Punisher: Nazi Hunter

In honor of today’s amazing boost in hits, let’s do a special Friday article!

Today’s about the Punisher (real name Frank Castle), the most black and white character in the Marvel universe.  While some superheroes struggle with the morality of the criminals and the individual situations involved with each one, the Punisher has a simple philosophy.  You commit a crime, you die.  No mercy, no forgiveness.  But it’s his backstory that I want to talk about before going into the arc. Castle has no superpowers, just extensive military training gained from his service in Vietnam. Yes, Vietnam.  Whereas Iron Man’s origin got updated from building his first armor in Vietnam to the war in the Middle East, Castle has gotten no such update.

Which means that even if the Punisher served at the end of the war, he’d be at least 60 years old. And he began fighting crime shortly after his return from the war, where his family was gunned down accidentally in a firefight between mobsters one afternoon in the park.  Castle has been gunning down bad guys for over 30 years.  So he’s very good at what he does, and can holds his own against tougher superheroes and supervillains.  But he still kills, so to say his relationships with other good guys are strained is sort of an understatement.  Like Captain America.

You’d think the two would get along.  They’re both war veterans who hate criminals.  Except that even though Captain America waved around a machine gun in World War II, nowadays he’s pretty strict on the standard no killing rule.  The Punisher tends to be a bit more lax.  So while Captain America is the shining moral example that superheroes strive to be, the Punisher makes bad guys wet themselves wearing just a t-shirt with a skull on it.

But a few years ago, Captain America got assassinated.

Because Castle has such a strict system of justice, he doesn’t and never will kill good guys.  He’s after the wicked.  Add Captain America’s reputation and his past as a war hero like the Punisher, you can bet your Archie comics collection that the Punisher respects him.  Which led to this fantastic arc in Punisher: War Journal:

Yup, allow me to introduce you to Hate Monger.  He’s a racist supervillain.  Unfortunately, it’s more of a title because Hate Mongers tend not to last very long.  Especially not when the Punisher is coming.

Castle isn’t bulletproof.  He can’t just flip a jeep into the white supremacist camp and gun them all down.  The Punisher has to plan.  To infiltrate.  To time his attacks.  But he’s had 30 years of practice, and no one knows how to go incognito like the Punisher:

Luckily, not too many neo-Nazis hold doctorates, so he gets into the club.  Unluckily, turns out they’re not just a ragtag team of biker outlaws.  We have a new generation, one who learned that burning crosses and spitting on Jews may not be the best way to accomplish their ultimate goals. Which means Castle now has to deal with this:

Okay, so maybe the neo-Nazis do have some doctorates.  H-Rays, in true comic book fashion, are invisible and undetectable, but upon ingestion brings up dormant rage and hatred.  Secret plot discovered.  Now it’s up to Confederate Punisher to stop this madness from the inside.  But y’know, what’s the fun in hiding?

Just because Castle fights a hell of a fight doesn’t mean he’s always successful.  Even Captain America gets captured occasionally.  Besides what’s the fun in having the good guy win every brawl he’s in?  We enjoy seeing how James Bond gets out of cackling villains’ traps.  So despite utilizing all the cacti in the area, the Punisher is found out, captured, and tied to a post.  More importantly, it gives the Hate Monger time to rant.

In the next few panels, the Punisher is wearing a new costume.  Why?  Well, there just so happens to be an opening for a new Captain America.

Half of the captain’s rogue gallery is Nazis.  Cap was killed by a henchman of the de facto Nazi leader, Red Skull.  So while the other heroes give emotional eulogies and toasts, the Punisher honors Captain America the best way he knows how.

Didn’t stop him from getting defeated, but let it be known that the Punisher isn’t known for being enjoyable to be around.

Because of the narrative direction I wished to pursue, you’re hopefully clear that the Hate Monger is an asshole (and not just because of that terrible soul patch), but you’re missing hard proof to justify my claim.  Well, I’m not going to let you down.  Before we get to the exciting conclusion of our tale, let’s go back a few pages to an inspirational speech.

In summary, the Hate Monger, seeing Captain America’s death on TV like the rest of the world, decides to adopt a version of the costume for use in his evil plans.  The Punisher, normally outraged by crime but in this case, H-Ray crazy outraged, makes his own Captain America costume to deal with this douchebag.  Because although Castle may not be a homing beacon for the country’s morality and patriotism, he sure as hell knows it’s never going to be Hate Monger.

The Punisher definitely isn’t afraid of death, and some critics will argue that he’s secretly hoping to die so he can see his family again and blah blah blah, but it certainly would ruin the literary flow.  Castle’s allies, which include that skinny guy with glasses and a government agent out to arrest Castle, ambush the execution scene, bomb the hideout, and pandemonium ensues. Punisher wins, because he always wins.  Plus, who wants a Nazi victory?

Seriously, stop hogging all the bad vibes, Hate Monger.  As you can guess, the Punisher doesn’t become the next Captain America.  Not just because of his love of bullets and inability to be a team player, but for very different reasons then other superheroes.

He’s part of the big three New York city “street” crimefighters I mentioned in an early article, but unlike Spider-Man or Daredevil who have lost scores of loved ones, experienced terrible tragedies and will continue to do so, the Punisher will not.  No one gets close to the Punisher.  He’s never going to have a girlfriend or best friend.  His only mission in life to snuff out as many criminals as possible, partly for revenge of his murdered family and partly to protect decent people who don’t turn to crime. Friendships and relationships take time away from his mission and can potentially create opportunities for baddies to get the upper hand on Castle.  The Punisher at most will have a computer guy for information, and even then he barely grunts at them.  He’s the very definition of anti-hero, just with none of the charm.

Finally, for both Castle’s closure and to tie up loose ends, Captain America’s former partner and dear friend Bucky (who does become the new Captain America a few months later) meets up with the Punisher shortly after the Hate Monger mess.

Kkfaatch indeed.

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4 Comments on “Punisher: Nazi Hunter”

  1. 101 says:

    This was truly the dumbest thing they’ve ever done to the Punisher, more so than the undead Punisher who could pull magic guns out of his coat… but it right up there with FrankenCastle.

    These two characters couldn’t be anymore different. Do they and you really think that just because the Punisher and Captain America are soldiers… that there able to relate to each other??? Sorry, but the clean cut straight arrow WWII vet from the 1940’s can’t relate to a ruthless vigilante Vietnam vet from the 1970’s

    Garth Ennis got that right when Frank fights Cap in The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe
    “You haven’t been where I’ve been at all.”

    • Jason Levine says:

      You’re absolutely right when you say they’re two very different types of soldiers. But I believe Castle sees Captain America as the ideal type of soldier, the soldier he always wanted to be if he hadn’t been broken or traumatized in Vietnam as shown in Ennis’ Born miniseries. Punisher’s ingrained respect for the military and the soldiers who serve (even as he has broken far from that ideal mold) builds welcome character development far beyond simple mobster revenge.

      Let me present proof too, from Punisher: War Zone #5 that just came out:
      https://arousinggrammardotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/punishercap.jpg
      How could he not respect Captain America? He knows the horrors and heroics the man experienced/accomplished in WWII.

      Your points are well-made and I appreciate you reading my blog!

  2. JS says:

    Comparing a soldier from the 40s and a soldier from the 70s is a funny thing. I think a lot of people have no idea what war is really like, and can only imagine it based on what they have seen in movies and read in books. Too bad the movies that were made closer to the WWII era were studio created to suite the ideals of Hollywood at the time, and not real life. I loved Ennis’s run on Punisher Max, and consider it the standard that defines the character. I know that Ennis is a brilliant writer and a true master of characterization, and any one who knows of his love of the history of war and warfare would think he has great insight into the many facets of what being a soldier means. But I know soldiers, I spend time with relatives and their friends in seniors homes, I listen to the stories of the war and what these men and women did. What is the point of this little rant of mine? Just to say that if you think the soldiers of WWII didn’t have to deal with the corruption, depravity, and carnage that a soldier of the Vietnam War did then you need to reconsider. Hell, just talk to some of these members of the “Greatest Generation” and you can see just how “straight arrow” and “clean cut” they could really be. Also, you can learn a Hell of a lot too. 🙂

  3. Penabler says:

    This was an amazing story line and I thought it was great.


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