The Los Angeles-based criminals of the Marvel Universe have things a lot easier than the ones that prey on the citizens of New York. This is due in part to the fact that there’s a scarcity of costumed heroes operating out of L.A., but the main reason comes down to one man’s war on crime. New York is home to soldier-turned-vigilante Frank Castle who, as the Punisher, puts his Marine and Special Forces training to use, conducting a relentless, one-man-war against the criminals of NYC.
This winter, the Los Angeles Underworld will come to know the same fear and terror that grips their New York based brethren. In February, writer Nathan Edmonson and artist Mitch Gerads, the creators of Image Comics’ military thriller series “The Activity,” kick off a new ongoing “Punisher” series which finds the title character relocating his war on crime to the City of Angels. CBR News spoke with Edmondson about the series which was announced by Marvel during their “Superior Spider-Man & Friends” panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: You and Mitch Gerads regularly tell tales of Special Operations soldiers in your Image Comics series “The Activity.” How does it feel to be given the chance to chronicle the war of the Marvel Universe’s top rogue Special Forces operator? Were you guys’ fans of the character? And if so were there any runs that you especially enjoyed?
Nathan Edmondson: Well, no, I’d never heard of Punisher before, and Mitch isn’t into comics, but I think he had some Spider-Man pajamas at one point.
It feels fantastic. Mitch and I feel perfectly matched with this book. We’re launching “The Punisher” for All-New Marvel NOW! It’s pretty sweet. And we’ve poured ourselves into it to make a bad ass Punisher book that feels like, well, exactly the kind of Punisher book this one should be. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s out of control. Punisher is hunted, challenged, up against it.
And yes, I’m a fan of the character, and Mitch may in fact have Punisher pajamas. He definitely has a Spider-Man onesie.
One interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed from talking with Punisher writers is that the character almost sort of casts a spell on his creators and they end up falling in love with writing Frank Castle. Has that happened to you? How much do you enjoy working on “Punisher?”
I’m still in the thick of it, and for me I get to know the characters I write more intimately as the artist brings them to life. I can’t say he’s cast a spell on me, but the more I write, the more we pit Frank against killers and drug thugs and villains, the more we get to know him, the closer I am to putting on all the Crye Precision gear I have from their sponsorship of “The Activity” and becoming the most bad ass neighborhood watch guy ever.
Let’s talk a little bit about your take on Frank. Which aspects of his
character are you especially interested in exploring? And one of the big questions Punisher writers have to answer for themselves is whether or not Frank is insane. What’s your feeling on that?
He’s not insane. He’s tortured, in constant pain; his conscience is warped. In his pain, he’s reverted back the machinery of his military training, and he’s taken that to another level. I’m thrilled to explore his psyche, but especially fun are his more human moments; his interactions with “normal” people. His breakfast habits and animal friends, for example. We’ve got a whole issue where he just talks about his favorite moments in “Rizzoli & Isles.”
How will your vision of Frank manifest on the page? Can we expect a classic take with an inner monologue, or will he be more of a taciturn man of mystery like he was in Greg Rucka’s recent run?
I tend to veer pretty light on the inner monologue and let the action do the talking as much as possible. We’re showing a side of Frank that’s, dare I say, relatable and human and even a bit likable. Not like he shops at Ikea or anything, but we’ll peek into Frank Castle when he’s not The Punisher. Witty dialogue, yes. Man of mystery, yep. Kick butt tactical operator, you betcha.
The Punisher’s usual stomping grounds are New York City, but you’re relocating Frank to Los Angeles for this series. Can you talk about the story reasons for this relocation? And what kinds of story opportunities does Los Angeles present for you?
Los Angeles offers all kinds of fun opportunities. There are mountains, skyscrapers, beaches and slums all in a sprawl big enough to host a variety of villainous antagonists. The southern border may play a part of the story, too. L.A. is a schizophrenic city — it has so many identities, we can never get bored having Frank interact with each of them. And nearby are military bases.
I don’t want to talk to much right now about why, in the story, Frank has gone west, but it’s all part of the big picture, both for him personally and for the Marvel U.
To us, Frank feels protective of his city; it’s not just a place for him, it’s a person that he must keep safe; or at very least its a home he must protect and rid of its pests. So the city has to interact with him, and feel like a living thing. That’s not difficult for LA, and LA to most people is a city you love to hate, or hate to love, which makes for a more interesting relationship. (Personally, I’m a fan of LA, so it’s a joy to write. I even have an I *heart* LA t-shirt.)
For the most part, we’ll see the “grounded” aspects of the town, but — well, actually yes to both. Frank will run afoul of some fantastic villains and heroes, whether they’re native to the city or not. He might even ruin a movie set or two.
What can you tell us about the supporting cast of your “Punisher” book? We know Frank will clash with criminals, but will he have any regular allies or enemies on the right side of the law?
Frank has a few “friends,” to the degree that Frank has friends. We’ll meet a beat cop with a crush on Frank. Frank has a buddy who supplies him with weapons. I mentioned an animal friend above, we’ll learn more about that. For the most part, though, Frank is alone in LA, with just his guns and his mission.
What can you tell us about Mitch’s work on “Punisher?” How does it compare to his work on “The Activity?” And will Mitch color his work on “Punisher?”
Mitch is coloring his own work, yep. What he’s done so far has been his best work to date, no doubt. We’ve got all of his quality from “The Activity” but he’s exercising his art-chameleon abilities and giving the pages a slightly more superhero style, that’s still gritty and dirty in the right places. You’re going to love it.
Finally, you’ve touched on it briefly, but what can you tell us about your initial “Punisher” story? Is this a shorter story about Frank getting the feel of a new battlefield? Or is this the start of a longer campaign against a particular target?
We’re playing a long game here. The title of the first arc is “Black and White” and there are a lot of questions of morality vs law that will rise to the surface. Each issue early on has Frank on the offense, big time, hunting and punishing and doing aha the does best. The big thing here is the 131. They’re hunting Frank, but who are they, and why? What division of the government sent them, and why now? Frank doesn’t know the s*** he’s in, at least not initially.
Even if you haven’t been a fan of the Punisher’s before, don’t miss issue 1. If for no other reason than of course you can ebay it. But I think our approach will appeal to YOU, sir and ma’am, and maybe even your brother, and sister, and mom and dad. Don’t miss out. All the cool kids will be reading this book. Oh, and follow mitch and I: @nhedmondson, @mitchgerads!