Art by Tom Grummett.
|First appearance||Daredevil #4 (October 1964)|
|Created by||Stan Lee
|Alter ego||Zebediah Killgrave|
Regenerative healing factor
The Purple Man (real name Zebediah Killgrave) is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics supervillain. Originally a foe of Daredevil, he was introduced in Daredevil vol. 1 #4 (October 1964). In the 2000s, he emerged as an enemy of Jessica Jones and her husband Luke Cage. His body produces pheromones which allow him to verbally control the actions of others. He is played by actor David Tennant in the 2015 Netflix series Marvel's Jessica Jones.
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, however, 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.[volume & issue needed]
The character largely disappeared from Daredevil's adventures in the 1980s. He did make a few more appearances in the Marvel Universe, most notably in the graphic novel Emperor Doom. 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 having spent time in a sensory deprivation tank. Wonder Man breaks 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.[volume & issue needed]
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.[volume & issue needed] 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.[volume & issue needed]
However 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 and the unborn child she is carrying for Cage. 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, however, 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. However, 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 Kurrth: Breaker of Stone and the subsequent damage caused by Kurrth'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 slept with 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 enter 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 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 command, not simply control her physical actions.
In the alternate future of the series 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.
"House of M"
In the alternate timeline seen in the "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
- 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 he manages to save the other Avengers from control. Upon Purple Man's satellite being destroyed, the Avengers gather at Stark Industries and defeat the villain, and with Iron Man, reminded of taunts by Purple Man, knocking him out with a finger flick in his face.
- Kilgrave (spelled with only one L) appears in the 2015 Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones, portrayed by David Tennant as an adult, and by James Freedson-Jackson as a young boy. Unlike his comic counterpart, this version of Kilgrave lacks purple skin, but keeps his purple clothing while scenes where his power is in evidence are often at least partially lit in a purple color. Also as a deviation from the source material, he is British and his real name is Kevin Thompson, with Kilgrave being his alias. He gained his powers when his scientist parents Albert and Louise used an experimental viral treatment to save his life as a child. After gaining his powers of mind control, he developed into a sociopath who has no remorse for his actions and no qualms telling people to do whatever he wants.
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