The Punisher is a former soldier turned gun-toting vigilante on a one-man mission to violently rid the streets of crime. As such, it’s no surprise whatsoever that the character has many fans in law enforcement and the military. This has long presented Marvel Entertainment with a dilemma, as military units, police departments, militias and various extreme right-wing groups have appropriated the iconic Punisher skull as their own.
That symbol has come to the forefront during the protests against the murder of George Floyd. Pictures of riot cops forcibly restraining peaceful protestors while sporting Punisher skull patches is not a good look for Marvel, especially as they’ve publicly supported Black Lives Matters and Disney has pledged $5 million in funds to support it (beginning with a $2 million donation to the NAACP).
Now, fans have launched a campaign for the studio to take action. Pointing to The Walt Disney Company’s armies of lawyers and history of aggressive litigation to defend their IP, they’re asking them to crack down on its usage. Marvel Comics writers seem to agree, as in July 2019’s The Punisher #13 by Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Antonio Fabela, and Cory Petit, the character comes across cops who’re fans of him, and here’s how it plays out:
A big supporter of getting this removed from uniforms is Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway, who supports Black Lives Matter and has launched a project “to reclaim the Punisher skull as a symbol of justice.” He went on to say:
“As to the debate over whether the Punisher symbol can ever be a symbol for justice — I agree that’s an open question. What it must *not* be is a symbol of oppression. I want to deny police the use of the symbol by claiming it for BLM. Call it irony.”
Disney bringing legal action against police officers for copyright infringement would no doubt be hugely controversial in the current political climate. But, if they don’t, then they’ll look like massive hypocrites. Let’s hope that for once their legal attack dogs can go after a worthy target.