The Punisher is probably Marvel’s most ruthless and uncompromisingly brutal character. He’s not a superhero, he doesn’t have any powers and he doesn’t care about anything other than killing bad guys. After his family was murdered by the mob after the witnessed a hit, Frank Castle started an all out war against the criminals of the Marvel Universe, and he isn’t taking any prisoners. Considering the fact that Castle was a marine and trained with both the army and the navy, when he wants someone dead, he’s pretty good at making it happen. Marvel fans know that when Frank Castle shows up, wearing his iconic skull logo on his chest, things are about to get bloody.
That being said, sometimes the Punisher is just dumb, even though he’s a one man army and a tactical genius. That’s what makes many of these entries so infuriating. He’s not like Spider-Man, who’s really just a young guy trying his best, or even Wolverine, who is ultimately a slave to his rage. Frank Castle is a highly trained soldier, so when he makes dumb decisions, there’s just no excuse. Even some of the badass things he does don’t make sense tactically. While some of these examples might have been fun for fans at the moment, looking back, they don’t make Frank Castle seem all that bright.
15. SHOOTING VILLAINS IN FRONT OF CAP
The Punisher and Captain America might both be former soldiers, but they are very different people. This was made apparent in Civil War #6 (2007) by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, during a scene that takes place in Captain America’s underground Avengers headquarters. When two villains, Plunderer and Goldbug, attempt to join the team, Punisher guns them down.
Cap responds by viciously beating Castle, because he obviously isn’t cool with cold blooded murder. The real question is, how was Castle expecting Cap to react? He’s met the hero before and Cap’s response wasn’t out of character. This scene just makes Castle seem like an impulsive idiot. It’s not like Dr. Doom walked in the room, Castle could’ve waited until nobody was looking to take care of Goldbug.
14. HIS CAP COSTUME
After the beating that Castle took, it seemed pretty clear how Captain America felt about him. When Steve Rogers was assassinated after turning himself in at the end of Civil War, the question came up: who will take his place? Well, apparently Frank Castle thought it would be him, because he designed a new costume that combined the patriotism of Captain America with terror inspiring simplicity of the Punisher.
The costume debuted in Punisher War Journal #8 (2007) by Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti, and it thankfully didn’t last long. Castle claimed he was only wearing it because he was fighting the Hate Monger, a Nazi, but it was pretty obvious he was just living out his fanboy dreams. Castle eventually gave the costume to the Winter Soldier, who ended up taking the mantle of Captain America. He designed his own costume and presumably burned Castle’s monstrosity.
13. TURNING DOWN ANGELS
In 1998, Marvel released one of the most unpopular reboots ever with The Punisher #1 by Christopher Golden, Thomas E. Sniegoski and Bernie Wrightson. The story was called Purgatory and revealed that Frank Castle’s origins were tied to demons. After killing himself, Castle is brought back as an avenging angel, with access to supernatural weapons and abilities. This new status quo was almost immediately retconned by Garth Ennis, who simply had Castle state that he had quit working for the angels.
While this made fans happy, from Castle’s perspective, it wasn’t a great decision. Based on what’s shown in the comics, the angels didn’t want to stop him from killing bad guys. In fact, he’s shown using his “angel” guns on regular people with no consequences. From the character’s perspective, he basically just turned down superpowers, making his life harder, simply because he felt like it.
12. SHOOTING SPIDER-MAN
In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, the Punisher was essentially the same character as the 616 version. He’s eventually hired by Nick Fury (or more accurately, forced) to join the Avengers, who were Fury’s black ops superhero team in the Ultimate Universe. They eventually come into conflict with the Ultimates (the Ultimate Universe version of the Avengers, which is confusing) in Ultimate Avengers vs New Ultimates (2011) by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu.
During the fight, the Punisher attempts to shoot Captain America in the kneecaps, but ends up hitting Spider-Man instead. This injury eventually plays a part in Spider-Man’s death during a battle against the Green Goblin. While it was an accident, if Castle hadn’t been shooting at Captain America to begin with, then it wouldn’t have happened.
11. TRUSTING THE JACKAL
In his very first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1974) by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, the Punisher attacks Spider-Man based on information he received from the Jackal. The Punisher, believing that Spider-Man was a murderer, only realized that the Jackal was misleading him when the villain attempted to kill Spider-Man by attacking him from behind.
While the Punisher eventually realizes that Spider-Man isn’t a killer and doesn’t deserve to die, it’s still strange that the Jackal was able to trick him in the first place. Based on this issue, a guy dressed in a green furry body suit tells Frank Castle to kill somebody, and he agrees without verifying the info. Apparently, there wasn’t anything about the Jackal that set off any warning bells in the Punisher’s mind.
10. ATTACKING THE THUNDERBOLTS
The Punisher doesn’t work well with others, so of course his stint as a member of General Ross’ Thunderbolts wasn’t going to end well. When the Punisher wasn’t allowed to kill Dr Faustus in Thunderbolts #27 (2014) by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker and Carlo Barberi, he quit the team. The Leader, who was being forced to work with the team at the time, took advantage of the situation by planting a bomb in the Punisher’s safe house with a note on it that said “you don’t quit us, you’re fired.”
This led the Punisher to respond by trying to kill the rest of the Thunderbolts. While it was cool to see the Punisher’s contingency plans, this was just another example of Frank shooting first and never asking questions. For a guy that takes crime so seriously, he tries to kill innocent people way too often.
9. MISTAKING ARCHIE FOR A DRUG LORD
Obviously, The Punisher Meets Archie (1994) by Batton Lash, John Buscema and Stan Goldberg wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but it still isn’t a great showing for Frank. The basic plot is that Castle is chasing after a mobster named Melvin Jay, and they both end in Riverdale. It turns out that Melvin looks just like Archie, and everyone keeps mistaking the two for each other.
That means that Melvin ends up going to a school dance with Veronica and the Punisher almost kills Archie. Once Castle realizes his mistake (because, it’s incredibly obvious that Archie is not a criminal), he tracks down the real Melvin, and a shootout breaks out at the school dance. For someone that allegedly only kills criminals, Castle sure seems to point guns at innocent people fairly often.
8. SHOOTING UP EMINEM’S ENTOURAGE
While the Punisher’s meeting with Archie might have been odd, his “team-up” with Eminem was just plain weird. The two met in Eminem/The Punisher (2009) by Fred Van Lente and Salvador Larroca, and the story makes about as much sense as one would expect a team-up between a killer vigilante and a world famous rapper would. Basically, the Parent’s Music Council hires Barracuda to kill Eminem, and the Punisher shows up to save him.
Arriving just in time to protect Em, Punisher makes his entrance… by shooting up the rapper’s entourage, which leads Eminem into thinking that the Punisher is after him. While the rest of the issue features fights where characters quote Eminem lyrics, it’s never actually explained whether or not Em’s entourage were in on Barracuda’s plans. The Punisher might’ve shot and killed several bodyguards for no reason other than they were in the way.
7. POISONING A FUNERAL
After getting killed by the Punisher in the first issue of the series, a wake is held for Stilt-Man in Punisher War Journal (2007) #4 by Rick Remender and Mike Deodato Jr. While the event is attended by mostly villains, the majority aren’t heavy hitters. They’re mostly C and B level bad guys who are down in the dumps. The Prowler shows up to pay his respects, and Spider-Man even makes an appearance.
Eventually, everyone starts getting sick and they realize that the Punisher had been undercover as the bartender and had poisoned the drinks. Castle then blew the bar up. It’s later revealed that the villains got the stomachs pumped and were treated for third degree burns, making this a pretty ineffective bombing. Attacking a wake full of sad and lonely losers is already pretty low, but to not even accomplish anything is worse.
6. FIGHTING DIRTY AGAINST WOLVERINE
When Garth Ennis started writing the Punisher, he made it clear that he didn’t care for superheroes. Whenever a costumed crime fighter would show up in one Ennis’ Punisher comics, it never went well, but nobody got it worse than Wolverine. The mutant crossed paths with Castle while investigating a series of leg amputations in Punisher #16 and 17 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.
While Wolverine did attack Castle first, believing him to be the one behind the attacks, it was ultimately revealed that a new gang was responsible. Instead of teaming up, however, Castle shot Logan in the groin and then crushed him with a steamroller once the fight with the gang was over. Once Wolverine discovered Castle wasn’t responsible for the original crimes, he wasn’t interested in fighting him anymore. All Castle accomplished was pissing off an indestructible killer who has the world’s shortest temper.
Castle’s one-man war on crime finally came back to bite him in Dark Reign: The List – Punisher (2009) by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. Having caught the attention of Norman Osborn, who was the head of H.A.M.M.E.R. at the time, the Punisher found himself being hunted by Daken, Wolverine’s son. The fight ended with Daken decapitating Castle and then dismembering the rest of him.
Normally, this would be the end of the story, but Castle was resurrected in The Punisher #11 (2009) by Rick Remender and Tony Moore. Only, he was brought back as a Frankenstein’s monster version of himself, referred to as Frankencastle and became a member of the Legion of Monsters. Thankfully, he was restored to his normal human self after only a few issues, and Frankencastle just seems like a vague nightmare at this point.
4. TYING DAREDEVIL UP
Castle has always had a complicated relationship with the other heroes of the Marvel Universe, who can’t reconcile the Punisher’s body count. In one of their most memorable encounters, Daredevil attempts to stop Castle from killing a gangster in Punisher #3 (2000) by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Castle knocks Daredevil out, chains him to a chimney and tapes a gun to his hand.
Castle wants Daredevil to choose to either kill him or let him kill the gangster. It turns out, the gun has no firing pin, which is good because the plan made no sense. Daredevil could’ve shot Punisher and not killed him. People survive getting shot all of the time in the Marvel Universe, and even if Frank was wearing armor, the bullet would’ve knocked him off balance. Even though the Punisher was just messing with Daredevil, the setup still didn’t make any sense.
3. TRUSTING ASH WITH HIS LIFE (AND AMMO)
After the surprise hit of the original Marvel Zombies miniseries, Marvel followed up with the crossover Marvel Zombies vs Army of Darkness (2007) by John Layman and Fabiana Neves. Ash, from the Evil Dead film series, finds himself transported to the Marvel Zombies Earth right as the outbreak is beginning. After encountering several heroes, he runs into the Punisher, who brings Ash along with him as he attempts to formulate a plan.
When the two encounter a swarm, Punisher gives Ash his ammo and tells him to keep feeding it to him. When he asks for a reload, however, he discovers that Ash has abandoned him. Which is completely in character for Ash, who the Punisher had literally just met. If Frank had taken the time to get to know the guy a little bit before trusting him with his life, he may not have ended up as Zombie lunch.
2. USING SPIDER-MAN AS A PUNCHING BAG
As previously stated, superheroes that appeared in Garth Ennis’ Punisher stories were never treated well. While Wolverine got it pretty bad, what Punisher did to Spider-Man was just mean. In The Punisher #2 (2001) by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, Frank is saved by the web head after getting thrown off a building by the Russian. Spider-Man tries to help take the villain down, but ends up getting knocked out.
How does Frank repay Spider-Man for saving his life? By picking up the hero’s unconscious body and using it as a shield, allowing the Russian to beat the hero mercilessly. Castle assumes Spidey can take it, despite the fact that the Russian just knocked the wall crawler out. He’s clearly strong enough to hurt the guy, so it might not be the best idea to use his head as a fist blocker.
1. DREAMING ABOUT KILLING AL CAPONE
The Punisher can be a hard character to fit into the Marvel Universe. Marvel Knights: The Punisher #8 (2002) by Ron Zimmerman and Mike Lilly is an example of how not to use Frank Castle in the superhero world. In this issue, Frank approaches Reed Richards and has him send him back in time to kill Al Capone, the father of organized crime.
Apparently, Castle believes that this will prevent the crime families from forming and ultimately save his family. It’s not a great plan, and if he’s going to travel to the past to save his family, it would make more sense to just save them directly. It doesn’t matter, however, because it’s just a dream. Not only is the plot illogical, but it’s also a complete cop out too!
The Punisher will likely play a big role in Marvel’s “Secret Empire,” and the next issue is set to hit the stands on June 14, 2017!
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