Purple Man as seen on the cover of New Thunderbolts #10
Art by Tom Grummett
|First appearance||Daredevil #4 (October 1964)|
|Created by||Stan Lee|
|Alter ego||Zebediah Killgrave|
|Abilities||Skilled manipulator |
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. Initially a recurring enemy of Daredevil, in 2015 he emerged as the archenemy of Jessica Jones under the name “Killgrave”.
A modified version of the character was portrayed by David Tennant in seasons 1 and 2 of Jessica Jones, for which Tennant received critical praise, and for which the character was included in 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 and was accidentally doused with a chemical that turned his hair and skin purple. Though he was caught and questioned, offering a weak alibi, he was released. Several more incidents like this demonstrated that the nerve gas had given Killgrave the ability to command the wills of other people. Calling himself the Purple Man, Killgrave embarked on a criminal career.
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 comic books during the 1980s although he did face Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Daredevil, Power Man and Iron Fist in Marvel Team-Up Annual #4. He also appeared in the graphic novel Emperor Doom in which Doctor Doom uses Killgrave to power a machine called the "psycho-prism" that allowed Doom to control the minds of everyone on Earth.
He later reappeared in the pages of X-Man, as the mastermind behind Nate Grey's 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 failed 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. 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.
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 free Kilgrave from prison, leaving an illusion in his place so that the authorities would not be aware of his escape. With his pheromones distributed through the New York City water system and Zemo's moonstones used to project his voice wherever necessary the Purple Man enslaved the entire city. Under Zemo's direction he used the city's superhumans as his personal army to attack the Thunderbolts, whom he had worked to turn against each other. Eventually, he was defeated by the Thunderbolts member Genis-Vell, after which Zemo teleported the Purple Man back and tortured him for his failure before sending him back to prison once more.
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.
During Daredevil's time in San Francisco after the exposure of his secret identity, he encountered the Purple Man's children, who had inherited their father's powers. After Matt saved the children from a mob and their father, they use a machine their father had created to enhance his powers to boost their own and erase the world's knowledge of Matt's identity as Daredevil.
Eventually, after tracking down Jessica Jones and taking control of Carol Danvers, Purple Man is killed by a gunshot wound and his body thrown into the sun.
Powers and abilities
The Purple Man’s body produces chemical pheromones which, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, allow Killgrave to control others' actions, as long as he is physically present. These abilities can overwhelm most, but sufficiently strong-willed people, such as Doctor Doom and Kingpin, have been able to resist its influence, and Daredevil has been able to resist Killgrave as the powers rely on full sensory manipulation, Daredevil's blindness hindering the amount of input he receives and making it easier for him to resist what he picks up. Moon Knight defeated the Purple Man by wearing earplugs that prevented him from hearing the villain's commands; he, Daredevil, and other heroes gagged the Purple Man before giving him to the police to prevent him from commanding others.
- In the alternate future of the series 2003 Marvel 1602, Killgrave becomes President for Life of the United States.
- In the 2005 "House of M" storyline, 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. This version uses a face cream to hide his purple complexion in public.
- Purple Man appears in the animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, voiced by Brent Spiner. In the episode "The Breakout" Pt. 1, Purple Man was shown as an inmate of the Raft. In the episode "Emperor Stark", Purple Man controls most of the Avengers in his plans to take over the world until Vision freed the Avengers in order to defeat Purple Man.
- Kilgrave is the main antagonist of season 1 of Jessica Jones, portrayed by David Tennant as an adult while his child appearance was portrayed by James Freedson-Jackson. He has several differences from the comic book character. Instead of the purple skin of the comics, this version wears purple clothing and his real name is Kevin Thompson. He does not secrete pheromones, but infects the people around him with a virus to control them. Unlike his comic book counterpart, this version of Kilgrave can control any number of people by simply giving oral commands and can order anyone to do anything he tells them without being physically present. However, his commands can only be followed within one day before it wears off. His powers came from the experiments done by his scientist parents Louise and Albert Thompson. Ever since using her to kill Reva Connors, Kilgrave has been obsessed with Jessica while he has had her in his control, and spends the show's first season trying to prove his love to her by creating chaos for her to solve. In the season finale, Jessica kills Kilgrave by snapping his neck. Jeri Hogarth later gets her exonerated for this murder by convincing the jury a guilt-ridden Kilgrave had controlled her into doing it. In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked him #40 of their "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time". In season 2, Kilgrave reappears as a hallucination after Jessica accidentally kills Dale Holiday, a sadistic prison guard and serial killer who had been torturing Jessica's mother in prison. Kilgrave, manifesting Jessica's guilt, repeatedly taunts her over the act. However, when Jessica decides to spare Karl Malus, the Kilgrave hallucination disappears.
- Although Kilgrave does not appear in Luke Cage, he is mentioned repeatedly all over New York from rumors and his former victims alike, with Pop and Claire bringing him up when talking about when Jessica had to stop a Kilgrave-controlled Luke by shooting him with a shotgun. Later, Mariah Dillard mentions Kilgrave's death in her rally at Harlem's Paradise as she and Willis "Diamondback" Stryker are pushing their plans to arm the NYPD with Judas bullets.
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