Maid of Nails: You can’t put the Punisher in everything. He’s a specific person for specific contexts, and this is part of why I love the Garth Ennis run so, so, so much. Basically, he’s made for a Garth Ennis context.

Botswana Beast: It’s American crime. I can see how it works in 1980s comics, to an extent — well, in the Daredevil series on Netflix, he is contrasted with Daredevil, and they do take scenes from Ennis’ Punisher, like in issue #3 of Marvel Knights. They fairly directly transpose them.

MoN: It was SO COOL. I was just sad that Maginty wasn’t in it. I love that dude.

BB: Maginty is in Punisher: War Zone.

MoN: With the Urban Freeflow Crew, doing parkour all over the place for no reason. That’s not in the comic.

BB: Nope.

MoN: I was sad to see him go. I mean, he was a really messed-up guy who did messed-up stuff, but I enjoyed him a lot, in a sort of weird way.

BB: That’s the one thing we’ve not talked about, and it’s kind of an absurd thing. Frank Castle, as a notional superhero, or antihero in this case, does have a nemesis. But because the Punisher kills everyone, it’s absurd that Jigsaw still exists. Why doesn’t he just fucking kill him? He’s killed everyone else. But yeah, he’s the main villain in Punisher: War Zone, and he’s in the Matt Fraction Punisher: War Journal, where they basically recontextualized the Punisher in the first issue of that, which was a tie-in to Civil War. In all the MAX comics, he does not have the white gloves that are his superhero uniform, but at the very end of Punisher: War Journal issue #1, you see him put on the gloves. So that’s the recontextualizing of him back into the MU.

MoN: It’s just so hard for me to imagine him as anything else after the MAX run.

BB: It didn’t really work. I do quite like, to some extent, him playing off against characters like Daredevil, and I think the TV series sold it fairly well. And then this is the sort of thing that the Civil War tie-in, or perhaps even the main series, has Spider-Man say, “Captain America. Punisher. Same guy. Different war.” I mean, they’re soldiers, but…

MoN: I do feel bad that I like the Punisher so much. I mean, I don’t, because he’s awesome, but it is basically about watching a white dude shoot a bunch of foreigns.

BB: And from that letter by Clifford “Man of Action” Mineau, I think it’s clear that the Punisher has a very strong right-wing fandom. There are people that just don’t — I can say they don’t get it; maybe I don’t get it. Maybe they get it far more correctly than I do.

MoN: It’s like how a lot of people who like Judge Dredd might not consider themselves right-wing, but they have right-wing compliant social views. I know somebody through Judge Dredd fandom — we were friends on Facebook; we’re not anymore, because when the UK government voted for airstrikes on Syria, this dude was like, “Fuck it, maybe they’re terrorists”. UNFRIEND! And I have it on good authority that on the official 2000AD Facebook page, a lot of comment-blocking and deletion has to happen every single day.

BB: Judge Dredd’s probably not a bad contrast. You have things like Al Ewing’s Secret Wars tie-in, where he had, essentially, Mega-City One set up around the Punisher. The Punisher’s the Chief Judge and Luke Cage is more the Dredd-type figure, and Emma Frost is the Judge Anderson stand-in. The difference is, I think, the Punisher is not authoritarian –

MoN: He’s not part of an institution.

BB: He’s not. And people say the Punisher’s fascist — you know what? The Avengers movie is probably more fascist than the Punisher. The Punisher is not really a nationalist. He’s killed American generals, so that’s pretty un-nationalist.

MoN: When people say he’s fascist, I don’t think they don’t know what “fascist” means.

BB: They’re talking about exerting will by force.

MoN: But that’s not the same thing as being fascist. Fascism requires –

BB: Nationhood.

MoN: Yeah, nationhood, political backing.

BB: And there’s a racial dimension.

MoN: Well, some Punisher comics from the 80s are super racist.

BB: They probably were quite bad.

MoN: It was the 80s! Everyone was conservative and paranoid.

BB: Reagonomics, “welfare queens”, et cetera. And I think that’s when crack really became a big street drug. Punisher probably is based on Dirty Harry, which is the late 70s. And Dirty Harry is a response to an urban crimewave, particularly in New York; I looked up the statistics on this in an Internet argument years ago, and there is a spike in urban crime from 1969-1971…Frank Miller, James Ellroy, the Punisher: there are certain outliers –

MoN: The Miller-Ellroy-Castle trifecta.

BB: They’re contrarian right-wingers, but Frank Castle is not a right-winger.

MoN: No, he’s a different thing.

BB: I don’t think he’s a registered Democrat, though.

MoN: The Dirty Harry thing is really interesting because he’s one of the models for Judge Dredd, and Garth Ennis — his Dredd runs are not, let’s say, universally loved.

BB: Not even loved by him.

MoN: He’s almost disavowed them, but he was a huge fan. He was clearly really, really influenced by that, and maybe that’s part of what comes through when he writes someone like the Punisher. You have to look at it like that, otherwise it becomes even more ideologically disturbing. If he actively enjoys hurting people, you’re just watching some dude torture people for fun. And there’s a difference between him enjoying something and it being the only thing that makes him feel alive.

BB: He doesn’t enjoy anything. He doesn’t enjoy sex. But I think he’s probably really good at it. The impression you get from his encounter with OBrien is, she’s had an impressive seeing-to, but it’s not like sex with normal people.

MoN: I bet you he’s one of those guys who’s surprisingly good at going down. Military precision and all. As opposed to Matt Murdock, where women would think he was good but then he’d be really bad at it.

BB: Matt Murdock’s pure push-the-head-down-to-the-crotch.

MoN: It would be like, “You have special radar senses! Surely you can find it.”

BB: This is getting very Kevin Smith.

MoN: I’m sorry.

NEXT TIME:

Botswana Beast’s Marvel man-crush
Lady violence
More big hard guns

7 Responses to “Punisher Chat #3: Everyone was conservative and paranoid”

  1. James Wheeler Says:

    Kevin Smith emergency: Smodbags deployed

    Maybe the Punisher doesn’t work everywhere, but put him there anyway, I say. I thought the Fraction comic was a worthwhile attempt, even if it didn’t work overall. The best issue was the World War Hulk tie-in where he defends a neighbourhood against some alien insect lieutenant of Hulk’s, employing Venomech symbiote armour and a gun that fires swords to do the job. (I also think the run would have been worth it for this panel alone: https://twitter.com/luigii249/status/729650509104197632)

    Remender, who Fraction handed off to, seemed to get a lot more praise for doing the same thing: loading Frank with Marvel tech and context rather than doing PG crime stories. I like the weird static you get between Frank and the universe he shouldn’t be a part of, and if you’re not going full bore with the Mature Content I think it’s not a bad way to go.

  2. Asteele Says:

    In the United States there is a long history of vigilante killings of “bad guys” and “criminals” in explicit support of white supremacy. So that’s why punisher gets the F label sometimes.

  3. DGoodluck Says:

    If I recall though, there was some by-story in the Fraction run where he fights a bunch of white supremacists. It must have been just after Captain America died, because Frank was tossed into a ‘Mericanized version of his costume. The Fraction run is probably the most overt attempt at instilling a sense of identity and personality into the Punisher (His relationship with Jigsaw, Frank’s relationship with Captain America), and by god is it a mess outside of the stand-alone stories.

    That said, the World War Hulk crossover is genuinely good. And I have a soft spot for the Kraven story that happened a little later.

  4. Paul Jon Thrillin' Says:

    I think Remender’s issues were much more successful than Fraction’s at the Marvel Universe Integration stuff.Plus, some excellent Tony Moore art and the only good Daken appearances. And Frankencastle, which is obviously just nonsense based around a very silly pun but it’s got my beloved Morbius in it, and a Dan Brereton issue, so my critical faculties are skewed in its favour from the get-go.

    I reckon you’re totally right with Castle being something different to a democrat or a right winger. Much harder to apply concrete politics to him than it is to the Avengers from the films, who are straight-up tools of the oppressor and should be beaten up by an increasingly ridiculous series of Marvel characters. A flaming ghost-wheel of vengeance spinning on Tony Stark’s smuggo face, forever, Daywalker grinning away.

  5. Tam Says:

    I’ve probably mentioned this before but one of the main influences on Ennis’ Punisher is Bob Lee Swagger, the ex Vietnam sniper of Stephen Hunter’s very well crafted (although increasingly politically dodgy) series of thrillers. If you like Ennis, you’ll probably enjoy them…

  6. John Bishop/ Eyemelt Says:

    I remember seeing Frank picking up Cap’s uniform after Civil War and thinking what a smart idea to have him take the role. But it was a red herring.

    I always thought it was a little weird, that because Frank is part of the universe inhabited by brightly coloured super-families and such, he also gets to be in that Marvel kids’ show ‘Superhero Squad’ (or whatever it’s called). He’s like a little squished up cartoon version of himself, but how does he work in that context? er…. “My family went on holiday for ages, so I go round smacking the bottoms of naughty villains”.

  7. James Wheeler Says:

    Yeah, it’s a shame Fraction’s take-up of Millar’s “Frank takes the mantle” idea was so heavily equivocated and story-specific. (If I remember rightly: Big Racist at the US/Mexico border puts on a costume and calls himself Captain America, Frank responds by donning a still-more-skulls-than-stars suit of his own.)

    Brubaker would have never gone for it, but I’d have loved a full-on Reign of the Supermen approach. Your contenders for the shield: The Punisher, guiltStark-funded Bucky, 50s Cap and Luke Cage

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