Since his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 (Feb. 1974) the Punisher has not been what people expected – even by the creator, Gerry Conway. Conway had planned on the Punisher just being an assassin hired by the Jackal to kill Spider-Man – Conway even originally called Frank Castle the Assassin. Frank was to be a second-tier character at best. But as Gerry wrote the script a different character unfolded. The Punisher was really a hero under his violent and lethal tactics. In fact, by the end of the story, the Punisher turns on the Jackal – who he deems as dishonorable because of his treatment of Spider-Man who, as it turns out, was wrongfully-charged for the murder of Norman Osborn. I think Conway’s journey in writing the script, changing his view of the character as the story develops, is the same journey anyone wanting to get to know the Punisher should take. For me, I love the violence, death and gore. That’s why I came to the Punisher. But I stayed because of Frank Castle. It was the slowly revealed inner workings of him that make him such an interesting character. Not just his deeds. But like all of us would like people to do for us, notice his motives.
Francis Castiglione aka Frank Castle aka the Punisher is thought to be a bloodthirsty and ultra violent vigilante fueled by carnage and death. Unlike many heroes in the Marvel universe, Frank has absolutely 0% reservations about killing – especially gangsters. Hell, he’s killed hundred’s of people (and that was just last week). J. Jonah Jameson said that the Punisher is “…the most newsworthy thing to happen to New York since Boss Tweed!” But there is more to Frank than all that. Not that Frank isn’t sickened by criminals and not that he doesn’t feel like he needs a shower because he touches one. He hates them, plain and simple. But all the violence and murder are just branches of the tree. The root is dug into great tragedy – the death of his wife and two kids. Those roots built a strong and true trunk that is made from a desire to make sure that no one ever suffers like he did again. No more gangsters are gonna shoot down people’s families. No more criminals escaping justice by slipping through the cracks of our flawed legal system.No more lawyers. No more loopholes. Just punishment.
Really, it comes down to method that separates the Punisher from the average Marvel hero. Frank realizes that every person the scumbags that he kills hurts after he lets them go or turns them into the police is on his head. Frank believes that those victims can be saved by eliminating the predator from the equation before he/she victimizes them. Do you think that’s harsh? Do you think that it’s not true justice, that criminals can be reformed? I’ll give you that. It is a harsh and merciless system of justice. But let me ask you this, purely on an effectiveness bases, how much do you think crime would go down if hardened criminals, repeat offenders, faced a bullet instead of a jail cell? You may not agree with his methods, but it’s hard to deny the effectiveness. Frank Miller explored this concept well during his now famous run on Daredevil by contrasting both the methods and the effectiveness of Punisher and Daredevil’s ideologies. While Daredevil chose to remain faithful in the human condition and the justice system, even Matt Murdock had to admit that there is a place for the Punisher in this world.
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Written By: Michael Nunneley