Frank Castle has been a firm favorite among comic book fans ever since he made his first appearance in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man back in 1974, with the troubled antihero standing out among the crowd of more cookie cutter good guys that largely defined Marvel’s output at the time.
The Punisher also happens to be an incredibly violent man with a cool and iconic logo, so his signature skull has been adopted by a number of individuals, groups and organizations over the decades, the majority of whom completely missed the point. After all, the vigilante isn’t supposed to be glorified. He’s a man broken by loss and despair, who makes it his mission to rid the streets of crime and injustice after his entire family is murdered.
As you may’ve seen, there were calls made last week to have Marvel retire the character after an image was widely circulated from inside the Capitol riots that showed somebody sporting the Punisher’s insignia, even though co-creator Gerry Conway released a line of Black Lives Matter-inspired T-shirts and has publicly denounced people appropriating the imagery for their own agendas in the past.
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In a recent interview, famed Punisher writer Garth Ennis was asked what he made of the whole situation, and he didn’t hold back when offering his opinion on those sewing a patch onto their homemade riot gear thinking that they’re suddenly a superhero.
“I’ve said this before a couple of times, but no one actually wants to be the Punisher. Nobody wants to pull three tours of duty in a combat zone with the last one going catastrophically wrong, come home with a head full of broken glass, see their families machine-gunned into bloody offal in front of their eyes and then dedicate the rest of their lives to cold, bleak, heartless slaughter.”
The people wearing the logo in this context are kidding themselves, just like the police officers who wore it over the summer. What they actually want is to wear an apparently scary symbol on a T-shirt, throw their weight around a bit, then go home to the wife and kids and resume their everyday life. They’ve thought no harder about the Punisher symbol than the halfwits I saw, the ones waving the Stars & Stripes while invading the Capitol building.”
Of course, calling for a company like Marvel to retire one of their major long-running characters at the request of an angry Twitter mob isn’t going to happen, and those involved with the Punisher have already made it perfectly clear that many of the people seen sporting the logo don’t represent the values of the comic books, artists, writers or even the character himself. That being said, it’s unlikely that the furor will die down anytime soon.