While there are Punisher stories that I really like (I’m particularly fond of Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite’s Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe), I’ve never been a particularly big fan of The Punisher; not even when he started out as a Spider-Man villain who fired rubber bullets while wearing white gloves.
I could never quite figure out what those gloves were in aid of? Was Frank Castle going around checking shelves on the sly for dust and disciplining lazy domestics?
So, I wasn’t particularly upset when I read that in March The Punisher was going to be reinvented again in a series called Punisher, a 13-issue series by Jason Aaron, Jesus Saiz, and Paul Azaceta. In this series, he gives up his guns, switches to swords, and becomes a warlord for the ninja group known as the Hand. Anyone who was sincerely upset by this development should keep in mind I wrote that he was being reinvented “again” because the character has undergone a remarkable number of weird revisions for such a supposedly “realistic” character.
These "reinventions" of The Punisher have included briefly becoming a black man, replaced by a woman, being turned into a Frankenstein Monster, and going to work for actual Angels who provided him with magic guns. And, in perhaps the strangest, as well as my favorite moment in the character’s history is the comic Punisher Kill Krew (see “Marvel’s Incoming/Upcoming”) where after the War of the Realms event Frank hitched Thor’s flying goat to his van and went around killing elves and giants.The Punisher’s problematic signature skull symbol; they’ve replaced it with a Japanese-inspired one, with a dash of the toxic waste symbol thrown in.
And, of course, Marvel has trademarked it; describing it as consisting “of a stylized design of a human skull with a horn design crossing the skull and extending upward from each side of the skull, with curved, pointed tusks extending from and away from each side of the jaw area." And they’ve licensed the new logo out to appear on "paper party favors; paper party hats; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes".
I have to confess, I never really expected Marvel to actually retire either The Punisher or his skull insignia. However, by turning him into essentially a different character, they’ve managed to do both. By retiring the skull, Marvel and Disney are losing out on a valuable revenue stream and clearly, they’re hoping that the new skull symbol is similar enough to the original to generate the same kind of income for the company. I have my doubts, but we’ll see.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.