Based on all the teasers and trailer footage we’ve seen so far, it looks like Netflix will be taking the Punisher very seriously. This make sense, as Frank Castle is a grim and dark man who has so many firearms he basically lives in a gun cabinet—not exactly the picture of fun. Still, certain comics show us a different side to Frank. A lighter side. Perhaps even a ludicrous side. If the Netflix show wants to depict the fullness of the Punisher’s character, the showrunners may do well to check out this list of some of the Punisher’s most ridiculous moments.
THE TIME HE JUMPED OUT OF A GIANT BIRTHDAY CAKE
Going undercover used to be one of Frank’s tried-and-true tactics to catch the guilty. Since we’re talking about comics here, his “undercover” work was less about infiltrating complex criminal networks over periods of months or years, and more about putting on a disguise for a few pages. In this particular case, he sneaked into a mafia don’s birthday party by pretending to be a caterer who looked a lot like Green Arrow.
(That’s our Frank under the goatee.)
He then knocked out the don’s bodyguards, ditched the Oliver Queen facial styling, and figured out the best to get into the crowded party: dressing up as a waiter so he could blend into the crowd… No, sorry, that was a a typo. The best way in, naturally, was to jump out of a giant birthday cake.
And then everybody got shot. A happy ending for…well, for the Punisher and no one else, I guess.
THE TIME HE WENT ON A JET SKI VACATION
Punishing is a stressful job. If you had to deal with criminal scum 24/7, wouldn’t you be craving a tropical getaway? Hence the Punisher’s jet ski adventures in Hawaii. To give him credit, he did his best to get into the island spirit at first:
It’s like an aloha shirt! But with skulls! Why this isn’t a thing in real life, I will never know.
However, when you’re the Punisher, trouble will always find you. He wound up defending a Native Hawaiian family against the greedy developer trying to appropriate their land. I was already 900% on Frank’s side—the battle between indigenous people and money-hungry gentrifiers is all too real in my home state of Hawaii—and then this happened.
This image is notable for several reasons:
- Above, Frank is seen sporting the over-the-thigh rips so common in superheroine costumes of the early ’90s, when female characters would always emerge from fights with their clothes strategically torn to expose as much skin as possible. It was and is rare to see this on a man.
- If the pants are ripped, how are the straps across his legs still undamaged?
- The principal artist on this bad boy is none other than Jim Lee. Honestly, this is probably my favorite thing Jim Lee’s ever done.
Then again, I’m pretty sure the Punisher straight-up stole that jet ski. Jet Ski Rental Guy might have had a family, Frank! You’re taking food out of the mouth of Jet Ski Rental Guy, Jr.!
THE TIME HE RAN OVER WOLVERINE WITH A STEAMROLLER
When readers clamor for their best-loved characters from separate storylines to meet up in crossover comics, I doubt they imagine it going like this.
There’s a whole bizarre narrative behind this incident, but the short version is that the Punisher and Wolverine encountered one another while fighting a baddie in the sewers, and they disagreed on how the matter should be handled. The Punisher wanted to paint the sewer walls red, whereas Wolverine wanted to do lots of punching but avoid reaping fatalities if possible. Big Pun felt that Logan’s “no killing” schtick was getting in the way, so he did what had to be done.
The crotchshot has no murderous intent behind it, BTW; Frank knew about Wolverine’s regenerative powers and just wanted to incapacitate him for the time being. (Really incapacitate him. As in Looney Tunes-level incapacitation.)
(Side note: the Punisher shot Wolverine’s face off before this, just for good measure.)
Luckily, ol’ Wolvie lived to snikt another day. But the memory of how ridiculous this was will be with us forever.
THE TIME HE PUNCHED A POLAR BEAR
The Punisher punching a polar bear in the face is one of the most iconic Steve Dillon drawings out there:
Let’s get real for a second. You can see some of what made Dillon so great in this image—the facial expressions, the lines of movement, how the characters come alive, like actors in one hell of a blockbuster…he was really a streak of brilliance across the comics world. We’re poorer for his loss, but better for what he brought to us.
The story here once again found the Punisher is fighting mafia baddies, this time in a zoo. He jumped into a polar bear pit intending to sic its residents on his enemies, only to find that they were “cuddly. Lovable. Docile.” They needed to be made fighting mad, and fast. So he punched a polar bear right in the face.
Obviously we at Nerdist do not condone punching animals, but look at that polar bear’s facial expression. It’s so perfect. Dillon really was a baller.
THE TIME HE WORE A SKULL SPEEDO AND GOT OGLED BY MONSTERS
Comics fans of a certain age may recall the Marvel Swimsuit Special: a Sports Illustrated-style “magazine” where artists drew various Marvel superheroes looking sexy at the beach. Sort of a fun idea in theory. In practice, it ended up objectifying the publisher’s female characters while showcasing artists’ inabilities to understand the whole non-straight-male-gaze deal. Here’s what they thought we wanted Namor to look like:
NAMOR, WHERE IS YOUR SKIN?! GO AWAY. OH MY GOD.
That said, they did manage to draw one male character with recognizable proportions and a physique that was built but not terrifying. Enter Frank “Skull Speedo” Castle.
There’s a lot going on here. If he’s so angry about having to pose with a beach ball, why is he posing with a beach ball? Dude, you have approximately eight billion deadly weapons at your disposal. Pose with whatever you want. Are the monsters in the background bidding on toothbrushes in the hopes of making out with the Punisher? How does he get that point in his foot? I took ballet for years and never quite managed an arch like that.
And most importantly, what is that skull Speedo made of? It can’t be conventional fabric, otherwise it’d fold. It must be some sort of hard plastic or other non-malleable material, which might explain why he looks so uncomfortable.
THE TIME HE TURNED BLACK (STRAP IN, DEAR READERS; THIS GETS UNFORTUNATE)
In the early ’90s, the Punisher underwent a brief but significant change. Not to his costume or his origin story, but to his skin color.
If it sounds egregious, that’s because it was. Super egregious. The in-universe explanation was that his archenemy Jigsaw had carved up his face, and the doctor who treated him used a drug that altered his skin’s “melanin content” (and apparently his hair texture, although that’s never mentioned in the comic). You know, science.
Behind the scenes, things were a bit more raw. The Rodney King incident had recently taken place, which for many people provided the first contemporary videographic proof of black Americans facing systematic police brutality. As a company founded on responding to real-life social issues in a way that its competitors didn’t, Marvel likely felt it had to say something. What better way than for one of their A-list characters to spend some time learning firsthand about the issues faced by people living in the inner city? To add some extra “realism,” they paired the newly black Punisher with Luke Cage: a hero who understood these problems and knew the individuals who faced them on a daily basis.
Why this was the direction they went in, however, remains a mystery. It didn’t help that the story was initially written by a white guy (Mike Baron, who’d been the primary author on the main Punisher title up to this point), so Marvel drafted in Marc McLaurin, who was A) the primary writer on their then-upcoming Luke Cage series and B) a black American guy, to finish out the story arc.
I mean, they tried. But it doesn’t erase the uneasy feeling of the Punisher essentially putting on surprise blackface, or the questions about why this couldn’t have been handled differently. Couldn’t Frank just have collaborated with Luke and not have undergone some weird surgical procedure? Who knows?
To be honest, I’m not sure I want to see this one on screen. But you can’t write a list of ridiculous Punisher happenings and not mention this doozy.
Finally, to bring it home, we have….
THE TIME HE TAPED DICTIONARIES TO HIMSELF AS A BULLETPROOF VEST
Knowledge is power! In the Punisherverse, that means if you have a big enough book, you can stop bullets. It also means you can hang around schoolchildren without any prior background checks. Good news for Frank, then, who once posed as a substitute P.E. teacher at a public high school in order to sniff out the leaders of a drug ring operating on school grounds. More of that realism we readers crave!
His big face-off with the bad guy led to a library shootout. Problem is, as a fake teacher, Frank had no assault rifles, no grenades, and no Kevlar—but he did have the written word:
Yep, he duct-taped the biggest books in the school library to his body as an impromptu bulletproof vest. He took “one in the Websters,” but other than that he seemed fine.
It helps that this improbably well-appointed library had such a varied selection:
No wonder Netflix picked “One” for the show’s official trailer.
What other ridiculous Punisher moments (there are many) do you want to see in the Netflix show? Tell us in the comments!
Want more Punisher?
- Here are the show’s episode titles!
- The series’ first trailer looks exceptionally intense
- Did you know the Punisher’s going up against Deadpool in the comics?
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