The Punisher: Extended Cut (2006), the animated prologue
Frank Castle and his team are on a mission to arrest two suspects who murdered two U.N. Peacekeepers. Frank captures the two suspects and delivers to the major.
“Frank Castle – Secure the prisoners!
Major – Secure them? We are going to terminate these murderers right here, right now!
Frank – You aren’t authorized to execute these prisoners, sir…There’s no justice in that!
Major – They aren’t soldiers, they are terrorists!
Frank – They say the same thing about us
Major – Where is the justice in what they did?
Frank – You pull that trigger…you are guilty of murder, sir!”
Frank Castle made his point, and he walks away. One of the two suspects reaches for a grenade on the belt of the major and ends up blowing himself and every one of Frank Castle’s unit. Frank looks from outside in anger and horror; he sees the dead bodies of his comrades. He believes that they are dead because he showed mercy to the enemy. Frank loses interest and willingness to forgive and give murderers a second chance. At that moment, the Punisher is born.
The scene is powerful, and so is Frank’s motivations. Even in the main storyline, when Frank comes home and while spending some quality family time, he and his family get caught in a crossfire and his entire family is killed in front of his eyes. The Punisher is born after that. The Punisher does what probably no other superhero would do. His war on terror is brutal and personal.
Garth Ennis wrote Punisher stories in a more realistic and violent way. Garth Ennis revived the Punisher and re-introduced him as the never-forgiving, one-man army. Although, Garth deconstructed the character and modified a few things.
For example, in Garth Ennis’ The Punisher: Born, he presented Frank Castle as an inborn killer who wasn’t born when his family was killed but was born in the war field. He made a point that although, the death of Frank’s family was traumatizing to him, in a way it also gave him an excuse to kill again. But when you think about it: All Frank Castle’s stories prove one thing – it was the war and the United States of America that created The Punisher. The Punisher is a product of today’s society. Frank Castle was sent to war, and then he brings the war home.
Although Garth Ennis believes Frank Castle is a sociopath and a serial killer, Gerry Conway, the creator of The Punisher, believes that Frank is driven by vengeance, but he sees and is aware of what’s going on around him. However, in all the Punisher stories, he somehow identifies the good and the evil, almost effortlessly. The character was never challenged by a character who could make Frank question his judgement. Interestingly, given the fact that Frank acts very fast and uses very less time to judge, he never killed anyone who could have been “not” evil. Such a story was explored in the movie, “Punisher: War Zone” for a bit but it was set right again in the end.
Another striking characteristic of Frank Castle is his honour. In the Civil War (Mark Millar), Frank Castle chooses to stay with Captain America because he has the utmost respect for him. There’s a situation where Captain America was reasoning with some supervillains, who wanted to join Captain America as they don’t want to surrender and work with Tony Stark.
The Punisher hears them talking and machine guns them down. Captain America loses his temper and punches Frank Castle to the ground calling him a murderous piece-of-trash. Frank just took all the punches and never even tried to defend him. When he was taken out of the room, Spider-man says that Steve Rogers/Captain America must be Frank’s hero and probably for Steve, he went to the Vietnam War.
The Punisher respects Captain America and considers him a role model, and that’s why he didn’t even try to defend himself, but at the same time, he believes killing criminals can’t be stopped so he kills them too.
The Punisher is a strong character, who has his reasons to kill and punish. Frank Castle cannot be called a hero in any way; instead, he may well be a sociopath or a serial killer or a terrorist. But one thing never changed about the Punisher; he is a monster that his country created, and now there’s no stopping the monster!