The Unenviable Task of Explaining How The Punisher is Actually Cool

Just so you know, this isn’t gonna be a ‘WOW THE PUNISHER IS COOL, YOU REMEMBER THE TIME HE RENTED A JETSKI?!’ sort of comics piece.

It’s mostly just an anti-cop polemic.  ACAB. Anyways, let’s get started.

How to defend The Punisher…

I’m not one of those people who speak about corporate owned superhero characters as though they are real people who have always been governed and directed by a single functioning human consciousness. Whenever someone describes something that Batman, for example, has done as being “out of character,” I’m confused by the assumption of a deontological standard of behavior predicated on the amalgamated product of work for hire, produced by hundreds (thousands?) of individuals, turning in scripts to ever changing editorial regimes, and working in pretty much every medium that has existed since 1938.

see: "Batman would never do that!"

and: "You philistine! Post Zero Hour Batman would beat Golden Age Batman but would not beat Post Final Crisis pre New 52 Batman in combat!"

or: "Nuh-uhn! Batman DID NOT have sex with my mom!"

Hopefully we can get through this without pulling any of those shenanigans.

Anyways, The Punisher. We’re all here to have a serious discussion about The Punisher.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the proliferation of the Punisher logo in its myriad forms over the years.  Not in a cool ‘bootleg ass Batman logo on a barbershop’ sort of way but in a ‘bootleg ass Calvin pissing on [target of inarticulate rage as represented by a word, name or symbol] sort of way’.  Punisher is all over gun store awnings and tattooed on idiots and affixed as a decal to the hoods and sides of police cruisers, US military Humvees and other vehicles belonging to dispensers of death to nonwhite people.

Y’know, the people who have made liking The Punisher less an indicator that you’re a quiet, weird guy who drinks Mountain Dew and more of an indicator that you’re kind of a racist, involuntarily celibate dude who drinks Mountain Dew. Plenty of confederate flags combined with the Punisher logo slapped on the bumper of F-250s to bear this one out for me. And the whole thing in Catlettsburg Kentucky really underlines how much of a douche indicator the Punisher logo has become:

In a chillingly ignorant and confused response to the public outcry that resulted in the logos being removed from their Interceptors (Interceptors, the make of their vehicles is INTERCEPTOR. Fuck, is this funny or scary?). Anyways, Catlettsburg Police Chief, Cameron Logan, had the following remarks on the logos being removed:

“That design is basically to give back to the police officers,” Logan told the paper, adding “Our lives matter just as much as anybody’s. … I’m not racist or anything like that, I’m not trying to stir anything up like that. I consider it to be a ‘warrior logo.’ Just ’cause it has ‘Blue Lives Matter’ on the hood, all lives matter. That decal represents that we will take any means necessary to keep our community safe.”

There’s a lot going on here.  Let’s unpack:

1) Give back? We’re to give the cops more than they already have?

2) It took between one and two seconds for these cops to change the conversation to “All lives matter.” The hardest part about hearing that tired maxim is you can tell whoever has just said it typically feels very clever after having just pushed their capacity for abstract thought to the absolute limit. I’m tired of trying to repeat and/or explain myself in these situations, but let’s give it a go:

I am not disputing that all lives matter. To many, black lives should matter more than they currently do. That sounds fair right?  But let’s back up . . .

3) Oh shit why are we having this conversation again?! WHY?! We’re not talking about that right now! You just got scolded for having the universal symbol for murder on your car and the first place your mind jumps to is “HOLD ON, WE’RE NOT RACISTS!”

4) “I’m not racist or anything like that” – You’re definitely racist

5) What the fuck is a ‘Warrior Logo’’?

We’ll put in a pin in that.  Let’s just talk about warriors for now:

Merriam Websters definition of Warrior: “a person engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly :  a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.”

At least they got that right!  Many cops seem to view their work as being at war with the people they serve. Agreed.

6) “That decal represents that we will take any means necessary to keep our community safe.”

There’s an irony present here, yes? ‘We’ll keep you safe even if we have to KILL YOU’ is my interpretation.

Punisher creator, Gerry Conway, had some sound thoughts on the matter:

As did distinguished former roommate, Nick Vincenti

"Without the blue lives matter I would be kind of into the level of self awareness that the punisher insignia represents"

The piece linked above cites the chief mentioning that “overdoses and drug related crimes have been on the rise.” The societally responsible way to respond to an OD is to drive that person toward a strategically placed Claymore with a spray of bullets, then put two in the chest and one in the head once their legs have been blown off? Cause I’m pretty sure that’s what The Punisher would do. Maybe he’d torture them first?

4 panel comic where the Punisher brutally murders a drug user.
Here’s a comic I drew late last year expanding on my relationship with the Punisher as dispenser of justice to people who buy, sell, and use drugs.

When I was in third grade ‘Man turns to violence to avenge death of wife and children’ was the height of profundity to me. I grew out of that. I have no idea how so many people seem to hang on to their love of that particular cliché into their adult lives. For me, reading a Punisher comic is more a ‘this is fun’ sort of thing than a ‘Give ‘em justice, Punisher! Kill ‘em all!’ sort of thing.

But wait! I came here to speak in defense of The Punisher. There are so many Punisher comics out there rotting away in their longboxes. Some of them I consider to be solid reading and many of them have eyeball-poppingly great art. The Punisher comics I keep coming back to are the ones written by Irishman, Garth Ennis. I could go on at great length about Garth Ennis fine work on The Punisher and many other comics but for now I’d just like to focus on (and wrap up with) a quick look at Punisher: The End.

Punisher: the End
Image: Marvel Comics
Punisher: the End
Image: Marvel Comics

This was published back when I was in high school and I’ve read it many times since. They got the perfect artist to draw the bleak, irradiated, post-apocalyptic hellscape the wizened, rapidly dying Punisher murders his way through: RICHARD CORBEN. The legendary Richard Corben draws the comic where The Punisher, hanging to life by a thread, finds himself in a challenging ethical position (challenging for us non-fictional character anyways). Do you: A) Permit The Elite Ruling Class to live despite the enormity of their misdeeds and crimes or B) Spray their viscera against the back of the underground bunker in which they’ve sought refuge thereby ending human life as we know it?

Punisher: the End
Image: Marvel Comics
Punisher: the End
Image: Marvel Comics

Good old Frank Castle goes with B! THE END. Thanks for making the hard choices for us, The Punisher! To the pigs, you may be a brave and courageous man emptying a shotgun into the face of some poor sap with a needle in his arm, but to me you’ll always be my favorite working class hero.

I have two questions for you before you leave:

1) Did you catch the erotic cameo of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the first full excerpted page above?

2) Is The Punisher nothing more than the waterboy for our id, doing all he can to make us feel better about our murderous desires? Yeah probably, but I keep coming back.

Wolverine: The End is fucking garbage by the way.

Thanks everyone!  hee hee!

Punisher: the End
Image: Marvel Comics

Author: Nate McDonough

Nate McDonough lives in Pittsburgh with his two cats, girlfriend, fiance, wife, mistress, boyfriend, husband, iguana and his 55 children. More of his work can be found at

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