In the Marvel Universe, there is no vigilante more controversial than Frank Castle, the former marine now known as The Punisher. Even Captain America hates this guy, as we’ll get to, and Castle obviously doesn’t doesn’t have the warmest relations with either Daredevil or Spider-Man. It isn’t just the whole killing thing, either. Wolverine has killed people too, a lot of people, and the other heroes still share beers with him. No, let’s face it, there’s something specific about the way the Punisher goes about it. He doesn’t just kill people. He tortures, guns down, stabs, and terrorizes anyone he doesn’t deem to be an innocent, and his view of innocent/guilty is pretty black and white. Frank Castle is a man with nothing to lose, because he’s already lost everything. Now, all he has left is his mission… and what a gruesome mission it is.
However, readers — and now viewers as well, after Jon Bernthal’s unforgettable performance in Marvel’s Daredevil — can’t get enough of Castle. We might not agree with his methods, but there’s no question that he’s captivating to watch. It’s no huge surprise that the Punisher will be landing his own show on Netflix sometime in 2017, and we can expect that a lot of bodies are going to be hitting the floor.
But just how many people has the Punisher killed? Dozens? Hundreds? Actually, the Punisher’s kill list puts even most supervillains to shame, with Marvel Comics putting his body count at a mind-numbing 48,502 people. And that’s not even counting alternate realities, movies, or video games. While making a thorough record of every Punisher murder to date would take years, let’s take a look at some of his worst, most gruesome kills, including some of his archenemies, some friends, and… the entire Marvel Universe? Read on, for 15 People The Punisher Has Killed.
15. A Crazy Insane Amount of People in the War
War is ugly. Even before his family was murdered before his eyes, there was something broken inside Frank Castle. He didn’t come out of the war in one piece, and while his family’s death may have sent him off the deep end, the carnage truly began when Castle was still overseas.
Born was a 2003 comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, depicting Castle’s final days in the marines. Toward the end of his time in the war — originally depicted as Vietnam, though in recent comics it’s been retconned into the Middle East — Captain Frank Castle ends up being the sole survivor of a brutal engagement later known as the Firebase Valley Forge massacre. This incident occurs when his outpost is overwhelmed by enemy combatants. His entire unit is slaughtered, Castle stands alone, surrounded, and with no ammunition… and he hears a voice in his head, telling him that he can win, he can survive, but only if he gives in to the violent bloodlust inside him; a choice that will come at a deep personal cost.
It’s left up to the reader whether that voice is simply in his head, or if it’s Death itself. The only thing that is clear is that the next morning, when support finally arrives, the troops find Castle standing alone in an entire field of bloodied and mutilated bodies, having singlehandedly killed everyone who attacked him.
14. The Russian
One of the most faithful parts of the 2004 Punisher movie starring Thomas Jane was its adaptation of his rather unusual battle against Ivan Vassilovitch Dragovsky, a villain who calls himself “the Russian,” one of Castle’s most recognizable foes.
Not much is known about the Russian’s background, or whether he’s even truly from Russia, since at the time of his introduction, he’s actually living in Kazakhstan. Either way, he’s flown into the United States by crime lord Ma Gnucci when she needs a hired professional to kill the Punisher for her, after the vigilante starts causing issues with her illegal business dealings and killing off her many sons. As soon as Ivan gets to New York, he wastes no time. He barges into Frank Castle’s apartment unexpectedly and proceeds to easily dominate the Punisher, nearly killing him. However, before the Russian can finish the job, Castle scalds his face with a hot pizza. As Ivan screams in agony, Punisher trips him, and then pushes his neighbor Mr. Bumpo on top of him, causing Ivan to asphyxiate.
13. Ma Gnucci
Isabella “Ma” Gnucci is the head of the Gnucci crime syndicate. When the Punisher kills three of her sons, Gnucci wants revenge, but everyone she sends after the Punisher ends up dead, and an altercation between her and the Punisher in Central Park Zoo leads to her getting mutilated by a group of polar bears (seriously). This violent encounter leaves her with no limbs and no scalp. Brutal stuff.
As her sons continue being knocked off one-by-one by her most hated enemy, the now limbless Gnucci takes it up a notch, offering a ten million dollar reward for anyone who can take out Frank Castle, then hiring the Russian, who also winds up dead. This is the point where Punisher drives up to her compound with Ivan Vassilovitch Dragovsky’s decapitated head, which scares away her troops. He then finally comes face-to-face with Gnucci herself. With the woman helpless before him, Castle sets her mansion on fire and literally kicks her into the flames.
The Punisher was actually first introduced in a Spider-Man comic book, believe it or not. In that issue, he attempts to kill the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, since at the time, Spidey is widely believed to have murdered a certain wealthy Oscorp CEO named Norman Osborn. Since then, the two have had a long history, and it’s no surprise that they don’t get along. Obviously, the Punisher never finished killing Spider-Man in the regular Marvel Universe, but there are alternate universe depictions of what would have happened if he did succeed in his original mission.
In the original issue, Punisher is manipulated by the supervillain the Jackal into taking on Spider-Man. When he does take a shot at Spider-Man’s head, he misses due to Peter’s spider-sense, and the two end up teaming up to take down the Jackal.
However, in the alternate universe comic book What If? #58 — What If? being a comic series that depicts alternate versions of famous Marvel events — the Punisher tries again, this time using a different tactic. He rigs a Doctor Octopus dummy with a bomb, and sets it off when Spidey gets close, killing the web-head. After Peter’s death, Punisher realizes his mistake and sets his sights on the Jackal. As the Punisher takes the Jackal out, however, the NYPD have him in their crosshairs, and Castle goes out at the same time.
11. Goldbug and Plunderer
But meanwhile, back in the Marvel Universe, Punisher is still getting in fights with the superhero community. Remember how we mentioned Captain America’s problems with Castle? Well…
During the comic book version of Marvel’s Civil War, things are getting scary for Team Cap. The tension between Captain America and Iron Man’s forces is at full throttle by this point, and Cap is collecting as many troops as he can get, even going so far as to bring in Frank Castle, despite his apprehensions about the antihero’s methodology. At this point, two minor supervillains named Goldbug and the Plunderer meet with Cap, saying that they want to fight on his side against Iron Man. It should be noted that these two are minor league, rather goofy bad guys, the kind that sometimes bust open a bank vault or steal lab equipment.
Cap doesn’t get a chance to respond, one way or the other. Punisher opens fire, pumping both criminals full of bullet holes. As far as Frank is concerned, villains are villains, no way around it. Captain America doesn’t see it that way, so he beats the living hell of the Punisher, and then kicks him off the team. Castle himself lies there and lets Cap beat him up, saying he won’t raise a fist, “not against you.” As Spider-Man points out a moment later, while Punisher is being thrown out, Captain America’s iconic legacy was probably what convinced a young Frank Castle to join the military in the first place.
Stilt-Man, AKA Wilbur Day, is one of those wacky supervillains that usually only turns up for humorous cameos. His codename basically describes his M.O., as he struts around New York City in a stainless steel armor, lifted stories above the ground by a pair of telescopic stilts. He tends to get into fights with street level heroes like Daredevil and Spider-Man, usually without a lot of luck. But just like Goldbug and the Plunderer, Stilt-Man is another supervillain who turned up on the wrong side of the Punisher’s gun.
When the Superhero Registration act is initiated during the Civil War, Wilbur Day jumps at the chance to reform himself. He signs up to be a government authorized hero, gets a brand new armor, and starts working the streets as a registered officer of the law. But one of Stilt-Man’s first assignments ends up with him tracking down the same target as the Punisher. Wilbur is thrilled at the idea that the two of then could work together on the mission, but the Punisher doesn’t forgive. Castle shoots him with a rocket launcher, knocking the Stilt-Man down and out for good (well, after a quick headshot, that is).
Wilbur Day’s funeral is held at the Bar with No Name, a common hideout for many super-criminals, where his villainous friends gather to celebrate his life. This quickly turns from a sad remembrance to a drunken bar fight, and then the Punisher shows up and blows up the bar. All of the villains make it out of the bar alive, however — albeit with third-degree burns.
The man who calls himself Barracuda is one disturbed individual, with even more issues than Frank Castle himself. A former Green Beret in the US Army, Barracuda has been guilty of horrendous violence in Nicaragua, cannibalism, and snorting cocaine off a decapitated head. He later became a gangster and assassin.
In his first fight against the Punisher, Barracuda easily overpowers him, but loses an eye and the fingers of his right hand in the process, and gets overconfident. He sacrifices the chance to kill Castle right then and there, resulting in the Punisher making an escape. The next time that Barracuda hunts down Castle, he has a more vicious plan in mind; he’s discovered that Castle has an infant daughter as the result of a brief fling with CIA agent Kathryn O’Brien, a daughter that Castle doesn’t even know about. Barracuda kidnaps the baby from daycare, and then lures the Punisher into a trap.
When Punisher wakes up, he’s tied to a chair, and Barracuda reveals his baby daughter to him for the first time. Punisher rips free from his entrapment, and bites off Barracuda’s cheek, but is then thrown out the window and hospitalized. As soon as he can get out, Punisher tracks Barracuda and his daughter down. Castle and Barracuda engage in a brutal fight, which knocks out Castle’s front teeth, but this time, the Punisher gets the upper hand. He cuts off Barracuda’s nose, chops off his limbs with an ax, and then blows his head off. The baby, who will thankfully never remember all the carnage she was present for that day, is safely returned to her adopted mother.
8. Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin
Though they had some pretty tense moments together in season two of Daredevil, don’t expect Vincent D’Onofrio’s critically acclaimed version of the Kingpin to get involved. D’Onofrio has stated that he won’t be appearing in the Punisher series, which is probably good news for Wilson Fisk. In the comic book series Punisher MAX, their confrontations didn’t end so well for the Kingpin.
Punisher MAX was a hard-R, brutally violent Punisher comic that took place in a more realistic parallel universe, with an aged Frank Castle blowing away criminals in his final days. A handful of classic Marvel villains were introduced in alternate form, one of the most memorable being Wilson Fisk.
Here, Fisk gathers all of New York’s mafia bosses to create a fictitious “Kingpin of crime” persona as a target for the Punisher, only to kill them off and assume the role himself. However, Fisk does get the attention of the Punisher. He tries to have Bullseye and Elektra kill off the vigilante, to no success, and he finally faces off against Castle at his old family home. Though he manages to beat the Punisher down and almost get the W, Fisk ends up taking a bullet to the back of the head.
At the end of Daredevil season two, Frank Castle swipes a CD with the label “Micro” written on it in permanent marker. Comic fans know that this was a setup for the future Punisher series, teasing Microchip, AKA David Linus Lieberman, one of the most integral characters in the Punisher’s comic history. Microchip is basically Castle’s Alfred: a computer hacker by trade, Lieberman is the guy who makes and/or arms the Punisher with weapons, supplies him with technical help, and tries to be a friend to him. But Punisher’s no Batman, and he and Microchip’s friendship goes sour after a few years.
See, Micro starts going a little crazy. (Hanging out with Castle will do that to a guy.) Eventually, they have a huge battle over Castle’s violent methods, and Micro seemingly dies, but later comes back working for the crime lord known as the Hood, and commits murder in front of Castle’s eyes. Microchip ends up getting kidnapped by Jigsaw, one of Punisher’s archenemies, and Jigsaw kidnaps the Punisher as well. When they’re both in captivity, Punisher slits Micro’s throat.
Things don’t go much better for Microchip in the Punisher Max universe, either. There, he ends up joining the CIA and trying to strong arm Castle into working for them to take down terrorists like Osama Bin Laden. The Punisher refuses, and when Micro admits that the funding for his CIA operation came out of funneling weapons and heroin out of Afghanistan, Frank’s had enough, and he gives his former friend a shotgun round to the face.
Let’s face it, we’ve all known from the start that there’s really only one way that the Punisher’s story could ever really end. It’s pretty much etched into the very concept. Frank Castle is a man with nothing to lose, no one left in his life that he cares about, and he’s been on a suicide mission from the start. And since he’s too damn good at killing people to ever get caught himself, the truth is that his life is almost destined to conclude with a bullet from his own gun.
And sure enough, in a 1998 comic, that’s just what happens. Frank Castle goes to an alley, holds a gun to his head, and pulls the trigger. After his death, this alleyway ends up becoming a shrine to the Punisher’s legacy, with many victims of crime going there to celebrate his life.
This didn’t end up being the final end to the Punisher’s long, depressing tale, however. It was actually a lead-in to a whole other story involving Castle being resurrected as a supernatural agent of vengeance, but we won’t go into that. All that aside, this certainly isn’t the only comic that has depicted Punisher committing suicide; we’ll see it again a couple more times on this list, actually. But that’s no surprise, since it probably is the way that almost every version of his story will come full circle, in the end.
5. Grotto, in Daredevil Season 2
Elliot Grote, better known as Grotto, is still alive in the comics. But that’s not how things go in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his fate, as depicted in season 2 of Daredevil, is hard to forget.
This event occurs at the end of a long, tense standoff between Punisher and Daredevil on a rooftop, their first actual conversation, with Punisher having chained the Man Without Fear to a chimney so that he can’t interfere in his plans. Grotto is the lone survivor of the Punisher’s massacre of the Kitchen Irish mob from the beginning of the season, and at this point, he’s managed to get away from the bloodthirsty vigilante when he was tracked down to the hospital as well. After an attempt to turn himself in goes sour, Grotto tries to skip town.
But on the rooftop, it all comes to a head. Punisher captures Grotto before he can escape New York, then presents him to the chained up Daredevil. Since both vigilantes have been arguing for hours over the nature of lethal force, Punisher gives Daredevil a pistol, and then tells Matt that unless Matt kills him, he’ll shoot Grotto. As Grotto begs for his life, Daredevil instead uses his bullet to shatter his chains, but he’s too late — Punisher has already unloaded a fatal round into Grotto’s chest.
4. A Whole Bunch of Prison Inmates
When it comes to gritty, relentless, realistic superhero fight scenes, there’s really been nothing that has compared to the fights depicted in Daredevil. Every battle breaks bones and draws blood, combining skillful martial arts, tracking shots, and hard-hitting violence to create fight scenes so real that viewers can practically smell the carnage. Daredevil‘s first season had the famous hallway fight. Season two echoed it, but the one scene that everyone came out of the experience talking about was the Punisher’s prison fight.
Here, Frank Castle has all of the odds stacked against him. He’s trapped and cornered, having been betrayed by Wilson Fisk with no way out. After giving Castle the information that a fellow inmate was involved in the murder of his family, resulting in Castle killing the man— an inmate who just happens to be Fisk’s chief rival in prison — Fisk then sets the dead inmate’s allies against Castle, and locks him up with them. But like a caged animal, the Punisher rips apart everyone who comes at him, ending the fight bathed in their blood, their corpses littering the corridor.
3. Ray Schoonover, the Blacksmith
Of course, this is one of the scenes that any adaptation of the Punisher’s origin hinges upon: the moment where he confronts the man most responsible for his family’s death, kills him, and then decides to continue his war anyway. In the comics, it was the Costa family. In the 2004 movie, it was Howard Saint, a mob boss played by Jon Travolta. But Netflix’s Daredevil presents what is arguably the most engaging final answer yet, when it reveals that the man who destroyed Castle’s life is Ray Schoonover, the Blacksmith, and Frank’s former commanding officer in the marines.
Castle’s immense respect for Schoonover, back when they served together, adds an additional punch to the narrative — the terrible notion that the Blacksmith wasn’t just some crime boss, he wasn’t even a corporate guy, but instead a military man like him, a man he actually admired.
When the Punisher finally figures it out, he rams his car into Schoonover’s, badly injuring him. Castle then drags Schoonover into his own private cabin and armory, silent as his former commanding officer mocks his family’s deaths. At first, the Punisher looks through the cabin, going over all of the weapons he could use to torture Schoonover with, but after the Blacksmith states how he taught Castle everything he knows, Castle follows his most important lesson: one shot, one kill. After the Blacksmith is dead, Castle steals his armory, and takes off as the Punisher, now complete with his iconic skull shirt.
2. The Last Remains of the Human Race
Marvel’s “The End” comic books were a series of one-shot issues depicting the hypothetical conclusions of many of its most famous heroes, including Hulk and the X-Men. Understandably, many of these stories had depressing conclusions. But perhaps the most disturbing story of all was Punisher: The End, a comic that depicted a chilling possible future: what if Frank Castle was there for the collapse of society, after everyone else is dead?
In Punisher: The End, Castle survives a nuclear holocaust that wipes out the planet. The few remaining people left are quickly dying of radiation poisoning, as is Castle, but he nonetheless trudges his way up to New York City, where he busts into a lone security shelter housing the last remnants of the human race: a group of corporate CEOs, oil executives, politicians, and billionaires who used their wealth to survive the apocalypse uninjured. This corrupt collection of one-percenters is the last on Earth, since the other hidden bases across the world have all been destroyed.
This group, which calls itself the Coven, begs for mercy. They plead with Castle, accurately saying that as the only people on Earth who haven’t suffered radiation poisoning, they are the only chance for the human race to carry on. The Punisher doesn’t care. These people are guilty — it’s their greed that caused the apocalypse in the first place — and as far as Frank Castle is concerned, the guilty must always be punished. He guns down all of the billionaires, and then commits suicide.
1. The Entire Marvel Universe
Ending the human race is pretty severe, but we’ve got one more Punisher mass murder that can’t go unmentioned, again courtesy of those pesky alternate realities. This time, what if the Punisher… killed the Marvel Universe?
In this universe, Frank Castle’s family wasn’t killed in a mob shootout. Instead, they were slaughtered in the midst of a giant battle between the Avengers, the X-Men, and aliens. That means that all of the Punisher’s wanton rage, fury, and bloodshed is turned not toward the criminal community… but instead, upon the superheroes. After killing Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, and Hawkeye in a fit of rage, Castle is put on trial, where he’s defended by Matt Murdock — whom, in this reality, was at one point Castle’s childhood friend and one-time protector. But despite Matt’s efforts, he still faces life imprisonment. Of course, that doesn’t stop him. Castle becomes the Punisher, a vigilante dedicated to eradicating every superhuman from the planet. He slaughters Spider-Man and Venom. He shoots Bruce Banner. He kills Doctor Doom, the Avengers, the X-Men, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and… well, okay, so he kills every superhero on the planet.
The story concludes with his final murder being, fittingly enough, Daredevil. And as the Punisher stabs Daredevil through the chest, the man without fear removes his mask… revealing himself to be Matt Murdock, the man who has been there for Castle throughout all of this, urging him to give up the killing. Seeing Murdock skewered on the end of his knife is too much for Castle to handle. Shocked, horrified, and then numb, Castle finishes the story by blowing his brains out…again.
The Punisher is responsible for a lot of gruesome murders. Which ones did we miss? Let us know in the comments.