Who is The Punisher, the Backstory of Marvel’s Anti-Hero

The Punisher takes no prisoners

Frank Castle: (Narrating) “In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law-to pursue…natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it’s an emotional response. No, not vengeance. Punishment.”

The Punisher (2004)

A group of rival mob bosses meet in a warehouse. Someone has been busting their operations and killing their men. They are discussing a temporary truce when the lights cut out. The bosses leap to their feet and hear something land in front of them.

An explosion tears through the warehouse, shredding the criminals. One is still clinging to life as the lights turn on, revealing a man with a skull insignia on his shirt. The Punisher pulls out a gun and executes the crook.

The Punisher is Marvel’s most popular anti-hero. While superheroes send their foes to jail, The Punisher kills his so that they can’t cause more harm. So who is he? Why does he kill criminals? Why haven’t superheroes stopped him? Let’s find out.

Sole Survivor: The Punisher’s Backstory

Spider-Man: “Say, friend, what’s this whole kick you’re on? You said you were a marine—so how come you’re fighting over here?
The Punisher: “That’s my business, superhero. Not yours. Maybe when I’m dead it’ll mean something…but right now I’m just a warrior…fighting a lonely war.
Spider-Man: [thought bubbles)] “Something tells me that man’s got problems that make mine look like a birthday party.

The Amazing Spider-Man #129

The Punisher first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 in 1974. He was created by Gerry Conway and John Romita Sr. He started as an enemy of Spider-Man, but The Punisher’s Backstory was popular enough to inspire his own series.

Frank Castle is a veteran who who was picnicking with his family. Unbeknownst to them, rival gangs were meeting nearby. The gangs fought and killed Frank’s family in the crossfire. Frank survived and vowed to kill all criminals. He created a Kevlar suit, obtained some guns, and set out to end crime as The Punisher.

The Punisher slaughtered criminals by the dozen and rose to prominence when he tried to kill Spider-Man. Spidey had been framed for the murder of businessman Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin. The Punisher nearly killed Spider-Man, but backed off after learning the truth.

Judge, Jury, Executioner: The Punisher’s History

The Punisher: “Some people would tell you that I’m crazy. They would be wrong. It’s not crazy when the state of the world makes you want to kill everyone responsible. It’s crazy when it doesn’t.”

The Punisher Max #9

After defeating Spider-Man, The Punisher started targeting supervillains as well as ordinary crooks. For plot convenience The Punisher never killed any major villains, but he managed to kill many unpopular ones. He even detonated a bomb at Stilt-Man’s funeral, killing countless minor supervillains. Never heard of Stilt-Man? That sorta proves the point.

Many superheroes tried stopping The Punisher, but failed because they weren’t willing to kill him. Jailing him was less than useless because Frank would kill random inmates before escaping.

The Punisher had a long career of vigilantism, but was finally killed in the 2015 book  Secret Wars. As the Marvel Universe was about to be destroyed, Frank crashed a party that The Kingpin was throwing. He slaughtered Marvel’s biggest crime bosses before joining his family in death.

One Man Army: The Punisher’s Powers and Personality

[Some cops have shown Punisher stickers of his logo on their car to show they support him]
The Punisher: I’ll say this once: we’re not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don’t do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name’s Captain America, and he’d be happy to have you…. If I find out you are trying to do what I do, I’ll come for you next.”

The Punisher Vol. 12 #13

The Punisher’s backstory is a veteran Marine with SEAL and was invited to US Army Airborne training. He is highly trained in martial arts, stealth, assassination, and has mastered every type of firearm. He wears a Kevlar suit with a giant skull insignia on its chest. The skull is heavily armored and used as a shield. I guess The Punisher is too cheap to just buy a helmet.

Writers disagree about whether the Punisher is a hero. Some write him as a well intentioned anti-hero while others portray him as a serial killer using his family’s death as an excuse for his actions. Punisher creator Gerry Conway describes him as a “Rorschach test” and  told Back Issue magazine that The Punisher “…is a thin character on his own merits, but that allows for a lot of interpretations and different angles of approach.”

There are lines that the Punisher won’t cross. He won’t kill people for misdemeanors like jaywalking, He doesn’t kill honest cops, and he never hurts children. Frank has also implied that the last murderer he ever kills will be himself.

The Actors who played The Punisher

John Beck – Spider-Man: the Animated Series
Ray Stevenson – The Super Hero Squad Show, Punisher: War Zone
Dolph Lundgren – The Punisher
Thomas Jane – The Punisher
Jon Bernthal – Daredevil, The Punisher

Didya Get all That from the Punisher Backstory?

He’s Judge, Jury, and Punisher.

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