As the Punisher, Frank Castle has been waging a one man war against the forces of organized crime in the Marvel Universe for years. The Marine-turned-vigilante has become an expert at uprooting and destroying street-level criminal conspiracies and organized crime. But when the Punisher’s war on crime causes him to stumble upon a much larger, more complicated, and insidious cabal, how can the skull-emblazoned anti-hero succeed against enemies that lurk in the shadowy corridors of power or survive against those who can strike at him with a multitude of resources?
Those questions are being answered right now in writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads?' ongoing "Punisher" series, which began with Castle bringing his war on crime to Los Angeles. Once there, the Punisher found himself the target of the new Howling Commandos, one of the U.S. Government's top covert ops units, and embroiled in a conspiracy that involved a drug cartel, the supervillain Electro, and the super terrorist organization turned nation state, A.I.M. The climax of that story saw Frank fleeing to Central America where he ran afoul of the Black Widow and was left behind bars in a Maximum Security prison.
In discussing Castle’s incarceration with CBR News, Edmondson opens up on the shadowy enemies targeting the Punisher, the importance of “Black Widow” and his upcoming “Deathlok” series to his story’s secrets and how what’s going on in the rest of the Marvel Universe will impact the book.
CBR News: The debut “Punisher” arc kicked off a larger story that started with the new Howling Commandos’ pursuit of Frank. In issue #9 you gave us some clues about the people who sent the Commandos after Frank, when the team’s leader met with two men, one we saw clearly and one we saw in the shadows. The Howler’s leader, Adam Torchia, appears to address the figure in the shadows as “Mr. Secretary.” Does this mean that someone high up in the U.S. government, like perhaps the Secretary of Defense, is behind the Howler’s campaign against Frank?
Nathan Edmonson: It very well may indeed. But–why?
The shadowy “Mr. Secretary” wants Frank dead, but when the Punisher journeyed south of the border, the mercenary Crossbones wanted to turn Frank over — alive — to another group. So, are there two shadowy groups that have their sights set on the Punisher? Have I missed any clues about who Crossbones’ employer was?
Crossbones (occasional) employer should be more or less clear if you’re following “Black Widow.” That’s what led Frank to cross paths with Natasha. But Crossbones was working for two groups — one of which had plans in Los Angeles that Frank got in the way of.
Since we’re talking about larger mysteries, I wanted to ask about A.I.M.’s role. We saw that Electro and Domino did something for A.I.M in “Punisher” #6, but we haven’t heard much about them since. So A.I.M’s connection to everything, what their leader Andrew Forson is after, and how that involves the Punisher — will those questions be answered in the months ahead?
Yes, indeed — and some will be in answered in the pages of “Deathlok.” A.I.M. was in the background in “Punisher” — but a group like A.I.M. always has plans, and always is after new intel and weapons. Punisher keeps finding himself in the middle of operations far more complicated than his mission is, which is part of what we’ve played with in the series. His goals are black and white, but the world is anything but. He has his sights on street thugs, who lead to cartels, who lead to global conspiracies? It’s all a mess that he’s not equipped to navigate. Frank likes it simple. He gets aggravated when it isn’t. That’s some of what we’re seeing.
The Black Widow dropped Frank off in a Central American prison, and issue #10 kicks off a story about Frank’s imprisonment. The Punisher behind bars is a classic story that has been done before, but it’s always an interesting story. As a writer what do you find interesting about telling a story where Frank in prison? And what can you tell us about the prison Frank is currently incarcerated in?
Frank in jail is a bit like a kid in a candy shop, so that’s fun to play with. When it’s bare knuckles to bare knuckles, Frank is going to get scuffed up, but he’s going to dish better than he takes. This is especially true when he’s on a mission, when he has a goal. This is a point in the story where Frank is working through that. What is his goal now? Where does he go from here? See those questions answered in this and the next issue.
What can you tell us about the enemies the Punisher will have to contend with in prison? Will he have any allies on the inside?
Don’t expect any friendly faces, no. Especially when the pot gets stirred.
And they’re all on the wrong side of criminal activity, so you can count them all as enemies.
Will the upcoming issues touch base with some characters we haven’t seen in a while, as well? Will we meet any new figures in the L.A. underworld or with Los Angeles based Law Enforcement?
Frank may have left LA behind for now, but we haven’t. The stories there continue; the characters there still have lives to lead — and protect, we learn, as LA without the Punisher is a volatile, dangerous place. When the Cat’s away, as they say.
We already seen great Mitch Gerads is at bringing to life both the glamor and seediness of L.A., but what can we expect from his work on the prison story? Are there any scenes that you’re especially excited for readers to see?
Mitch truly sunk his teeth into the grittiness of this Central American prison; his art gets better with each issue in the series, and this one is no exception. I can’t spoil anything about this issue, but it’s the details, the small stuff that make the art so special. Look to the expressions, and a few key beats back Stateside.
Looking beyond the pages of your series, Frank has been part of some big action with groups lately both in “Thunderbolts” and “Original Sin.” Are you interested and able to explore how the fallout from his actions in those books impact yours? Are there any character dynamics from those books that you’d like to explore in later issues like say Frank’s dynamic with Elektra or Doctor Strange?
Our story doesn’t dovetail at all with “Thunderbolts” or “Original Sin” — at least not from our side. We don’t know ahead of time what’s going on in those books, so we’re not navigating anything except the story that we’re out to tell, with rare exceptions. And as our very specific Punisher story continues forward, we’ll remain focused on his journey — we have it mapped out to a finale that we’ve been planning since page one. When other characters can come into the story and help further that journey, we bring them in, but for the most part we haven’t paid close attention to the geography of other heroes and villains. In part also because, as Frank himself states in an early issue of our series, he’s not competing with the superheroes or supervillains. That’s not his fight. He came face to face with Electro, but it wasn’t a fight he picked intentionally.
Finally, are you interested in having the new Ghost Rider — another LA-based character — and the Punisher come face to face?
Perhaps in the future, but we have no plans to cross these two series at the moment.
I want to conclude by telling “Punisher” readers to take to Twitter! Tell us what you think! This story is going to get very big in the end, in ways I don’t think anyone is expecting. And as you can gather from above, it’s connected to “Black Widow” and “Deathlok,” so don’t miss those series, either!