Remender on Punisher, Marvel Exclusive

Whether you are reading one of his original creations like "Fear Agent" or "The End League" or his take on a classic character like The Atom or Booster Gold, you know right away when you are reading a comic book written by Rick Remender. In less than a decade in the industry, Remender has created a niche that blends top-notch action and adventure with spot-on humor and dramatic tension.

And now those gifts will reside at the House of Ideas.

With his first two issues of his and artist Jerome Opeña's "Punisher" selling out, Marvel announced today at Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle that Remender has signed an exclusive deal with the publisher.

CBR News caught up with Remender to discuss the deal, talk about "Punisher" and find out else he might have cooking in the Marvel bullpen.

CBR: Were you a Marvel Zombie growing up as a kid? If so, what were your favorite titles?

Rick Remender: Yeah, Marvel was the company I first found and published the majority of what I read until college when it ran more to Vertigo and Fantagraphics. We used to skate the curb at a local 7-11 where they had a rack of comics you had to pass on your way to acquire a Slurpee. The first comic I ever bought was "Secret Wars" #4. It had this cover of the Hulk holding up a mountain with all these beaten up heroes all around him. I was immediately roped in. I got home and read it from cover to cover, within a matter of minutes I was a fan for life. Within a few months I'd found the local comic shop and signed up for a pull list of just about everything Marvel published. "Uncanny X-Men," "Punisher," "Fantastic Four," "Avengers," "New Mutants," "Captain American," "Iron Man," "Thor," I read 'em all for years and years.

Do those titles and their featured heroes remain your favorites today?

Yeah. The "Punisher" miniseries was one of my favorite books at the time so getting a chance to chronicle Frank Castle's adventures in murder is a great treat. But I was crazy for all of it. When anyone asks me what projects I'd like to end up with at Marvel it's hard to answer. The list is long. I'd obviously love a chance to bring some insanity to any of the aforementioned books of my youth.

Okay then, we'll bite. What projects would you like to end up at Marvel?

Well, I'm not sure what I'll have the opportunity to write. Some of my dream choices are very deeply involved with creative teams that will likely be around for a long time, but if I had to make a specific list I'd say: Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Electra, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, the Marvel Monsters, the Marvel street level guys. And ROM.

So you're not sure what other projects you'll be working on just yet?

There are some interesting things being thrown around but nothing I can mention yet.

"Punisher" has kicked off like gangbusters. Were you expecting it to be so popular right off the bat?

Not really. [Editor] Axel [Alonso] was confident people would dig it, but I was too immersed in the work to have any real sense of it. I do know that Jerome and I were both incredibly enthusiastic about the story. When the creators are excited about what they're producing the readers tend to be as well. Seeing the second printings of the issues also begin to sell-out is crazy. I never expected that level of enthusiasm from the readers. Thanks, guys.

What do you love about Frank Castle?

Frank is Marvel's ultimate soldier, think about it, he's dominates the underground in a world full of super soldiers, Gods of Thunder and mega bands and he's still out there, still operating. He's just an insanely driven individual with an objectivist's POV who has a self-assigned mission to murder anyone who falls under his ideal of what is evil. He's a force of nature in that there's no internal conflict in Frank; no trying to figure out if something is right or wrong. When you place Frank in any situation with a batch of characters he's going to do the same thing; find the bad guy, move towards them, and try to kill them.

Frank did a pretty great job by himself against a character who for all intents and purposes is as powerful as Superman. I think that should help people understand who Frank is and why he's a pertinent force in the 616 Marvel U. That fight in "Punisher" #1 is the defining moment of how I plan on writing this series. I don't necessarily like the idea that anyone with something like superhuman strength or a super powered suit would automatically have his or her way with him. Frank will find or create an opportunity against whomever he's up against and if there's any hope, he'll find it and exploit it.

It was Axel Alonso who said, "If you really want to get your head around Frank Castle, he's the guy who, if Galactus was descending into the city, would only be thinking about needing a bigger gun." I always liked that quote. That was what ultimately gave me the idea to give Frank some bigger guns.

What's coming up for Frank in the series?

I think by the end of "Punisher" #4, Frank knows the scope of who he's up against. The Hood's reach and power is well beyond what the Kingpin ever held. Not only has he unionized the super villains he's powered by one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. He's also on the streets getting his hands dirty with his mob. This earns him a different kind of respect and makes him more of a personal threat. Frank is naturally the guy to send against the big crime boss. He'll have to devise a very clever plan to kill The Hood, and he's got a few in mind. However, The Hood brought in an expert on Frank Castle to aid in his take down, a familiar face. Who is this Punisher expert? There are only a few living candidates, I doubt anyone will guess who The Hood chose. It's a nice reveal that will give Punisher readers something to talk about and will also serve to change The Hood's game in a fairly big way.

In the next arc, what happens is, since The Hood is a general of a super villain army, he assembles an entire platoon dedicated to hunting and killing Frank. They're all established characters and I think people are going to be really surprised by who they are. These characters haven't been seen in awhile.

The second arc will establish them as a bunch of characters who are very, very motivated to see Frank Castle die. We're basically setting up a new rogues' gallery for Frank; a team of super villains who really want to see him go down. Without spoiling too much I'll say that the cover to "Punisher" #6 holds some big clues.

To tell you anything about the insanity I've got planned past #6 would spoil some very big moments. When people find out who is drawing some of the upcoming stories and what is happening they'll be shocked. It's overused hyperbole but in this case it's dead to rights, the next year holds the biggest and most exciting changes in the life of Frank Castle we've ever seen. The upcoming events in the Marvel Universe crash down on Frank. Hard.

Tan Eng Huat is coming on board as the series artist with #6. What can you say about his work?

I'm very lucky on Punisher in that I have guys like Jerome Opeña and Tan Eng Huat, who are both master level illustrators as well as top-notch storytellers. Their layouts are clean and accessible, nothing crazy to feed their egos, just simple grids that help maintain immersion in the story and focus on the staging, acting and camera work. On top of that foundation Tan adds a very striking and personal style. I see some Peter Chung in his work.

At this point in your career, especially with all your creator-owned work, why was it the right time to sign an exclusive work-for-hire deal with Marvel?

Over the past few years, I've accumulated a terrible debt from my addiction to betting the farm on underdogs in the local cockfights. The kind people at Marvel have agreed to help me pay off my debts before Sticky Finger Sanchez and his gang of chicken smugglers throw me in the ring to work off my balance due. Upon signing my contract I discovered the cockfights were Marvel sponsored events and it was all big setup. C'est la vie.

All kidding aside, I've produced a couple dozen volumes of creator-owned work in the past few years and have scratched that itch fairly thoroughly. Now I'm in a place at Marvel where I love the work and the people I'm working with, all the planets aligned to not only give me a shot at some of the characters I loved as a kid, but to spin them in a way that stays true to my sensibilities. Axel and I have very similar ideas about what makes good comics and I think that comes through in the new "Punisher" series. Though it's been a lot of hard work, it's also one of the most rewarding work experiences I've had. Truth be told, I'm flattered they want me around.

Any updates from your Image and Dark Horse projects?

"Fear Agent" has one more arc to finish the story and give us a nice place to put it on hiatus. That will run from #28-32 and then Heath Huston is going to take a break. This arc will be with the art team of Mike Hawthorne, Tony Moore and John Lucas.

"Gigantic" ends with #5. I just finished the finale and am very excited to see Eric Nguyen make art sex on it.

"The End League" will go on hiatus after a double-sized issue #9 to be drawn by Andy MacDonald.

"Crawl Space" at Image is still on hold as Kieron Dwyer and I finish the "XXXOMBIES" screenplay.

That will leave my book at Radical, "The Last Days of American Crime," which is scheduled to run from October to December of this year as three separate 48-page issues drawn and painted by future superstar Greg Tocchini with covers by current superstar Alex Maleev.

My creator-owned schedule for the next couple of years will be lean as I'm going to focus all my time and energy on my Marvel work.

"Punisher' #4 goes on sale April 15 from Marvel Comics.

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