The Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway has an awkward relationship with the vengeance-obsessed Frank Castle. He’s especially unhappy at his skull symbol being used by law enforcement and the military, saying that Castle must not be “a symbol of oppression”, and he even launched a campaign in 2020 to reclaim it for Black Lives Matter.
The Endless Thread podcast recently did an episode on The Punisher skull in pop culture, in which Conway admitted he’s never seen any of the character’s big-screen appearances. After saying that some of the Punisher movies are “so, so bad”, the host confirmed that Conway refuses to watch them.
This feels a bit harsh. Okay, you’re not missing out on much if you skip Dolph Lundgren’s 1989 version or Thomas Jane’s 2004 update, though I have a serious soft spot for 2008’s Punisher: War Zone. On release, it received terrible reviews and flopped at the box office, but has since become something of a cult classic.
Conway might not be a fan of the character on the big screen, but he definitely has time for Jon Bernthal’s Netflix iteration. Back in 2017, he was asked what he made of this much more complex take on the antihero, saying:
“Jon Bernthal gives The Punisher the kind of pathos that’s underneath the tough guy, and I really like that.”
So far, Disney has been relatively cautious about using the violent outlaw in the MCU, likely for fear that they’ll be accused of glamorizing gun use and encouraging vigilantism. Despite this, the recent reintroduction of Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin has given fans of Netflix’s Punisher hope that Bernthal may return.
In December 2021, Bernthal indicated he’d come back, saying:
“That character, in particular, has real, real, real deep, deep meaning for me and resonance in me. He’s really in my heart, man. He’s really in my bones.”
Perhaps that could even happen on the big screen, finally giving Gerry Conway a reason to watch a movie about his most famous creation.