The highly anticipated Netflix/Marvel The Punisher series is finally here! Jon Bernthal's interpretation of Marvel's favorite vigilante was a fan favorite in Daredevil season 2, fast tracking a solo series due to high demand.
So why is The Punisher such a breakout character? Well, the truth is that Frank Castle has been a fan favorite since his comics debut in 1974. His violent, uncompromising view of morality was meant to personify a villain in the (then) squeaky clean realm of superheroes, but something about the character made him beloved. Sure, he did bad things, but it was to bad people. In this case, two wrongs did make a right. He was the ultimate guilty pleasure.
As a result he helped usher in the grim and gritty era of 80's comics, doing battle with both the likes of do-gooders like Daredevil and bad guys like The Kingpin, and readers couldn't get enough. His widespread appeal has led to several failed onscreen adaptations, but the well-reviewed Netflix series sees this complicated anti-hero finally get the spotlight he deserves.
Here are 15 Things The Punisher Can Do That No One Else Can.
15 Actually Scare The Joker
While The Joker respects Batman's status as his arch-enemy, he's not exactly afraid of him. Why should he be? Sure, he may get beaten up on a regular basis, but he knows that in the end, Batman will never kill him due to his strict moral code.
The Punisher has no such limitations, however, and the crossover series Deadly Knights sees Frank Castle square off against The Clown Prince of Crime. Castle is furious at Batman for letting the Joker get off the hook repeatedly, telling the nefarious baddie that "I've got all the therapy you need right here comedian" while pointing his gun at the Joker's temple.
The Joker realizing the Punisher is very different from his normal foe, says "You're really going to do it." Batman stops Castle from following through by engaging in a fist fight, telling his sworn enemy to "run" before it's too late.
14 Train Polar Bears To Kill His Enemies
As previously established, Frank Castle is a master of all forms of weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. But he's not afraid to get unorthodox with his arsenal when forced to improvise. In the Welcome Back Frank story arc, Castle wages war against the mafia at the Central Park Zoo. Writer Garth Ennis does not disappoint in exploiting all the storytelling potential such a location provides.
Castle uses the animal inhabitants to his advantage, feeding his prey to the likes of piranhas and snakes. Things really take a turn for the strange when Punisher decides to enlist a family of polar bears to join his cause. He gains their loyalty by punching out the alpha male, which somehow doesn't get him eaten.
The risky strategy works, and the Polar bears make a buffet out of Ma Gnucci and her lackeys in gory, garish glory.
13 Kill Al Capone
In real life, it was evading income tax and syphilis that took down mob boss Al Capone. That didn't satisfy the Punisher, though. Thanks to some time travel (courtesy of a device built by Mister Fantastic), he travels back to the 1930s to wipe Capone out in Marvel Knights: The Punisher #8.
Castle theorizes that since Capone pioneered organized crime that killing him would stop it at the source (of course, he could have just traveled back in time to save his family from getting killed, but hey, it's comics).
The Punisher makes good on his plan and takes out Al Capone... only to wake up and discover it was all a dream. Sure, it was a cheat, but it was still more entertaining than finding out there was nothing in Al Capone's vaults back in the '80s (thanks for nothing Geraldo Rivera).
12 Blow Off Wolverine's...Uh, You Know.
Marvel Knights: The Punisher #17 saw Marvel's two most infamous badasses square off, and the showdown did not disappoint in the carnage department. Take Exhibit A: Castle blows off Logan's face with a shotgun. Or Exhibit B: the Punisher aims his gun between Wolverine's legs and shoots off his testicles, with the Punisher replying "They'll grow back...best to sit this one out."
This is Wolverine we're talking about here, so laying back and licking his wounds isn't an option. The Punisher then decides to run him over with a steamroller and leave the scene while our favorite Canadian mutant is pinned helplessly to the ground. The Punisher has had no end of impressive battles ending with him as the victor, but this has to be one of the most visceral and painful exchanges ever printed in comics.
11 Be A One Man Army
The Punisher has often been given the nickname "One Man Army," and it's an appropriate moniker. While his days in the armed forces are behind him, he never really came home. He's in perpetual combat mode, and his enemy is crime. Sure, he'll never destroy it entirely. That's impossible. But he doesn't want to; he enjoys killing bad guys way too much to want to switch careers.
And he is so very good at killing. He's trained in multiple military disciplines, an expert marksman, has a way with explosives, and is an assassin, interrogator, and sniper second to none. If he runs out of ammo, he can make do with a knife - or his bare hands, given his skill in martial arts.
That armored skull on his chest is strategically placed to draw enemy fire, keeping his vital organs safe. This is why, with the exception of Microchip, an occasional ally, Frank Castle is scarily self-sufficient.
10 Be Just As Threatening In Prison As He Is Out On The Street
When you put a mass murderer in jail, it's supposed to make the world a safer place. Behind bars, a killer can no longer harm innocent civilians. But what if the killer whose incarcerated isn't interested in innocent civilians? That's the reality every time Frank Castle gets locked up. Whereas so many psychopaths know their best days of mayhem are behind them, Castle sees a opportunity to rack up more victims.
No convict with a long rap sheet wants to be a cellmate to the Punisher, because they knows they likely won't survive their prison sentence. This was expertly showcased in Daredevil season 2, where Castle is double-crossed by Kingpin, who locks him up with a gang of prisoners who want him dead. Of course, in the end, he's the last man standing.
9 Crossover with Archie Comics
One of the weirdest crossovers in comic book history saw Frank Castle making a stop in Riverdale. Yes, that's right, The Punisher once squared off against Archie Andrews. In the appropriately titled Archie Meets The Punisher, Castle is hunting down a drug dealer named Red, who is preying on students at Andrew's high school and putting the likes of Jughead, Veronica, and Betty in jeopardy.
Archie's problem occurs when The Punisher mistakes him for Red, and he must stare down the barrel of submachine gun in an unusually tense showdown for the Archie-verse. In the end, Castle realizes he made a mistake and sets out to find Red - during the Riverdale High Sock Hop no less, with Archie quipping “I knew there’d be a chaperone, but this is ridiculous!”
8 Take 3 Films and a TV Show To Finally Nail The Character
The Punisher was created by Gerry Conway in the early '70s, inspired by gritty vigilante films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, which provided catharsis for American viewers unnerved by the rise of violent crime.
As a result, an eventual cinematic adaptation seemed inevitable: would a character inspired by cinema not make for a great movie of its own? The answer, it appeared, was no. The Punisher has made it to the silver screen three times: Dolph Lundgren played the character in a direct to video 1989 cheapie. Thomas Jane played him in 2004 and Ray Stevens portrayed him in 2008's Punisher: War Zone.
All of these films have their admirers, but none summed up the character's full potential. It would take a supporting role in Netflix's Daredevil to nail the nuance, pain and buried humanity that makes Frank Castle so great. Jon Bernthal was born to play The Punisher, and his solo series is the definitive live-action take on the character.
7 Change Race
There have been many WTF moments in Punisher history, but this is certainly one of the most memorably crazy. In the early 1990s The Final Days storyline, Frank Castle is stuck in prison where he gets his mug slashed by his archenemy Jigsaw. The Punisher's face gets torn to ribbons, so much so he needs fully reconstructive surgery.
Unfortunately for Castle, rather than getting a reputable cosmetic surgeon, he's stuck with what he can get - in this case, a junkie prostitute who we're betting never got their medical license. As a result, Frank wakes up to discover he's now a black man (due to getting too much melanin during procedure). Makes sense right? He then breaks out and helps Luke Cage fight crime. It made sense at the time...we guess?
6 Be A Hero, Villain, and Anti-Hero
When The Punisher debuted in 1974's The Amazing Spider-Man #129, he was a villain--a dangerous vigilante that Spider-Man was intent on stopping before he was allowed to enact his own bloody brand of retribution.
No one knew how popular the character would become, however, and how much readers would respond to his antics. This led to appearances in Daredevil and eventually his own series, perfect for the grim and gritty comics era of the late '80s and early '90s. This was also at the height of violent crime in America, and his no-tolerance stance was seen by some as heroic, while others found his methodology abhorrent.
This is what makes Frank Castle such a fascinating character. Depending on the reader/viewer and the era, the Punisher is all things: hero, villain, and anti-hero. Today, whern everything appears in shades of gray, perhaps the latter label feels most appropriate.
5 Ask Elektra Out On a Date Because He's Impressed By How She Kills People
Given that The Punisher and Elektra are experts in the art of dealing death, it shouldn't be a surprise that they would eventually hook up. It makes sick sense that two assassins would get turned on by seeing each other kill.
Yes, its true. The Punisher has always had a thing for Elektra. Take Punisher #27, volume 4, where the Greek murderess takes out all of Castle's targets before he has a chance to. While he's initially irritated she beat him to the punch, he becomes intrigued, and dare we say, aroused?
After she tells him the only reason she took out his hit list was because "I was bored," he contemplates to himself: "Damaged goods no doubt about it. Likes killing people. Completely insane. Never thought I'd meet anyone quite like her." And rather than running in the opposite direction, like any well adjusted person would do, he pops the question: "You want to have dinner tomorrow night?"
4 Let Captain America Beat Him Up
During the Marvel Civil War storyline, two of comics most popular superhero soldiers (or in Punisher's case, anti-hero) joined forces, but it didn't last long. Things came to a head when The Punisher killed a couple of super villains who offered an assist--because it's the Punisher and he just can't let it go, you know?
Captain America doesn't take kindly to this (given the unique nature of events, he needed all the help he could get), and he lashed out at Castle, engaging in one decidedly one-sided fight. That's right, The Punisher didn't even try-- or want to punch back. He suffered one brutal beatdown. Why? Respect.
The Punisher, always deferential to military personnel, saw Captain America as a beacon of selfless heroism, which is why after America says "fight back, you coward!" his response is a stoic "not against you" at which point the super-soldier shows mercy-- something Punisher will never be accused of.
3 An Inhuman Ability To Withstand Pain
While The Punisher exists in a world full of superpowered heroes and villains, he's a man of normal abilities (with a few temporary exceptions). Yet despite this, he seems to have a superhuman ability to withstand pain.
Maybe it's his military training. Maybe it's the fact that after losing his family, he checked out emotionally, making it easier for him to disassociate from sensory experiences that the average person faces. We'll never know for sure, but as witnessed by the brutal beating Frank Castle endured in Daredevil season 2, it's clear that he can take whatever his enemies want to dish out.
This makes him one of the most dangerous adversaries any criminal could ever dare to face. You can't reason with him. He's incredibly hard to kill. And no matter how much you hurt him, he will never stop until you're dead.
2 Kill Off The Entire Marvel Universe (Including Himself)
While The Punisher has killed many people during his tenure as Marvel's greatest mass murderer, one time he took on the entire Marvel Universe. The appropriately titled Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe, shows an alternate reality where Frank Castle's family wasn't wiped out by the mob, but by superheroes themselves.
This sets The Punisher off into full carnage mode, killing off heroes and villains alike-- starting with the likes of Cyclops and Spider-Man before moving on to everyone else (he even manages to lift Thor's hammer to murder Doctor Doom). In one over-the-top sequence, Castle invites the X-Men and a host of other heroes to the moon then fires a nuclear warhead and blows them all up.
But he's not done yet-- in the final sequence, Castle kills his longtime foe Daredevil-- and then in a moment of remorse and self-reflection says "there's one more to go" and kills himself. You can't say he isn't thorough!
1 Make Humanity Extinct
So how does the Punisher top killing off the Marvel Universe? How about killing the last of humankind? In The Punisher: The End, an aging Castle does just that. The story begins with the Punisher in prison when a nuclear bomb goes off, and he hunkers down in a bomb shelter plotting his next move.
His plan is simple: kill the men and women responsible for triggering the end of the world. He finds them hiding in a secret compound. They beg for forgiveness saying if he kills them he's wiping out all of humanity. Those pleas fall on dead ears and he kills them all.
The Punisher is in many ways a force of nature. There's no way he'll let perpetrators of mass destruction off the hook. The story ends with an irradiated Castle wandering into the post-apocalyptic wasteland. We wouldn't put odds on him dying though. If cockroaches can survive a nuclear holocaust, Castle might too.
What else can The Punisher do that no one else can? Tell us in the comments.