Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When Commands Killgrave!

With the exploits of the character known as Kilgrave (sic) taking up an entire season of the Netflix series Jessica Jones, it's compelling to pivot to his beginnings in comic book form and take a look at him when he was instead billed as the Purple Man, a description that actor David Tennant's role only gave a nod to by way of his wardrobe. There are other differences between the two characters, but they share a common denominator: Killgrave can and will make you do what he wants you to do.

They also both appear to enjoy making people take plunges off of buildings.

Like the JJ character, the Purple Man has grown to use his power in a casual manner, never fearing discovery or needing to worry about subtlety or secrecy--able to manipulate the system as easily as people, and having little regard for the well-being of those he controls. Of course the Purple Man is unable to blend in with his fellow citizens, due to his unique skin hue, which makes him easy for authorities to pick out in a crowd--but then, what of it?

While it doesn't quite make sense that Killgrave would bother sticking around and enduring incarceration for proceedings that he'd probably consider a farce, you can probably take a good guess as to which lucky attorney the judge taps for Killgrave's court-appointed defense counsel.

Naturally, with Karen Page in the Purple Man's clutches, Daredevil gets involved. We never do learn (at least in this issue) how DD can resist Killgrave's commands. Since DD relies on his hyper-senses to pick up on someone's distinctive heartbeat or scent, and since the Purple Man's power emanates from his skin, you'd think DD would be more vulnerable to exposure, not less. But this is DD's mag--and if DD falls under the Purple Man's control, there is no hero in the book to put the bag on the villain.

But taking the Purple Man on in a busy street setting isn't the wisest course of action for Daredevil, as he learns in short order.

With Round One going to the Purple Man, Daredevil withdraws while Matt Murdock considers a legal approach to his adversary, though it leads nowhere. Meanwhile, the Purple Man visits a local gym to recruit a large group of bulky muscle-men to be his bodyguards, and then heads to the Ritz Plaza Hotel where he instructs management to evict the guests so that he can establish his headquarters there. But neither his ambitions nor Daredevil are far from his mind.

As for the differences between the Killgrave in printed form and the one on our television screens, they seem to be geared toward which medium they appear in. The earlier version of Killgrave of course appeared in comics well before the Internet, much less Netflix; and when you think about it, there really was no reason for him to manifest as "the Purple Man" unless his power was somehow connected to his skin's hue, and such is indeed the case. As a result, his power over others is a matter of "exposure" and limited to those in his proximity, whereas his victims on JJ remain in his control, even at a distance, until either twelve hours pass or they fulfill whatever command(s) he gave them. (Not entirely true... the command to "Stop!", for example, would only be valid until the person stopped, at which time they'd technically be free again to move. Killgrave would have to supplement his command with something like "Stop until I say you can move!")

Their backgrounds are also very different. The television Kilgrave (note the spelling) is a product of methodical and painful experimentation conducted on him during his childhood by his parents to cure him of a brain disease--while the Purple Man, a foreign spy, is a victim of an exploding canister of nerve gas, as we discover during Daredevil's final confrontation with him.

Unfortunately for the Purple Man, his rambling has distracted him sufficiently for Daredevil to gain the upper hand, thanks to DD having deduced the secret of his power and facing Killgrave well-prepared.

That wraps it up for the Purple Man, eh? (heh heh)

The Purple Man would go on to make extensive appearances in Daredevil and several other titles, establishing himself as an effective and ruthless villain who had no qualms about using others to achieve his ends, or, more often than not, to amuse himself. As you can imagine, not all of his victims walked away unscathed.

The subjugation of Jessica Jones.

Daredevil #4

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Joe Orlando
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Sam Rosen


George Chambers said...

Yeah, I think it was implied if not stated outright that one had to see Killgrave's purple skin for his power to have full effect which was why DD could resist him. It occurs to me, however, that one also had to hear Killgrave's verbal commands in order to carry them out; so a deaf superhero would have been just as effective against him as a blind one was.

Comicsfan said...

George, it seems to me that establishing that kind of limitation on his power would preclude Killgrave from being the dangerous kind of threat he's written to be; for instance, he wouldn't be able to command someone from behind, nor would he be able to take control of a restaurant of diners or a crowded street of pedestrians--in neither instance would those present bother fixing their gaze on one particular person all at once. It would have to be the most incredible coincidence on record. But stay tuned--you'll see a more definitive explanation of Killgrave's power in this post's follow-up.

Anonymous said...

In a much later story, Doctor Doom was able to resist Killgrave's mind control while staring him straight in the face.
But he is beyond the Purple Man's petty powers---because he is Doom!
He can do stuff like that.


Iain said...

Heh Moonknight resisted the Purple Man's power by simply wearing ear-plugs. ^^

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