Needless Character Analysis: The Purple Man

With David Tennant’s casting as Zebediah Kilgrave in Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones, it seemed appropriate to remind you of actually who the Purple Man is. It should be noted that there are some storylines recounted here that could be trauma triggers for some people.

Purple_Man_001Zebediah Killgrave was a Soviet spy that was exposed to an experimental nerve gas while unsuccessfully infiltrating an American ordinance depot. The chemical endowed him with the power to enthrall people using extremely powerful pheromones, also permanently coloring him Purple. After enthralling a woman to marry him and give birth to his child, Killgrave abandoned them and launched into a life of crime as the Purple Man.

He was stopped by Daredevil, who demonstrated that the Purple Man’s control could be overcome by sheer willpower. He was defeated by Daredevil on three more occasions, until he was captured by Doctor Doom who amplified Killgrave’s powers to the extent that Doom controlled the world. When the Sub-Mariner escaped the influence of the Purple Man’s powers, he smashed the device Doctor Doom had trapped Killgrave in, apparently killing him. However, he survived and resurfaced in a scheme that attempted to use Nate Grey to change the planet. After this he went into hiding.

The next appearance of Killgrave came in Alias, written by Brian Michael Bendis who refashioned the character as a malicious and sadistic rapist, who routinely used his powers on women to satisfy his own carnal desires. He even enthralled Jessica Jones and in a rage, ordered her to kill Daredevil, although she inadvertently attacked the Avengers, who freed her from his control. She retired from being a super-hero and became a private investigator. He later tried to control her again, but failed.

Later stories and writers took up where Bendis left off, with the Purple Man using his power in ways that indulged his whims and had him face off against Luke Cage, the Thunderbolts, U.S. Agent, Heroes for Hire and even other villains. Most recently, he used his own illegitimate children in a ploy that Daredevil thwarted, after the children turned on him and forced him to walk in front of a train, but he survived and was later sent back to prison.

The evolution of the Purple Man from a would be conqueror to a sadistic rapist is a path that writers seem to use to explore the darker sides of criminal behavior, and from his announced addition to the cast of characters in Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones, it seems that aspect is the direction that his presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will take.