Interview: Fred Van Lente Referees Deadpool & Punisher's Bloody Battle

It's well documented that Deadpool has a manic motormouth and a healing factor that makes him virtually unkillable. As a result, battling him is an experience that would try the patience and focus of just about anyone. Unfortunately for him, there's one individual infamous throughout the Marvel Universe for his laser focus and ability to hunt a target until it's destroyed. He also happens to know what it's like to fight against -- and reluctantly alongside -- Deadpool. This April, Wade Wilson finds himself in Frank Castle's crosshairs, as Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez kick off the five issue “Deadpool Vs. Punisher” miniseries.

This is no simple slugfest between two of Marvel's murderous anti-heroes, though. Once the opening shots are fired, the conflict will escalate into a worldwide melee, as Frank and Wade battle not only each other, but an army of villains out for their blood. CBR spoke with Van Lente about his take on his title characters, the nature of their dispute, the villains looking to end them, and the characters caught up in the crossfire.

CBR: How does it feel to return to Deadpool? And what's it like writing the Punisher? Have you written Frank Castle before?

Fred Van Lente: I technically wrote Castle before in a custom book called “Eminem Vs. the Punisher,” which is kind of infamous in my oeuvre. That was fun. I'm really enjoying writing him with this book, partly due to the fact that Deadpool is in it. He's unequivocally set in the Marvel Universe, and you don't always get to see the Punisher interact with villains like the ones you'll be seeing in this book. That's a lot of fun.

EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Deadpool vs. Punisher" #1, by Pere Perez and Ruth Redmond

I like Deadpool when he has a foil to play off of, and Frank is so serious all the time, so he's a great contrast to Deadpool. You get a great buddy feel with the two of them -- not in the sense that they're buddies, but more in a sense that they're stuck together in a situation.

The Punisher is a character who's been written a lot of different ways. Some writers allow you into his head and provide his inner monologue, while others portray him as more of a taciturn, almost Jason Voorhees-style killer. What can you tell us about your approach to the character?

I've fallen completely in love with the Punisher while writing this book. I think he's hilarious. [Laughs] That might not be exactly what Punisher fans want to hear.

My favorite run on the character was Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's during Marvel Knights. That was a very funny book because it was sort of playing off of Punisher's sort of deadpan humor and relentless approach to exterminating crime. It had a lot of fun with that, and that's definitely what I'm trying to do with this book. Plus, the idea of doing a grim and gritty Deadpool story seemed kind of silly to me.

Really, this is classic peanut butter and chocolate. You can argue which one is which, but both are getting elements of the other in the story. The Punisher has to deal with the insanity of Deadpool's world, and Deadpool will have to deal with some of the grimness of Frank's world.

Will the Punisher have an inner monologue?

He does in the first issue. Typically, I do inner monologues to set up characters and get their voices. Then they can kind of fall away as the comic continues, because you don't really need them that much any more. So yes, there are dueling inner monologues in classic Frank Miller style in the first issue.

Deadpool will always be a manic, impulsive and emotionally adolescent character, but he has grown a bit in recent years, having established a family and some close friendships with characters like S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Emily Preston. What sides of Wade Wilson are we going to see here?

EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Deadpool vs. Punisher" #1, by Pere Perez and Ruth Redmond

I think Deadpool, like most superheroes and most Marvel characters, works best when there's an element of tragedy that's introduced. In “Deadpool Vs. the Punisher,” we're introducing a character named the Bank. He's one of Wade Wilson's oldest friends. He knows him from before Wade even got involved with the Weapon X program. So when the Punisher sets his sights on the Bank, who handles Deadpool's money and the money of a lot of other shady characters, Deadpool feels obliged to defend him.

I think what makes this book work is, it's not a case of anybody being mistaken for a villain, or mind control, or some other contrivance that brings them into conflict. Deadpool is fighting the Punisher to save the life of his friend. Punisher is trying to knock off his friend, and perhaps Deadpool doesn't understand the depths of depravity that Frank is capable of. So -- perhaps there are some misunderstandings after all. [Laughs]

I wanted them to actively want to kill each other. It's not a case of a villain tricking them into fighting each other, or something like that.

Te Bank is a new behind the scenes finance type character, created specifically for this story.

Yeah, he's a character who's been the money man for a lot of the shadier elements of the Marvel Universe. He's a money launderer. He runs an off shore bank and manages the money of some of the biggest villain,s including the Kingpin and some of terrorist organizations. He also manages Deadpool's money. Since Deadpool is a mercenary, he is in that grey area.

When the Punisher tries to figure out what's going on with the Bank and attacks the Bank's compound, it happens to be when Deadpool is in attendance. Plus, the Bank has a wife and a young son, and in the gunfight that arises something untoward happens that is sort of the driving force of the rest of the story.

What can you tell us about how the conflict between Frank and Wade will manifest? It seems like you're dealing with two characters with very different styles of strategic thinking.

Yes -- also, radically different abilities. Deadpool's healing factor means he never really has to deal with his own mistakes because he just heals from them, and the subtitle for this book is called “Bullet to the Brain.” Let's just say it's very literal.

The focus of “Punisher Vs. Deadpool” will, of course, be on the title characters, but will some other familiar Marvel characters also play roles in the series?

EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Deadpool vs. Punisher" #1, by Pere Perez and Ruth Redmond

Yes. It's not just Deadpool versus the Punisher, and the Punisher versus Deadpool. It's also much of the criminal side of the Marvel Universe versus both of them. They're trying to kill each other, other people are trying to kill them, and they're trying to kill somebody else. It's 100-plus pages of pure insanity.

There is one villain in this story that I'm particularly happy with. It's a long time Deadpool villain who will be playing a very significant role. He's a character I've written a lot of in the past, and it's very cool to come back to him.

What's it like reuniting with Pere Perez, your “Archer and Armstrong” collaborator? Seems like his martial arts background and his affinity for humor makes him a pretty good fit for this project.

Pere brings a great amount of realism to the fights. His knowledge of martial arts is so vast that often I literally write, “Pere, feel free to stage this fight and I'll add the dialogue in as necessary.” We did that a lot at Valiant, and we're using that approach here as well.

We've had a lot of conversations about the what the Punisher's fighting style is versus Deadpool's. We also have a villain who does pretty much every fighting style, which is definitely a challenge for Pere. I like throwing that kind of stuff at him.

It's a globetrotting story. We start on one continent and then move to several others. There's a heist, a sea battle, lots of explosions, lots of blood being shed, lots of bullets flying. It's completely insane. I just hope it ends up being a crazy comic thrill ride. It's definitely one of the most action-packed things I've ever done, and Pere is really bringing it. People will need to set each issue aside and catch their breath when they're done.

EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Deadpool vs. Punisher" #1, by Pere Perez and Ruth Redmond
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