February is Daredevil month as Marvel Comics roles out a brand new line encompassing the character’s world in three new ongoing series. Last week we highlighted one of them with a list of the greatest Bullseye stories ever. Now we’re back for more as Kingpin #1 hits stands. For as much damage as Bullseye has done, Kingpin is the definitive Daredevil villain. In every adaptation to television or film, Kingpin features most prominently and he has been the mastermind behind all of the Man Without Fear’s greatest losses.
Now he’s back with a series of his own, following the Civil War II mini-series, written by Matthew Rosenberg and art by Ben Torres. It’ll be interesting to see where the villain goes now after so many highs and lows over the past couple of decades. However, fans looking to learn more about Kingpin or discover what makes the character truly great don’t need to wait for any new issues to land. We’ve collected the five best Kingpin stories ever told so far right here. So click ahead to see what you should be reading to find out why Wilson Fisk is Daredevil’s archenemy and one of Marvel’s absolute best villains.
Issues: Daredevil (vol. 1) #227-233
Written by Frank Miller
Drawn by David Mazzuchelli
Colored by Christie Scheele
This isn’t just the best Kingpin story ever created, it’s also the best Daredevil story ever created. “Born Again” features this pair at their absolute best and their very worst. It’s the closest anyone has ever come to breaking the hero of Hell’s Kitchen. After countless battles and the loss of his wife and empire, Kingpin has decided to finally crush Daredevil. He goes about it in the most methodical of manners with each decision made to inflict the most pain. It highlights both why Kingpin is a brilliant strategist and an entirely irredeemable villain. While he never allows himself to smile too much, the joy he takes in this plan is palpable on the page.
“Born Again” is Frank Miller at his absolute best and no one better has ever tackled these characters. He blends a complete understanding of character with some of the most memorable concepts and decisions in superhero comics. Mazzuchelli’s execution of these comics is every bit as good, if not better, than when he teamed with Miller for “Year One”. In his inks Kingpin’s massive brawn can be felt moving between panels and he is a truly fearsome figure to behold. Nowhere else has Kingpin been as intimidating or well-realized as in “Born Again”, a true comics classic.
Issues: Punisher MAX #1-5
Written by Jason Aaron
Drawn by Steve Dillon
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
The downside of writing The Punisher is that it’s very difficult to feature him in stories with classic Marvel villains. If The Punisher doesn’t murder his target then he has failed, so having him face off against the Kingpin seems like a recipe for failure. That is unless he actually can kill Wilson Fisk or failure is the point of the story. Throughout Punisher MAX, Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon had it both ways, but it was best realized in their first story “Kingpin”.
Wilson Fisk may survive this battle, but it sets up a much longer war with Frank Castle and establishes just how vile he is as an antagonist. In order to survive Kingpin is willing to do anything and that really means anything. By the final issue he has crossed a line that leaves him without anything but the name he has built. Rather than having his family taken, he chooses to lose them in an absolutely chilling scene. Aaron and Dillon built their Kingpin to be the inverse of The Punisher and it really defines the character in this series.
"The Autobiography of Matt Murdock"
Issues: Daredevil (vol. 4) #15-18
Written by Mark Waid
Drawn by Chris Samnee
Colored by Matt Wilson
Samnee and Waid saved the best for last in their much lauded run on Daredevil and that means they saved The Kingpin. Revealed only at the end of their second volume, it is shown in an incredibly compelling splash just how obsessed Wilson Fisk has become with the hero who always stops him. His obsession, patience, and brilliant mind come together to form a plot that is one of the most compelling in recent Marvel Comics history.
It is never enough for Kingpin to simply win, he is an artist of organized crime and that’s the emphasis of this story. Every action he takes shows an understanding of his opponent and is designed with a specific purpose. He doesn’t display flare like many colorful villains, but details his actions like a mathematician. That exacting detail is shown in the artwork of this story as well as the choices of the character, and it’s a nice reminder of just how dangerous Wilson Fisk truly is.
Issues: Daredevil (vol. 1) #170-172
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s run on Daredevil is the stuff of legend, and for good reason. They may not have invented all of the characters involved, but they certainly defined them and their legacies. “Gang War” is the story in which they establish Kingpin as the greatest threat to Hell’s Kitchen and everything Matt Murdock strives to protect. His overwhelming machinations and immense cruelty stand in stark contrast to everything Daredevil serves.
While some might point to the later story “Spiked” in #179-181 as the highlight of the Miller and Janson run, “Gang War” is where they really decide who Kingpin is. Taking the pieces that Stan Lee and John Romita laid out in Amazing Spider-Man, they transformed the villain into a human being. The added layers of humanity served to only make Kingpin all the more frightening as he came to reflect the worst aspects of human nature.
"In The Clutches of the Kingpin"
Issues: Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #50-52
Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
The impact that Lee and Romita had in creating the Kingpin should not be understated though. Like many classic villains, all of the key elements were there from the very start. Romita’s design for Wilson Fisk is striking in his very first appearance. He is built like a brick wall, turning his sumo-style build into something truly intimidating. Much of his power lies in the weight and size of his hands though, capable of scooping up Spider-Man and crushing him.
Even Wilson Fisk’s suit is something to be feared, clearly crafted to represent extravagant wealth and respect. He’s the boogeyman who can mingle with high society before committing murder and ruining lives. Lee and Romita lay the groundwork for everything that is to come, and it’s clear from the start that The Kingpin was bound to be one of Marvel Comics’ greatest villains ever.