Swamp Things: Gischler Talks Punisher MAX

Punisher: Frank Castle Max

"Punisher: Frank Castle MAX" #71 on sale June 10

Frank Castle learned his combat skills while fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. Since then, he's been using those skills to hunt criminal scum in the concrete jungles of America's largest cities as The Punisher. But this summer, in a four-part story by Victor Gischler ("Punisher MAX: Little Black Book") and longtime Punisher artist Goran Parlov, Frank Castle stalks prey in a new and dangerous locale: the swamps of Louisiana.

CBR News spoke with Gischler about the arc, which is titled "Welcome to Bayou" and begins in "Punisher: Frank Castle" #71, in stores June 10 from Marvel's MAX imprint.

When he first started writing the Punisher, Gischler found the task difficult because of the character's distinct lack of moral conflict over having murdered countless numbers of people, but the writer's now much more comfortable with Frank Castle's clear perception of his mission. "Once I accepted the fact that Frank was in charge, I took a lot fewer bruises," the writer told CBR News. "It is one of Frank's more appealing traits. It's like you've been given permission to unleash a bull on a china shop. If Frank says people have to die, then that's just the way it is. You ain't gonna talk Frank out of it."

When he agreed to join the Punisher on another mission against the scum of the Earth, Gischler felt it would be interesting to take Frank Castle out of his usual urban environment and see what happens. "I sort of like the idea of dropping a character in the middle of nowhere, and I've done this in my novels a few times. I think seeing a character out of their normal surroundings is something a bit different for the reader too," Gischler said. "Of course, Frank never really feels out of his element. He's ready to kick all possible ass in any situation."

"Welcome to the Bayou" is a self-contained, new-reader-friendly story, and finds the Punisher already in the middle of another mission. "He wanders into the bayou situation and the last thing he needs is another headache, but Frank's not about to walk away from a situation and leave it unresolved," Gischler explained "Especially when, in his expert opinion, he's the best man for the job."

Being the best man for the job means Frank Castle will have to tangle with an entire family of vicious killers, a clan known as the Geautreauxs. "They have been ruling a small patch of swamp for generations. They are a rural, redneck version of royalty and there are lots of cousins and relations to swell their ranks," Gischler revealed. "They've been conducting themselves in a grotesque and unlawful manner for years, and because of the remote location, nobody's noticed--until Frank rolls through."

Several supporting characters will find themselves caught in the middle of The Punisher's bloody crusade against the Geautreauxs. "There are some cute coeds who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time," Gischler remarked. "Also, there's the mysterious cargo that Frank was hauling in his trunk."

The remote setting of "Welcome to the Bayou" also allowed Gischler to play with the tone of the story. The four-issue tale is a blood soaked mash-up of elements from crime fiction and backwoods slasher films. "I'd call it 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' meets 'Devil's Rejects' with a little 'Deliverance' thrown in," Gischler explained.

Gischler was delighted to have his "Welcome to the Bayou" scripts brought to life by veteran Punisher artist Goran Parlov, whose last work on the character was Garth Ennis's now classic "Valley Forge, Valley Forge" story. "I was told a couple of times to go back to the script to add some details for Goran. It was well worth it," Gischler said. "I've seen advanced pages and they look so damn good. The guy is a genius."

Since completing the "Little Black Book" one-shot, Victor Gischler has worked on other Marvel projects like the upcoming "Wolverine: Revolver" one-shot and the new ongoing series "Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth." "Welcome to the Bayou" marks the writer's return to the MAX imprint though and he couldn't be happier. "I love MAX. I like to get pretty edgy in my novels, so writing scripts for MAX was almost like coming home," the writer admitted. "You can push the envelope. But there was this one page in the upcoming arc where my editor Axel Alonso actually asked me to pull it back a little. I felt slightly embarrassed--but also absurdly proud of myself. I think I'm a sicko."

"Punisher: Frank Castle" #71 goes on sale June 10 from MAX.

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