In the 1970s, movies like Dirty Harry and Death Wish showed moviegoers the frustrations and frality of the criminal justice system as well as the plight of the victims and their rights. – for it was the decade of antiheroes: borderline, socially rebellious, morally ambigious, lone protagonists that walked the thin line between right and wrong.
A year after Wolverine of The X-Men clawed his way onto Marvel Comics, The Punisher was born. Debuted in February 1974, the character has been dedicating his life to punishing the corrupt and guilty where the legal system had failed to do so. After his family was tragically taken away at the hands of crime, Frank Castle used his years of military and law enforcement to physically and mentally train himself as a one-man army against evil. With his fierce intelligence, elite weapons and tactical skills, martial arts, cunningness, and the notorious skull logo, Frank Castle remade himself into The Punisher. The Punisher is a self-styled judge, jury, and executioner that showes no mercy to criminals whatsoever. He will not rest until every single one of them is wiped off the face of this planet; he’s the ulimate comic-book antihero.
“When Frank Castle stops being Frank Castle, he doesn’t become the Punisher right away” said Steven Grant, who wrote the 1985-86 miniseries with artist Mike Zeck. “The Punisher is something he invents, something he chooses to be. His goals aren’t heroic.”
The Punisher made his way onto the big screen three times over the last twenty years portrayed by international action hero Dolph Lundgren (1989), Thomas Jane (2004), and most recently British actor Ray Stevenson, late last year with Punisher: War Zone. Though the 1989 version has continued to earn a devoted following as well as the 2004 version having strong DVD sales, all of them were critical and commercial disappointments.
Grant, an atheist, also stated in The Punisher Archives, that he loves the character due to the fact that he’s not like other comic book heroes Superman and Batman: dedicated to helping to inspire people, avenging and honoring their loved ones, and saving the world from evil. “The Punisher doesn’t have a destiny. I don’t think The Punisher would even believe in destiny. The Punisher is an existentalist” he continued.
“That’s the Punisher as I conceived him: a man who knows he’s going to die and who knows in the big picture his actions will count for nothing, but who pursues his course because this is what he has chosen to do.”