Zebediah Killgrave was born in Rijeka, in what was at the time Yugoslavia and is now in Croatia. As an international spy, he was sent to infiltrate a chemical refinery. During the mission, he was accidentally doused with a chemical that turned his hair and skin purple.
Caught outright and questioned, Killgrave offered a weak, inadequate alibi to his captors. Much to his surprise, he was believed and released. Several more incidents of this nature demonstrated that the nerve gas had given Killgrave the superhuman ability to command the wills of other people.
Calling himself the Purple Man, Killgrave embarked on a criminal career. The Purple Man has vacillated between an actively criminal life and easy retirement. Morally, however, he has never reformed. He can most commonly be seen in expensive purple street clothes.
X-Men: The Animated Series
Zebediah Killgrave appeared in the X-Men episode "No Mutant is an Island" voiced by Cedric Smith. In this episode, he does not use the "Purple Man" alias and in fact uses a face cream to hide his purple complexion in public.
He is depicted as a telepathic mutant terrorist posing as a philanthropist who plans on taking over the government using a group of young mutants (consisting of Skids, Boom Boom, Rusty Collins, and Wiz Kid) under his mental control. In the end, Cyclops gets in his way and eventually defeats him.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
The Purple Man appears in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, voiced by Brent Spiner. He is shown escaping the Raft, along with other villains imprisoned there. In "Emperor Stark", Purple Man is revealed to be the mastermind behind the Avengers becoming world-controlling tyrants within a month by controlling Iron Man after a defeat, and manipulating him into developing a satellite that could spread his mind-controlling powers to the other Avengers.
Only Vision is left immune when being left on self-repair, and he manages to save the other Avengers from control. Upon Purple Man's satellite being destroyed, the Avengers gather at Stark Industries and defeat the villain, and with Iron Man, reminded of taunts by Purple Man, knocking him out with a finger flick in his face.
Purple Man appears in the Netflix series Marvel's Jessica Jones as the main antagonist of Season 1, where he differs from his comic counterpart as he lacks purple skin but keeps his purple clothing. It is also revealed that Kilgrave is only an alias and that his real name is Kevin Thompson and is from England rather than Yugoslavia. He is also never referred to as "Purple Man".
The origin of his mind-control powers also differs from the comics, rather than being doused in a chemical. Kilgrave got his powers as a child after his scientist parents saved his life by giving him an experimental viral treatment. He is played by David Tennant, who played the Tenth Doctor in the Doctor Who TV series and Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Kilgrave in Jessica Jones.
Purple Man in the X-Men animated series.
Purple Man in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.