As the Punisher, Frank Castle has become a legend in the Marvel Universe, using his Marine and Special Forces training — along with an arsenal of weaponry — to eliminate criminals with extreme prejudice, a unique crime fighting style that sets him apart from the world’s typical costumed defender. For years, New York City was the primary site of Castle’s crusade against crime, but he’s always been willing to travel in order to travel to cut the head off of a criminal organization that catches his attention.
In the opening chapters of Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’ new series, readers found Frank Castle following the tendrils of a drug cartel called Dos Soles into Mexico, and then back across the border into Los Angeles. As a result, Castle has decided that the City of Angels needs a dose of his particular brand of justice even more than New York, but it’s also put him in the crosshairs of both a dangerous super villain and a highly trained covert ops team. And as Edmondson and Gerads tell CBR News, that’s just the start of Frank’s west coast problems.
CBR News: Nathan and Mitch — in your creator-owned series “The Activity,” you regularly tell tales of special missions unit operators battling a variety of threats and armed with all sorts of bleeding edge tech. The first two issues of “the Punisher” feel like you guys are stretching some of the same creative muscles and research associated with that book while bumping those elements up against the fantastic aspects of the Marvel Universe. How does it feel to mix spec op warfare with the weirdness and wonder of the Marvel U?
Nathan Edmondson: We’ve definitely carved off a slice of that world for the Marvel U with (spoiler alert) the re-emergence of the Howling Commandos as they are tasked with hunting Frank down. Of course, they don’t answer to JSOC, they aren’t exactly in the army — they’re now the Marvel U’s most elite black ops group, answering only to the highest levels of government.
Mitch Gerads: That’s absolutely a fair assessment. Things are different in the Marvel Universe, the threats are different, so it’s been a ton of fun imagining how special operations might evolve in a world where people are made out of sand and others can control metal with their mind. Frank Castle is truly a Marine turned “Marvel U Operator” with his own unique set of “rules of engagement.”
At the end of Issue #2, you reveal the first big problem Frank will have to deal with, Spider-Man villain Electro, who appears to be working as an enforcer for the Dos Soles drug cartel. What made you guys want to pit Frank against Max Dillon/Electro?
Edmondson: We first think Electro is some weapon that the Dos Soles have purchased or built — it’s more that Electro is on loan to them through another organization. We wanted a villain that made sense for Frank, someone he knew, and someone with an ability that would render most of Frank’s skills and weapons useless. Of course, Electro has bigger designs for LA, and Frank is just in the way — but that won’t help Frank avoid an all-out war against the lightening-throwing villain.
Gerads: I’ve always had a thing for Electro; he was easily my favorite Spider-Man villain. There’s something about his powers mixed with how kind of unhinged the character is. I’ve also always seen him as a much bigger threat than he’s been portrayed in the past. He’s definitely a Punisher-caliber villain. You’ll see in upcoming issues how much so.
He’s also incredibly fun to draw, and even more so to color!
In your first two issues, the Punisher has expressed a fondness for and desire to protect Los Angeles. Will that color his feelings when dealing with Electro?
Edmondson: We describe Frank as less “in love with his City” and more “protective of his territory.” That’s one thing that sets him apart from other heroes we’re familiar with who brood and nest and fight in specific cities. Ultimately, Frank is against corruption, against villainy and murder; those that break the law and do evil make his blood boil (and in that, there is, of course, a nice little irony), but as he comes to understand what the Dos Soles are doing, he’ll be more and more devoted to the fight.
Gerads: I assume anytime Frank comes up against someone with powers he does an internal “facepalm.”
Frank seems to feel like he can make a real difference in the City of Angels since it’s not home to a multitude of heroes. Is that a fair read? And is that having an effect on the way he relates to the town’s citizens and his contacts? Because in the first two issues, Frank seems to be surprisingly social with people like Lou the diner worker, Officer Stone and Tuggs, his military contact.
Edmondson: Yes, but I think that’s his secondary motivation. He’s on a mission, hunting a specific beast, but it’s never simple, especially not when you’re the one man army, handling every operation by yourself.
But if you’re even a little bit human, people will get to you. Frank may not want to, but he cares about those around him. If he didn’t, if he ignored them, then there’s little left separating him from the villains that he punishes.
Gerads: It’s been important to both Nathan and I to show that Frank isn’t a machine — he’s a man. Humans need to interact or they shut down, and if Frank shuts down, then he’s no good in any fight.
Who is Frank to you, Mitch? Which aspects of the character do you really want to capture and emphasize in your depiction of the Punisher?
Gerads: My take on Frank is he’s an extremely capable man. Maybe not in Marvel reality, but in my head, Frank is the Reed Richards of tactical thinking. Also, I like to think the warm California sun has done him a little bit of good. We see that wry smile coming out of him every once in a while now. Must be the Vitamin D. [Laughs] So many iterations of the character have focused on the “doom and gloom” of the character. Maybe with ours, it’s just doom, and half the gloom.
I also wanted to ask you about your work coloring and lighting Frank’s stories. There are shadows in the “Punisher” when he operates at night, but there’s also a lot of light and color, especially when Frank is operating during the day. So, what can you tell us about the way you light scenes and the palette you use in “Punisher?” Does it vary from scene to scene? I imagine the sun and the smog of Los Angeles are factor into your coloring choices.
Gerads: Coloring has always been my favorite part of the process, and that’s no different with this book. I’ve done my research, I know what LA looks like, but my goal is to romanticize all of that. LA during the day is going to be big, bright, warm, hot colors. The closer we get to the city, maybe things green out a bit due to the smog. It’s all so much fun to play with. I always think of the way Jerry Bruckheimer affected the atmosphere in his films by accentuating key colors. That’s what I’m aiming to do in this book.
I went into this book with two silly goals for myself, and I’ve already knocked them both off the list. The first was lighting a Punisher scene in pink, which I did in the opening scene of Issue 2, and the second happens in Issue 4, so I can’t tell you that one yet. [Laughs]
Let’s move from the look of Frank’s world to the allies and enemies that currently inhabit it, starting with an organization that might be home to both, the LAPD. In Issue #1, Officer Stone’s partner mentioned he was on Punisher detail, so the LAPD knows the Punisher is operating within their jurisdiction. How does the average officer feel about that, and specifically, how does Officer Stone feel about that? Does she have an inkling that the Punisher and Frank, the guy she sees at the diner, are one in the same?
Edmondson: The LAPD know that The Punisher is in town, but they haven’t gotten a close look. As we hear briefly in the second issue, many cops are relieved to have some help and backup — Officer Stone especially, as Frank saves her ass.
Right now, she doesn’t know that the guy at the diner is Frank — Lou may know, but she just sees a rough looking dude dining next to her. She might think he looks familiar — but in that case, she’d probably just think he’s a character actor she recognizes from something.
Gerads: Frank’s new badass balaclava helps a little with this, too.
I imagine Tuggs’ story about why he’s chosen to help the Punisher by providing weapons and information is still to come, but based on the first two issues, it appears they have a friendly and almost cordial relationship. How important is Tuggs to Frank? Is he more than just a contact?
Edmondson: We’ll see; Frank tries to keep people at arm’s length, but friendships can sneak up on you. Frank needs the supplies from Tuggs; he needs weapons he can’t get in California gun shops, but when things get really hairy, he might need more than just a rocket launcher.
Tuggs isn’t the only member of the military in the current “Punisher” story. As you mentioned, a modern day incarnation of the Howling Commandoes is stalking Frank. What can you tell us about these guys? Will we find out more about them and why they’re after the Punisher in the immediate future, or a little bit further down the road?
Edmondson: We can’t say much more beyond what I noted above, but we will learn why they’re after Frank, and it won’t be pretty.
Gerads: These Howling Commandos are extremely capable and have better tech than Frank could ever hope to have. He definitely needs to be watching his back on this one.
Finally can you offer up any hints or teases about what’s coming up in the rest of your first arc?
Edmondson: Frank’s going to be put through the wringer — he’s indeed over his head. What’s coming up won’t be pleasant, and it won’t be easy.
Gerads: Frank has his work cut out for him. Things are all closing in on him, and even his brilliant tactical mind can’t see some of it.
Edmondson: There’s a long and involved plot that we’re just scratching the surface on in these initial issues — be sure to get in early so you can follow the breadcrumbs as we drop them, panel by panel.
Gerads: I’m super excited for everyone to get their mitts on this book. I’ve never been this excited, as both a creator and a fan!