This Holiday season, some bad boys and girls will be receiving more than just lumps of coal; they’ll also be getting doses of hot lead because someone else has a naughty list and his name is the Punisher. In November, the Punisher will be checking off some of the names on his list when the “Punisher X-Mas Special” from Marvel Comics by writer Stuart Moore and artist C.P. Smith hits store. CBR News Spoke with Moore about the special.
It was Editor Axel Alonso that tasked Moore and Smith with chronicling Frank Castle’s latest Christmas caper. “Marvel’s done ‘Punisher X-Mas Specials’ for a few years now – it’s an inherently challenging and kind of funny idea, because it plays directly against what the Punisher is,” Moore told CBR News. “Artist C.P. Smith and I had just done a well-received issue of ‘Wolverine’ together, so Axel Alonso at Marvel asked us to take a crack at this.”
Moore found that the Punisher’s personality traits made him a compelling character to write. “He’s a complete sociopath,” Moore said. “He’s 100% crazy in that his moral beliefs are extreme to the point of psychosis. But he’s 100% rational – and consistent – in how he lives by those beliefs. The Punisher never questions what he’s doing; he just keeps doing it. That makes him a great force to throw into a story – he’s like a big machine gun with perfect aim and an infinite supply of bullets. I think I’d find him a little depressing to write all the time, though.”
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Moore’s story takes place in a variety of locales around New York City right around the time when things are starting to look a lot like X-Mas. “There’s a sleazy bar, a sleazier club, the Port Authority bus terminal – sweet, Christmas-y places like that,” Moore stated. “And the Punisher’s apartment. He never got around to getting a tree, this year. Or much furniture.”
Moore’s story was born when he came up with what the Punisher does in his apartment and other quiet moments as the Holidays approach. “I started with the idea of the Punisher having a ‘Naughty’ list at the holidays, and spun out a crime story from there,” Moore explained “It gelled when I realized he’d reluctantly have to make a ‘Nice’ list, too.”
It was the works of some classic crime writers that inspired Moore’s plot for the “Punisher: X-Mas Special.” “It’s a crime story that’s also a character piece,” he explained. “I’m a big fan of some of the older hard-boiled writers, like Charles Willeford and David Goodis – a lot of it goes back to Hammett and Chandler, of course. In all those guys’ work, the plot was often a way to get at the psyches of some depraved and/or sad characters. That’s the model.
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“The Punisher hates Christmas because he can’t go after his usual targets this time of year; the mob bosses all have too much family around them, too many innocents who might get caught in the crossfire,” Moore continued. “So he decides to hunt a smaller fish, a rising wiseguy called Johnny Nouveau who’s just been involved in the death of a young boy. Frank Castle’s got a weak spot where kids are involved, and what the hell – it’s Christmas.”
As the Punisher hunts down Nouveau he interacts with and opens fire on a variety of supporting characters. “There’s a tortured cop, a grieving mother and a lot of cannon fodder,” Moore said.
The tone of this year’s “Punisher X-Mas Special” lies sort of in-between the current “Punisher” Max series and the old “Marvel Knights: Punisher” series. “It’s pretty dark, but the violence and action are not as extreme as Garth’s series,” Moore explained. “It’s nowhere near as farcical as the Knights series was at times, but some humor does come out of the clash between X-Mas and the Punisher.
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“I think the previous specials got about as much mileage as you can out of the Punisher dressing up as Santa Claus and that sort of thing,” Moore continued. “But Frank gets off a few quips in this book – and if your sense of humor is bleak enough, you may find it funny to see him sitting in his Spartan apartment, making his lists and brooding about what a travesty the holiday season is.”
Moore hopes fans enjoy his twisted holiday tale and feels that they will be wowed when they see the work of his artistic collaborator on the “Punisher X-Mas Special,” C.P. Smith. “C.P. Smith is a genius – he pulled off the atmosphere here perfectly,” Moore stated. “In particular, the scene where the cop is about to blow his own head off out in the snow really gives you that warm, holiday glow.”
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