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Comic Book / Purple Man

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The Purple Man (Zebediah Killgrave) is a fictional character, a supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Joe Orlando, he first appeared in Daredevil #4 (October 1964). His body produces pheromones which allow him to verbally control the actions of others. Initially a recurring enemy of Daredevil, he later emerged as the archenemy of Jessica Jones.

Originally a spy, Zebediah Killgrave got into an accident with chemicals which... well... turned his skin purple. As a side effect though, the chemicals gave him the power of mind manipulation, able to have people believe him or follow his commands without much effort on his part. Now able to take whatever he wanted, Killgrave gave up being a spy, instead taking up a full life of crime.


A master manipulator with purple skin and the power to force others to do his bidding, Zebediah Killgrave is a professional criminal with a long list of nasty habits. He's clashed with Daredevil repeatedly and has always been frustrated by the fact that his commands do not effect the vigilante to the same degree that they do the general populace.

A version of the character appears in the Netflix series Jessica Jones (2015), set within the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity. This version is portrayed by David Tennant.


Purple Man provides examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Go on, just guess how he got his name.
  • Arch-Enemy: To Jessica Jones and her husband, Luke Cage.
  • Back from the Dead: He died in Emperor Doom. They had a funeral in the pages of Alpha Flight and everything. Ten years later, he came back.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: This should say it all.
  • Color Character: Purple.
  • Compelling Voice/Mind Control: His power. It was more his presence that bent people to his will, but he still had to order them around verbally. Which he did.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Invoked. He retired for a while in The '70s, when he realized he didn't need to be a villain for the money when he could just make people give him what he wanted.
  • Deader Than Dead: This seemed to be the case for a while, as he let himself die and then had his corpse hurled into the sun by Captain Marvel. But then the "Purple Daughter" storyline revealed that his body (which eventually resuscitated itself) was whisked away by the Purple Children, who only made Danvers think that she had cremated Killgrave.
  • Depending on the Artist: His coloration varies from a very pale thistle to a dark eggplant-like shade. It also varies whether his hair is purple or black.
  • Driven to Suicide: By the Jessica Jones series he's become so burnt out that he seeks Jessica out because as the only one who "understands" him he believes that she can help him find some kind of purpose in life or remove his abilities or assist him with relearning how to be good and normal. After repeatedly pestering her to aid him or at least tell him what to do, Killgrave apologizes for everything and then kills himself after Jessica just keeps telling him to "go."
    Purple Man: I see your point. I'm sure it's why I came here. I just needed... I don't know.
    Jessica: You—you said—you said your powers, you couldn't be--
    Purple Man: No. I said I think you couldn't do me in. I didn't say what I could do. I know what to do.
    Jessica: N—
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His ex-wife and their daughter Kara, known as Persuasion, though both hate him for good reason. While Killgrave would like to reconcile with them, he's made no real effort to and it's been made clear (via Nate Grey reading his mind) that he prioritizes taking over the world and continuing to do things For the Evulz over them. And while he was initially fond of the Purple Children, that got thrown out the window when they turned on him, leading him to abandon his Evil Is One Big, Happy Family plans for them in favor of just weaponizing or outright killing them.
  • Evil Is Petty: Perhaps the grand champ of the Marvel Universe. He could do unbelievable things with his powers, but always uses them for petty reasons.
  • For the Evulz: That didn't stop him from doing really, really nasty things to people just because he could.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Thanks to the fact that he frequently abuses his powers to turn women into Sex Slaves, he's actually got a fair number of kids knocking around, most of them with at least some of his powers. None of them are quite as monstrous as him.
  • Healing Factor: Retconned to have one, Norman Osborn-style, when they decided to bring him back 10 years after his "death" in Emperor Doom.
  • The Hedonist: Since coming back from retirement, he is rarely seen without a mind-controlled woman (or a harem of them) on his arm.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Deep, deep, deep down he's secretly obsessed with being loved unconditionally, and this longing for genuine affection occasionally surfaces, albeit in ways twisted by his sociopathy. He released a woman who he had taken as his wife from his control because the genuine fondness that he had developed for her led him to believe that she could reciprocate his feelings in spite of what he had done to her. Obviously, her immediate response to being freed was to take off as quickly as possible (Killgrave doing nothing to stop her). He eventually also started rounding up his children, wanting to form a family with them... and also have them help him Take Over the World.
  • In the Blood: His daughter Kara/Persuasion inherited his powers but, fortunately, she went the opposite way in terms of morality.
  • Kick the Dog: He once stopped an entire restaurant from breathing so he could eat his eggs in peace.
  • Manipulative Bastard
  • Medium Awareness: A dark example of this in Alias where he is fully aware that he's in a comic book. He made Jessica Jones believe her life was a comic book, with an audience of loyal readers, and that every time he made her strip for him, she was taking her clothes off for them.
  • Mind Rape: Lots of people, but what he did to his wife and Jessica Jones stands out.
  • Morality Pet: Subverted. Learning he has a daughter seems to have made him worse, since he thinks she'll love him if he can conquer the world.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Zebediah Killgrave?
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Any A-list or B-list hero with psionic abilities could crush him effortlessly (he's no threat to the likes of Jean Grey or Psylocke, and he'd be an amoeba next to Charles Xavier). However, he's a significant threat because he's pitted against "street level" heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, being smart enough to avoid drawing the attention of the larger fish in the sea.
  • No-Sell: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, the Kingpin, and Dr. Doom have all proven able to resist his powers. Daredevil's non-conventional senses allow him to concentrate on resisting his commands, Jessica Jones received psionic shielding from Jean Grey, and the Kingpin was able to resist through sheer force of will (albeit with some obvious struggle). Dr. Doom however takes the cake, as he was able to easily ignore his power without any visible effort, all while he was connected to a device that amplified his ability to planet-influencing levels.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Writers have turned him from a camp, one note bad guy to a full-fledged monster.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the first New Avengers arc, he intends to use his powers to make Luke Cage attack the other assembled heroes. He also makes obvious threats toward Jessica Jones and her and Cage's unborn child. Cage then informs the unaware villain that his food contained special drugs designed to negate his powers. He has a look of sheer terror before Cage moved in on him and proceeded to deliver a brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, and from the looks of it, possibly might have killed him if Captain America did not interfere.
  • Parental Favoritism: It's highly implied from the statements made by one of Killgrave's sons that, out of all of the children that he has sired, Zebediah views Kara as the favorite despite the fact she is (morally) nothing like him.
  • Pheromones: The Purple Man secretes pheromones that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. They allow him to control affected creatures with verbal commands. And for extra-special-squick, he used it to father at least one daughter with a mind-controlled lady friend. That daughter, known as the Purple Girl, inherited the power, and used it to mind control Northstar in her first appearance (though unlike her father, she didn't take it past going swimming together).
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Many times, most horrifically when he ordered thirty-odd innocent bystanders at a Denny's to stop breathing so he could enjoy his eggs in peace.
  • Rape by Proxy: Killgrave never actually raped Jessica Jones. What he did do was bring many women back to bed with him and rape them, while making her watch and using his powers to force her to feel upset that it wasn't her being raped.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: One of the reasons why he is regarded as such a vile villain.
  • Redeeming Replacement: His daughter Kara, better known as Persuasion, is very much his Distaff Counterpart, having inherited his purple skin and powers. But she's nothing like him and uses her power to help people, not to have them cater to her every whim or to corrupt them into evildoing.
  • Resignations Not Accepted:
    • When he tried to retire from villainy, Big Bads like the Kingpin and Doctor Doom kept pulling him back in. Well, overt villainy anyway. He has never stopped committing crimes or being evil; he just stopped picking fights with superheroes or trying to Take Over the World. Temporarily. He still conned, brainwashed, robbed, and murdered his merry way through life.
    • He was perfectly willing to let himself die after an aborted Heel–Face Turn, but the Purple Children stole his body at the behest of their older brother Benjamin, who let their father's healing factor revive him before imprisoning him, and experimenting on him in order to develop serums and gasses that granted him his own form of Mind Control. Killgrave, more or less back to his old self, is reduced to forming an extremely shaky Enemy Mine with Jessica Jones to try and deal with the "Purple Son."
  • Rogues Gallery Transplant: He's faced off against S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers, and other Marvel folks several times. And to say nothing for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
  • Serial Rapist: Why he is so reviled.
  • Smells Sexy: The Purple Man smells like whatever he wants to smell like, so that you do whatever he wants you to do.
  • The Sociopath: He uses his mind control pheromones to rape and kill women For the Evulz, he made an entire restaurant stop breathing because he wanted to eat in peace, and tortured Jessica Jones by raping captured women in front of her and making her watch it all.
  • Take Over the World: His motivation since coming out of retirement.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The year-long Daredevil storyline where he manipulated the father of Daredevil's girlfriend (who was the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation) into letting him take over the company and bankrolling his anti-Daredevil efforts. The story ended with the father being Driven to Suicide, the girlfriend breaking up with Daredevil, and the Horned One being whaled on by four of his toughest foes at the same time.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: One of several very good reasons why his ex-wife kept his daughter far away from him. And (for the most part) Persuasion averts this trope.

Alternative Title(s): The Purple Man


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