a whole lot of people in check. If anyone ever actually did kill him or ruined him to the point where he could never rebuild his empire to even a fraction of what it was, the resulting power vacuum would invite all of the small-time crime bosses that he kept under control to go to war with one another over his spot, which would create so much carnage that even SHIELD and the Avengers would probably have their hands full just trying to quell it. Fisk knows this, Spidey and Daredevil know this... hell, even the Punisher knows this, and none of them are about to disregard it for any reason.
  • Neck Snap: Fisk made his final ascent to power when he snapped the neck of his boss, Don Rigoletto. In fact, this is usually his preferred method of killing someone when he does it personally.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Shows this often, especially in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, where he helps Spider-Man often when the alternative would be letting New York (or the world) be destroyed. As he tells Landon:
    "There is no profit to be made in the destruction of the planet. It is very bad for business."
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: We once had a whole page of Daredevil punching him from all possible angles, with no visible effect. Next page, Kingpin starts the payback with a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Race Lift: In the comics he was white but in the live action Daredevil movie he's played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan.
    • Ability Over Appearance: Apparently, they originally auditioned several white actors but none of them were able to act well enough, so they went with Duncan because was the only actor his size with enough acting mojo.
    • Interestingly though, Stan Lee had originally conceived Kingpin as a black character, but he made him white to avoid accusations about racism.
  • Revenge Before Reason: In Born Again his underlings kept calling him out on it. This was a mistake, but they were right and his revenge scheme blows his plans to move into legitimate business out of the water as they result in him being publicly exposed as a crime lord. In Civil War he has Spider-Man's loving Aunt May shot, to goad Spidey into a fight so he could show all the goons in prison he was still in charge. Spider-Man beats the hell out of him, and warns the crowd if he or anyone tries something that again he'll come back and kill them.
  • Revenge by Proxy: He attacked Peter Parker by going after Aunt May after Peter unmasked as Spider-Man and he's gone after Matt Murdock by attacking Foggy Nelson before.
  • Rogues-Gallery Transplant: Has played the Big Bad in Daredevil, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and The Punisher series' arcs. However, for other media adaptations, he is legally considered a Daredevil character.
  • Scary Black Man: You saw Michael Clarke Duncan's name up there, right?
  • Self-Made Man: He built himself up from a low-level street thug, to assassin, to the Big Bad behind most of the organized crime on the East Coast.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Several continuties had him killing his own father as revenge for being abandoned during a heist.
  • The Spymaster: He has eyes and ears everywhere.
  • The Starscream: Fisk himself was a successful one, killing Don Rigoletto and taking over his criminal empire.
    • He's had to deal with a few himself over the years; the biggest threat was probably his own son Richard, who assumed the identity of the Rose in an attempt to bring him down, but ultimately failed.
  • Start My Own: Once Fisk realized that if he couldn't force newspapers to run or not run the stories he wanted, he could just start his own media empire.
  • Stout Strength: Fisk looks like an obese man. And while he doesn't have any superpowers, he's physically strong enough to beat Daredevil and has even given Spider-Man a hard time once or twice.
    • Although later stories have made it clear that he's only held his own against Spider-Man because Spider-Man did not go all out when fighting him. Spider-Man, under normal circumstances and against non-superpowered opponents, has very strong psychological inhibitions against using his full strength out of fear of killing someone. When Fisk hired an assassin to kill Peter following him outing himself as Spider-Man and the sniper shot Aunt May by accident, Peter put on his black suit, tracked Fisk down in prison, and brutally beat him to a pulp before promising to finish him off if May died.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: In the Ultimate Comics he subverts it when Spidey tries to intimidate the Kingpin by dropping in on him unexpectedly, only to realize that the Kingpin put in shatter-proof windows to get rid of such problems. Makes the web head lose his cool. Kingpin doesn't even blink at the sound of Spidey hitting his window.
  • The Syndicate: He's the leader.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Fisk was shot at point blank range by Echo, in revenge for killing her father. He lived through it but was rendered temporarily blind.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Definitely standing with one foot in this trope, although it did not cost him his life. After years of being in Spider-Man's Rogue's Gallery and fighting Spidey countless times, he never caught on to the fact that the only reason he held his own against Spider-Man when they fought was solely because Spidey was holding back. Never. Not Once. Despite plenty of evidence available to him of Spidey going toe-to-with Venom, Carnage, the Juggernaut, the Wrecking Crew, and plenty of other heavyweights, despite rubbing elbows with plenty of other villains much stronger than him who'd had their asses handed to them by Spidey on multiple occasions, despite personally seeing Spidey throw cars like matchboxes and tear open steel vaults, he never connected the dots. You even have to wonder if he really has as much genuine fighting experience that he is always bragging about, or if most of his experience comes in his gym against opponents who are getting paid to lose in order to make him look good. Hell, it is a standard technique for most professional fighters to hold back in the early stages of a fight, with the idea to get the measure of your opponent and figure out the best strategy to win. A trained fighter can always tell when someone is pulling their punches. That's one of the reasons why boxing is sometimes called "the sweet science." Fisk never caught on, hired someone to try and kill Aunt May, and then had to find out the hard way that even with all this, Spidey beat him senseless while still holding back. Kingpin now fully understands that if Spidey really wants to, he could kill him with one single punch.
  • Vetinari Job Security: Fisk is perceived as a need for New York City underground criminals. When he goes, there is the Evil Power Vacuum thing. This trope is the true enemy of Daredevil: Fisk is only a man, but the complacency of every criminal and hero tolerating Fisk because Better The Devil You Know is what sets Fisk as Kingpin.
  • Villainous Valour: He's certainly got the courage to regularly go toe-to-toe with superheroes.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Used to have this, he posed as a legitimate businessman and made donations to charities but it got destroyed over the years.
  • The Worf Effect: If Spider-Man is fighting seriously, the Kingpin is defeated easily to show how dangerous Spider-Man really is.
  • You Owe Me: In an early episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series Spider-Man (in his civilian identity) saved the Kingpin from an assassination attempt by the Hobgoblin. Fisk didn't say anything about it at the time, but later he decided that he did owe Peter something and offered to pay for his wedding to Mary Jane.