The Titans Of MCU Villainy: Kingpin and Thanos
Let’s face it, Marvel has an exaggeratedly long list of super villains. It’s up to us readers and viewers to parse between the A-listers and the garbage. The Marvel Cinematic Universe benefits from having a significantly smaller list of villains to deal with than the counterpart comic book universe. And in terms of the MCU bad guys, Kingpin and Thanos might just be the best. If you’ve watched DAREDEVIL season 3, then you know just how disgustingly evil the Kingpin truly is. Season 1 was a strong indicator that this character had the potential to be one of the best baddies of the MCU, but season 3 affirmed Wilson Fisks’ spot at the height of the MCU villains list.
I was screaming out loud because I was so pissed off with how evil he was. If you want to know how to properly create a character you’re meant to hate, look no further than the MCU’s Kingpin. There’s really only one other guy who can contend with Fisk for that spot, and that’s the star of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, Thanos. Thanks to the Russo brothers’ masterful directing, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s powerful script, and of course, Josh Brolin’s immaculate performance, the Mad Titan made a stellar debut on the big screen.
They made Thanos more than just a character, they made him into a truly believable person. I mean, he was absolutely tyrannical, but I can’t help but almost root for the guy, you know? I can’t imagine what kind of evil would come to life if these two ever got together. But, for the sake of having fun, I suppose I could try. Let’s take a look at what makes Kingpin and Thanos the greatest MCU villains.
Why They Call Him ‘The Kingpin Of Crime’
Wilson Fisk — portrayed masterfully by Vincent D’Onofrio — has had nothing short of the perfect kind of character progression. He started out as a self-proclaimed savior in DAREDEVIL season 1, as he imagined himself being the one to save Hell’s Kitchen from its own darkness. Of course, we all knew better, but it wasn’t until the very last episode of the season that Fisk realized his true potential for evil. I like to think that scene where he’s talking with those two guards about that story from the bible was the moment he officially turned from his “righteous” path.
Season 2 featured very little of Fisk, but we got just enough to see where his character was going, in terms of becoming the true Kingpin. Not to mention, we got that incredibly tense scene between him and Matt Murdock, which almost stole the entire season for me. I mean, you can’t beat Punisher’s monologue in episode 4, but this scene was a close second. Season 3 brought everything full circle in the best way possible. I’m so used to reading DAREDEVIL comics and seeing Fisk as the great manipulator of the world, and the untouchable tormentor of Matt Murdock’s life.
That’s exactly what we got in DAREDEVIL season 3. We finally got the one true Kingpin. Was anyone else insanely cheering when they officially tagged him as such? Kingpin has obviously had more time than Thanos to develop as a character, but that’s just a straight benefit of having three seasons to grow. Fisk systematically grew from season to season, changing from cruel “savior” to nigh unbeatable crime boss.
Evil At Its Sharpest
DAREDEVIL season 1 excelled in building up Fisk in the role of a dark savior. He was kind of like Batman; he wasn’t the hero the city wanted or deserved, but in his eyes, he was the one it needed. Of course, the deeper and deeper we dug into his story, the eviler we learned he was. I mean, there’s really no getting over the fact he bludgeoned his father to death. Season 3 finally let the Kingpin shine for who he truly is.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was literally screaming at one point because he was just too damn evil. He just kept finding new ways to ruin everything for the protagonists, and there was seemingly no way to beat him. It’s some of the smartest writing I’ve ever seen in a show, in terms of both specific character development and overall plot progression. Season 3 paints Fisk similar to a god. He always had the best hand of any of the players, and that glossy white suit of his act acts as his unbreakable suit of armor.
There weren’t so much as the slightest chinks in his protection. Up until the final moments of the season, I really had no clue if Daredevil and the crew were going to be able to beat him. Kingpin excels in season 3 because he no longer tries to play the part of the savior. He’s just the Kingpin. He just wants the power and the control and the ability to do whatever he wants. At least, that’s how it seems on the surface. Any good villain should have something to pull them back to reality, but again, we’ll talk more on that later.
Why They Call Him ‘The Mad Titan’
Now Thanos, on the other hand, is an extraordinarily different beast. This is the Mad Titan we’re talking about, the dude who literally snapped half of all life out of existence. I mean, really, if it came down to a fight between Kingpin and Thanos, who are you going to pick?
I was very worried about how the Russo brothers were going to handle Thanos in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. The thought of getting a repeat of Ultron was ever-present as I sat in the theater that first time, waiting for the film to begin. But, within the first few minutes, that thought completely went out the window. This was no poultry villain. Thanos was not some farce on a higher, more sinister power. He was the real deal. Dare I say, he was the most real-deal of them all.
I found myself immediately floored by the mere presence of this villain. The hype of this character had been building since the first Avengers, and Marvel absolutely delivered with INFINITY WAR. Thanos naturally inspires fear as you watch him. This is the kind of character who can do whatever he wants and easily get away with it. And I’m sure that would be true even without the Infinity Stones. But, you know, since he has the most powerful objects in the whole universe, he might as well use them, right?
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had to give us some idea of Thanos’ power. Though Thanos didn’t do much, the other characters found different ways to make sure we understood just how bad he was. Ronin could be seen flinching at the Mad Titan, and Korath (the robo-face dude) can be quoted saying,
“Thanos is the most powerful being in the universe.”
These slight hints really couldn’t have prepared us, though, for the sheer power of Thanos. In his first moments on screen in INFINITY WAR, he threatens Thor with death, absolutely devastates Hulk, and kills Heimdall and Loki. All that was within the first five or six minutes of the film. And things only got worse as the film progressed. Thanos continued to prove exactly why he’s the best of the best. He doesn’t just gather the stones, he also uses them ingeniously. He gets creative with them, and even has a little fun when he dismantles the Guardians on Knowhere.
The greatest dedication to Thanos’ power, though, comes from his fight with Doctor Strange. I sorely wish there was more to that fight (it was actually supposed to be about 30 seconds longer) because it was so! Fucking! Good! It perfectly captured just how powerful the two combatants were, and why Thanos is just a bit better.
I mean, it certainly helped that he had the Stones, but still, the two really were at the same power level.
Bottom line: Thanos is not to be trifled with. Like, at all. Logic tells us the good guys will win in AVENGERS 4, but I’m still genuinely scared to see everything play out.
Kingpin & Thanos: Finding Similarities Where None Should Really Exist
It’s almost odd to compare Kingpin and Thanos. One is a crime boss, and the other is a universal executioner. And yet, Kingpin and Thanos surprisingly have a lot in common, in terms of how they view themselves and the deeds they carry out. Of course, both Kingpin and Thanos view themselves as higher beings, though certainly to different degrees. Kingpin thinks he should have the power to do whatever he wants. He wants to control everything he can, and he wants someone to share that power with (that person, of course, being Vanessa).
Thanos is much the same. He wants power, but not to control. He wants to save the universe, because, like Fisk, Thanos views himself as this great savior, though on a much grander scale. Thanos is seemingly haunted by his failures in the past, so he pushes himself not to fail again. Thus, he must gather the Stones and tackle the harsh reality he has established for himself.
Kingpin & Thanos Make The Heroes Work To Save The Day
Both Kingpin and Thanos also know how to push the heroes to their absolute limits.
I can think of no better scenes to hype up Thanos as a powerhouse player than his one-on-one fights with Doctor Strange and Iron Man. Though each bout lasts for no more than a single minute, they both completely encompass the threat Thanos presents. The Doctor Strange fight is one of the most satisfying ones in the entire MCU, and the Iron Man fight is crippling and painful to watch.
And while Thanos might have the power, Kingpin is just scary to watch. I think it comes from the fact that Fisk is a more realistic and believable fighter. Like, fighting with him is something that could happen in real life. That terrifies me. Getting close to a guy like Fisk is essentially a death sentence. He’s beaten so many people to a pulp with his bare hands. He gives Daredevil, one of the most skilled fighters in the whole MCU, a significant run for his money.
I mean, still, if it was a one-on-one fight between Kingpin and Thanos, the obvious choice is still Thanos, but Fisk could probably hold his own for a little bit. Maybe. If anything, it’d be great to see Thanos horrendously kick Fisk’s ass. Nothing is more satisfying, though, than to see the villains express their full might. And if there are two villains who know how to do that, it’s Kingpin and Thanos.
Humanizing The Monsters
A good villain is more than just sheer power, however. A good villain has something that helps to ground them. Both Kingpin and Thanos have something to humanize them and separate them from their vicious goals. They’re more than monsters grabbing at whatever power they can.
In DAREDEVIL season 1, Kingpin’s drive is, for the most part, his urge to change the city, for better or worse. Again, he thought of himself as this great savior. He wanted to prove to the world and to himself that he wasn’t like his father, that he wasn’t a monster. That changes when he meets Vanessa. From the moment the two of them are officially together, everything becomes about her.
That is especially true in DAREDEVIL season 3. On the surface, it seems like Fisk is just doing everything for himself. But that’s far from the truth. Really, Vanessa is his driving factor. She’s the reason he does everything he does in season 3. It’s all so he can be with her again, and so he can have her completely in his life.
They Are More Than Evil
Thanos is seemingly driven by guilt and a dark sense of passion. His guilt comes from, as he puts it, ignoring his destiny in the past. He doesn’t want to repeat that mistake. And though he is able to fulfill his goal, Gamora now seemingly haunts him. Thus, he essentially traded one form of guilt for another.
His passion comes from his sense of righteousness; he genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing, as most villains typically do. But Thanos was written so superbly that you almost can’t help but see eye-to-eye with him. It’s not that what he’s doing is right, because it obviously isn’t. It’s that he fights for it so staunchly that you almost can’t help but root for him. You believe in his cause because he so strongly believes in it himself.
Though Kingpin and Thanos have drastically different goals, they’re both driven by something greater than themselves. Whether that’s a loved one or a deeper sense of pride, they both have something to fight for. And that’s the greatest part of both of these villains.
The Pitfalls Of Power
Of course, Kingpin and Thanos are hardly perfect. How could they be? After all, no character ever is, especially a villain. And I’m talking about more than just “they kill people, of course, they’re not perfect.” Another crucial part of grounding these larger-than-life bad guys is giving them an inescapable flaw.
For Kingpin, I find his untamed anger and how readily he clings to Vanessa to be his biggest problems. DAREDEVIL season 3 made it clear that you do not push Fisk’s buttons. Karen did a great job of that when she told him she killed Wesley way back when. And although his love for Vanessa helps him succeed, it might also be his biggest downfall. Anyone else notice how he’s sort of just doing whatever she says now?
Thanos can easily be considered a nonsensically violent despot. And he’s dangerously arrogant. He so strongly believes that he’s right that he won’t listen to anyone else’s argument. Because he weighs his own failure to save his people so heavily on himself, he sees no other way to save the universe than to wipe out half of it. Gamora and Thanos have a fairly heated argument, and Doctor Strange even sort of tries to turn Thanos away from his path.
But, the Mad Titan is far too staunch in his beliefs to let this fight go. I guess sometimes the things that humanize and ground a character can also be their biggest flaws. As keenly developed and believable as Kingpin and Thanos are, they are also undeniably flawed. This, however, gives us more to keep us interested in them.
Kingpin & Thanos: Best Of The Best
You ever notice how when a villain is done justice, they can often turn out to be one of, if not the best part of a story? I find that is absolutely the case with Kingpin and Thanos. These bad guys personify what it means to be the pinnacle of villainy. Really, these two are more than just villains. They’re forces of nature.
Through all three seasons of DAREDEVIL, Wilson Fisk has grown to be more than the bad guy of the show. He has a presence that demands your undivided attention. When the Kingpin of Crime is on the scene, you know shit is about to go down, big time. He’s commanding, driven, powerful, and, most importantly, human. Fisk is a scarred individual, and he is fearful. Bring all of this together, and you have one of the most genuine villains in the whole MCU, one who easily stands at the top over the rest.
Standing tall with Fisk at the top is Thanos, the Mad Titan. The guy who single-handedly dismantled all of the Avengers and wiped out half of all life in the universe. But Thanos is more than a cosmic killer. He, like Fisk, has a deeper presence behind his heinous acts. He’s more than a collection of vile deeds and unmatched power. Thanos is a being with emotion and guilt, someone who fights for something bigger than himself. And though he may be evil, that doesn’t mean we have to hate him implicitly.
One thing is for certain: the next time we see Kingpin and Thanos in action, untamed evil will undoubtedly follow close behind. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting to see what villainy these two titans have to offer us next.