Frank Castle, the star of Marvel Comics‘ “Punisher,” may not like to leave a campaign in his war against crime unfinished, but he’s a savvy enough soldier to know that sometimes, retreat is the only viable option. Such a situation arose recently when his war against a Los Angeles-based drug cartel was interrupted by a U.S. Military black ops unit known as the Howling Commandoes — a unit that has come gunning for him for reason unknown to anyone other than writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads.
Castle fled to Central America to regroup, but in “Punisher” #12 he returns to L.A. to finish his war against the Dos Soles Cartel and uncover the conspiracy that’s set the Howling Commandos on his trail. CBR News spoke with Gerads about the Punisher’s return to the City of Angels, his approach to depicting characters like Castle’s occasional comrade at arms Rachel Cole Alves, and bringing to life the next chapter in the long form story he and Edmondson began in “Punisher” #1
CBR News: You and Nathan have now completed a year’s worth of stories. How does it feel to reach that milestone and keep going in this difficult market?
Mitch Gerads: It feels, and pardon my French, amazeballs! At conventions, I’m constantly asked what I have coming next and people are always caught off guard when I tell them, “More Skullguy!” I like sticking around on books for a good length. I’m not sure I could be satisfied with a project if I was only around for 4 or 5 issues, which is about the average in this era of comic bookery. Though to be fair, I took off issues 7 and 8 for my wedding/honeymoon, so I guess I still haven’t technically put in my 12 yet.
You and Nathan also work together on the Image series “The Activity,” which, while it’s different from the “Punisher,” does allow you to stretch some similar artistic muscles since both books star highly trained military characters. Does working on “The Activity” impact or inform your guys’ approach to “The Punisher?” And do you guys collaborate in the same way for both books?
For sure, working on “The Activity” is where I got to meet and learn from so many amazing special operations contacts, and that will forever influence how I handle the use of firearms and especially movement in my work. But both books are completely different beasts, and artistically, I handle them very different. “The Activity” I played out in my head like I was reading a great military thriller. With “The Punisher,” I’m going for a big cinematic action thrill ride. As for the second part of the question, the only real difference this time is we have our editor, Jake Thomas, to bounce and craft ideas with, and he’s killer at it. Jake loves this book as much as we do.
When I talk to writers about the Punisher, one of the things they all seem to love most about telling stories with Frank Castle is the character’s direct and straightforward nature. As an artist, do you feel the same way? What do you enjoy most about the character of Frank Castle?
My favorite thing so far about drawing Frank has really been getting in his head and figuring out what’s underneath all the straight-forwardness. I love drawing him as a big, imposing man’s man, but the guy is a man, and all men have their reasons and their complexities. He’s not a machine, in my eyes; he’s just a very capable and driven human being.
In “Punisher” #11, you brought back a character from Frank’s past, Rachel Cole Alves, who was created by Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto. What was it like bringing Rachel back? Are you able to reveal if you and Nathan have any further plans for her or other established Punisher supporting players who are still among the living?
The best part of drawing Rachel was, honestly, just knowing how much the readers were gonna flip out. Because of that, I really wanted her to be recognizable, so I referenced Marco’s work pretty heavily just so when Frank got in that jeep, people were gonna flip just from seeing the next panel. As for how much more we’ll be seeing of Rachel, I can’t really say. I will say, though, that Frank has an amazing supporting cast, both old and new — but ours is really Frank’s book.
In “Punisher” #12, you guys kick off a new story by bringing Frank Castle back to Los Angeles. The last couple of issues have shown that the new iteration of the Dos Soles cartel have been wreaking havoc on the town, but what can you tell us about the shape of L.A. when Frank returns?
The L.A. that Frank returns to is a city under siege, almost under terrorist rule. So unlike, say, the L.A. riots, where people were everywhere, the city is left pretty barren. People are in their homes because they don’t know where the next explosion will happen. The criminals really have taken the city. Frank has issues with that, and he wants it back.
The drug cartel turned terrorist cell isn’t Frank’s only enemy in upcoming issues — he also has to deal with the machinations of the new Howling Commandoes unit, a group that Nathan is also bringing into his “Black Widow” series. You designed these characters — how does it feel to have them branching out into the the larger Marvel Universe?
It’s awesome! I’m such a huge fan of the original Howling Commandos adventures that it just made sense to me that the Government would still have a unit under that moniker. Just like the real special operations units of yesteryear, this new unit has evolved. They’re highly trained, highly capable and loaded to bear with bleeding edge technology. Being able to bring a new toy to the Marvel sandbox for everyone to share is monumentally awesome.
I realize you have to be somewhat careful about what you say about upcoming issues because you and Nathan are telling a long form mystery, but what’s it like working on a book like that? Do you enjoy drawing those types of stories?
Absolutely. I like evolving with the characters and really figuring them out. From Issue #1, this has really been Nathan and I’s turn at the adventures of Frank Castle, and I want people to remember it as big and badass.
I really don’t want to spoil anything, because Issue #12 is where nearly every plot we’ve been playing with starts to come together, and it’s ridiculously cool. I put a lot of extra work and heart into the art because the script is completely badass, and I cannot wait for people to get their mitts on it.
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