Welcome to the D-List: Purple Woman
Fans of Marvel Comics, and certainly of the Jessica Jones Netflix series, have undoubtedly heard the name, Killgrave. Although his historic codename, Purple Man, may not sound exceptionally threatening, his power certainly is. The villain can control minds and has used this power in very disturbing ways, such as by forcing women to fall in love with him. One of those troubling relationships produced a child.
Kara Killgrave is a mutant with the ability to produce pheromones that cause a target to adhere to her commands. Like her father, Kara inherited not only his power, but his purple skin. Unlike her father, however, she has primarily tried to use her power for heroic purposes but was overshadowed by her teammates and forgotten for nearly two decades. Wipe that grimace off your face, because we’re welcoming Purple Woman to the D-List.
Created by Bill Mantlo and David Ross, Kara Killgrave first appeared in Alpha Flight vol. 1 #41 in 1986. At the age of 13, Kara’s skin suddenly turned purple, and her mother revealed that Kara’s father was the villain, Purple Man, and that the girl must have inherited his skin tone. Frightened, Kara stole her mother’s credit cards and ran away from home (Kara making it rain with that money…purple rain). Initially unaware of her powers, when Kara told a rude girl to jump off of a cliff, the girl’s skin turned purple and she walked toward a nearby cliff. Luckily Alpha Flight member, Northstar, saved the girl, but since Kara had a crush on the mutant, she used her newly discovered power to control the man. Kara thought she was having innocent fun, but the hero berated her once she relinquished control. However, Jean-Paul realized that Kara needed help and brought her to Alpha Flight. After a rocky introduction, Kara was allowed to train with the junior team, Beta Flight.
Taking the codename, Purple Girl, Kara proved herself stronger than veteran villain, Mesmero, risked her life to save a young superhuman named Goblyn, and eventually developed a bond with Goblyn and her sister, Laura. Clearly Kara was very powerful and caring, but unfortunately, Beta Flight members were never given much focus throughout Alpha Flight. Still, Kara never had a problem using her power: She took mental control of a bus driver to stop him from leaving without her and even considered using it on her crush, Whitman, when the boy thought of leaving Beta Flight to practice medicine (which is just plum stupid).
It’s easy to view her father as a villain because he made malicious decisions out of selfishness, but Kara was not yet mature enough to understand the repercussions of some of her actions (so Kara wasn’t very deep, purple or otherwise). Perhaps the members of Alpha Flight should have spent more time discussing the moral implications of mind control with her, but sadly, Purple Girl and the rest of Beta Flight never enjoyed a separate title akin to what New Mutants did for the X-Men. It certainly would have helped give Purple Girl more of a spotlight.
Eventually Kara changed her codename to Persuasion, and with Beta Flight, battled a group of villains. Alpha Flight member Windshear, arrived and yelled at the team for failing to call for backup, so Kara took control of him, shut him up, and forced him to help in battle. She also possessed the local police chief to calm him down during a hostage situation (she put him in a purple haze). In both instances, innocent people were going to be harmed and arguing was a waste of time. This was an interesting contrast to Kara’s timid attitude circa her introduction.
At this point, Kara Killgrave was no longer the hesitant young girl she had been for most of her history, she was now a confident young woman and even had her own official costume. Although her teammates questioned her judgement in both above-mentioned circumstances, she was not wrong in either instance (her teammates just liked to wine…because grapes…purple, heh). However, she worried even more that she was going to become like her father because of the enjoyment she now felt from using her power. Unfortunately, such an idea would not be explored, and when volume 1 of Alpha Flight ended in 1994, Kara did not have a major appearance for nearly two decades.
After a long absence, Kara tried to steal data from a major corporation and knock out the power grid in Montreal during an election. Unfortunately for Kara, a SWAT team, Guardian, and Northstar surrounded the building waiting for her to exit. When Kara appeared, she forced the officers to shoot at the members of Alpha Flight. As Kara tried to escape, she possessed the nearby crowds of people to literally climb onto each other in the shape of a monster and attack the heroes (so they became a giant, purple people eater). Snowbird caught Kara off guard, but Killgrave told the hero that she was trying to stop Unity – a political party. Sadly, no one listened to her and Department H took her into custody. The election resulted in a victory for the Unity party.
Although Kara tried to warn Snowbird before she was taken away that Unity was not what it seemed, she didn’t try to contact Alpha Flight to ask them to investigate and instead decided to engage in illegal activity to resolve the situation. Sadly, by the time anyone realized Kara was right about Unity, it was too late. Apparently, superhuman targets were brainwashed to serve the new government’s nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, Kara, now using the codename Purple Woman, was one of the victims, and forced to join Alpha Strike in order to locate and capture the renegade members of Alpha Flight.
It was sad to see Kara in this state, but ultimately, I was relieved to find out that her motivation was heroic even if her actions weren’t. However, there was little exploration of Kara’s anger and hostility – she seemed like a much different person even before she was placed in Department H’s custody. Had she grown tired of talking to people and instead lavished controlling them? There was a lot of potential for character development here that sadly never happened, nor any real explanation throughout this volume for her attitude and anger (she was a real grape of wrath).
Alpha Strike discovered Alpha Flight’s hidden camp, but Shaman captured Purple Woman and put her in an “anti-Unity” machine – a way to undo the massive mind control. Alpha Flight defeated the villain behind Unity – the classic Alpha Flight villain, The Master, and everyone under Unity’s control went back to normal (no more violence, or violets).
Although Kara Killgrave was primarily a mind-controlled villain throughout this story, it was nonetheless awesome to see her in action as a bold and aggressive character. Unfortunately, she was later seen in prison when Hope Summers visited her because the young hero wanted to absorb her powers. In this appearance, Kara seemed very resentful, and commented that she had plenty of visitors – half-siblings because of Purple Man’s disgusting actions. Still, it was sad to see her in prison, and Purple Woman hasn’t appeared in nearly 5 years. This is a waste of a very interesting character. I wonder if her experiences as a member of Alpha Flight and the fact that her father is such a disturbing villain are what made Kara Killgrave grow into a seemingly cold and angry person (something’s gotta get through to that purple heart). Maybe it’s the nature of her power, but maybe we’ll never know.
Kara Killgrave had a very small role in the brief, ongoing series, Age of Apocalypse, but has not appeared in other alternate universes or outside of comics. Although she seems like nothing more than a female version of a notorious villain, there is so much potential for her to further grow into her own character. Her negative attitude could be explained and explored. She could function as a reluctant hero or even naturally descend into villainy. Perhaps she could assemble a new Alpha Flight as a group of renegades. There are so many ideas waiting for a writer to pursue them. In the meantime, I’ll be turning red with anger until we see more of Purple Woman again in the future.
Speak of the devil! Once again, Kelly Thompson has come to the rescue and pulled another one of my D-Listers out of comic book limbo. Check out the digital series, Jessica Jones: Purple Daughter, to see more of Kara!