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GONE FISHIN’: “The Punisher: Force of Nature”

by  in Comic News Comment
GONE FISHIN’: “The Punisher: Force of Nature”
“Punisher: Force of Nature” on sale in February, 2008

It’s always fishing season for Frank Castle, and in Marvel Comics MAX’s “Punisher: Force of Nature” one-shot by writer Duane Swierczynski (“Moon Knight Annual”) and artist Michael Lacombe, the skull-clad vigilante better known as The Punisher hits the open water looking to reel in some record-breaking scumbags. CBR News spoke with Swierczynski about the February one-shot.

The chance to pen a Punisher story is a dream assignment for Duane Swierczynski. “He’s my favorite Marvel character, next to Spider-Man,” the writer told CBR News. “In fact, I’m in Geek Heaven whenever Frank and Spidey meet up. One of my favorite Punisher moments is from Garth Ennis’s Marvel Knights run, where Frank basically uses Spidey as a human bludgeon to beat the crap out of the Russian. After it’s over and Spidey regains consciousness, Frank tells him, ‘We had a team-up. You were great.’

“What I love about Frank Castle is that he doesn’t have superpowers. He’s just very, very fucking determined,” Swierczynski continued. “He’s relentless. He’s efficient. He doesn’t get cute or fancy. He kills lots and lots of bad guys. And he has awesome taste in T-shirts.”

Page from “Punisher: Force of Nature”

As if the chance to write his favorite Marvel character wasn’t cool enough, Swierczynski’s shot at the Punisher is also his first Marvel Comics assignment. “I still can’t believe it was a Punisher story,” said Swierczynski, who’s authored numerous novels and non-fiction crime books. “The whole time I was writing, I kept waiting for the meteor to come crashing through my office. Or for the doc to call, telling me Yes, Duane, it is a brain tumor. You have three minutes to live.

“Punisher: Force of Nature” isn’t the first time Swierczynski has told a tale of a lone operator against the mob. The character of Mike Kowalski, a government assassin in his novel, “The Blonde,” executed a similar vendetta against the Philadelphia mob. “The lone-man-versus-the-mob tale goes all the way back to Dashiell Hammett’s ‘Red Harvest’ (and probably further),” Swierczynski explained. “It was perfected by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) in his Parker novels from the early 1960s, and then really exploded with Donald Pendleton’s ‘Executioner’ novels in the 1970s — which in turn inspired The Punisher. So you could say that Frank Castle’s grandaddy was Hammett’s Continental Op. That’s one hell of a hardboiled pedigree.

Pages from “Punisher: Force of Nature”

“My character, Kowalski, is just me tipping my cap to all of that,” Swierczynski continued. “I love these kind of ‘lone man’ stories because they appeal to anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider, and wished they could stick it to the man/system/mob.”

“The Punisher: Force of Nature” is told from the Punisher’s point of view, straight from the pages of the MAX edition of his War Journal, and sends the vigilante to the waters off of New Jersey’s coast. “Most of the story takes place on the open water. But don’t worry; I didn’t put Frank in a thong, or anything,” remarked Swierczynski.

“It takes place specifically off the coast of Wildwood, which is the shore town where pretty much everybody in Northeast Philly (where I grew up) goes in the summer,” Swierczynski continued. “God, would I have loved for the Punisher to show up when I was a kid on vacation. For starters, he could have taken out the Fudgie Wudgie Man.”

Swierczynski wants to keep details about the targets of the Punisher’s fishing trip under wraps for now. “I’d prefer you to meet them in the pages of the comic,” he said. “But let’s just say they’re mid-level scumbags in the employ of the Russian mob who need… um, special handling.”

Page from “Punisher: Force of Nature”

In “Force of Nature,” “special handling” means The Punisher and Swierczynski get to do their favorite thing — be creative. “I’m a big fan of unorthodox weapons,” Swierczynski explained. “And there’s a lot of cool stuff to play with on fishing boats.”

Swierczynski is immensely pleased with the way artist Michael Lacombe has brought to life his tale of death and fishing. “I’ve seen every page of Michael’s art, and he just nailed itm” the writer gushed. “He’s especially gifted at faces and facial expressions — which is key in a story like this — you’ll see. I’m lucky as hell Michael came aboard this crazy ship. And man, does he go to crazy lengths to make sure things are accurate. At one point, Michael even tapped a buddy who can read Russian for a throwaway detail. Now that’s dedication.”

“Punisher: Force of Nature” won’t be the last time Swierczynski and Frank Castle get to wreak havoc together. The writer already has another Punisher project lined up, but he was unable to reveal any details about it. Said Swierczynski, “[Editor] Axel Alonso would gut me like a you-know-what.”

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Marvel Comics forum.

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