How many bullets does it take to eliminate the entire Marvel Universe? Rogue anti-hero the Punisher is about to find out with the new four-issue limited series “Marvel Universe vs the Punisher” by writer Jonathan Maberry and artist Goran Parlov shooting into stores August 4.
Taking place in an alternate, post-apocalyptic future, the upcoming Marvel Knights title explores the idea of a lone Frank Castle in a world overrun by mutated cannibalistic predators. Every man, woman, child, hero and villain finds themselves turned and ravenous for flesh-save the Punisher, who now five years after the initial outbreak stalks the streets bent on killing everything in his path to survive and not become the latest lunch menu item. Today, Marvel hosted the latest of its “Next Big Thing” conference calls with Maberry and Editor Axel Alonso on hand to talk about the series and CBR News was on hand to bring readers coverage from the call.
Things kicked off with Maberry discussing his choice of using Frank Castle as the main protagonist of the series. “He’s always been a black and white sort of guy,” says the writer. “When you have a situation where everyone is turned into a monster, it simplifies things for him.” It also gave the writer a chance to explore the dimensions of the character as he’s pushed to his own psychological limits.
Alonso then talked about the story idea formation. “We thought it would be very interesting to see a Marvel Universe hit by a virus,” he says. The editor also hinted at another story proposed by Maberry that is “similar” that the editor hopes gets to see the light of day.
“It spins in a different direction that is equally exciting,” adds Maberry.
With regards to employing a post-apocalyptic setting, Maberry said that “It’s a blank slate in terms of storytelling. It puts human beings against horrific problems. At the same time, you have the basic survival element which is pure adventure.” The idea also shows an intellectual side of storytelling. “I love the thinking person’s adventure story.”
“I’m always wondering how I’d fare in a zombie holocaust,” chimed in Alonso.
Maberry also says that he gets the question from many fans on if he’d make it out alive. “Yes, I would,” he affirms. “I can’t say that same for the people around me if they’re slower, but I’m going to get out alive.”
Maberry and Alonso also both add that the outbreak is not a zombie outbreak. “It’s a bio weapon that gets outs,” says Maberry. The writer says that it’s specific virus that gets out.
When asked how artist Parlov became a part of the project, Alonso replied, “[Goran is] incredible and he knows how to draw Frank. Frank is very stoic. He’s a hard read. Goran better than anyone is able to portray that.”
“With a story like this, there is a starkness to it,” says Maberry, adding that while Parlov knows how to pack a scene with more than enough images and detail, he still retains the proper atmosphere. “You get exactly the mood we’re trying to get. This is a bleak story and his visual storytelling style is absolutely perfect for the book.”
When asked about why Frank Castle was chosen as the lone man against the world, Maberry says that, “There’s a really good reason, but I can’t tell you why because it’ll spoil the first issue.”
“This is a very specific story of a view of the Marvel Universe seen through the eyes of this particular character,” he continues. “It’s a Frank Castle story as much as a Punisher story.” The writer insisted that the story wouldn’t work with another character.
Alonso also gave a reason to why Frank Castle had to be the one as opposed to another hero: the Punisher has no qualms about killing. “The difference between Frank and Spider-Man is that [Frank] will take you out,” says the editor.
The character’s motivation also gives credence to his role as series protagonist: “It’s not in his nature to give in,” says Maberry. “The fight is his purpose for existence. There’s no question as to, ‘Who’s the bad guy?'”
“A lot of conflicted characters are trying to make the world better–they’re trying to heal it,” he continues with regards to Frank’s mental state. “He isn’t trying to heal it. It’s about taking out the garbage. He’s not driven by lust or internal pain, other than the fact that he was pointed like a gun by certain events and continues to fire in that direction.”
“Frank is Catholic,” adds Alonso. “He knows he’s going to Hell. He doesn’t have any illusions that Maria, his wife, would approve of his behavior. That said, he continues to do what he does. He has a code. He won’t accept collateral damage. He doesn’t put innocents in danger.”
The pair was then asked about the personality of the infected, whether they completely devolve to the point of mindless or still retain some of their individuality. “[They] developed to the point of a caveman mentality,” explained Maberry. The writer also notes that some characters do more or less have their personality and they become the leaders of the tribes that get formed. “There are different levels of them. Some of the cannibals out there are very, very tricky and devious. And that makes it very difficult for Frank.”
“Cannibal Predator Deadpool is very much still recognizable as Deadpool,” says Alonso, reaffirming that the characters will definitely retain some aspects of themselves. “There’s a point in book one where Reed Richards asks, ‘What the fuck happened to Spider-Man,’ and he says, ‘He’s become simplified.'”
To close things out, Maberry assures readers that, “It’s not just a one-note book. It’s not just the Punisher shooting people on every page. It has a lot of humor in it. It has touching moments. It has some fairly complex relationships to it. In a lot of ways its deconstructing characters.”