The Punisher is, simply put, one of the most dangerous men on Earth.
Marvel Comics’ highly-trained Marine turned vigilante possesses a wealth of combat skills, and an almost superhuman level of tenacity. But in the end, Frank Castle is still a human soldier waging a war on crime in a world of superhuman criminals capable of throwing lightning bolts and crushing steel with their bare hands. Of course, if he was given a weapon that allowed him to fully unleashed his killer instinct and iron resolve, there would be few villains — or heroes — that could stand in his way.
Such a weapon falls into Frank Castle’s hands this November when writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Guiu Vilanova bring Frank Castle into the Marvel Legacy era with the Punisher #218. The issue is the kick-off to a new arc where Castle inherits the War Machine armor — the Tony Stark-designed battle suit that transformed his now deceased friend Jim Rhodes into a super soldier. That inheritance comes courtesy of former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, who views an empowered Punisher as a very useful tool.
CBR: Matthew, you’re beginning your Punisher run after the character had a pretty high profile and controversial role in Secret Empire, where he was manipulated into serving Hydra by the evil version of his idol, Steve Rogers. How’s he processing that when you pick up with him?
Matthew Rosenberg: That’s an interesting question. I think one of the things that I find so fascinating about the Punisher is how unwavering he is. He has one goal — put as many bad guys in the ground as possible — and he will do anything to get there. His role in Secret Empire was troubling, even for a man like Frank Castle who is, himself, troubling. But it was supposed to be. Seeing Frank jump into bed with bad people to get the chance to go at other bad people is tough to swallow but it raises some interesting questions about what and where his lines are.
When we pick up with Frank, he has moved past that in a lot of ways. I like to think he has regrets and sees a chance to set some things right, but he’s not really someone who is big on introspection or verbalizing his feelings. In our series, Frank is going up against a fascist military government, trying to do what he always does, kill the bad guys. Is his decision to do this a reaction to Secret Empire? It’d be disingenuous to say it wasn’t a factor. But is he also going to cross some lines and maybe fall into some of the same traps as before? Yeah, for sure. And that’s where his nature comes in to play. Frank is so driven and so determined that people will always try and use that to their advantage, angle him the way they want. But he can’t be controlled. It’s like strapping a saddle on a tiger — sometimes you’ll get where you want, but more often than not, you will be witness to a slaughter.
When you kick things off in Punisher #218, you thrust the character back into the middle of the Marvel Universe by having him obtain the War Machine battle suit, which means he now has the potential to tackle some powerful targets and super villains. Can you talk about how Frank initially feels about gaining such a powerful weapon?
It’s all about scale. Like a gas, Frank just expands to fit the need. Give Frank a knife, and he will go at people within stabbing distance. Give him a gun, and and the targets get bigger and further away. Now, Frank can go anywhere and take on almost anyone, so he is happy… “happy” might not be the right word. I don’t think he really works that way, but he has sights set on some big targets and that makes him feel good.
What’s it like writing the Punisher in the War Machine armor?
It’s great in a lot of ways. Having Frank be able to fly and do War Machine stuff is very fun, but it’s also its own set of challenges. I like my Punisher to be the strong, silent type. I think he works best when he fits almost the Jason Vorhees mold. But when you put him in the armor two things happen. His ability and/or need to be stealthy goes out the window, which is okay. But the other, more interesting challenge is the disconnect. People always feel connected to the Punisher in stories, even if they don’t realize it, because they can see his face. Putting him in the armor takes that away, and that was a big realization to me. I think we have a fun way around it that works really well. But we’ll see if people feel the same way about armored Frank as they do about regular Frank.
The man who gives Frank the War Machine suit is former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury. It seems like in striking up a relationship with the Punisher, Fury is really playing with fire. Can you talk about how Nick and Frank initially view each other? Does Frank’s dealings with Nick’s father, Nick Fury Sr., factor at all into their relationship?
Playing with fire is a good way to put it. As to how they view each other? Not well. Frank thinks Fury is duplicitous and shifty, always playing too many angles. Fury thinks of Frank as a useful sociopath. So it’s not the foundation for a great friendship, but uneasy alliances are always more fun anyway, right? And Frank’s history with Fury Sr. may cut Junior a little slack, but Frank judges everyone on their own merits. And he finds almost everyone wanting, so…
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