Not every hero shares the same ideals, or methods, as their fellow heroes. Sometimes justice and the law don’t go hand in hand and a team-up is the last thing that will happen when two heroes come into contact with one another. In the Marvel Universe, two of its heroes have enjoyed a heated, bitter rivalry for years. Daredevil, AKA lawyer by day Matt Murdock, and former Marine Frank Castle, who now wages a one man war on crime as the Punisher, not only don’t see eye to eye, they don’t get a lot. Not even a little bit.
Daredevil and the Punisher have had numerous violent and memorable clashes over the years, but they’re several years removed from their last meeting. Coinciding with their Marvel Cinematic Universe showdown when “Daredevil” Season 2 is released on Netflix this March, “Daredevil” comic book writer Charles Soule teams with artist Szymon Kudranski and breakdown/storyboard artist Reilly Brown for “Daredevil/Punisher.” The digital first Infinite Comic series, which will be printed starting in May, puts the Man Without Fear and his new partner Blindspot in Frank Castle’s crosshairs.
CBR News spoke with Soule about returning to the Punisher following his work on Marvel’s previous volume of “Thunderbolts,” his take on Frank Castle and Matt Murdock’s rivalry, how Blindspot fits into it, and the series of events that bring the title characters back into each others’ orbits.
CBR News: It’s been some time since you wrote Frank Castle in “Thunderbolts.” How does it feel to return to the character and what parts of his personality will you be touching on in this series?
Charles Soule: Well, I did write him briefly in “Wolverines” #3, but this is certainly his first major appearance since I wrote him in “Thunderbolts.” I think there are two ways to write Punisher — one is a story where you’re in his head a bit, and he’s a POV character, whether you’re literally getting internal narration captions from him or not. The other way is from the POV of anyone else in the Marvel Universe, during which he comes across as just this dark, dangerous force of nature. Frank Castle doesn’t have “friends” in the MU the same way, say, Captain America or She-Hulk does. No one knows anything about him other than what they can infer from what he does. And most of what he does is killing people.
This story is the second kind, and maybe it says something about me, but I love writing that Frank. He’s a legend, almost a monster in the horror movie sense, and that’s a lot of fun.
What’s your sense of the ongoing conflict between Frank Castle and Matt Murdock? Do you think they respect each other at all?
I think that they understand the underlying motivation behind what the other person does, but they don’t really understand the way they put that motivation into practice. To put it another way, Frank thinks Daredevil doesn’t go far enough, and Murdock thinks Punisher goes way, way too far. They’re foreign to each other. They each think their own morality is so simple, so obvious, that it seems bizarre that someone else, who is clearly smart and skilled, just can’t see it that way.
I think there might be some respect on a technical level for the others’ abilities, but that’s about it. I think they each mostly hope the other one stay’s out of their way. Oh well — looks like that didn’t work out in this story.
A new character enters the equation for this confrontation between Frank and Matt, Daredevil’s partner Blindspot, AKA Samuel Chung. How does his involvement impact the dynamic between Matt and Samuel? Does Samuel have any strong feelings or preconceived notions about the Punisher going into this story?
Blindspot’s backstory (as seen in the “Marvel Point One” story Ron Garney and I did before the main “Daredevil” series started) involved him doing a ton of research into the street-level vigilantes of the Marvel Universe — and that included Frank Castle. So he absolutely knows about him, but this is his first encounter with the Punisher, and I think he’ll find that Frank is no joke. I don’t think he’ll come out of it with too many positive feelings about old Skullshirt. (I just made that up! Skullshirt! I’m sure it’ll catch on.)
[Laughs] What can you tell us about the setting of your tale? Are you bringing Skullshirt back to New York and the Chinatown neighborhood you’ve been exploring in current issues of “Daredevil?”
Actually, no. This story is sort of a road race, if that doesn’t sound too bizarre. So, there’s a great action sequence on FDR Drive (the main highway running up Manhattan’s east side), as well as some very cool scenes on the mean streets of Queens. Anyone who’s read my work for a while knows I love my city (I’ve lived in NYC for coming up on nineteen years), and I think it’s one of the best playgrounds in the world for superhero stories. I’m always trying to think of new ways to use the geography of the city as a character in my stuff, and this is certainly one of those.
Thankfully, the storyboard artist on this one, Reilly Brown, also lives in NYC, so he’s able to bring that authenticity to the art that the story needs. He’s an old friend, and it’s great to finally be working with him on something.
You mentioned this story won’t be from Frank Castle’s P.O.V. Does that means we’ll see the story from Daredevil’s perspective? By that same line of thought, does that position Punisher as essentially the villain of the piece?
It’s a Daredevil-centric story, and we see it through his P.O.V., but that doesn’t mean the Punisher is the “villain.” As always when Frank Castle gets involved, things get complicated very quickly. The main story here is that Matt Murdock is trying to get a certain individual — a Russian mob boss — to a spot where he can stand trial for his crimes. The Punisher feels that it would be so much simpler if the mob boss never got there. He wants to cut out the middleman, basically. Murdock, however, is very much a part of the system, especially since he’s a prosecutor these days. He wants to make sure that justice comes from the justice system, and this guy gets a fair trial. So, conflict!
Who are some of the other supporting characters that may get caught in the crossfire of Frank and Matt’s latest conflict?
Well, definitely Blindspot. There’s a third-act reveal that I don’t want to spoil that I think will be an absolute blast — a character I’ve never written before that I’ve always had a soft spot for. Beyond that, though, it’s mostly a DD/Punisher tale.
What’s it like working with Szymon Kudranski on this tale? It seems like with his background drawing shadowy, urban heroes like Spawn and Batman he’d be perfect for the tale you’re telling.
He is! I couldn’t be happier with the art on this story. It’s also really fun to be writing this as an “Infinite Comics” story, with all the possibilities of the story happening digitally. There are lots of cool tricks that help to enhance the reader’s experience. I think it’s coming together better than I’d ever hoped.
Finally, I imagine you want this series to be new reader friendly, but will the events of it have an impact on some of your upcoming issues of “Daredevil?”
The story is designed from top to bottom to be open for people who’ve never read a Daredevil or Punisher story before to be able to jump right in. I give people background on the various characters, their powers and mindsets. It’s certainly part of the world of my “DD” series, but it’s also done in one, so you don’t need to know anything about what’s going on in the ongoing series to appreciate it. I hope!
Working on this series has been a blast. It feels to me a little like a great ’80s movie; really simple premise, and then it’s all action from there on out. Two characters with understandable viewpoints that are completely irreconcilable. You can’t beat it!
“Daredevil/Punisher” debuts digitally this March, and will be printed in April from Marvel Comics.