Why Marvel is Ashamed of The Punisher & Fans Still Embrace Him


The Punisher is one of the most popular, non-superpowered comic book characters of the last 50 years and has been a staple of the Marvel Comics universe for decades. The character was originally created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Ross Andru, and made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 in February 1974. The character later scored his own ongoing series which was written by Eisner Award winning writer Mike Baron who stayed on the series for over five years.


The violence of the era inspired the creation of the character, and there were already other similar protagonists in the seventies that fit the description of a lonely, violent and vengeful anti-hero those portrayed by Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. And many readers quickly compared the Executioner book series by Don Pendleton to Conway’s creation.


The Punisher is the alter ego of Frank Castle, a former Marine who became a vigilante after his family was murdered by mobsters. Frank is known for his brutal methods and relentless pursuit of justice, which is what led to him becoming one of the most iconic antiheroes in comic book history.



Over the years, The Punisher has been adapted into numerous media formats, including comic books, movies, television shows, and even video games. He is often depicted as a complex and conflicted character, and his brutal methods have made him a divisive figure in the world of comics. His iconic skull logo has been adopted by both the U.S. military and members of law enforcement, leading many left leaning creators in the comic book industry to loathe the character, not only for the fact that military and cops have adopted his logo, but because he uses guns as his primary weapons.



In the most recent relaunch of the Punisher title at Marvel Comics, writer Jason Aaron has been retconning the character in several significant ways and many say the reason for this is that the very left-wing publisher is ashamed of what the character represents in today’s culture. In the newest Marvel Comics series, Frank trades his guns for swords, he changes his iconic logo to something that looks more alien than scary, and the series portrays Frank Castle as a sociopath that started killing long before he was even in the military. In fact, Jason Aaron’s Punisher was killing all the way back to when he was only a child. It’s disgusting. And it has convinced discerning comic fans that Marvel wants its readers to hate the Punisher.



Punisher creator Gerry Conway even told the Los Angeles Times that he found it “disturbing” that law enforcement adopted his character “because the Punisher represents a failure of the justice system … so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically siding with an enemy of the system. … He is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.”



Despite this, The Punisher remains a popular character, and continues to capture the imaginations of comic book fans around the world.  And although the skull has its origins in comic book, it’s taken on an entirely new meaning with law enforcement and the military. It’s now a brand for anyone willing to stand for what’s right. Sure, Captain America’s shield might be a more apt symbol for that, but the Punisher’s skull has more of an impactful meaning easily caught by the viewer.



The late Chris Kyle explained his use of the skull best in his autobiography, American Sniper:


“Our Comms guy suggested it before the deployment. We all thought what the Punisher did was cool: He righted wrongs. He killed bad guys. He made wrongdoers fear him. That’s what we were all about. So we adapted his symbol  — a skull — and made it our own, with some modifications. We spray-painted it on our Hummers and body armor, and our helmets and all our guns. And we spray-painted it on every building or wall we could. We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to f*ck with you… It was our version of PsyOps. You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us. Because we will kill you, mother f*cker. You are bad — we are badder.


Wes Daugherity of Thinking Critical had this observation about Jason Aaron’s current run on the character.



Marvel Comics Break Everything Special About Punisher

Those who have embraced the original concept and the logo won’t care what Marvel Comics does with the character. The dye has already been cast. So whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Frank Castle is one of the most enduring characters in the world of comics, and his legacy will continue to live on for generations to come.



Avatar photo

Chris Braly

I'm one opinionated, based geek. I try to steer this tiny ship and can often be heard monthly on the Comic Book Page Previews Spotlight podcast with several fellow "comic book nerds." Follow me on Twitter @ChrisBraly. My preferred adjectives are brilliant/beautiful.