When he was announced on the relaunched Marvel Comics series “The Punisher” this spring, Greg Rucka promised that the new adventures of Frank Castle “will be affected by the larger Marvel Universe.” Now that the launch is only weeks away from its August 3 debut, the writer shared with CBR News his theory for how to make the hardcore soldier function properly in a world where superheroes and villains still control the skies over New York.
“It would be a bold-faced lie to say you were going into this book without thinking of that,” Rucka said in advance of tomorrow’s NEXT BIG THING conference call which CBR will cover live at Noon Pacific/3:00 Eastern. “That’s the problem with the Punisher. One of the reasons that Garth [Ennis’] run is so iconic now is because it’s not in the Marvel Universe. It’s a MAX run where he can take the gloves off and let Frank out of his cage, and you just can’t do that in the Marvel Universe. You fundamentally can’t. The level of violence has to be approached differently, and frankly the level of evil has to be approached differently.”
The famed MAX run started by Ennis and now under the pen of Jason Aaron sees the vigilante taking on a much more gruesome, realistic world than most Marvel books, but Rucka explained that the trick to understanding the difference is not so much to think of Castle as a different man as it is to think of how the different worlds would react to him. “There are different things you can’t talk about, and there’s a line that Frank inherently crosses in the Marvel Universe that Garth never really had to worry about in MAX. In MAX, Frank can go and kill 2,000-some odd people, but he never kills cops. Since he’s very careful about that, there’s sort of a tacit understand about it between him and the police. In the Marvel Universe, you can pretend there’s a tacit understanding, but the moral standards in the Marvel U are way different. If you’ve got a guy running around capping people, apparently at random, you’re eventually going to get Spider-Man’s attention. You’ll essentially have him saying, ‘Hey… knock it off!’ and you can’t ignore that fact.
“By the same token, if you put a supervillain up against him, Frank’s going to kill him! He’s not going to fight him or have him arrested so the guy will eventually get away. He’s going to put two in his head. That’s what his goal has got to be. And if you do that, you’re killing off villains.”
Overall, the kinds of characters the writer brings into the Punisher’s path will vary throughout the run. “Inherently when you have Frank in the Marvel Universe, there’s a balancing act. You can’t ignore them because then the readers will go ‘Hey… the Avengers don’t exist? The X-Men don’t exist?’ You can’t do that because then you’re not writing the Marvel Universe. And I’m writing Frank Castle in the Marvel Universe. That doesn’t mean he’s decided to use non-lethal weapons. He’s still killing people, but it’s a question of how long until he pops up on someone’s radar. It won’t be too long before one of the big guys shows up and says, ‘You’ve got to knock this off, Frank.’ But they won’t say that to him. They’ll stop him… or attempt to stop him.”
That conflict will simmer in the first Marco Checchetto-drawn arc while Castle takes on a new gang of “normal” criminals: a crime syndicate called The Exchange. “I think that’s part of the reason why Frank can continue to exist in the Marvel Universe,” the writer explained. “It’s not that the Avengers approve of what he’s doing. It’s that the Avengers are too busy. They’re dealing with the stuff you need the Avengers to deal with. While they’re off doing that and Frank’s being reasonably quiet while taking down a group of mobsters who have armed themselves with the latest AIM hardware, it’s easy to let that slip for a while. But the nature of putting Frank out there is that he’s an anti-hero, and most of the Marvel heroes are exactly that: they’re heroes. So it puts them in a bad position if they allow him to continue unobstructed.
“You can make an argument that certain characters don’t get involved. I can’t imagine that Logan is losing any sleep over what Frank Castle’s doing at night. But I would bet dollars to doughnuts that it doesn’t sit well with Captain America.”
Stay tuned to CBR News tomorrow at Noon Pacific/3:00 Eastern for full LIVE coverage of Rucka and Senior Editor Steve Wacker’s NEXT BIG THING conference call.