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Wilson Fisk (Incredible Hulk TV Movies)

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Wilson Fisk from the 1989 TV-Movie

This version of perennial Marvel Comics villain Wilson Fisk appeared in 1989's The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk, the second of three TV movies featuring the version of the Hulk from the late 1970's-early 1980's TV series starring Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk. Never referred to as the Kingpin during this production, he nonetheless shared most of the Kingpin's qualities from many versions. He was played by SF/F veteran John Rhys-Davies, who is very likely the first actor to portray the gangster super-villain in live-action. This version of Fisk has the singular distinction of being perhaps the only verifiable Marvel Comics villain to face off against the Bixby/Ferrigno Hulk, though some other characters in the series resembled characters from the comics.

Forced by his condition to hew to the underbelly of society, a frustrated David Banner is in New York City, passing through on his continuing search for a cure to his transformations into The Hulk, careful to avoid trouble for that reason. By this point, he is no longer actively searching for a cure, despairing of his fate. When a young woman on the subway is harassed by thugs, Banner at first tries to turn away, but finds he cannot. As he feared, the altercation causes him to again transform into The Hulk. But while the thugs are dispatched, Banner finds himself under arrest, blamed for the attack on the woman, who is frightened and cannot clear him.

As it turned out, the two thugs work for businessman Wilson Fisk, who does not care for them but protects them nonetheless, for reasons of loyalty and keeping attention off himself as he seeks to ascend both in the legitimate business world as well as the criminal underworld. Opposing him, though not as effectively as he might like, is crusading attorney Matthew Murdock, who offers to defend Banner but who he senses is hiding something. Banner, fearing either identification as a man believed to be dead or direct exposure as the Hulk, stresses from a nightmare and escapes after transforming. Reverting to Banner, he is found by the mysterious masked vigilante called Daredevil, who, in order to gain Banner's trust, reveals himself to be Murdock. Murdock relates his origins, and the two agree to work together both to clear David's name and to begin the unraveling of the empire of the untouchable Fisk.

Fisk, wishing no loose ends, has the scared witness and victim kidnapped from police custody. Her death was prevented by the defiance of his aide Richard (in the comics, Richard Fisk is Kingpin's son; this man, while close to him, is never identified either by surname or family connection) . Rather than punish Richard, Fisk becomes interested in somehow breaking this woman to his viewpoint either by torture or by corruption. In the meantime, Fisk makes plans to gather all crimelords under his aegis, proving his worthiness by making a show of beating, humiliating and killing Daredevil, who has been a thorn in all their sides. Falling for a well-placed trap, Daredevil is overwhelmed and nearly killed, only to be rescued by Banner, who transforms after being injured. It seems Fisk had won, with Murdock feeling himself beaten. Richard, who has begun to fall for their prisoner, realizes he cannot keep her alive much longer.

Banner, who is impressed that Murdock has not only overcome his blindness but exceeded Banner by using his radiation-born powers for good, reminds him that Fisk's attack was all-out, well-planned and had elements that meant Fisk did not know all of Murdock's secrets, or perhaps any of them. In the midst of what would have been Fisk's consolidation of mob power, the two invade and rescue the witness/victim. Despite his repeated defiance, Fisk takes Richard with him as the two escape in an experimental aircraft.

Fisk at no time physically confronts either Murdock or the Hulk, and seemed to rely on cunning and conspiracy to achieve his ends. His physical appearance is perhaps the least imposing of the three (to date) live action versions of the character.

A possible Daredevil TV series, starring Rex Smith as Matt Murdock, was discussed but never realized. Rhys-Davies said in later interviews that he hadn't known the character had another name, and that perhaps Fisk was looking to ascend to the role of Kingpin.

Trivia

  • This take on Daredevil and Kingpin was only seen in the TV-Movie that created them. But elements of it have possibly bled over into other treatments. In this version, Matt Murdock's outfit is a cross between that of a cat burglar and a ninja, clad all in black with only his mouth exposed, much like in the first season of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version first broadcast on Netflix. Fisk's use of high-tech gadgets, while not unknown in the comic books, is much more pronounced here, much as it was on the 1990's Spider-Man Animated Series.

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