As the Punisher, Frank Castle utilizes an arsenal of weaponry and his Marine and Special Forces training to wage a one man war against the criminals of the Marvel Universe. Of course, being a non-powered vigilante taking on both mob bosses and supervillains, Castle often finds himself in situations where he’s, outmanned, outgunned or both.
In the opening issues of the new “Punisher” series by writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads, Castle arrived in Los Angeles with a goal of destroying the Dos Soles drug cartel. The city’s lack of heroes and villains meant the opening salvo of the Punisher’s crusade against the gang went smoothly, but the conflict quickly escalated, and now Frank Castle is up against not just the Dos Soles, but also their super powered enforcer Electro, the high terrorist group turned nation state A.I.M., the mutant mercenary Domino and the Howling Commandoes, an elite black ops military unit that has targeted him for elimination. We spoke with Edmondson and Gerads about these enemies and their plans for the series.
CBR News: It feels like with each subsequent issue of “The Punisher,” the threat Frank is facing in Los Angeles has grown exponentially. First, it was just the Dos Soles Cartel. Then it was Electro, who was working as an enforcer for the Dos Soles thanks to the machinations of A.I.M. Then, in Issue #4, you reveal that A.I.M. has a larger interest in what’s going on in L.A. What made you want to bring A.I.M. into this series? What do you find most interesting about their current incarnation which is lead by Supreme Scientist Andrew Forson and his high council?
Nathan Edmondson: A.I.M.’s interest is not to be confused with that of the Dos Soles, and A.I.M.’s involvement here may not end (or begin) in “The Punisher.”
We (and I) have some plans for the terrorist act and geopolitical machinations outside of “The Punisher,” and the Punisher, stirring pots in the Marvel U, can’t help but find himself mixed up in some of that — whatever that may be.
Mitch Gerads: We really start to see in this first arc just how many threats are working against Frank, either directly or indirectly. A.I.M being one of them. They have such amazing potential to be a really scary and serious threat to everyone in the Marvel U. Plus, drawing those beekeeper suits is really fun.
At the end of “Punisher” #4, you reveal that A.I.M’s chosen agent in Los Angeles is Domino. What can you tell us about Domino’s motivation for accepting an assignment from A.I.M.? Is she happy to be working for Forson?
Edmondson: We can’t talk about her motivation, no — and it might be some time before you learn much about that — but I can say that no, she’s not happy about what she’s doing, nor for whom she’s doing it.
Nathan, what’s it like bringing Domino and her luck powers into “Punisher?” Are her mutant abilities a pretty easy fit for this series? And Mitch, which aspects of Domino’s character do you really want to capture and bring forward in your art?
Edmondson: Her role in “The Punisher” — for the near future — is pretty minimal, and we won’t get too much exposure to her powers in the short run. Eventually we will, and we’re going to have lots of fun doing it.
Gerads: Domino is one of those characters that I’ve always been fond of. She came about right when I was seriously into collecting comics, especially the X-titles, so I’ve always had this soft spot for the character. Something I really want to play up is those luck powers. I think her powers are what sets her aside and makes her special. I really want to bring a lot of “near miss” and “perfect timing” to the way I illustrate her in a scene, a lot of subtlety.
Of course, Domino isn’t the only operative of A.I.M. in this story as Electro is also on the pay roll. You’ve hinted that Max Dillon may have his own agenda, so I’m curious as to your sense of the character and how he views himself. Does Electro have a personal code he follows with regard to his criminal activities? When Electro becomes embroiled in larger scale super criminal activities, he’s often working for someone who’s orchestrated the scheme. So do you think Max Dillon feels he could be a mastermind on the scale of Doc Ock or the Kingpin? Or does he see himself purely as muscle?
Edmondson: “Purely as muscle” is perhaps too strong, but I don’t see him as the strategist; we refer to him early in the series, before we’ve seen him, as “a weapon.” For the sake of our story, that’s more or less what he is to both the Dos Soles and to A.I.M. who have, somehow, arranged for him to help the gang. Part of what makes Electro an interesting threat against the Punisher, here, is that he’s more or less “slumming it,” just doing a favor. Almost like he’s helping a friend move. No big deal. Kid stuff. But for Frank? This is the (or a) fight of his life.
Another character whose loyalties appear to be in question is the LAPD’s Officer Stone, who seems conflicted about whether the Punisher or the Police have a better approach to combating the chaos that’s currently gripping L.A. What can you tell us about Sam’s mental state going into Issue #5?
Edmondson: As things get hairier in LA (and I’m not just talking about Frank’s stubble), Sammy’s worldview will be shaken more and more. The question is, when things truly fall apart for her, how will she react? What will she do? She’s flirting with the idea of the Punisher right now, but will that flirtation turn into something greater, or will the beast bite her when she extends her hand?
Mitch, what’s your sense of Officer Stone? The sequence with her working out while the news was playing in the background felt like she was preparing for war. It almost felt like something we’d see Frank do.
Gerads: I think Sammy is coming to a crossroads in her life. She’s starting to question what works and what doesn’t when it comes to being an enforcer of the law in LA, especially since the Punisher has shown up on her turf. Right now, she’s hearing the stories at the water cooler, seeing the reports on TV and really having a tough time figuring out if the Punisher is a criminal or a savior and what that means to her. She might also just have been working off those maple bacon donuts at the Nickel Diner.
Mitch, while we’re on the topic of Issue #4, last time we spoke, you mentioned that you crossed off another one of your artistic goals for the “Punisher” series in that issue. What was it?
Gerads: Before I even started work on “The Punisher,” I had two personal funny goals for myself. I thought it would take me much longer to get to them. [Laughs] The first was lighting a Punisher scene in pink (Issue #2), and the second was making Frank cry. [Laughs] Granted, it was done in a flashback scene that could make a granite statue cry, but it still counts!
What do the upcoming issues mean for Frank’s war against the Dos Soles and their secret A.I.M. backers? How big a role will the Howling Commandos play in this story? Will we get some more clues into the mystery of why they were sent after Frank and who ordered them to kill the Punisher?
Edmondson: It’s important first to recognize that the story we’re telling won’t end with Issue #6. Yes, there will be some resolution, and in Issue #6, we rise through a major battle, but Frank’s war continues on — and certainly in some unexpected ways…
Gerads: We’re definitely playing a long game on this series. Nathan and I have big ideas, and we can’t go through the entire clip just yet! Things get really tense in Issues #5 and #6. A storm moves into Los Angeles, both figuratively and literally, and all the threats in Frank’s life seem to be tightening the noose at a rapid pace.
I understand that New York Times Best Selling Author and military journalist Kevin Maurer, the writer of “No Easy Day,” is joining you for “Punisher” #7. How did this come about? What’s it like collaborating with Kevin? Was he a comic fan and a Punisher fan?
Edmondson: Kevin’s the dude. This guy knows more about the world of the military and bad-asses in fatigues than most people I’ve ever come across; he’s a huge comics fan and he helped us a great deal on “The Activity.” You’ll find, too, that he’s a natural talent. Most of the story and writing credit for those two issues is his; he has a great vision for Frank and really gets the Marvel Universe. We’re more than excited to have him on board. I think after these two issues, you’ll find Marvel offering him something else — and with books like his “Gentlemen Bastards” and the upcoming “No Easy Day prequel,” hopefully he’ll have time!
Gerads: Kevin is a good friend and I cannot wait to have him on board. Aside from being an absolute wealth of military spec ops knowledge (He’s been an embedded journalist with the US Special Forces) Kevin is a spectacular “idea-man” and a huge comics fan to boot! The man knows his Marvel U front and back! I really do think he’ll be a big name in comics.
I am genuinely having an absolute blast on this book, and we have so much badassery in store for you. The fan reaction has been immense! It really fuels the fire and I cannot wait for you to see what we have coming up!
Edmondson: We’ve got some really, really exciting stuff coming, and again, we are playing the long game, here. Be ready!