(As with all of my articles, be sure to click the pics for more detailed, larger versions.)
Hey there, everyone! Welcome to the FOURTH and FINAL part of our month long look into the gritty, seedy, violent world of Frank Castle…otherwise known as The Punisher! We’ve already looked at his various forays into the film industry. Now, we’ll look at EVERYTHING Punisher! It’s gonna be a KILLER read, so let’s get started!
In 1974, The Punisher made his debut as a guest character in The Amazing Spider-Man #129. He would make several guest appearances throughout the years until getting his own mini-series in 1986, and finally his own comic book series in 1987.
Gerry Conway was the writer who originally created The Punisher aka Frank Castle. Artist John Romita Sr. tweaked Conway’s original design to come up with the signature look, including the giant Skull emblem. And Ross Andru was the first artist to draw him for publication. Several other artists and writers would helm the project over the years for various different books/titles published for the character. Artist Mike Zeck would helm the initial mini-series from 1986, with writer Steve Grant. Up and coming artist Jim Lee, who would later become a huge name in the comic book industry, got some of his first work on The Punisher: War Journal in 1988. Interestingly enough, artist John Romita Jr. would continue the work his father started, illustrating for The Punisher: War Zone, which began in 1992.
The character would appear in several books over the years, titled The Punisher, The Punisher: War Journal, The Punisher: War Zone, the black-and-white The Punisher Magazine, The Punisher Armory, Punisher, and several one-shots and mini-series during this time. This also includes a bizarre and infamous but surprisingly well done cross-over between The Punisher and Archie (you read that right). This story finished with a cliffhanger that promised a cross-over between Wolverine and Jughead, which sadly never came to pass.
After all of this, the series suffered a decline, and a brief cancellation lasting just over a year. The character was revived in April 2000, with multiple series featuring the work of writer Garth Ennis, and artists Steve Dillon and Tim Bradstreet, and several others.
In addition to TONS of comic books, The Punisher has also made several forays into the world of gaming. Starring in about half a dozen of his own, and making some form of appearance or cameo in over a dozen other games, on top of that, he’s certainly got a few credits to his name. In 1990, he appeared in a scrolling shooting game for the Nintendo Entertainment System featuring The Kingpin as the final boss, as well as an action/adventure game for the PC. The next year saw a Game Boy game like its NES counterpart, but featuring new characters like Spider-Man and Jigsaw. Later, to tie-in with the 2004 film, a bloody action shooter (in the same vain as Max Payne) was released to mixed reviews. In 2009 The Punisher: No Mercy was released as a loose tie-in to the 2008 film (featuring a design for Punisher identical to the one used in the film), to predominately negative reviews.
But the game most well received and quite possibly most remembered by Punisher fans is the Capcom video game released in 1993 for arcades and eventually the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive if you’re on the other side of the pond). The game featured two-player team-up with Nick Fury! It also featured Marvel villains like Bonebreaker, Bushwacker, Jigsaw, and Kingpin. The arcade game was apparently controversial enough that the home console versions featured a fair bit of censorship, including the removal of Nick Fury’s cigar, a toned down version of some of the moves, and an execution of one of the game bosses, along with other minor touches.
For such a violent character, one might think that appealing to people of all ages might be hard. Remember, this is one of the few MARVEL “heroes” that’s really completely fine with killing. In fact, he generally prefers it. And it’s rarely ever in a toned down, off-screen sort of thing. Nope! The Punisher is the sort of story where you get a close-up on the action. Well, that’s not going to stop the powers that be from making merchandise. Yep! From statuettes, to collectible figures, to regular action figures and toys, it’s all there. The Punisher has a lot of “toys” in his arsenal, and even more actual toys than you might realize.
The Punisher continues his trend of diverse demographics by appearing in animated form, on shows like Spider-Man in the 90s, and MARVEL’s The Super Hero Squad Show. Neither show featured the character’s trademark lethality, but the 90s show at least gave an explanation for the lack of killing. The more recent appearance (voiced by Ray Stevenson who played The Punisher in the 2008 film), was far more family friendly, though he managed to terrify all the other Marvel Characters with his insanely obsessive war on crime. He also delivers the greatest monologue involving macaroni and cheese ever uttered by anyone in the history of the world. Check it out!
This writer would personally love it if The Punisher were to get his own animated series (or mini-series)! Something dark and edgy like the award-winning Spawn animated series. Or even an animated Direct-to-Video, like the other animated films Marvel has released. But that doesn’t seem very likely.
As for adaptations, whether animated or otherwise, there have been THREE live-action films for The Punisher so far. Check out our back issues of MOVIE MONDAYS to find out more, in case you missed out. With any luck, there will be a fourth film sometime soon. NONE of the films thus far have been perfect. Maybe Frank Castle’s luck is bound to change.
The combination of television (animated) and live-action (films) leads to a final piece of information. FOX is planning to make an hour-long TV series. This version will apparently feature Frank Castle as an NYPD detective by day and vigilante by night, and is being created by former Chicago cop-turned-TV executive, Ed Bernero (Third Watch and Criminal Minds). Doesn’t sound very appealing to this writer, but one should hold out hope until there’s more info.
Well, that’s all there is folks! Hope you enjoyed readin’ it all as much as I enjoyed writing it!