Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Punisher
After debuting in season 2 of Daredevil last year, Frank Castle’s solo outing has finally arrived with the release of The Punisher. While Luke Cage’s appearance in Jessica Jones served as an extensive cameo, it wasn’t until the character’s original series that we truly learned his origin. Daredevil, meanwhile, practically shared the bill of his with The Punisher as the character was given an origin and three full arcs. Thanks to the unorthodox introduction to a character, The Punisher both serves as a continuation of Castle’s story and a sort of second origin. And critically tied into that story is the evolution of The Punisher’s greatest foe: Jigsaw.
Jigsaw in the Comics
Created by Marvel great Len Wein (the same writer you came up with Wolverine) and artist Ross Andru, Jigsaw first appeared in 1976’s The Amazing Spider-Man #162. Jigsaw, a superb fighter and tactician marked by his heavily-scarred face, spent the next decade bothering the wall crawler and Castle before jumping over to 1986’s The Punisher series. It wasn’t until The Punisher: Year One, however, that his origin was finally told.
Once a handsome mob enforcer named Billy Russo, the character on the page was raised by an abusive father before being kicked out at a young age. He had a wife and son, whom he abused, and climbed high in the criminal underworld using his penchant for violence. Nicknamed ‘The Beaut,’ Russo eventually came up against his undoing in The Punisher. After Castle took out the rest of Russo’s men, he left him alive as an example. First, however, he threw him through a number of windows, leaving Russo with a bevy of scars all across his face. Upon waking from surgery, he took the name Jigsaw in reference to his patchwork appearance.
From that moment on, Jigsaw gained a personal connection to The Punisher and a similar drive for vengeance. Though they come from opposite backgrounds, The Punisher and Jigsaw are both individuals driven by the same means and willing to do anything to get what they want. Marvel-Netflix has made a habit out of setting up complicated and complex villains with deep connections to the heroes. What’s more, but they don’t merely kill them off like so many of the films from Marvel Studios. While the details may change, The Punisher continues the tradition of setting up long-term antagonists for the various protagonists of the street-level MCU.
Jigsaw in the MCU
Like a number of characters who make the jump to the MCU, Billy Russo goes under quite a transformation for his adaptation in The Punisher. His mob background is swapped out for a military one, with Russo one of Frank’s best friends in the Marines and civilian life. That deep connection between the two doesn’t exist in the comics, but it only serves to build Russo into one of Marvel-Netflix’s signature complex villains.
Russo gains even more shading as he’s made to be an orphan who was in and out of foster care. Upon remaking himself, he leaves the service and does well as a private military contractor. Frank Castle has no short of mobster villains, but Russo’s changes tie him more into the central narrative of The Punisher and its focus on the ways American institutions fail those inside them. The result not only elevates the villain and the material, but helps to separate The Punisher from Daredevil and the comics themselves.
Along with much of Billy’s backstory, he loses his wife, son, and abusive father, gaining a mother he appears to be imprisoning and torturing after having given him up as a child. That thread is left dangling, but will likely play into the villain’s return under his new guise. Up until this point, only Billy’s good looks remained from the comics—but The Punisher makes sure to honor the chief piece of his origin.
While Rawlins served as the chief antagonist for much of The Punisher, Billy Russo is the foe lurking at the edges of the series. As such, it’s Castle’s former friend that squares off with the show’s antagonist, staged at a place both of them know well. Given the macabre nature of The Punisher, the final showdown being housed at a carousel adds a surreal touch to the proceedings. It also provides Russo with an even more apt set of glass to be disfigured upon, as one of the rides mirrors is used by Castle to rob his foe of his famed beauty.
Our last look at Billy Russo doesn’t yet show Jigsaw, but it sets him up for the future. His face will most certainly be riddled with scars given the damage done, and he has even more skills than his comic book counterpart. Furthermore, we’re told by a doctor that Russo’s mind has been addled. One of Jigsaw’s key traits in the comics is how unusual his tactics are, allowing him to surprise and out-manuever The Punisher on a number of occasions. With Russo reentering the world as someone both physically and mentally damaged by Frank, we could see a deranged and unpredictable foe emerge for Castle and The Punisher in season 2.
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