154: Why No Punisher?

Ray Huling

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Why No Punisher?

"Castle has no superpowers. The Punisher wears no mask. Men with his skills and physique walk the earth today. His costume consists of a T-shirt. The weapons he uses are real and readily available. Two generations have grown up with his stories, but no one has ever taken up his mantle. Castle's plausibility is unique among comic book heroes. We know why there's no Superman. We don't know why there's no Punisher."

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Archon

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I am reminded of this quote from Snow Crash: "Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest ************ in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad."

Until those things happen I'll have to be content with not being the Punisher...
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Ennis has actually touched on this a few times in the Max books. One that stands out for me particularly was the Widowmaker arc, in which the character who temporarily becomes him is unable to handle the weight of the act, while the cop who stands on the precipice steps away from it, largely as a result of Castle's own words - "You want to be me?"

He also made an early comment regarding Frank's motivations through Microchip in the first story arc, when Micro accuses him outright of using the death of his family to justify what he does, when in fact it's a simple matter of doing it because he likes it. As a lapsed Punisher fan returning to the fold, it was easy to overlook at the time, but in light of future stories like the one about his new daughter (which I wasn't aware of prior to this article) it becomes more clear.

I like it. I enjoy Castle's ambiguity. I enjoy the fact that he's the one guy in the Marvel universe with a clearly defined and utterly incorruptible moral code. It reminds me of a line in the original Punisher miniseries done by Grant and Zeck, spoken during a discussion about Castle's psych evaluation following his capture: "He tests so sane it's scary." Castle isn't immoral and he isn't insane; he's possessed of uniquely focused clarity that none of us can lay claim to. It's the sort of depth and complexity rarely seen in mainstream comic characters.
 

tendo82

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Nov 30, 2007
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Lately I find his stories of revenge and disenchantment represent a nihilism that is difficult to swallow in this era of suicide bombers. I wonder how Frank Castle will evolve as America begins welcoming home the next generation of shell shocked veterans, who are fighting a war created in response to an act of rage of Punisher-like proportions.
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Human Bomb said:
Except for Batman.
Not really. Batman doesn't kill people, for one thing, which does away with whole layers of complexity the character could embrace. There was a Batman/Punisher crossover years ago, during the time when Azrael took over as Batman, and it was... meh. Largely forgettable. But one bit of it that did stick with me was the inevitable confrontation between the Punisher and the Joker. Just before Frank pulled the trigger, Batman leapt in to save the day, and held the Punisher off so the Joker could get away.

How many people has the Joker killed? At least hundreds, probably thousands. Batman can't stop him. No facility can hold him. Only one thing will bring him down and save innumerable lives - and Batman let him get away to keep that from happening.

That, to me, shifts from unflinching morality to far outside the boundaries of suspended disbelief. If Batman would sacrifice a thousand lives to save one - not to mention that the life in question is an irredeemably insane mass murderer - then he really is a douchebag.
 

Ray Huling

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It's the principle Malygris. It's like in The Killing Joke- the Joker captures Jim Gordon, locks him up and shoots/paralyses his daughter. However, when Batman comes to rescue him, Gordon tells him to get the Joker by the book. "Show him that our way works".

Batman could kill the Joker, but then he'd be no better than the thugs he takes down. He isn't a cop who's allowed to use lethal force, he's just a man looking for justice. If he started killing his opponents, he'd move from being the 'Caped Crusader' to being a simple psychopath asserting his alpha-dominance over other psychopaths. Why shouldn't he then be locked up?
 

kelmanski

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Wow, I'm jumping into this discussion a few hours late, but I have to say I really enjoyed that article.

I love Ennis' Punisher, and it's by far the best storyline I've followed in a long time. The amount of light shed on his psyche is astounding, and I love the comparisons between Batman and the Punisher in this thread.

"Batman could kill the Joker, but then he'd be no better than the thugs he takes down. He isn't a cop who's allowed to use lethal force, he's just a man looking for justice."

The same argument is used in the Punisher Vs. Daredevil storyline, and the general "Show him that our way works" argument is debunked due to the fact that their way DOESN'T work.
If it did, there'd have been no punisher / batman / joker / daredevil in the first place.

If there was an actual working criminal system that could hold powerful (influential) disturbed individuals such as the Kingpin or the Joker (Criminals that are both treated like royalty by fellow inmates) then there would be no need for the Punisher at all.

All in all he's a temporary means to an end as it is. He's a long way off being immortal and he's been near fatally wounded at least once per issue in the punisher MAX series as long as i've been reading it. There have been future incarnations of Batman, but I'm doubtful if there can be any other Punishers after Frank Castle. His story and psyche are utterly unique and I want to follow all of his current and future story arks through to the end.
 

Dom Camus

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tendo82 said:
Lately I find his stories of revenge and disenchantment represent a nihilism that is difficult to swallow in this era of suicide bombers.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that suicide bombers kill innocents. That's got nothing to do with revenge.

Loved the article. Makes me want to buy some Punisher comics... I don't think I own a single one!
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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j-e-f-f-e-r-s said:
It's the principle Malygris. It's like in The Killing Joke- the Joker captures Jim Gordon, locks him up and shoots/paralyses his daughter. However, when Batman comes to rescue him, Gordon tells him to get the Joker by the book. "Show him that our way works".
But by now, somebody - Batman, Robin, Alfred, somebody - should have figured out that it doesn't work. It's gone way beyond principle: By refusing to do what so obviously needs to be done, Batman has become an active part of the problem, almost as responsible for the murder of innocents as the Joker himself. In that crossover with the Punisher, all he had to do after coming upon the showdown between the Joker and Castle was to hold back for just a second. Check to make sure he didn't lock the keys in the Batmobile. Tighten his utility belt. Get that goddamn pebble that's been driving him crazy all day long out of his boot. Whatever. Five seconds hesitation and countless lives are saved.

But he doesn't. It's not principle, it's not morality. It's complicity - or it's a character so utterly lacking in depth that he responds to the same situation in the exact same predictable way every single time, without fail and no matter how horrible it may be, simply because there's nothing more to it.

Now, if you want Bat-complexity, we can talk about The Dark Knight Returns, and yeah, I'll grant you that Bruce Wayne and Frank Castle suddenly have an awful lot in common. Much like Ennis with the Max imprint, The Dark Knight featured an uncommonly-talented writer given free reign with an established but underused character; but whereas the Punisher Max is (I'm assuming) generally considered "canon" these days (and god, I hate that term), The Dark Knight Returns isn't. Which is a shame, because that's the kind of Batman that makes interesting reading: Complex, conflicted and deeply human.
 

dukethepcdr

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Maybe some of the writers just take the Punisher too far. I like the concept of the Punisher: an exsoldier who fights a one-man war on criminals like a soldier would on his enemy. I just think that the whole thing gets bogged down in anti-war and anti-hero goblety gook. Heroes aren't supposed to be extremely complicated. The whole point of reading comic books is to escape reality. You cant have much of a fantasy to escape into if you cram too much politics and grey areas into it. Doing so turns a fantasy into a satire or fable. If that's what you want, fine but in doing so, the story ceases to be a comic book and becomes something else.

It's like insisting that a character from a funny sit-com TV show be made serious and dramatic. It doesn't really work.
 

TheUnbeholden

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Malygris said:
j-e-f-f-e-r-s said:
It's the principle Malygris. It's like in The Killing Joke- the Joker captures Jim Gordon, locks him up and shoots/paralyses his daughter. However, when Batman comes to rescue him, Gordon tells him to get the Joker by the book. "Show him that our way works".
But by now, somebody - Batman, Robin, Alfred, somebody - should have figured out that it doesn't work. It's gone way beyond principle: By refusing to do what so obviously needs to be done, Batman has become an active part of the problem, almost as responsible for the murder of innocents as the Joker himself. In that crossover with the Punisher, all he had to do after coming upon the showdown between the Joker and Castle was to hold back for just a second. Check to make sure he didn't lock the keys in the Batmobile. Tighten his utility belt. Get that goddamn pebble that's been driving him crazy all day long out of his boot. Whatever. Five seconds hesitation and countless lives are saved.

But he doesn't. It's not principle, it's not morality. It's complicity - or it's a character so utterly lacking in depth that he responds to the same situation in the exact same predictable way every single time, without fail and no matter how horrible it may be, simply because there's nothing more to it.

Now, if you want Bat-complexity, we can talk about The Dark Knight Returns, and yeah, I'll grant you that Bruce Wayne and Frank Castle suddenly have an awful lot in common. Much like Ennis with the Max imprint, The Dark Knight featured an uncommonly-talented writer given free reign with an established but underused character; but whereas the Punisher Max is (I'm assuming) generally considered "canon" these days (and god, I hate that term), The Dark Knight Returns isn't. Which is a shame, because that's the kind of Batman that makes interesting reading: Complex, conflicted and deeply human.

Malygris is looking at comics the wrong way, its not supposed to be a representation of real life. the opposite, theres not supposed to be depth, thats what normal life is for. Super heroes and all that is entertainment, escape from reality. Its not something to admire for its intelligently written or depth.. there's some obviously for those that seek it but not as much as anyone of your caliber would want.

Your in the wrong crowd.

Punisher is the closest thing to that what you seek, Punisher was always a very NON-Marvel character, thats why it appeals to you so much. The real human side, the reality of it. but fictional none the less, matters not cause in the end its created for enjoyment or intellectually stimulating.
 

Girlysprite

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I like characters with some depth. Many superheros are really shaped in the WW2 era, where thinking was black-white, and so were the super heros. I like non black-white thinking, makes it easier to relate to.

Can be too much as well. I saw the daredevil movie and bought a few magazines...that guy, sorry to say, is a whiner.
 

brazuca

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Jun 11, 2008
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You said that's no one can be the Punisher. Well I know 150 men who would differ from you. They even use a similar logo. IT's a movie now, I'll send you a link to download with you like (I don't endorce piracy).

http://www.mininova.org/tor/1016967

The review from IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0861739/

Now what I like in Castle is that he really does criticize the oblivious thinking of the american super hero. Wich by the way are always the "mith man", perfect in body and mind, right or righteous in every act. I have all their comics books, both in portuguese and english, and the punisher in portuguese is "O justiceiro", literally the guy who does justice, not the punisher "O algoz ou Punidor" the one who punishes.
 

Anton P. Nym

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Malygris said:
It's not principle, it's not morality. It's complicity - or it's a character so utterly lacking in depth that he responds to the same situation in the exact same predictable way every single time, without fail and no matter how horrible it may be, simply because there's nothing more to it.
Or it's a refusal to become the monster he beheld, no matter how long the abyss has been gazing back within.

The difference between Bruce Wayne and Frank Castle is that Wayne wants the justice system to work, and works to help the system. Castle doesn't care about the system; despite his reverence for the trappings of Americana he cares nothing for the US Constitution or Bill of Rights. The irony is that if Castle "wins", he'll destroy what he's trying to preserve... his ideal, if taken to its logical conclusion, isn't Captain America; it's Judge Dredd [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Dredd].

-- Steve
 

askanison4

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That was a great read. This is why I love The Escapist; you can find great nuggets like this that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Thanks!
 

Surggical_Scar

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Mmm, a nice little article, although I'm a little miffed that I now know how Castle and Barracuda finish things.

Ah well, we live and learn.
 

Pseudonym2

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TheUnbeholden said:
But by now, somebody - Batman, Robin, Alfred, somebody - should have figured out that it doesn't work.
The only reason it doesn't work is because the Joker is popular characters and writes are too lazy to come up with new characters so they install a revolving door in Arkham Asylum. Obviously, there is no possible way he could escape so many times.

Other than Ennis's version, I never liked the Punisher. He's too one note. I find it easier to believe that a spider bite could give someone superpowers than Punisher being able to escape police detection (He runs around in busy public restaurants without a mask on!) and avoid killing an innocent person (or an undercover cop) with all the bullets flying everywhere.

Also the marvel universe version of him makes no sense. With so many shape shifters, illusionists, psychics, and people from other dimensions running around, how can the Punisher be sure who is guilty? The first issue he showed up in, he tried to kill Spiderman! That's why Batman doesn't kill people and I oppose the death penalty. What if you're wrong about someone being guilty?

The Slavers and Kitchen Irish arc was good though.