Frank Castle was one of the standout characters in Daredevil’s second season, earning him a very own standalone original series, 2017’s The Punisher, and becoming the first Marvel superhero to spin off a previously-unplanned TV show within the studio’s television universe in partnership with Netflix.
As Marvel and Netflix began to set up the world surrounding this antihero character during his journey to becoming The Punisher, an antagonistic figure was needed, which led to the introduction of Billy Russo (aka Jigsaw) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though he has forty-plus years of history appearing in Marvel comic books, Jigsaw is still virtually unknown by general audiences, and that’s partially due to the fact that adapting The Punisher to live-action properties has proven to be quite difficult over time.
With Netflix’s The Punisher, Jigsaw is finally receiving the chance to become a popular and fully developed live-action character in the Marvel universe. To capture Billy Russo’s external handsomeness and internal struggle, showrunners decided to cast Westworld’s standout actor Ben Barnes in the role, and gave the character an altered origin story that brought more depth to his relationship with Frank Castle.
This is The Punisher: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Jigsaw.
15 JIGSAW WAS ORIGINALLY A SPIDER-MAN VILLAIN
Jigsaw first appeared in a Marvel comic book in 1976, as a Spider-Man villain, in The Amazing Spider-Man #162. While the character only went on to appear in the next issue, there was definitely something about him that stuck with fans, which eventually brought him back to the series in issue #188 and allowed him to venture beyond into the Marvel universe as an ongoing villain in various other series.
Jigsaw was created by Len Wein, who wrote The Amazing Spider-Man issues #151 through #180, and Ross Andru, whose five-year run drawing for the series lasted from issue #125 to #185. Like The Punisher, Spider-Man is a character mostly based in New York, which has historically made Jigsaw a New York-centered villain with connections to the gangs and mobs in the Big Apple.
14 HE WAS IN THE PUNISHER’S FIRST-EVER SOLO SERIES
Though Jigsaw first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man, we cannot say with confidence that he is remembered as a Spider-Man villain. Instead, Jigsaw is most frequently associated with another character who originated as a Spider-Man villain: The Punisher.
Jigsaw is mostly considered a Punisher villain due to the fact that he has most regularly appeared as one of Frank Castle’s most feared nemeses. As a matter of fact, Jigsaw was already present in The Punisher’s first-ever solo comic book – a 1986 miniseries called The Punisher, which had such a positive response that it ended up giving the character his official standalone comic book series that started in 1987.
Making Jigsaw the major villain in Netflix’s first season of The Punisher is a clear nod to the fact that he was also Frank Castle’s first-ever nemesis in the character’s first standalone comic book miniseries.
13 MARVEL BANNED BEN BARNES FROM USING THE JIGSAW NAME IN INTERVIEWS
In an attempt to conceal from the general audience the revelation that Billy Russo becomes Jigsaw, it appears that Marvel Studios asked actor Ben Barnes to refrain from using the villain’s actual name at any moment in the press tour for Netflix’s The Punisher.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the publication asked Ben Barnes whether he was allowed to refer to the name Jigsaw, to which the actor replied: “I pride myself on never having said the word yet outside of doing a puzzle at home. I respect Marvel’s wishes.”
It is the standard practice for actors associated with MCU films to conceal any and every plot point regarding their characters, but it had never seemed so evident that the same courtesy was asked from actors involved with Marvel TV shows as well.
12 JIGSAW HAS FACED OFF DAREDEVIL AND THE NEW AVENGERS
Besides Spider-Man and the Punisher, Jigsaw has famously occasionally faced off with other New York-based Marvel Comics characters such as Daredevil and The New Avengers.
The villain was featured in Daredevil, Vol. 2, #61 and had a story arc that lasted for three more issues. Given the fact that The Punisher and Daredevil are tightly connected within the Marvel/Netflix universe, it is definitely curious that Jigsaw has faced off against both in the comics side of things, and opens precedent for him to maybe one day make a cameo in the Daredevil Netflix TV show.
In the case of The New Avengers, Jigsaw was seen in numerous issues of The New Avengers comic book series, making recurring appearances that began in issue #1 and lasted through issue #50.
11 HE WAS CUT FROM THE 2004 LIVE-ACTION FILM
If you disregard the 1989 Australian-American The Punisher live-action movie that was made for only $9 million, 2004’s The Punisher was the first-ever proper live-action adaptation of this superhero to the big screen, and while Jigsaw was poised to make an appearance, his presence was ultimately deleted from the film’s final cut.
Starring Thomas Jane as Frank Castle, 2004’s The Punisher was mostly based on the comics The Punisher: Year One and Welcome Back, Frank, and featured Howard Saint (portrayed by John Travolta) as the main villain. The movie debuted at #2 in the box office and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 29%, which essentially means that it was considered a commercial and critical failure in the eyes of Hollywood.
According to producers of the 2004 film, Jigsaw was meant to be the main villain in a potential sequel, but due to low profitability and bad reviews, that adaptation was never followed up with another installment.
10 NAME CHANGES
Four years after the 2004 fiasco, The Punisher was adapted once again to the big screen, in 2008’s Punisher: War Zone. In that movie, Jigsaw was present as a Billy ‘The Beaut" Russoti, which sounded like a quirky variation of the character’s traditional name: Billy Russo.
Billy "The Beaut" Russoti became Jigsaw in the film as he was transfigured by Frank Castle, who aimed to destroy one of the biggest mob bosses in the world of organized crime. As Jigsaw, Billy Russoti sought revenge by assembling a Punisher Task Force to kill Frank Castle.
Other than that, Jigsaw has also gone by the alias The Heavy during 2004’s The Punisher MAX comic book series. In that storyline, Jigsaw has extended his drug empire to Mexico, prompting The Punisher to try to destroy this illegal and destructive operation.
9 HIS COMPANY "ANVIL" HAS MARVEL CONNECTIONS
The private military corporation set up by Billy Russo in The Punisher is called Anvil. And if that name sounds somewhat familiar to a Marvel fan, it’s because this is not the first time this name is featured in the Marvel universe.
A character named John Anvil was originated in 1974’s Incredible Hulk #82 comic book, and went on to die in 1986’s Marvel Fanfare #29. He was an American convict chained to a black prisoner called Leroy Jackson, which brought to the surface the fact that Anvil was incredibly racist.
While it is definitely striking that Marvel would recycle such a unique name from a forgotten character, there doesn’t seem to be any MCU link between John Anvil and Billy Russo’s Anvil corporation in The Punisher.
8 HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A MOBSTER
The Billy Russo in Netflix’s The Punisher is a war vet who turned his life around to start a legal business, but on the comics side of things, Russo was always portrayed as a criminal mobster/gangster who managed illegal businesses and more closely resembles Daredevil’s Kingpin and his fellow drug-dealing business partners.
It is also important to note, however, that taking down mobsters was exactly what Frank Castle did during the second season of Daredevil, when the character was introduced to the Netflix/Marvel universe. Probably in an attempt to avoid such a similar storyline, The Punisher television series changed the Billy Russo origin story, choosing to – for the first time ever – not portray him as another drug lord from New York who Frank Castle wants to take down for being a threat to the city.
7 JIGSAW TEAMED UP WITH THE JOKER IN THE PUNISHER/BATMAN CROSSOVER
There was once an intercompany crossover between The Punisher and Batman. 1994’s Punisher and Batman: Lake of Fire and Punisher and Batman: Deadly Knights featured Jigsaw teaming up with The Joker to bring down the two heroes and take control of Gotham City.
It is important to note that in Lake of Fire, Frank Castle fought alongside Jean-Paul Valley as Batman. However, in Deadly Knights, Castle was then joined by Bruce Wayne himself, which means that The Punisher has crossed over with not one, but two versions of Batman.
As for Jigsaw and The Joker, those were undoubtedly kindred spirits from different comic book publishers that benefited from joining forces during this intercompany crossover. Taking into account the way that today’s entertainment business is set up, however, it is very unlikely that a team-up like this could ever happen again.
6 JIGSAW IS DAREDEVIL'S FATHER?!
Before being cast in The Punisher as Billy Russo/Jigsaw, actor Ben Barnes was seen as Logan in HBO’s Westworld, as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia films, and as the young version of Dunstan Thorn in 2007’s Stardust.
In Stardust, a young Dunstan Thorn (played by Ben Barnes) receives a baby named Tristan to raise. As time passes in the film, Dunstan Thorn is then played by Nathaniel Parker, and Tristan Thorn is portrayed by actor Charlie Cox. This essentially means that Charlie Cox – who plays Daredevil in the Netflix MCU – plays Ben Barnes’ son in Stardust.
Jigsaw as Daredevil’s father makes no sense on the Marvel side of things, but it is still quite a coincidence that Stardust co-stars Ben Barnes and Charlie Cox would later be so tightly connected through Netflix’s Daredevil and The Punisher.
5 HIDDEN EASTER EGG
1890’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel by Oscar Wilde that was seen being read by Billy Russo while he was stationed in Afghanistan. This seemingly small reference looks innocuous at first, but is actually packed with different meanings upon further investigation.
First and foremost, The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a man who is considered very beautiful, but whose morality decays to the point that he becomes hideous inside. By the end of the novel, Dorian Gray is found dead and disfigured. This storyline very closely resembles the one Billy Russo goes through in his becoming of Jigsaw, making such reference not coincidental at all.
The second point in regards to the reference is that Ben Barnes, the actor who plays Billy Russo, had already portrayed the character of Dorian Gray in a 2009 movie adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel.
4 HE WAS PART OF THE HOOD’S GANG
After the signing of the Superhuman Registration Act during the events of the Civil War comic book series, Jigsaw joined the Hood in what became known as a supervillain team called the Hood’s Gang. It is through the Hood’s Gang that Jigsaw faced off against The New Avengers as they struggled to exist under the newly-introduced law that governed over superheroes.
Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe has just now introduced the Sokovia Accords (the MCU equivalent to the Superhuman Registration Act) in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, there is definitely a possibility that the Hood will still be introduced to the live-action Marvel universe in a post-Avengers: Infinity War world, and that Jigsaw could potentially play a big role in the introduction of that villain.
3 THE NETFLIX SHOW IS THE FIRST TO PORTRAY HIM AS FRANK'S WAR BUDDY OF CASTLE’S
Netflix’s The Punisher original series features Billy Russo as a war veteran who goes on to run a private military corporation called Anvil. Though this context makes perfect sense and sets up Frank Castle and Billy Russo as war buddies with a long history together, this is actually the very first time that the villain is not shown as a mobster or gangster that The Punisher is trying to take down.
Billy Russo’s evil schemes in The Punisher television show are much less evident to Frank Castle than comic books had historically portrayed, and as Castle decides to take on Russo, the conflict poses an emotional dilemma due to the extensive shared history between the two men. Though this is definitely a different origin story to Jigsaw, many fans have welcomed the change.
2 HE WAS PART OF THE EVENTS IN EARTH X
During the events of Marvel’s Earth X, Captain Marvel and Thanos destroyed Earth and formed a place called Paradise within the Realm of the Dead. While many were fooled that Paradise was actually still Earth, Jigsaw was among the characters who actually realized that they had died.
Along with Jackal, Jigsaw stayed in the Realm of the Dead and tortured Frank Castle (who had committed suicide and was reunited with his family, unaware that this was the after-life). As Jigsaw and Jackal cause Castle to remember his death, they are punished by Captain America, who had recently returned to Paradise after having recruited more people to join this after-life place.
In the end, Jigsaw is banished from Paradise and sent to an isolated region within the Realm of the Dead.
1 A FULLY-FORMED JIGSAW WILL BE IN THE PUNISHER’S SECOND SEASON
For nearly the entirety of The Punisher’s first season, Billy Russo is seen as just Billy Russo – not Jigsaw. It is not until the very end that Jigsaw (as we know him) starts to come to fruition, and that short transition was apparently entirely calculated.
Showrunner Steve Lightfoot has revealed that he has every intention to explore Jigsaw as a fully-formed character in a (likely, but not yet confirmed) second season of The Punisher. Lightfoot also mentioned his desire to include other characters such as Barracuda and Kathryn O’Brien to the show’s season 2.
Though Jigsaw and Billy Russo are literally the same person, fans of the character definitely look forward to seeing his fully-realized version in a live-action adaptation that is finally doing justice to the world of The Punisher.
Do you have any Jigsaw trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!