Frank Castle is dead.
The menacing character that struck fear into the heart of criminals in New York City met a ruthless and quite frankly, embarrassing end. To quote Dr. Strange from the sudden finale of the Punisher’s latest twelve issue run: “The Punisher is no more.”
Sadly, this is par for the course as we are looking at yet another classic misstep from Marvel Comics. Whether it is retconning Bobby Drake/Iceman and writing him as a homosexual, (Ignoring over fifty years of character development that completely contradicts this notion) The New New Warriors debacle, forcing upon the reader Ms. Marvel, a character nobody wanted or asked for, or placing Wolverine into a polyamorous relationship with Jean Grey and Cyclops, Marvel has proven one thing to us: They don’t care about the reader and they have no respect for an illustrious history that goes back over eighty years.
Kevin Feige, who has control the MCU is also the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Comics. This means that he has an enormous influence on the publication’s direction. He might even have final say on which characters are on the chopping block. Regardless, Feige and Editor In Chief C.B. Cebulski clearly wanted Frank Castle out of the 616, and shelved indefinitely. Every time Feige makes a decision within the realm of the comics, I say a rosary and pray for Ike Perlmutter’s return.
The Writing Was On The Wall
In all honesty, we should have seen this coming. The press release from Marvel is going to obviously blame Punisher’s erasure on poor sales. Yes the sales were poor, but that is because Marvel did everything they could to alienate their loyal readers.
- They changed his logo and removed the classic Skull. It was replaced with a strange emblem that was divisive to say the least.
- They took away his guns.
- They replaced the guns with swords.
- He became a member of The Hand, a mysterious organization of ninjas who are usually foes of Daredevil.
- He dabbled in mysticism with The Hand for some strange reason.
This was the beginning of the end. The logo change was due to the politicization of the trademark skull on social media. The twitterverse reared its ugly head and took umbrage with the logo because it was associated with the far right. Marvel should have publicly denounced bad actors who use the logo and maybe done a special one-shot admonishing said bad actors.
Instead, they bowed to the altar of cancel culture. They completely revised the character and disregarded the people who actually spend money on their product
Why This Matters
The Punisher is arguably one of the most tragic characters in modern literature. He is a man who was broken by a sinister act that killed his family and turned to vengeance, giving up all rational thought and becoming the most famous antihero in comic book history. The Punisher was never a character written to be admired. He was a cautionary tale. A gritty, brutal, relentlessly violent representation of the darkness that can consume a mind if you let grief consume you.
He’s Batman, but with far fewer morals.
He’s Deadpool, but with no sense of humor.
Throughout literary history there have been many tales of grief and revenge. Captain Ahab was driven mad by Moby Dick to the point where he damned the consequences. His thirst for revenge was too great and he ended up following the whale to his own grave, bringing almost his entire crew with him.
One parallel that draws a lot of similarity to The Punisher is the story of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was unable to accept the past, or cope with any setbacks that he deemed unfair. His view of the world unraveled and he succumbed to the dark side of the force and let loose the sadistic, evil being known as Darth Vader.
What Makes His Fate So Awful
Much like Anakin Skywalker, the deeply troubled Frank Castle committed unspeakable acts. Unlike Anakin Skywalker, The Punisher was never given a real shot at redemption. He meets his end when The Hand brings his wife back. His wife dresses him down, berates him, and tells him that she was going to divorce him anyway so Death did the job for her. She sells off his assets, deprives him of all his money and leaves.
Understandably upset, Frank says a prayer to “The Beast” where he then bursts into flames and gets shuttled off to Weirdworld where he becomes some sort of strange interpretation of Peter Pan. He is last seen shepherding orphans through a hellish landscape. It is a terrible ending to what was once a fantastic glimpse into the mind of a good man gone rotten.
A better ending would have been for Frank to come to his own conclusion and realize that what he is doing is wrong. He could be left with the choice to turn himself into the police and answer for his killing spree, or go out in one final blaze of glory. Either way Frank would have taken accountability for his actions, and his redemption story could be completed.
My Final Take
As literary and media companies continue to cater to “modern audiences”, the quality of writing continues to lose its meaning. Nuance becomes disregarded. Satire is misunderstood, and characters who are classified as anti-heroes are sidelined because they are intimidating and scary. Nobody wants to take the time to study these magnificent, well written, well crafted characters anymore.
We are in an era where people want instant happiness, instant gratification and an instant payoff. It is arguably going to be the worst generation to study as far as pop culture goes. Intelligence is insulted and mindless drivel is praised. Anthropologists are probably going to keep scrolling when they look for things to study and we come up.
Now more than ever, we need a character who is close to beyond redemption. We need an example to teach us how to let go of anger in a healthy manner. We sorely need this cautionary, tragic tale to remain relevant as we head into another election cycle. Without evil, good ceases to exist and morals start to become irrelevant.
R.I.P. to Frank Castle/Punisher. Modern audiences don’t deserve you anyway.
What do you think, my fellow geeks? Do you agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts! Sound off in the comments section.
Thank you for reading. When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my Wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frankie, and my loyal hound Marbles.
Stay Geeky Everybody!