Wilson Fisk, Marvel's Kingpin of crime, is back in New York City, and ready to get back on top of its criminal underworld. Leading Fisk's rise back to power are writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Ben Torres, who will launch Fisk's ongoing series, Kingpin, on February 8.
Rosenberg first began writing Fisk in a Civil War II tie-in mini-series, but this new volume will find Kingpin back in his element in New York and, according to Rosenberg, reminding everyone in the city of how dangerous he is. Kingpin is part of a line of series spinning out of Daredevil's corner of the Marvel Universe, along with Bullseye and Elektra.
But what sets Kingpin apart is its roots in crime epics and the gritty underbelly of the city. Newsarama spoke with Rosenberg about his take on Wilson Fisk, Kingpin's connection to the real New York, and the book's surprising punk rock ethos.
Newsarama: Matthew, you started writing Kingpin as part of Civil War II. Given what’s gone on in that crossover, and Kingpin’s role in The Clone Conspiracy, what is Wilson Fisk’s status quo going into this new series?
Matthew Rosenberg: Wilson Fisk had been away for a while. He was out in California, trying to change up his life a little. Unfortunately for Wilson, New York City moves quick and his absence was quickly filled. Now he's back and rebuilding, piece by piece. A lot of people remember that they are supposed to be afraid of Wilson Fisk, but some folks need a good reminder.
Nrama: Kingpin has been an arch-enemy of two of Marvel’s top heroes, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Who or what is he facing in this new series?
Rosenberg: This book, at least when we start, is a different kind of story. Wilson wants something he's never had before - respectability in the civilian world. In the past Spidey and Daredevil have been obstacles keeping him from committing crimes, but that's not his focus now. He wants to be known as a good man, but we're gong to find the lengths he will go to to get that. It's a different kind of Kingpin in some ways, or he's trying to be, so there is a different set of challenges.
That doesn't mean that some of the old familiar enemies won't pop up, they definitely will, but Fisk is trying to move away from that. The question really becomes how much can they drag him back.
Nrama: Who is Sarah Dewey, and what part does she play in Kingpin?
Rosenberg: Sarah is reporter for a small New York paper. She used to be a big deal, doing a lot of groundbreaking work covering international human rights cases and the like. But she made some mistakes and had a real fall from grace. That fall took her family and her credibility tumbling down with it. Now she's just trying to put her life back together when along comes Wilson Fisk. He has a job for her that seems like it is the perfect opportunity to start down the right path. But she doesn't trust Fisk, and her conscience is keeping her from taking the job.
She is really the key to the story in a lot of ways. In the past we have always seen Fisk through the eyes of his enemies, but things look very different to the average person. So that is what Sarah is, the average person thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
Nrama: Crime stories and New York City go hand-in-hand – what ties Wilson Fisk’s saga to the great New York crime epics of the past, and what sets him apart?
Rosenberg: Crime stories are really in the DNA of New York. In a lot of ways New York is the gateway to America. From early immigrants arrival on Ellis Island to the modern mixing pot of cultures that is New York City, New York has always represented the best of America and the American Dream. It is opportunity and determination on every street corner. But it also can represent the worst of America. The ever-present crime, the poverty, the addiction. It is a hard city to survive in and it shows no remorse for the people it chews up and spits out. And those two New Yorks meet up on almost every corner in every neighborhood. Whether it's the billionaire stepping over the homeless man on the way to work, the chain store pushing out the mom & pop run business, or just the robbery on the subway - New York is a clash of worlds.
And in that, the space between opportunity and desperation, we find great New York crime stories. Obviously stuff like The Godfather, The French Connection, Goodfellas, Juice, Once Upon A Time In America, Mean Streets, Naked City, all of those are huge influences on Kingpin stories. We see the city as a character too, the crimes committed and the damages done are almost inevitable. I think Frank Miller's Daredevil captured that perfectly. Other writers, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker come to mind, also expanded on this with Fisk.
But those creators all did a great job of making Kingpin standout too. The Marvel universe is an exaggeration of our own - the threats are bigger, the challenges are greater. And the heroes and villains loom larger than life. And Fisk fits right in to that in a lot of ways. But he's compelling because of his subtly. In a world full of villains who destroy worlds and fight gods, Wilson Fisk is the man you might actually meet one day. And that should terrify you. What we are doing with the new series is following that a little further. We want to see Wilson Fisk once again becoming the most feared man in New York. That doesn't mean more supervillains and guys in tights. It means more people whose lives are ruined because they crossed paths with the Kingpin of New York.
Nrama: Ben Torres is joining you for Kingpin. How has your working relationship developed, and what’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for Kingpin so far?
Rosenberg: Ben is amazing. I see influence in his work from a lot of my favorite crime artists. There are hints of folks like Frank Miller, Eduardo Risso, Howard Chaykin, and Jordi Bernet in his work, but he is doing something completely his own. I love it because there isn't anyone else at Marvel, or anywhere really, putting out work that looks like his. I think together we are doing our best to make a really unique book.
As for my favorite thing he has drawn? There is a dinner party in Kingpin #1 that I think he really kills it on. It looks elegant and refined, and Wilson Fisk is in the middle of it holding court. It's just a great sequence.
Nrama: Usually when a villain gets an ongoing series, they undergo at least a little bit of a “face turn.” But Kingpin seems to be staying a pretty bad guy. How do you get inside the head of a criminal mastermind?
Rosenberg: See that's the thing - Kingpin isn't like the other villains in a lot of ways. Guys like Red Skull and Thanos are monsters and there is only so much time you can spend with a monster. But Kingpin is really only slightly off from being a hero. He has all the makings of a Spider-Man type really. He is smart, overcame adversity, he's passionate, driven, and gifted. The problem is his moral compass is a bit off. He is self-serving, sure, but he really cares about the city and he wants to be a force of good for it. He is just willing to cross lines that shouldn't be crossed to get there. So when it comes time to go further into who the Kingpin is, we don't need to change that. He's not a monster. He's a man who contains a lot of contradictions. He thinks he will end up being judged on the right side of history. Only time will tell.
Nrama: You’ve referenced a lot of punk rock bands and songs in your previous Marvel work, but Wilson Fisk is pretty buttoned up and tight-laced. Given that both Kingpin’s story and punk culture are endemic to New York, how do you bring that sensibility to this series?
Rosenberg: Well, Kingpin is definitely more Bach and Mozart than Bad Brains and Minor Threat, so don't expect too much of the overt punk rock stuff in the book. But the sensibility that I think of as punk, the do-it-yourself spirit, the "challenge authority" mindset, the urgency, all of that is in the book for sure. Kingpin is a gangster and a criminal, mixing it with high society and giving zero f---s what anyone thinks about that. I think that's pretty punk rock. But don't expect him to be going to loft shows in Bushwick anytime soon.
Nrama: How closely will Kingpin tie to the rest of the Marvel Universe, given that New York City is something of its epicenter?
Rosenberg: Kingpin is definitely going to crossover with some parts of the Marvel Universe. The other books in our "family"- Bullseye and Elektra, all go together pretty well to form a bigger picture of Daredevil's world. At first you're going to see Wilson Fisk try and steer clear of the rest of Marvel folks - they are bad for business. But as things go on, getting pulled into the mix will be inevitable. Kingpin's plans are too big not to attract both friends and foes.
Nrama: At the end of the day, what are your goals for Kingpin? Where will this story take Wilson Fisk?
Rosenberg: This is Kingpin's most ambitious plan ever. He is going to get everything he wants or he will see the world burn.