Created as a new kind of villain for Spider-Man, the vigilante took on a life of his own and eventually gained a popularity that rivaled that of the more established heroes of the Marvel Universe. After fighting alongside the web spinner, Castle explained that he was a Vietnam War veteran who had returned home, hoping to escape the horrors he had seen and live with his family in peace only to have that dream shattered. His family murdered in Central Park during a gang shoot-out, Castle was left for dead. Emerging from the carnage was a twisted and wounded mind that saw the city as a new war zone and the mob as the enemy. Using war tactics that he had learned in the military, he donned a cold black costume adorned with a white skull. He never promised justice for the guilty, only punishment.
Appearing in hundreds of comics, mini-series, and feature films, the Punisher has changed drastically since his initial creation in 1974, becoming everything from an angelic crusader to a modern Frankenstein’s monster, but his central mission has never changed, to punish the guilty. The previous run by Rick Remender and Tony Moore controversially altered the character into a monster hunting other creatures of the night with mixed reception from readers. Even the most glowing of praise had to include the statement that it was hardly a Punisher book.
Crime novelist Greg Rucka (Whiteout) is taking over the Punisher this Summer for what promises to be a brutal back-to-basics approach that should please fans of the classic character. Artist Marco Checchetto (Daken, Spider-Man) will be providing the interior art that looks far grittier and darker than readers have seen in some time. The new creative team recently discussed their plans for the revamped Punisher book and what readers can expect.
“I suppose, fundamentally, that Frank is a character I think I get,” he expresses. “He’s a character I really like, one that we’ve seen within literature both within and outside of comics before, but one who’s also fairly unique in the standard of the execution. The revenge story is a traditional one, but Frank moves it so far beyond that; it’s become so much more than that with him, yet at the same time, it remains deceptively simple.
“There’s the character factor, which—for me—is always the important question. Is this someone you’d like to spend time with as a writer? Is this a character you want to explore, whose world you want to inhabit? And Frank’s world is very much one that I find that I find myself comfortable in, so that certainly influenced the decision [to do the book].”
“I’d never in a million years call him a ‘super hero,’” he notes of The Punisher’s status. “He doesn’t fit easily or comfortably within the Marvel Universe from my perception, but that absolutely isn’t to say he doesn’t work in the environs nor am I saying he shouldn’t be there. He forces some very hard questions. The moral void zone that he occupies actually—in my opinion—serves the broader Marvel Universe. Frank is a killer; he takes life and he does so without remorse and without much hesitation, if any at all. Put that next to someone like Spider-Man or Daredevil and you get immediate and dramatic contrast. That’s crucial when you’re working with a canvas as large and rich as this.”
“My favorite character is Spider-Man and I love to draw super heroes in action, but my second favorite character is The Punisher,” shares the Italian-born artist [Marco Checchetto]. “The challenge is certainly more difficult, given the level of realism we want, but fortunately I love to draw weapons, violence and dark scenes. For our Punisher I’m influenced by movies like ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ and video games such as ‘Call of Duty.’”
“He’s quite remarkable, both as an artist and as a collaborator,” praises Rucka of Checchetto. “I was genuinely surprised how in synch we seem to be about the way we want the book to look and feel. Punisher stories are about violence in a very unique way. Marco and I really want to carry that sense forth, make the violence effective and haunting as opposed to shocking and grotesque. We’re talking about acts that people commit against their fellow man that have echoes for years, if not decades. Frank is the textbook case in point. Marco is very gifted at finding that emotional core and investing it with the kind of resonance I love to see and to read.”
“We have the same ideas on the type of Punisher that we want to realize,” Checchetto concurs. “Greg has a very European style of writing; the scripts are very detailed, but at the same time make me feel free to express myself.”
Rucka counts numerous influences in his approach to The Punisher, many coming from beyond the scope of comics.
“I think Donald E. Westlake’s writings as Richard Stark, the Parker series, have had a strong influence on me there,” he shares. “Cinematically, [The Punisher] feels very 1970’s to me—a sort of Charles Bronson colliding with Clint Eastwood, a lot of that warrior ethos. Given where we are in the world today, all you have to do is look and you can see pieces, edges of Frank everywhere.”