Art by John Romita Sr.
|First appearance||The Amazing Spider-Man #70 (March 1969)|
|Created by||Stan Lee |
John Romita Sr.
|Full name||Vanessa Marianna Fisk*|
|Supporting character of||Daredevil |
|Notable aliases||Vanessa Marianna|
Vanessa Fisk (née Mariana) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. As the wife of mobster the Kingpin of Crime (Wilson Fisk) and the mother of Richard Fisk, she appears as a supporting character in stories featuring those villains, usually those starring Daredevil and Spider-Man.
Fisk has appeared in media adaptations, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe Netflix television series Daredevil in which she was portrayed by Ayelet Zurer and in the 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in which she was voiced by Lake Bell.
Fictional character biography
Little is known about Vanessa Fisk's personal life and early years other than her maiden name "Mariana", which was retroactively written into her backstory following the release of the Netflix show. As the wife of Wilson Fisk, the "Kingpin" of New York's criminal underworld, Vanessa did not approve of her husband's criminal activities. At one point their son Richard Fisk became involved in a plot to overthrow his father's criminal syndicate after discovering he was the Kingpin.[volume & issue needed]
After the Kingpin had a near-death experience, Vanessa gave him an ultimatum; he had twenty-four hours to get out of crime, or she would leave him. The Kingpin was about to kill Spider-Man when the deadline passed, and Vanessa forced him to choose between Spider-Man's life or their life together. He chose his wife and spared Spider-Man as a result.
The two went into retirement in Japan. Kingpin prepared to settle his remaining business with his fellow mobsters by cooperating with the authorities and leaving the world of crime forever. This infuriated one of Kingpin's closest advisors, Lynch, who believed that Vanessa was a liability and had turned the once mighty Kingpin into a henpecked husband. When Fisk's former lieutenants in New York caught wind of his plans to sell them out in exchange for immunity, they kidnapped Vanessa, who was in town to secure the legal services of Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson.
Fisk started a gang war against the mob in New York to rescue his wife. The mob bosses attempted to ransom Vanessa off in exchange for the evidence against them Fisk had intended to turn over to the authorities, but during the exchange, Kingpin used a sonic device to stop the criminals, and found her bound and gagged in a building. However Lynch fired an explosive at Vanessa, in an attempt to deprive Fisk of the thing that kept him retired and bring him back as the Kingpin of Crime. However, she was buried alive in the rubble and presumed dead, although she did not actually die. As planned, this drove Kingpin back into the world of crime, although he found out Lynch was behind the explosion, partially due to a headache he gained, and took revenge by murdering his traitorous advisor. He then forced the remaining mob leaders to confess to hiring the assassin Bullseye to kill several of Fisk's men.
Weeks later, Matt Murdock's alter ego, Daredevil, found Vanessa in the sewers. Being buried alive had left Vanessa amnesiac and mentally unstable, and she ended up taken in by a grotesque mutant who lived in the sewers. Daredevil ultimately used her as leverage to force Kingpin to order his puppet Randolph Cherryh, newly elected to the office of Mayor, to resign and to confirm to the media that he was indeed a mob puppet. After reuniting with her, Kingpin had his now-catatonic wife shipped off to a sanitarium in Europe in order to have her regain her sanity. This would take years, as Vanessa's husband's organized crime empire would fall and be rebuilt during the period that Vanessa was institutionalized.[volume & issue needed]
Ultimately Vanessa would recover, and she would remain in Europe. But when her husband was the victim of an assassination attempt orchestrated by her son, Vanessa arranged for her husband to be shipped out of the country to recover from his injuries, and to cut a deal with his fellow mob bosses to divide up Fisk's recently rebuilt crime syndicate in exchange for a truce. Vanessa then took the final, brutal step of personally murdering her own devoted son, who admitted to Vanessa that his motivation was to rid the family of his father, who he blamed for his family's troubles.[volume & issue needed]
The act of murdering her own beloved son caused a horrific physical toll on Vanessa, causing her to slowly lose the will to live, which along with the injuries she sustained when she was buried alive, culminated in her body undergoing terminal organ failure. Blaming both her husband and Matt Murdock, who had recently been revealed to be Daredevil, for the endless cycle of violence that had consumed her family, Vanessa faked the death of Foggy Nelson in an attempt to provoke Murdock into killing Fisk while they were both in prison. When that failed, she manipulated the superhero Iron Fist into posing as Daredevil, which ultimately drove Matt to break out of prison to find Foggy's murderer and the identity of the man impersonating him, culminating in her confronting Matt with an offer to clear his name in exchange for him clearing Kingpin, so that the two would be free to try and kill each other anew.
Though Daredevil refused this deal, Vanessa went ahead and arranged for the murder of Leland Drummond, the corrupt FBI director who outed Matt in order to advance his own career within the FBI. To discredit his outing of Daredevil, the murder was made to look like a suicide and a false and highly damning suicide note was planted at the scene, claiming that Drummond took his own life after it became apparent that his scheme to frame Matt Murdock was about to be exposed. Shortly afterwards, Vanessa died and Murdock found himself morally guilted into serving as the Kingpin's lawyer, getting the charges dropped on the grounds that the evidence was too tainted to bring him to court. But Daredevil would exact his own form of a Faustian bargain with Kingpin, as he forced the crime boss to renounce his American citizenship and leave the country forever in exchange for his nemesis' legal services, stating that any attempt to continue their vendetta would be an insult to the memory of the good woman Vanessa had once been.
Wilson Fisk is later seen at her grave where he breaks down emotionally. She has since been talking to Wilson as a ghostly vision taunting him that he will never regain his former glory, an indication that her death still greatly affects him.[volume & issue needed]
The Arbiters bring Vanessa back as a revenant as a part of a test intended to gauge the Kingpin's worth as the head of the Hand. Reluctant to combat his wife, Fisk tries to appeal to whatever humanity that she may still have left in her, and kills her when she still flings her weapons at him, unaware that she was actually aiming at the assassin who was approaching him from behind.
The Jackal "reanimates" Vanessa in an attempt to coerce the Kingpin into allying with him in Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy. The Kingpin responds by snapping Vanessa's neck while declaring, "That wasn't my wife. That was an abomination."
After Mayor Fisk starts planning to have Peter Parker killed, as he is the roommate of Fred Myers, who is blackmailing him, a mysterious undead entity known only as Kindred appears in his cabinet. He kills Fisk's associates using supernatural abilities and forces him to back off Parker, after revealing he is in possession of Vanessa's soul.
In the Marvel/DC crossover book Batman & Spider-Man: New Age Dawning #1, Vanessa is infected with terminal cancer by Ra's al Ghul, who offers the Kingpin the cure for it in exchange for his help in a plot that will destroy New York. Disgruntled under Ra's, the Kingpin forms an alliance with Spider-Man and Batman and succeeds in defeating Ra's, only to be denied the cure for his wife's cancer by the beaten eco-terrorist. Vanessa is cured near the end of the storyline by an antidote provided by Ra's al Ghul's daughter Talia al Ghul, who recognizes Vanessa as a kindred spirit, as both of them loved men that society would regard as monsters.
In the alternate universe of Marvel Zombies 3, it is revealed that she was not infected or eaten when the zombies took over the world. but has been secretly kept alive by her zombified husband, who is able to control his hunger for human flesh when she is around, but when the Kingpin's clone factory is destroyed by Machine Man, and Jocasta, he consumes Vanessa.
Vanessa Fisk appears as an important background character in Ultimate Spider-Man. The Kingpin seeks the Tablet of Time, as it alleged to have powers that Kingpin hopes may awaken Vanessa from a coma. but it is stolen by the Black Cat, Later, after Kingpin sets fire to Daredevil's law office, Daredevil breaks into Fisk's home and threatens to murder the comatose Vanessa, but is stopped by Spider-Man. Fisk orders Vanessa to be taken out of the country before he is arrested himself over the attempted murder of Moon Knight.
In the Punisher Max series, set in Marvel's MAX universe, Vanessa is married to the Kingpin, but their marriage collapses as Wilson Fisk's takeover of the mob causes the death of their eight-year-old son Richard. Vanessa blames Wilson for not preventing Richard's death, and after she attempts unsuccessfully to kill him for this, he evicts her from their home. Later, in order to protect himself from the Punisher, Kingpin hires Elektra as a bodyguard. It is revealed that Elektra was actually hired by Vanessa, who is plotting the Kingpin's downfall, and that the two women are lovers. After the Kingpin is killed by the Punisher in issue #21, Vanessa has his body cremated and flushes his ashes down a toilet. She appears ready to take charge of her husband's former empire, as her chauffeur calls her "Madam Kingpin". But in issue #22, she is ambushed and killed by Nick Fury.
In other media
- Vanessa Fisk appeared in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, voiced by Caroline Goodall. In the episodes "Tablet of Time" and "Ravages of Time", she is one of the few characters who are aware of Wilson Fisk's criminal empire. Eventually, Vanessa decides to divorce Wilson and leaves for good, unable to deal with being a criminal's wife.
- Vanessa Marianna appears on the live-action series Daredevil, portrayed by Ayelet Zurer.
- She is a series regular in season 1. Vanessa is the owner of the Scene Contempo art gallery in Manhattan. Wilson Fisk first meets Vanessa while contemplating artwork and is instantly smitten with her, soon asking her out on a date. Their first date goes smoothly, but is interrupted when Anatoly Ranskahov barges in seeking to inform Fisk of accepting an earlier offer of support that was offered. The dinner leaves Vanessa somewhat perturbed, while Fisk is outraged to the point that of taking Anatoly to a vacant lot to be beaten unconscious and decapitated with a car door. For their second date, Wilson takes the extra precaution of buying out the restaurant so as to avoid interruptions and Vanessa reveals she carries a gun in her purse, aware of what Fisk's leads. After Madame Gao threatens Fisk in his own apartment, James Wesley takes the initiative and brings Vanessa over to calm Wilson down. With Vanessa's influence, Fisk decides to go public and paint himself as a savior of Hell's Kitchen. This incurs the ire of Madame Gao and Leland Owlsley who try to have Vanessa killed by spiking the champagne at a charity gala that Fisk is hosting. Wilson manages to get Vanessa to the hospital in time, and she recovers. When Fisk is later arrested after the law firm of Nelson & Murdock get corrupt police detective Carl Hoffman into revealing that Fisk had blackmailed into killing Christian Blake to turn state's evidence, Fisk is being arrested while Vanessa is proposed to and she accepts. When Fisk is recaptured, Vanessa is taken out of the country by Wilson's men.
- Vanessa is mentioned in season 2. Most of Fisk's remaining financial assets to set up a protection fund for Vanessa, allowing her to hide safely overseas while Fisk is awaiting trial. Suspecting Fisk to be behind Frank Castle's escape, Matt Murdock provokes Fisk in jail into attacking by threatening to make a call to the State Department to have Vanessa's US visa revoked.
- At the start of season 3, it's mentioned that the authorities are seeking Vanessa for questioning as an accessory to Fisk's crimes. Not wanting to be separated from her, Fisk agrees to be an informant for FBI Agent Rahul "Ray" Nadeem in exchange for Vanessa's continued protection, but it's all an act to manipulate Nadeem. In "One Last Shot," Vanessa returns from exile in Barcelona and is reunited with Fisk. She moves into his penthouse in the Presidential Hotel, is enamored by his new assassin Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter, and insists on being involved with Fisk's criminal lifestyle. After Fisk and Vanessa thwart Nelson & Murdock's attempt to take him down by putting Nadeem before a grand jury, Vanessa insists on being given authority to delegate orders in the organization. Her first order is to direct Felix Manning to carry out Nadeem's assassination via Dex. This proves to be everyone's undoing as Nadeem had made a confession video prior to his death listing all the crimes that Fisk made him commit, which Karen posts on the Internet. Meanwhile, Matt ends up turning Dex against Fisk when he learns from Felix that Fisk had killed a woman close to Dex. Subsequently, Dex dresses up in the fake Daredevil costume he's used to attack the New York Bulletin and Clinton Church and launches an assault on Fisk and Vanessa's wedding reception. He then follows them up into the penthouse and tries to kill Vanessa, but Matt intercedes and a three-way fight breaks out between him, Fisk, and Dex that ends with Fisk breaking Dex's back. After the fight is over, Matt forces Fisk to return to jail and leave Karen and Foggy alone under threat of Vanessa's role in Nadeem's death being exposed. Vanessa is last seen being taken away by the police as Brett Mahoney refuses to let Fisk give her one last goodbye as he "didn't say goodbye" to Ray Nadeem.
Vanessa Fisk appears in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, voiced by Lake Bell. It was revealed in a flashback that she and Richard Fisk died in a car accident when fleeing after witnessing her husband fighting Spider-Man. This motivates the Kingpin to have a particle accelerator built to meet a version of his family who are still alive.
Vanessa Fisk appears in the novel Spider-Man: Forever Young written by Stefan Petrucha, a retelling of the Tablet storyline that introduced Silvermane. The novel also includes a follow-up story set a couple of years later, when Vanessa asks Spider-Man to help her retrieve the tablet from a restored Silvermane so that she can use it to cure her husband- currently in a trauma-induced coma- with Vanessa offering to use her resources to help the ill May Parker in the process (aware that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are connected without knowing that they are the same man). At the tale's conclusion, Vanessa abandons the idea of using the tablet after witnessing what it has done to Silvermane, who is left randomly aging through his use of the serum, but she nevertheless covers May's medical bills as agreed, leaving a message for Parker that he lived up to his end of their arrangement and she acknowledges that he is not at fault that the tablet has been confirmed to not be an option.
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