The Punisher's armory is one of the most celebrated weapons caches in all of comicdom. Coming in June, Punisher fans will see Frank Castle dust off a weapon he's never used before: a feather duster.
In "Punisher MAX: Naked Kill," a 32-page MAX Comics one-shot written by Jonathan Maberry with Laurence Campbell on art, the Punisher must infiltrate a building with security so tight he can't bring any weapons along with him. So he uses whatever he can find - items such as pencils, a trash bag and the aforementioned feather duster.
"I have the Punisher do some very nasty stuff with a trash bag," Maberry told CBR. "It's like MacGyver gone bad."
Maberry, a winner of multiple Bram Stoker Awards and best known for his latest zombie novel, "Patient Zero," based the idea of "Naked Kill" on an actual philosophy of Jujutsu called Hadaka Korosu, which means "naked kill" - a reference to fighting without conventional weapons.
"It was invented by the samurai," Maberry said. "A sword breaks in the battlefield, the other samurai still have swords. You have to use whatever you can to survive. Frank Castle is not a deeply trained martial artist, but he is a very practical man."
Maberry knows the philosophy works - he's used it. Years ago, before his writing career, Maberry worked as a bodyguard in the entertainment industry. Although he carried a gun, the venues were usually too crowded to allow gunfire. But he didn't hesitate using whatever was handy at the time. "I used everything from a half a lemon to bar towels, video cassette holders to a handful of peanuts," Maberry revealed.
Yeah, but the Punisher armed with a trash bag?
Maberry said it would be very easy for Frank Castle to do some serious damage to a person with a trash bag - and again, he speaks from experience. "Think of a trash bag - it's very tough - try tearing it apart with your bare hands. If you hold both ends very tightly and hit a bad guy with it a couple times, passing your fists past his head... I did it and gave a guy whiplash. But he came at me with a knife."
Having hurt a fair amount of people in bodyguard-related situations, Maberry brings a special level of expertise to the Punisher. The writer is a 2004 inductee into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame for his many books on the topic, including "E.S.M.: Effective Survival Methods" (1985) and "Ultimate Jujutsu Principals and Practices" (2002). Maberry is also a longtime Punisher fan, enjoying the character since his first appearance in "Amazing Spider-Man" # 129.
"I loved 'Preacher,' and then I followed Garth Ennis to 'Punisher,'" Maberry said.
"I gobbled up his run, those are some of the best crime comics out there. That's the thing about the Punisher - he's not a superhero. Don't get me wrong, I love superheroes, but the Punisher is just a guy on a mission. He's technically a one-note character - he has no sense of humor, no romantic interests, he doesn't break down emotionally -- but that has still brought out some great writing. The world around the Punisher creates a canvas for great storytelling."
"Punisher: Naked Kill" is Maberry's second published comic book. A short story in "Wolverine: The Anniversary" was his first - though he actually wrote "Naked Kill" before the Wolverine short. As a novelist, it's been an interesting - and enlightening - transition to writing for comic books. "My shortest novel was 408 pages - 140,000 words," Maberry sid. "Writing a comic, only 32 pages, it felt incredibly short. I kept asking myself, 'How am I going to get everything in?'"
Maberry said both of the artists he's worked with have done an exceptional job at properly conveying his vision. For "Ghosts," his story in "Wolverine: The Anniversary," that artist was Tomm Coker. For "Naked Kill," Laurence Campbell brings the pain.
"The artists are blowing me away. Being inside comics makes me appreciate how it's done," Maberry said of the creative process. "Everyone is dedicated to putting out a good book. It shows a total lack of egotism. That frees up my creative process - I can take risks, I don't have to be conservative. I trust that the artist is bringing his A-game."
Maberry has been a Marvel Zombie since he first read "Fantastic Four" # 51, the classic "This Man, This Monster" story. To be writing for Marvel Comics now is a dream come true. "My agent sent [Marvel Executive Editor] Axel Alonso a copy of "Patient Zero" - it's a bio-tech thriller. Axel liked it and called me and asked if I'd like to write for Marvel," Mayberry recalled. "It was surreal, I couldn't believe I was having this phone conversation, it was like a dream. Let me wake up first!
"Axel said they wanted to see me pitch Punisher. I spent a day coming up with ideas for the character, and the one they liked was 'Naked Kill.'"
Maberry expects to see one of his novels optioned by Hollywood soon, but he's also happy to be writing for the House of Ideas. "The thing about Marvel is, for a while, everyone was pointing at Vertigo, saying that was the place for the best comic stories. But for a while now, Marvel has been putting out some really great stuff - Victor Gischler on 'Deadpool,' Jason Aaron on 'Ghost Rider' is just brilliant, Peter David has always been brilliant."
There will be more comics with Jonathan Maberry's name on them in the near future, but the writer has to remain mum on the details for now. Expect an announcement in the next few weeks, though. "The relationship [with Marvel] is very strong," he said "I love them, they love me - I couldn't be more pleased. I think this will be a long relationship."
But if it's such a lovefest, couldn't Maberry have talked them into showing the Punisher with a feather duster on the cover?
"He is by definition a killer - he doesn't ever need a weapon," Maberry said. "But in the very last part of the book, he has guns. Anyone who wants to see gunplay... they won't be disappointed."
"Punisher MAX: Naked Kill" goes on sale in June from Marvel/MAX Comics.