|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2016)|
Art by Tom Grummett.
|First appearance||Daredevil #4 (October 1964)|
|Created by||Stan Lee (writer)
Joe Orlando (artist)
|Alter ego||Zebediah Killgrave|
Regenerative healing factor
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. In the 2000s, he emerged as an enemy of Jessica Jones and her husband Luke Cage.
The character was portrayed by David Tennant in the 2015 opening season of the Netflix TV series Jessica Jones, for which Tennant received critical praise, and for which the character was included on Rolling Stone's list of the "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time".
Fictional character biography
Zebediah Killgrave was born in Rijeka, Croatia. A physician turned international spy, he was sent to infiltrate a chemical refinery. During the mission, he was accidentally doused with a chemical that turned his hair and skin purple. Caught outright and questioned, Killgrave offered a weak, inadequate alibi to his captors. Much to his surprise, he was believed and released. Several more incidents of this nature demonstrated that the nerve gas had given Killgrave the superhuman ability to command the wills of other people. Calling himself the Purple Man, Killgrave embarked on a criminal career.
The Purple Man has vacillated between an actively criminal life and easy retirement. Morally he has never reformed. He can most commonly be seen in expensive purple street clothes.
Early in his criminal career, he used his mind control powers to force a woman to become his wife. Before she recovered and left him, she became pregnant with his daughter, Kara Killgrave. Kara inherited his discoloration and powers and became the Alpha Flight-affiliated superhero called the Purple Girl, and later Persuasion in Alpha Flight issue #41.
The character largely disappeared from adventures in the 1980s. He did make a few more appearances in the Marvel Universe, most notably in the graphic novel Emperor Doom. Doctor Doom uses Killgrave to power a machine called the "psycho-prism" that allowed Doom to control all minds of everyone on Earth (Doom himself is immune to Killgrave's powers, due to Doom's incredible force of will). Wonder Man manages to escape the mind-control effect due to the unique transformation his body underwent when it became ion powered. Awakening from an experiment that involved Tony Stark placing him in a sensory deprivation chamber for a month Wonder Man realized to his horror he was the sole being on the planet immune to the Purple Man’s amplified powers. Wonder Man eventually manages to break Doom's hold over several selected Avenger colleagues. An enraged Sub-Mariner smashes the device, which results in Killgrave's apparent death, although he somehow survives.
He later reappeared in the pages of X-Man, where it was revealed that he was the mastermind behind Nate Grey's dramatically sudden rise to super-celebrity status as a miracle worker in New York City.[volume & issue needed] He had been subtly manipulating both the population of Manhattan and Nate himself into accepting and embracing the young exile from the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline as a modern messianic figure, who would then become so psychologically empowered by hero-worship that he could and would literally change the reality of the world using the full potential of his mutant power. The plan ultimately fails when Nate learns the truth and loses his confidence, thus reducing his power.[volume & issue needed] Killgrave goes once more into hiding.[volume & issue needed]
As detailed in the series Alias, the Purple Man has since been revealed to be linked to the history of Jessica Jones.[volume & issue needed] When she was the superhero Jewel, he used his mind control powers to subdue her, forcing her to live with him while psychologically torturing her for several months. He ultimately sends her off to kill Daredevil. Mistaking the Scarlet Witch for Daredevil, Jones attacks her instead. Jones is beaten into a coma by the Avengers before they discover that she is brainwashed.
Before helping her out of her coma, the mutant telepath Jean Grey is able to give Jones a psychic switch that prevents the Purple Man from controlling her again. When Jones recovers, the incident with Purple Man leaves her so traumatized that she leaves her life as a superhero behind and becomes a private investigator. Later, the Purple Man escapes again and tries controlling Jessica to kill the Avengers, but she is able to resist and knocks him out. Daredevil later has the Purple Man imprisoned in the Raft, a jail designed for super-powered criminals.
He escapes briefly, when Electro creates a riot at the Raft. Purple Man then attempts to use the opportunity to mind control Luke Cage into killing the then soon-to-be-Avengers, and threatens Jones, who is pregnant with Cage's child. Unknown to the Purple Man, drugs had been put into his food to negate his powers during his imprisonment, so he is unable to control Cage, who subsequently beats him to a pulp in response to his demands. Baron Zemo saves him from this beating using the moonstones, so Cage only believes himself to be beating the Purple Man.[volume & issue needed]
Later, the Purple Man returned shortly before (and during) the "House of M" storyline and manipulated the Thunderbolts, while being manipulated himself by Baron Zemo, who used the moonstones he had recently acquired to leave an image of Purple Man behind in prison so that the authorities would not be aware of his escape.[volume & issue needed] When Zemo, who was only using the Purple Man to "test" the Thunderbolts, learned of his torture (implied to have included rape) of the Swordsman, he temporarily sent him back to prison as punishment.[volume & issue needed]
His power enhanced by Zemo's use of the moonstones to allow him to be heard all over New York City simultaneously, he then enslaved the whole city, using the superhumans as his personal army - except the Thunderbolts, whom he had worked to turn against each other.[volume & issue needed] Eventually, he was defeated by the Thunderbolts member Genis-Vell.[volume & issue needed] Zemo teleported the Purple Man back to him and tortured him for his failure before sending him back to prison once more.[volume & issue needed]
During the Civil War storyline, Purple Man is able to use the confusion to hijack a S.H.I.E.L.D. squad and flying platform to escape to Canada. He was chased by U.S. Agent, but managed to push him off the platform, severely injuring him.[volume & issue needed]
The Purple Man's status afterwards was briefly touched upon in Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK's 11, in which he was revealed to have taken over a casino in Las Vegas.[volume & issue needed] In a flashback in New Avengers #35, he was among the villains recruited to join The Hood's crime syndicate, offered "seeding money" to use as funds to expand the empire.
During the Scared Straight crossover between Thunderbolts and Avengers Academy, the Purple Man is revealed to be incarcerated in the Raft Maximum Security Penitentiary, as Tigra warns her Academy students not to look at his face or read his lips. During a subsequent power outage caused by Academy member Hazmat, the Purple Man, at the head of a small gang of mind-controlled inmates, again crosses paths with a lone Luke Cage, now supervisor of a Thunderbolts team composed of Raft prisoners. Cage makes short work of the Purple Man and his "recruits", revealing that the nanites that maintain control over his Thunderbolts also shield him from Killgrave's influence.
During the Fear Itself storyline, Purple Man and a majority of inmates are freed after the Raft is severely damaged by the transformation of the Juggernaut into Kuurth: Breaker of Stone and the subsequent damage caused by Kuurth's escape. Before escaping the Raft, the Purple Man attempts to kill a comatose Puppet Master in the prison infirmary, and makes statements indicating that he was behind the Puppet Master's manipulation of Misty Knight's Heroes for Hire organization, using them to establish a criminal organization by proxy while incarcerated. He is prevented from killing the Puppet Master by Heroes for Hire operatives Elektra and the Shroud, but Killgrave attacks the pair with a mob of mind-controlled inmates driven into a frenzy. When the heroes hold their own against the assault, the Purple Man changes tactics and turns them against each other. He subsequently escapes the Raft via the Hudson River.
Purple Man also has "Purple Children" as revealed in, Daredevil Vol 4 #8. They were his offspring of different women he raped over the years. He would get those women pregnant, after making them fall in love with him using his powers, and would later abandon them and make them tell no one.
Over the years, Purple Man kept track of them, and finally decided to gather them one by one. Purple Man hoped he could rule countries with his children and finally know unconditional love. After recovering the fifth son, Jamie, the Purple Children were powerful enough to unite their wills and stand up against their father. They forced Purple Man to walk in front of a train and kill himself. With no one to control them, the Purple Children set out to do whatever they wanted.[volume & issue needed]
They eventually made their way to San Francisco, and caught the attention of their father's enemy Daredevil after stealing a police car. He managed to stop them, but they soon used the crowd nearby to oppose the vigilante. When SFPD arrived on the scene, the children controlled the officers into shooting at Daredevil, and used the confusion created to escape. They were soon after caught and cornered by Daredevil, but they used their powers to emotionally assault Daredevil, and defeat him, making the hero fall in a gutter.[volume & issue needed]
The Purple Children targeted an arcade next, where they used their powers to take absolute control of the place. Their father Purple Man, who had survived thanks to his healing factor, followed them, and stealthily started taking them down, one by one. Daredevil managed to save the children, and help the police officers surrounding the arcade center by turning up the volume of the music, so Purple Man's commands wouldn't be heard.[volume & issue needed]
The children were separated and taken to different locations, some had families, others didn't. Due to being out of their "sphere of influence" and separated, they started reverting to normal and lost their powers.[volume & issue needed]
Powers and abilities
The Purple Man’s body has been altered to produce chemical pheromones which, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, allow Killgrave to control others' actions by verbal suggestions. The effects only last as long as he is physically present and are somehow keyed to his voice and speech-pattern. When he departs, the level of pheromones is reduced within his victims at various rates (dependent upon their metabolisms), and then the victims regain full cognizance of self. Killgrave can influence hundreds of people at one time, and his victims can be controlled to perform actions against their will. He also seems to have some control over the release of his pheromones into the atmosphere, as he is able to walk hidden among crowds without influencing everybody. The Purple Man's body has also been mutated so that he is able to recover rapidly from trauma and to heal from severe injuries. In at least one instance, he entered a deathlike state while his body healed itself. Not everyone is susceptible to his mind-control abilities. Doctor Doom has demonstrated that his supreme willpower can easily overcome the Purple Man's powers, while Daredevil is able to resist because being blind allows him to focus his concentration on resisting the Purple Man's verbal commands. He's also a skilled manipulator with a high-level intellect.[volume & issue needed]
In his appearances in Alias, Purple Man's abilities are not limited to merely controlling the physical actions of his victims, but also some of their cognitive functions: In that series, he speaks to a former victim as if she secretly believes she lives within a comic book and he is aware of her belief, and also causes her to experience visual hallucinations and emotional desires, at his commands.
In the alternate future of the series 2003 Marvel 1602, Killgrave becomes President for Life of the United States, using his powers to remain in office for decades. Captain America, Daredevil, and Spider-Man fight against the government and are defeated. While Daredevil and Spider-Man are executed, Captain America is shot in the head and sent back in time to prevent his remains becoming a symbol for any remaining resistance. He ends up in 1587, though his presence in that time causes an alteration of reality that creates the Marvel 1602 timeline.
In the alternate timeline seen in the 2005 "House of M" storyline created by the Scarlet Witch, Zebediah Killgrave (nicknamed "Zeb") is a powerless human who works as a lobbyist for the mutant-controlled government, but is secretly an agent of the Human Resistance.
In other media
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Kilgrave, real name Kevin Thompson, is the main antagonist of season 1 of the Netflix TV series Jessica Jones, portrayed by David Tennant. Owing to realism, Kilgrave does not have purple skin, but wears purple clothing, and some scenes in which he uses his power are partially tinted in a purple color. His real name is Kevin Thompson, with Kilgrave being his alias. In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked him #40 of their "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time".
Zebediah Killgrave appeared in the animated X-Men episode "No Mutant is an Island", voiced by Cedric Smith. In this episode, he does not use the "Purple Man" alias and in fact uses a face cream to hide his purple complexion in public. He is depicted as a telepathic mutant terrorist posing as a philanthropist who plans on taking over the government using a group of young mutants (consisting of Skids, Boom Boom, Rusty Collins, and Wiz Kid) under his mental control. In the end, Cyclops gets in his way and eventually defeats him.
The Purple Man appears in the animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, voiced by Brent Spiner. He is shown escaping the Raft, along with other villains imprisoned there. In "Emperor Stark", Purple Man is revealed to be the mastermind behind the Avengers becoming world-controlling tyrants within a month by controlling Iron Man after a defeat, and manipulating him into developing a satellite that could spread his mind-controlling powers to the other Avengers. Only Vision is left immune when being left on self-repair and manages to save the other Avengers.
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- Collins, Sean T. (February 9, 2016). "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
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