Character Spotlight: The Punisher

by Ryan.L on September 26, 2017

Amazing Spider-Man #129 introduced the world to the Punisher. A vigilante with no superpowers, just a vendetta to rid the world of crime. Only his way was a little bit more permanent than other vigilantes. The Punisher would appear in many books over the years and his fan base would grow and grow.

In 1986 the Punisher would finally be granted his own series. It was only a limited run but fans of the character got to follow him on some adventures, especially through his fractured psyche. The Punisher has a shaky traumatizing past and as we get to follow him we started to find out that he wasn't so much a anti-hero but more of a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment.

In 1994 we got to dive deeper into the origin of the Punisher, with The Punisher Year One. Frank castle a dedicated U.S. marine and excelling in every way. He was also a very dedicated family man. In the final years of the Vietnam war he resided to a special forces post in upstate New York. During an excursion with his family to Central Park for a picnic they witnessed a mob execution on a high profile member of the mafia. The mob fired on Franks family killing them all before Franks very eyes. He later become suicidal and seeks justice through the law. Unfortunately he discovers a chain of corruption which makes it impossible for him to do right by his slain family, Frank goes off the rails and decides the only way is to take matters into his own hands.

The Punisher over the years has become one of the most popular Marvel characters with a very iconic symbol. His series in the 90s seemed a little lack lustre but all that changed in 2000 with Garth Ennis's Marvel Knights The Punisher #1. Ennis introduced us to a more darker and grounded Punisher. Continuing to get even darker and more mature in the following 2004 series Marvel MAX The Punisher.

With the Punisher being an extremely popular character, he has spawned three movies. 1989's film starring Dolph Lundgren, 2004's film staring Thomas Jane and 2008' Punisher: War Zone staring Ray Stevenson. These movies failed to rally capture the character and deliver a solid story. 1986's film really didn't feel like a marvel movie but got caught up in the traditional 80's action movie formula. It was dark and gritty, but lacked an engaging story and the acting was sub-par. The 2004 film starring Thomas Jane had promise, but with the casting of John Travolta as the villain and setting the movie in Orlando Florida instead of New York many fans began to worry the film was about to be another dud. where is really failed was it's PG-13 rating. The film shy'd away from showing any extreme violence or gore, as to include a younger audience. This ultimately hurt the film, and fans were left wondering if they will ever get a film to the standard of what was being delivered in the comics. The 2008 Punisher: War Zone film promised to be darker, grittier and to take Frank back to New York. Unfortunately the films writing seemed like it was rushed and the sub-par acting caused this film to be forgettable and again the Punisher has not been able to duplicate the magic from the comics on screen.

It wouldn't be until March 18th 2006 that fans would finally get the Punisher they hav been asking for. Netflix Daredevil season two would introduce the Punisher into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. John Bernthal played the role of Frank Castle and it was everything the fans wanted and more. He was dark, gritty, brutal and was every bit the ticking time bomb the character is in the comics. The success of the show and the overwhelmingly positive response to the Punisher green lit a solo Netflix show for the character.

With the trailer for the Netflix Punisher show dropping last week, we finally got to see the look of the tone for the show. While Daredevil was pretty dark and very grounded, it looks like the Punisher is going to take us even further into a darker, grounded and more gritty side of the MCU. While this is exactly what we would expect from a show staring the Punisher what does this mean for future Netflix shows or the MCU in general? Well if the Punisher series can prove to be successful and not follow down the path of Iron Fist, it really opens up the door for more characters to get their own shows or movies. It really shows that some of these darker characters if treated well can hold their own and deliver some quality shows. Characters like Moon Knight or even Blade could pop up in the MCU or on Netflix. Many fans have speculated over the years that these two especially could get the Netflix treatment. I think it is very possible that Marvel is using the Punisher to test the waters and see if a darker side to the MCU is what fans want and can be profitable. With the Punishers potential success it could even influnce the MCU films to move into a more darker gritty direction than the bright optimistic look and tone we have had for the past ten years.

While time will tell, to celebrate the Punisher's new Netflix show here is a list of some must read series.

Punisher: Born
In the waning days of the Vietnam War...the Punisher is born. The year is 1971. With mounting casualties and a rising anti-war sentiment, America's time in Vietnam is coming to a close. Yet in the isolated Valley Forge Firebase on the Cambodian border, Captain Frank Castle is one of the few soldiers still committed to the fight against the enemy. With dwindling reserves, Castle must stand against an impending Viet Cong attack that threatens to wipe out the entire American platoon. To survive the battle, what grim decision must he make that will forever alter the course of his life? In this acclaimed tale, superstar Garth Ennis reveals the never-before-told story of the horrors Castle was forced to face to come home from Vietnam alive — ending in a shocking twist that will forever change how readers see Marvel Comics' most famous urban vigilante.

Punisher: Circle of Blood
The series that started the Punisher's road to solo success! Having escaped prison and started a gang war, the Punisher's fighting both sides of the law - but his deadliest enemy may be a conspiracy playing one side against the other! Can he figure out who to trust, who to use and who to kill?

Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
Collecting Marvel Knights (2000-2001) The Punisher #1-12
Frank Castle has gone back to basics. Back in New York, back from the dead and back doing what he does best: exterminating bad guys and waging his personal war on crime. The Punisher is here to clean up the mean streets of New York City.

Punisher MAX: The Slavers
Collecting The Punisher MAX (2004-2008) #25-30
On a pitch-black Brooklyn night, in a dead-end alley, Frank Castle dispatches a crew of Albanian thugs that is menacing a young woman. Her name is Viorica, she's from Moldavia, and when she tells Frank her story, that's when the real killing starts.

Punisher: Franken-Castle
Collecting Dark Reign: The List - Punisher, Punisher #11-16, Franken-Castle #17-21, Dark Wolverine #88-89. 
The Punisher is dead, so who, or what, is the giant patchwork monster skulking through the tunnels under New York? Those forgotten by society have a new protector - Franken-Castle.

Punisher MAX: Frank
Collecting Punisher MAX (2010) #12-16
Locked in solitary confinement with a prison riot raging, the Punisher is close to death. But first he must relive the worst day of his life. What were the Punisher's final words to his family before they were ripped from him in a hail of bullets?

Punisher: Year One
Collecting Punisher Year One (1994-1995) #1-4
We've known for years about the deaths of Frank Castle's wife and children, but now we see Castle himself hours later, when his grief and rage were at their freshest. To the police, he's a lead. To a reporter, he's a story. To the mob, he's just one more loose end.



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