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SYFY WIRE kingpin

The Kingpin is Marvel's street-level Thanos. It's time for the MCU to treat him that way.

One of Marvel's greatest villains has a lot of potential in a wide-open cinematic universe.

By Matthew Jackson
Hawkeye Kingpin

Earlier this month, Marvel Studios reintroduced Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk by casting him as the stealth Big Bad of Hawkeye, in the process confirming one of Marvel's great villains does exist in the MCU as we now understand it. It's something fans of Netflix's Daredevil series have long hoped-for, and something close viewers of Hawkeye suspected might happen for weeks, but now that it's done, where does that leave Fisk? After a relatively brief appearance in Hawkeye and a cliffhanger sendoff, where does Marvel Studios take The Kingpin of Crime?

If they're smart, they'll do what some of the best writers at Marvel Comics have done over several decades and cast him as a street-level supervillain capable of masterminding city-wide storytelling events, New York City's Thanos, a character as ruthless as he is tragic who can take on just about any hero the MCU wants to throw at him. After a stunning performance across three seasons of Daredevil and a welcome, all-too-brief return in Hawkeye, Fisk (and D'Onofrio) has earned it. 

On the surface level, Kingpin is a big guy who can hit really hard and is intimidating enough to run a massive criminal empire, and if you only look at him that way, he's basically on par with a half-dozen other Marvel Comics gangster, guys who can serve as stand-ins for each other whether they're fighting Daredevil, The Punisher, or even Moon Knight. But there's a reason the character has persisted through battles with Spider-Man, Daredevil, and dozens of other villains, why he's been a central figure in more than one live-action adaptation, and why he's at this very moment the chief antagonist of a major new crossover event spinning out of the pages of Daredevil.

Kingpin is not just a brawler who rose through the ranks of the underworld. He's a tragic emperor, forever torn between what nature made him, what his own constantly turning mind imagines he could be, and what his heart tells him he wants. His love story, played out in Netflix's Daredevil series, is a genuinely bittersweet tale of two searching souls who find each other, and his inability to escape his own brutal nature has gotten in the way of something resembling happiness in his life more than once. If you're willing to look beyond the imposing stature and the iconic wardrobe, you'll find one of Marvel's most strangely relatable villains, a wounded man who can never quite have it all, even if he's willing to sacrifice some things along the way. 

Kingpin Daredevil

It's here, in that relatable space between brutal confidence and constant insecurity, that Kingpin lives most often, and it's that contrast that's made him one of the best antagonists in all of Marvel Comics. He's always walking between two worlds, running a criminal empire while dreaming of going legit, falling in love while pouring energy into his hatred for Matt Murdock, pushing for more power while constantly feeling the void in him that the power can't ever fill. That makes him a perfect foil for characters like Daredevil, Spider-Man, and even Hawkeye, guys who are perfectly capable of running with the Big Boys in Marvel crossover events but who also have to make time to just clean up their own neighborhoods. He's a villain who can be scaled up or down as needed, which means he fits into just about any story. That's why you've seen him in Marvel Comics doing everything from brawling in the streets to winning a mayoral race in New York City. 

So we've established that there's a ton of potential and depth to fall back on for this character, something Daredevil readers and viewers know all too well, but for the last few years of his live-action existence, he's been sort of cordoned off into one little corner. Whether Daredevil actually fits into the MCU or not, the Netflix street-level heroes always seemed to exist in a bubble, never quite able to pierce the membrane linking them to the wider MCU. Now the Kingpin has done it in some form, and he brings all that potential to the part along with the endless intensity of Vincent D'Onofrio. So, where does he go from here?

Well, if there's one thing Hawkeye proved once again, it's that smaller superhero stories are still worth telling. Yes, Avengers have to fly off into space and fight living gods with the fate of all life in the universe at stake, but they also have to come home and do their laundry, and see who's been messing around their apartment, and help younger heroes while fighting to get home in time for Christmas. We need those smaller stories to remind us what the bigger stories are fighting for, and Disney+ has become the perfect portal for the longer, character-focused pieces of the MCU. Wilson Fisk hasn't been part of those smaller stories much, at least not yet, but he's absolutely the kind of character who could fit right into them, pulling the strings as the puppet master of all things villainous in New York City, while the latest crop of Avengers prepares to go off and fight Kang the Conqueror for the fate of the multiverse, or whatever form that story takes. 

It's easy to see D'Onofrio's Kingpin rising up to the Big Bad of the MCU's streets, finding time to hassle Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, Echo, and even future crime fighters for years to come with increasingly deadly schemes. It can be very street-level, focused on a battle for a single neighborhood, or it can be a Mayor Fisk epic that ropes every NYC vigilante into a battle for the soul for the MCU's metropolitan core. Just as Thanos was the tragic, misguided supervillain of the MCU on a cosmic scale, Kingpin can be that villain on a citywide scale. He's a gift that could keep on giving, and it's time for the MCU to treat him that way.