Episodes written by Garth Ennis
No-one in comics history has absolutely nailed The Punisher’s characterisation like Garth Ennis. Along with illustrator Steve Dillon his work is on Punisher convinced me to read Preacher which is now my favourite comic of all time!
“Welcome Back Frank” is a seminal piece (that’s available on Marvel Unlimited, if you still need convincing). The problem with most live action interpretations of Frank Castle is that they’ve tried too hard to give him an arc; making him change or question his violent crusade.
Ennis understands that Castle is a remorseless killer who takes pleasure in it and will never ever stop, never question, never falter in his mission. Judge Dredd is a another great example of this principal at work, the lead character remains a fixed point where the arc is left for the supporting characters.
Another thing Ennis nails is the dark comedy of The Punisher’s story; we mostly spend of our time in the books with idiot criminals caught in compromising situations and trying whatever they can to avoid getting whacked. There’s a moment, for example, where Frank is injured in a zoo and meets a cuddly polar bear… He proceeds to punch it in the face and, once it’s good and pissed off, set it on the Mafiosos!
I feel the dark comedy would bring a nice balance to the series that it would undoubtedly need. Even if Marvel don’t hire Ennis they should use his books (especially Punisher Max) as inspiration just as the Daredevil TV show has drawn inspiration from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s classic run on the character.
A huge part of the character’s history is his service in the army. Upon his creation he was originally a Vietnam vet (as was Tony Stark) but this has since been changed to Desert Storm and subsequent tours in Afghanistan.
Interestingly, though, the Max version of the character ages at a normal rate, making him around 60 from his time in ‘Nam.
His experience in war time shaped him into the killing machine we know today. Various friends of foes spring from this period of his life like Cleve Gorman and Burt Kenyon. Clearly as referenced in Daredevil Season 2 something decidedly dodgy went down in Kandahar which will probably help form the main storyline in the series.
In an extended animated prologue by Tim Bradstreet to the 2004 Punisher film we saw a mission that helped inform the plot which might just have been one of the best parts of that movie.
The Vigilante Squad
In “Welcome Back Frank”, we are introduced to 3 new vigilantes with varying motivations including The Holy, Elite & Mr. Payback
- The Holy: A preacher who snapped after hearing a criminal confess to every bad thing in the book. He took an axe to this sinner and any all sinners who he felt deserved it.
- Elite: A racist facist who would kill any one who brought his upper-class neighbourhood into disrepute. Including defecating dogs.
- Mr Payback: Who took up arms against corrupt corporations who disregarded the rights of the working class gunning down whole boardrooms.
After discovering each other they decide to form The Vigilante Squad but they intend for Frank Castle to lead them as he has the most experience.
When he catches up with he questions their skewed motivations for being vigilantes and their methods especially Mr. Payback who accidentally kills a clean lady while taking out CEOs. Frank precedes to blow them all away.
This would be an nice comedic parallel to the Frank’s own mission, but one that could be done in a serious light also in the comics he has said he would kill himself if he ever harmed an innocent. That’s why he plans every assault meticulously in order to make sure no innocents get mistakenly punished.
Robin, Bucky, Kid-Flash, Rick Jones, every good hero (or antihero) needs an sidekick and The Punisher is no different. He’s been through a fair few for various reasons, mostly involving violent deaths.
His longest serving and most interesting assistant has to be Microchip. David Linus Lieberman started off as a very talented hacker and scam artist until he had to give it up. Microchip’s nephew found himself in hot water with The Kingpin and he reached to Frank for help. He soon became The Punisher’s armourer and much more until he died battling one of Frank’s enemies.
This being comics, Microchip was resurrected and sought revenge on Castle himself in order for his relatives to be resurrected in turn. Him turning turncoat makes a surprising amount of sense, proving how conflicted and interesting a character Microchip is.
We has a reference in Daredevil to Frank working out of a van, so I hope this means that we will one day see Battlevan. Created by Microchip, Battlevan is a heavily armoured anti-personnel vehicle with just as many bells and whistles as the Batmobile including a mini-gun, grenade launcher and an 11 foot robot arm.
It’s so heavily armoured that only Anti-Tank weaponry or better can destroy it, it’s also full of surveillance gear with changeable paint job & license plates for anonymity.
It also features its very own A.I. that helps Frank coordinate his attacks and extractions. For those of you worried that this might be too comic book-y for this grounded Netflix universe, need I remind you that we did just see a bunch of undead ninjas in Daredevil.
This series will push the envelope in terms of how far Marvel will allow the series to go with Punisher’s trademark violence.
The brutality we’ve seen in DD has been extreme, but still not to the extent that I think this new series will push it.
For better or for worse one of The Punisher’s UPS is his blatant sadism, taking pleasure in the pain he inflicts upon the guilty.
What I want to see specifically is unique and original kills that are not via guns or knives (Punisher once suffocated a villain with an obese man). These scenes were done justice to some extent in the mini games in sort-of-but-not-really-movie-tie-in game of The Punisher on the PS2 which was also written by Garth Ennis (go out and find it). Typical methods of interrogation included pushing criminals heads into a piranha tank and frying them in an electric chair.
Maybe I’m a bit of sadist too…Oh well.
Punisher may not have a wealth of villains like Spider-Man to pull from, but they do tend to be quite uniquely horrific characters like Ma Gnucci & Barracuda.
Barracuda is possibly one of the worst human beings ever; his abusive father told him (while placing his son’s hand on the grill) to “be as hard as the Mother F@£?!#% world”.
The next day he gouged a child’s eyes at school.
An ex-green beret who once engaged in cannibalism just to prove his masculinity, Barracuda soon became a feared gangster, mercenary and drug runner.
After a gangland mass slaughter he was seen doing cocaine off a severed head.
Just gonna leave that there.