Comic books have no shortage of vigilante heroes doling out heaps of street justice in the name of all that is good. Sometimes these heroes wear masks and work under a strict code, while others want bad guys to see them coming and they want their faces and names burnt into the criminal underworld as a warning. These characters have come from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. And despite the myriad of vigilantes who have prowled both fictional and nonfictional streets in the pages of comics, there are only a handful who have had a truly long-lasting impact on pop culture.
Two of these heroes are icons who work on different sides of the same coin. They are two titans from different universes with iconic logos that have been emblazoned across countless T-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers. Their iconography and demeanors have permeated the zeitgeist and have become two of the most popular characters in comic books and have been since their respective inceptions. Of course, those two heroes are Batman and The Punisher. And while their methodology is vastly different, their goals are the same: stop crime; protect the innocent. It’s just one of them believes in due process but the other one…not so much.
15 GROWING UP
This is somewhat of a bleak sentiment, but for many disgruntled adults who never reached the goals they aspire to, it rings true. We all want to be Batman (that is, if we can’t we Superman). Being a handsome, billionaire, genius who is in peak physical condition and has the ability to outwit pretty much every person he’s encounters is certainly an admirable goal.
And while we do not condone the reality of The Punisher’s methodology, realizing that there might be a handful (if that) of humans who have reached Bruce Wayne-levels of success does put you in a grumpy mood. Also, traffic is awful so we're sure that breeds a lot of murderous-Punisher moods among adult drivers everywhere. Batman doesn’t have to sit in traffic. He also does have to worry about the barista spelling his name wrong on the cup at Starbucks. Frank Castle does.
The rivalry between DC and Marvel has been well-documented, but their friendly (or not so friendly) back and forth has intensified since both companies have ventured into film and television so heavily over the last decade. If Marvel announces a new movie, be sure that DC will release a teaser for an upcoming film or show, and vice versa.
One could chalk up the release of DC’s tentpole films premiering on the same date of Netflix’s Marvel television shows as coincidence, but if the history of their rivalry is any indication, these overlapping release dates are intentional. Luckily, this really doesn’t do much to deter fans from lapping from both ponds. While certain social media sites will try to convince you otherwise, the “fanboy” mentality isn’t as strong as most people think. We want both to succeed, because the more they do, the more we’ll get.
13 CRIME RATES
It’s safe to say that no one in their right mind would want to live in Gotham City or the version of New York City in the Marvel Universe. The crime rate and cataclysmic events that plague both cities is so high, that the real estate value much be dirt cheap. Perhaps the people living in either of them are there for the excitement (or the cheap real estate?), but even with Batman and The Punisher prowling the streets, there seems to be no end to the horrors inflicted upon the general population.
If either of these men did finish their crusades, we wouldn’t get anymore comics or they would have to move to a new town. The hypothetical scenario this meme presents is certainly a fair one, but no matter which hero you choose, there are flaws based on their respective track records.
12 STOPPING AT ONE
This is one of the more popular memes floating around the Internet, because it really does cut to the chase of both Batman and The Punisher’s modus operandi in the comics. While there have been many occasions where Batman has broken his one rule in the comics through various loopholes or justifications by his own logic, very rarely does The Dark Knight straight up kill criminals. His sense of morality dictates this, even when on some primal level, he knows it’s not always in the best interest of the people of Gotham.
The Punisher, however, has zero scruples. Time and time again, Frank Castle mows down droves of criminals and send them to the morgue instead of jail. In fact, Frank has allowed himself to be arrested and sent to prison, just to get closer to the people he aims to kill.
11 ...AND THE JOKER GETS AWAY
The ‘90s were a weird time for comics. At the height of the comic book boom, the two big publishers (Marvel and DC) were trying to drum up higher and higher sales by employing a lot of silly marketing gimmicks (hologram covers, gate fold posters, foil covers, etc.). But the biggest and strangest of them were crossovers where characters from one publisher would invade another publisher’s comic either as a “what if?” sort of scenario or something that was strangely canonical.
One of these books that seems to be the latter is the 1994 one-shot Batman/Punisher: Deadly Knights, in which Frank Castle gets the jump on the Joker. Luckily for the Crown Prince of Crime, Batman swoops in just in time to save him from eating a bullet with that toothy grin. It’s a moment that show how far Batman is willing to protect a life in the comics.
After portraying Batman in a trio of critically maligned DCEU films and a heap of negative press due to his proximity to all the horrific accusations going on in Hollywood right now, but Ben Affleck probably would like to score a win in his career again. After what seemed to be a bit of a renascence in his filmography with award-winning films like Argo and Gone Baby Gone, Affleck’s turn as The Dark Knight almost feels like he’s steering back into Gili territory (okay, so maybe not that bad).
However, despite the mixed reviews and unorthodox setup, The Accountant made enough of a profit and gained a ton of audience support once it his HBO and home video, that it’s getting a sequel. While this might be good for Affleck’s career, we just see a rematch between The Punisher and Batman, that is if Jon Bernthal returns (fingers crossed).
9 FEWER KILLERS
In the comic books, Batman has gone to great lengths not to kill criminals, despite really, really wanting to from time to time. But in the films, however, he seems to bend that rule quite a bit and in the most recent incarnation of the character, he completely shatters it.
The moral high horse that Batman was saddled upon is completely hobbled in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ben Affleck’s Batman (aka Batfleck) is essentially The Punisher with a billion dollar budget. Now we aren’t against a 20-year veteran Batman who has stopped caring about the preciousness of life or the judicial system, but man, it sure is startling to see Batman literally mow down people with a machine gun mounted on the Batwing.
8 "STEP INTO MY OFFICE"
It might be safe to assume that the reason Jim Gordon has been the police commissioner of Gotham City for so long is because it’s an awful gig. Who in their right mind would want to govern the police force of a city filled with costumed criminals concocting apocalyptic schemes every week and a billionaire playboy with some seriously undiagnosed mental health issues trying to do your job while dressed as a nocturnal flying rodent? Hard pass. Especially considering that those costumed criminals keep coming back, time after time.
Whoever is the police commissioner of New York in the Marvel Comics universe probably has his plate full with all the mass destruction going on in every yearly event series the publisher has, which would probably make Frank Castle small potatoes for higher officials. While he’d be a headache for Gordon, Frank would thin the herd that is Batman’s rogues gallery.
7 ONE BAD DAY
While this quote certainly paraphrases a line uttered by The Joker in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s iconic graphic novel The Killing Joke, the sentiment rings true to a slew of comic book heroes. While the comparison between Bruce Wayne losing his parents to set him on a crusade of justice and Frank Castle losing, well, pretty much every member of his family is quite similar, the random violence behind the murders of their respective loved ones has seen some dissonance.
Depending on what story you read or what television show/film you watch, Frank Castle feels guilty about the loss his family, going so far as to blame himself due to his life before being a more involved family man. While Bruce Wayne was just a boy who couldn't have influenced much of anything…oh, but Spider-Man, he’s most definitely at blame for losing Uncle Ben.
6 THE ACCOUNTANT
At New York Comic Con last year, star of Netflix’s The Punisher, Jon Bernthal was asked who would win in a fight: Batman or The Punisher? Naturally Bernthal answered the latter, which only makes sense seeing as he portrays the series’ titular anti-hero. But the seemingly innocent question sparked a wildfire on social media, turning the Batman vs. Punisher debate into a burning question…
…Which has been answered a few times in the comics, but not in live action, at least, not really. In the 2016 film The Accountant Ben Affleck (our current Batman) and Jon Bernthal play two hired guns, working for different sides and eventually run up against one another. Their fight in the final act of the fight is brutal and feels like how things would go if the two comic titans clashed, seeing as how in the end Affleck (our Batman analog) won.
Symbols mean a lot to people. They can inspire hope, fill people with wonder, or heed a warning. And sometimes, they do all three, depending on what your plans are on a Saturday night in the realm of comic books. Many superheroes use their symbols as calling cards. In the case of Batman, well, the guy uses weapons and vehicles that literally have the prefix “bat” in their name nearly all the time.
The Punisher however, utilizes his stark skull as a flash of realization for wrongdoers. It’s usually the last thing people who encounter Frank Castle see. So yes, if you see this skull, the chances that you have done something wrong is incredibly high. Frank choses who get the business end of his artillery pretty meticulously.
4 MAKING FRIENDS
As mentioned before, Batman doesn't always play by his own rules. Depending on the incarnation, the whole “no murder” thing goes out the window. And even when he is adamant about not killing people, he will justify it with the twisted logic of “I don’t have to save you,” which, honestly is a bit of a strawman argument.
But even the versions of Batmen that really try to adhere to his one rule will still work with heroes who could care less about it. Batman has teamed up with killer vigilantes such as Frank Castle and killer demonic anti-heroes such as Spawn, both of whom have quite the body count. Now while both of these team-ups were tumultuous at best (Spawn wound up with a batarang in his face), the heroes worked toward the same goal most of the time despite their disparate judicial dispositions.
3 "DON'T TEST ME"
While the films have never addressed the idea of Batman and The Punisher engaging in fisticuffs, the comic has, and the result of their bout went the way most people would expect. Both of these vigilantes are well-trained, highly intelligent, calculating combatants who know their way around a dojo. But whereas Frank Castle sets his sights to eliminate his opponents with extreme prejudice and by any means necessary, Bruce Wayne shows a level of restraint that The Punisher rarely demonstrates.
If stripped of their respective hardware and gadgets, and given some proper motivation, it would be hard to predict who would come out on top. But in Batman/Punisher: Dark Knights, it’s the Caped Crusader who gains the upper hand. But to be fair, The Punisher is injured, which may or may not have been a factor.
Look, Frank’s logic does carry some weight, but does he need to take a sidekick jab at Batman? Robins are more than sidekicks; they are apprentices. Also, what is Mircrochip then? A data guy who works with you and supplies information about targets sure sounds like a sidekick. Okay, we can stop harping on this. Let’s get to the ethical thesis of this meme.
Batman’s logic of if he kills a killer, he becomes one is absolutely true. He realizes that he is not the judicial system, and while what he does is technically illegal (as far as we know, you can’t just go around dressed as a bat and beat people up), Batman operates for the law. The Punisher, however, takes things a bit further. And while if New York was Mega-City One, Frank Castle’s methods would be just fine, they just don’t fly here.
1 CAT'S IN THE CRADLE
Look, we don’t condone laughing at family tragedy, fictional or otherwise. But this one is hilarious. There is something disarming about the image of two hardened vigilantes engaging in playground actives that makes us grin ear to ear. What’s strange is that the infantilism of Batman is somehow disarming and sweet. And Frank Castle returning to the role of loving father figure is equally heartwarming.
Perhaps the two could play catch or go to baseball games together. Maybe Batman could sit on Frank Castle’s knee and tell him about his day after a long night of punching criminals in the throat. The only drawback to a dynamic like this would be when bring your child to work day comes rolling around. Batman would be quite disappointed in his surrogate father in this bizarre scenario.