Three years ago, writer Garth Ennis unleashed Frank Castle AKA the Punisher upon the sickest and most degenerate members of the criminal underworld in the pages of the "Punisher" series from Marvel Comics' MAX imprint. Since then, the series has seen the gun-toting vigilante run up against the worst of the worst and rack up an enormous body count. Featuring art by "mature readers" legend Howard Chaykin, "Punsher" #50 hits stores in August and begins the new storyline entitled "Long, Cold Dark." CBR News spoke with Garth Ennis about his series and its milestone issue.
The "Punisher" Max series began in 2004, but Garth Ennis's first Punisher story was the twelve-issue Marvel Knights "Punisher" mini-series, which he wrote back in 1999. Ennis has gone on to chronicle Frank Castle's exploits for almost a decade now, but the writer still finds Castle a compelling character. "He sees the world in very black and white terms, he solves his problems with utter finality," Ennis told CBR News. "You can always rely on him to act a certain way. It's interesting to move a character like that through the complex situations life throws up. And he is, I think, an interesting reflection of our times."
The Punisher's vendettas in the MAX series have brought him up against the dregs of society and involved him in some horrific situations, but ultimately, Frank Castle's campaign against crime hasn't affected him deeply. "Some of the situations he comes up against piss him off more than others ('The Slavers'), some give him pause for thought ('Widowmaker'), but he remains the same man throughout. His response to any problem: when in doubt, hit back hard."
At the climax of the most recent "Punisher" story arc, "Widowmaker," Castle is told by the physically and emotionally scarred mafia widow Jenny, who'd just carried out her own act of vengeance, that only the Punisher can do what he does and still manage the overwhelming sadness and death that come with revenge. When asked what qualities of Frank Castle allow him to do what he does, Ennis answered, "This storyline and the next one will explore that very question."
When the next storyline, "Long, Cold Dark" begins, the events of "Widowmaker" and Frank's encounter with Jenny are still on his mind. "He's in a fairly reflective mood, but he's still very much on-mission," Ennis said.
The Punisher goes bi-coastal in "long, Cold Dark" with events unfolding both in New York and in California. "It involves Barracuda finding an interesting and previously unexpected angle to hit Frank from, and Frank's equally creative response," explained Ennis. "We'll see just how smart and how dangerous Barracuda is, and how downright lethal Frank can be when riled."
"Long, Cold Dark" marks the third time Ennis has written a story featuring the imposing hitman known as Barracuda. For Ennis, it's the character's unique personal conditions that make Barracuda such fun to write. "It's his optimism, sense of humor and grotesque sense of creativity," Ennis stated.
Details are naturally few when it comes to upcoming Marvel Comics storylines, but Ennis did indicate that some important supporting characters do become entangled in the Punisher and Barracuda's vendetta against each other. "Most don't last long enough to be worth mentioning," Ennis said. "The two that survive a little bit longer I can't really name, it'd give the game away a bit.
"[The story] is certainly dark," Ennis continued. "There's definitely a streak of melancholy running through it, but there's also a lot more action than 'Widowmaker. With Barracuda involved there's bound to be some humor, but something happens to him early on that stops him laughing for a while. Barracuda has such a big personality and has so much to say for himself that he sometimes tends to dominate events, even overshadowing Frank to an extent. But like I say, we're going to see just how far Frank will go when the chips are down."
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