Melvin Potter was one of the first enemies that Daredevil fought at the start of his superhero career. Melvin was a costume designer who decided to become a criminal. He was obsessed with Gladiators, so he made and donned the costume and persona of a Gladiator. He has fought Daredevil and Iron Man, and has teamed-up with other villains and groups such as Maggia.
Melvin Potter was created by Stan Lee and John Romita and first appeared in Daredevil # 18 (1966).
Major Story Arcs
Melvin had been in and out of prison several times. During his last imprisonment, Melvin began therapy with a doctor named Betsy Beatty. It was not soon after that Melvin and Betsy starting having romantic feelings for each other. They eventually fell in love. This and their therapy sparked a will inside Melvin to reform. He renounced his old ways and wanted to start a new, good and honorable life. When he was on parole, he even allied himself with Elektra and his former enemy Daredevil to fight the Hand. After Melvin was freed from prison, he and Betsy got married. A bright new life started for Melvin, he opened up a costume shop and became content with life for awhile. This peaceful life however seemed to end when the Kingpin forced Melvin to fight his now friend Daredevil. Other than that Melvin would only put on his costume two more times,and that was to discourage kids from crime. He and his wife lived in peace for a couple of years. Unfortunate, the marriage between Melvin and Besty didn't last and the two would get a divorce. Melvin however stayed on the side of the angels. He eventually fell in love with a woman named Li Lung, who worked at his costume shop. The two married again, and, unbeknown to Melvin, the two even had a daughter named Meleanie.
Bribed back into Crime
Then he was forced back into his evil ways when the former Kingpin Alexander Bont (Before Fisk) was released from jail. He blackmailed Potter by saying that he had a 4 year old daughter that he had never seen before and that she would die if Potter did not assist him. As a result, Potter re-assumed his Gladiator persona and attacked Daredevil bringing him to Bont who then tried to kill him to reclaim his title as Kingpin. However, overdosing on the drug MGH caused him to die from a heart attack and shortly after Gladiator was defeated by the new White Tiger and was sent back to prison.
While in prison, Potter is accused of killing two of his fellow inmates and Daredevil took it upon himself to represent him as he believes that he is not as evil as he has been made out to be. In fact, his super-senses tell him that Potter is in fact telling the truth and is innocent. However, shortly after this he is insulted by another inmate and snaps, breaking out of his handcuffs and horrifically assaulting both the inmate and a guard before giving himself up and once again claiming that he had nothing to do with it. Potter manages to escape from prison and defeats Daredevil only to go on a killing spree through Chinatown and attacking Murdock in his civilian identity. Later he kidnaps Murdock's wife and taunts Daredevil that he is going to kill her only to be defeated and then attempting to kill himself only to be stopped by Daredevil. It was revealed that Larry Cranston (Mr. Fear) used chemicals to make Melvin have outburst and try to kill Daredevil and his wife. Melvin, finally free of Mr. Fear's inculiance, returned to his peaceful life and aided Daredevil from time to time.
During one of his plans for revenge on Daredevil, Mr. Fear (Cranston) created a new Gladiator. He choose Wylie Lemmick a inmate, who suffered from delusions of grandeur and gave him a copy of Melvin's costume. Wylie attacked Murdock in prison, during riot induced fear gas, however he was defeated by him and sent back to his cell.
He was later seen in new costume, as member of Gang of Four.
The Ultimate version of Gladiator appeared in Ultimate Spider-Man. This version of the character was a mentally-ill man in a suit of armor who seemed to be obsessed with "the emperor." He was also an enemy of Spider-Man rather than Daredevil.
Melvin posed as an assassin for the Crimelord Kingpin.
Powers and Abilities
Despite not having any superhuman abilities, Potter is an expert Martial Artist and has vast amounts of strength. His costume was metal armor and his main offensive weapons were the knives and whirling blades that he could use either at melee range or fire with supreme accuracy.
In Other Media
Melvin Potter appears in the live-action Daredevil series, portrayed by Matt Gerald. This version of the character is a good-natured machinist and tailor who suffers from an unspecified mental handicap. Wilson Fisk blackmails Melvin into designing specially-made suits that contain lightweight body armor sewn inside, and threatens to hurt his social worker, Betsy, if he divulges this information to anyone. Daredevil breaks into Melvin's shop to find info on Fisk, leading to a violent confrontation. Melvin's large size and immense strength help him hold his own against the hero, but he is eventually defeated. He breaks down in tears and tells Daredevil that Fisk will kill Betsy because of this, leading to the hero promising him that he will protect both of them. He also asks Melvin to create him a suit of his own, which is eventually revealed to be his iconic red costume.
While Melvin is never called Gladiator, a poster for the Italian movie Revenge of the Gladiators can be seen hanging in his shop.