even in a world filled with overpowered heroes, the punisher is one of the toughest customers in the marvel universe. while he might not have mutant abilities or fantastic powers, frank castle has led a brutal one-man war on crime with an endless supply of determination, grit and ammunition. while jon bernthal’s punisher will probably only deal with street-level threats in netflix’s the punisher, the marvel universe’s castle has fought some of marvel’s most powerful heroes to a standstill.
now, cbr is looking back at some of the overpowered heroes the punisher totally destroyed. in this list, we’ll be counting down the punisher’s most brutal beatdowns from the main marvel universe and marvel’s expansive multiverse. for the heroes who come across the punisher on a more regular basis, we’ll be highlighting some of their most memorable encounters. even though his trademark brand of high-caliber action usually leaves a high body count, we’ll be including any battles where the punisher won a decisive victory over his opponent, physically or in any other way. while the punisher might just be a regular human, his tactical genius, endless arsenal and bottomless rage make him one of marvel’s most dangerous characters.
15. the entire marvel universe
in the aptly-titled punisher kills the marvel universe, frank castle killed every one of marvel’s heroes and villains with extreme prejudice. in garth ennis and doug braithwaite’s 1995 alternate reality story, the punisher’s family died in a battle involving marvel’s heroes. in the aftermath of the fight, castle started firing into a crowd of heroes, instantly killing cyclops, hawkeye and jubilee.
working with a powerful group of individuals with vendettas against heroes, the punisher continued his violent crusade by executing characters like spider-man and captain america at point blank range. using floods and transporter accidents, castle killed large swaths of characters off-panel, and he lured the x-men and their foes to the moon, where he wiped out the mutants with a nuclear bomb. even though the comic took the grim darkness of the 1990s to its logical conclusion, ennis’ twisted humor injected some much-needed levity into this ultra-dark story.
thanks to his mutant healing factor, wolverine can take just about any kind of punishment. along with their combined popularity, that’s a big part of why logan has been one of the punisher’s most frequent sparring partners over the years. even though they’ve worked together plenty of times too, the pair has had some of the most savage battles in marvel’s history.
in 1988’s punisher war journal #5-6, by carl potts and jim lee, wolverine and the punisher fought to a draw during their first meeting. when the pair met again in 2002’s punisher #16-17, by garth ennis and darick robertson, frank castle brutalized logan with several point-blank shotgun blasts before running over him with a steamroller. when wolverine came looking for revenge in 2004’s punisher #35, by ennis and john mccrea, the punisher used a missile to vaporize the x-man’s torso before sending an angry hulk after him.
as the second season of netflix’s daredevil proved, the punisher and daredevil have one of the best superhero rivalries in comics. the pair got off on the wrong foot when they first met in 1982’s daredevil #183, by frank miller and roger mckenzie. after disagreeing about how to deal with a suspected criminal, punisher shot daredevil with a tranquilizer and fled.
while the punisher and daredevil have fought several times since then, their most famous encounter was in garth ennis and steve dillon’s story “welcome back frank” in 2000’s the punisher #3. after paralyzing daredevil with a sonic weapon, the punisher tied him in chains and taped a gun into his hand. to make a point about their dueling philosophies, the punisher forced daredevil to choose between shooting him or letting him kill a criminal. in a moment of absolute defeat, daredevil realized that he couldn’t stop the punisher.
with the combination of a vast arsenal, a limitless healing factor and a jokey demeanor, deadpool is a perfect foil for the ultra-serious punisher. a few of their encounters have followed the blueprint set up by jimmy palmiotti, buddy scalera and georges jeanty in 2001’s deadpool #54. in that story, a criminal hired the unkillable mercenary to assassinate the punisher.
fred van lente and pere perez’s aptly-titled miniseries deadpool vs. the punisher offered another take on a similar idea, where the punisher ended up shooting deadpool in the head at point blank range multiple times. after working together briefly, frank castle used a more effective method to neutralize deadpool in 2014’s thunderbolts #29, by ben acker, ben blacker and kim jacinto. while the pair expressed their mutual respect, the punisher cut deadpool into pieces and placed each of his body parts in a different vibranium-laced jar so he couldn’t regenerate.
11. iron man
as part of the ongoing marvel legacy relaunch, frank castle will start wearing war machine’s old armor in the pages of matthew rosenberg and guiu vilanova’s the punisher. while that will give frank castle a new arsenal to help him expand his crusade against crime, it won’t be the first time he’s worn a tony stark-designed suit of armor.
in greg rucka and carmine di giandomenico’s 2012 miniseries punisher: war zone, castle battled several avengers who tried to bring him in for his supposed crimes. in that story, castle stole one of iron man’s armors and used it to help his partner, rachel cole-alves, escape from prison. after he abandoned the armor, he rigged it with a bomb that promptly detonated when tony stark approached the armor. even though stark was protected by another iron man suit, the blast was strong enough to draw blood and shatter the abandoned suit.
10. ghost rider
as two of marvel’s most popular characters in the early 1990s, ghost rider and the punisher teamed up on a few occasions. like many superhero team-ups do, their first meeting began with a fight in 1990’s ghost rider #5, by howard mackie and javier saltares. outclassed by the spirit of vengeance, the punisher worked with ghost rider to take down the drug-dealing flag-smasher.
when the punisher and ghost rider had a rematch in 2014’s thunderbolts #29, frank castle was considerably more prepared. in that story by ben acker, ben blacker and kim jacinto, the punisher traveled around the marvel universe gathering mystical weapons and visiting supernatural allies like doctor strange. unharmed by enchanted bullets and uru shivs, ghost rider tried to torture the punisher with his penance stare. when that didn’t work on a regret-free punisher, castle used the rider’s own chains against him and briefly took away his powers.
in his very first appearance, the punisher burst onto the comics scene by taking on one of marvel’s most iconic heroes, spider-man. although he put up a valiant effort during his 1974 debut in gerry conway, gil kane and ross andru’s amazing spider-man #129, spider-man ultimately bested him after a close fight.
while spider-man has beaten frank castle during most of their subsequent battles, frank castle has taken down spider-man in several alternate universes. in what if #58, by chuck dixon and gordon purcell, the punisher killed spider-man with a well-placed bomb inside of a doctor octopus dummy before executing most of spider-man’s villains in cold blood. in spider-man: the animated series, the combined efforts of the punisher and kraven the hunter were the only thing capable of taking down spider-man after he had transformed into the mindless monster, the man-spider.
8. nick fury
even though he didn’t always have a starring role, nick fury quietly shaped the marvel universe from behind the scenes as the director of s.h.i.e.l.d. while the infinity formula extended the wwii hero’s lifespan by decades, it didn’t make fury invulnerable. in 1995, the punisher proved that when he apparently killed nick fury in the storyline “over the edge.”
in that crossover, a minor villain named the spook brainwashed frank castle into thinking that fury had killed his family. after hunting fury down through various tie-in comics, the punisher shot fury in the back in the ominously-titled double edge omega, by john ostrander, kim yale and doug wheatley. after a few years, this story was undone when sharon carter discovered that the late “fury” was a robotic life model decoy in 1998. despite that, the fury duplicate still stands as one of the most prominent characters who was actually killed by the punisher.
7. the hulk
as the hulk is quite fond of saying, he’s the strongest one there is. despite that, the punisher has still been able to outwit the green goliath when their paths have crossed. while the hulk might be invulnerable, bruce banner isn’t. as frank castle explained in 2004’s the punisher #37, by garth ennis and john mccrea, he found an ailing banner after he had been beaten into a state of amnesia.
after taking banner in, the punisher fed him stew laced with explosive material and digestive suppressants. eventually, he forced banner to transform into the hulk and unleashed him on wolverine, spider-man and daredevil, who he was fighting at the time. after the hulk sufficiently beat them, castle detonated the explosives which tore the hulk apart from the inside out. the blast forced the hulk to transform back into banner, who presumably woke up with an incredible stomach ache.
6. batman (jean-paul valley)
despite all of his skills and accomplishments, the punisher is simply no match for batman. while frank castle and bruce wayne have gone about their respective wars on crime with diametrically opposed thoughts on guns, dc’s dark knight has easily bested the marvel vigilante every time they’ve met. however, that wasn’t the case when the punisher met jean-paul valley, who became batman during the “knightfall” storyline, in 1994.
in dennis o’neil and barry kitson’s batman and punisher: lake of fire, the punisher teamed up with valley, who’s better known as the hero azrael, to take down their enemies, joker and jigsaw. since valley’s batman was famously brutal, he and the punisher initially formed an alliance. once that fell apart, the vigilantes unsurprisingly came to blows. after taking a savage beating, the punisher grabbed a gas bomb from batman’s utility belt and used it to knock valley unconscious for some time.
5. vampire x-men
for years, the anthology series what if offered brief, usually depressing glimpses into marvel’s alternate realities. in 1991’s what if #24, roy thomas and tom morgan explored a world where “wolverine was lord of the vampires.” after he and the other x-men were bitten by dracula, wolverine decapitated the count and carved a wave of destruction throughout his world.
after doctor strange was killed by a vampirized juggernaut, his astral spirit possessed frank castle. guided by strange’s spirit, the punisher fought the vampire x-men with a variety of standard vampire-killing items like silver bullets and sunlight from the eye of agamotto. while castle was able to slay heavy hitters like cyclops, storm, colossus, nightcrawler and shadowcat, he wasn’t able to take down wolverine. horrified by kitty pryde’s death, wolverine repented and helped strange’s spirit eradicate all of the vampires with the montessi formula.
4. red hulk
although he hunted the hulk for decades, general thunderbolt ross became the red hulk in 2008. while he shared the green goliath’s strength and savagery, the red hulk also kept ross’ tactical genius. after beating up most of the marvel universe and serving a short stint with the avengers, ross formed a new team of thunderbolts with the punisher, deadpool and some of the other deadliest antiheroes in the marvel universe.
when ross wouldn’t let punisher quiet the team, frank castle defeated each of the group’s members. in 2014’s thunderbolts #31, by ben acker, ben blacker and kim jacinto, the punisher used a hulkbuster armor to take the red hulk on in one-on-one combat. despite the red hulk’s strength, castle used poison-dipped bullets to get him to transform back into his human form. although ross was surprisingly spry for his age, the punisher ultimately beat him into submission.
3. legion of monsters
although they’re not too famous, the legion of monsters is one of the more powerful teams in the marvel universe. created by bill mantlo, frank robbins and steve gan in 1975’s legion of monsters #1, the team brought together several supernatural characters like the infernal man-thing, morbius the living vampire and n’kantu the living mummy.
after wolverine’s son daken sliced the punisher up, the legion of monsters turned frank castle into the “franken-castle.” while he worked with the legion for a time, franken-castle turned against the monsters in 2010’s franken-castle #21, by rick remender and dan brenton. thanks to the magical power of the mystical bloodstone, castle turned back into his human form. even then, he was still able to out-maneuver every member of the legion and their monster-hunting ally eliza bloodstone. after the battle, castle reluctantly surrendered the bloodstone and returned to his more familiar status quo.
like the punisher, the assassin elektra is almost certainly one of marvel’s deadliest antiheroes and has the tendency to come back from certain death with alarming frequency. even though both characters made their marvel cinematic universe debut in the second season of netflix’s daredevil, the pair had a largely unseen relationship in comics for years. as revealed in 2014’s thunderbolts #30, by ben acker, ben blacker and jorge fornes, the pair had a lengthy romantic affair that ended when castle left the assassin.
while the punisher was “outclassed” by elektra’s skill, castle had more luck against elektra in the alternate universe of the max mature-readers imprint. in 2012’s punishermax #20, by jason aaron and steve dillon, the punisher had a gruesome showdown with elektra, who was kingpin’s bodyguard. after surviving several sai stabbings and gunshots, the punisher shot elektra multiple times, taking out one of her eyes and several fingers.
1. the marvel universe (again)
in a story likely inspired by the enduring legacy of 1995’s punisher kills the marvel universe, frank castle went up against everyone again in the aptly-titled marvel universe vs. the punisher. in that 2010 miniseries by jonathan maberry and goran parlov, most of marvel’s heroes and villains contracted a rage virus that turned them into hyper-aggressive cannibals. as the heroes succumbed to the savage plague, the punisher killed dozens of characters like the thing, captain america and magneto in this alternate reality.
over the course of the series, frank castle discovered a handful of uninfected survivors, including a pregnant mary jane watson. while he tried to help them escape from new york, the punisher’s most memorable victory came when he killed the hulk using an arrow made from one of wolverine’s adamantium claws. by single-handedly executing most of marvel’s heroes, the punisher once again proved that he’s marvel’s deadliest hero.
keep it locked to cbr for all the latest on punisher and the rest of the marvel universe. let us know what your favorite punisher beatdown is in the comments!
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