A former Marine turned brutal vigilante, Frank Castle lost his family in the crossfire from a Mafia conflict, and declared his own personal war on the criminal underworld using a vast arsenal of weaponry. He mainly works alone, his relations with the rest of the superhero community being strained at best.
Badass Normal: Castle has no superpowers of his own, and typically most of his foes are either just mooks or other badass normals. However, he has gone toe-to-toe with various superheroes and villains in the past.
In the MAX continuity, no superheroes exist, but Frank's badassery is not lessened one bit.
Berserk Button: Desecrating the memory of his dead family, harming his illegitimate daughter, or otherwise harming innocent women and children.
Celibate Hero: Frank doesn't seem to have much interest in the ladies, but this is most likely justified by the fact that he still thinks about his family and/or he's too busy killing scum. He isn't opposed to sleeping with O'Brien in the MAX series though, but on the other hand he doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic about it either.
O'Brien: "I've been in jail around eighteen months. When we get through here, wanna jump in the sack?"
Chest Insignia: The Punisher's iconic skull. Like Batman, it serves as a heavily armored target and in the earlier issues the teeth were spare ammo magazines
The Dreaded: Every crook and mobster (and most "street" level supervillains) brown their trousers at the mere mention of Frank. In the MAX continuity, the smarter crooks are shown to be the ones who know to run like hell when they see him.
Polly: [during a firefight as Frank is cornered behind a bar] We've gotta go!
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be a violent, deranged sociopath and a jerk to almost everyone he meets but its shown that Frank does genuinely care about the people he saves and his few friends. After saving girls from a sex slave ring, he sets them all up with visas and really wants things to work out for them, while also acknowledging how screwed up their lives have become and always will be.
Karmic Thief: He swipes the cash that he finds on his raids to finance the war.
Knife Nut: If Frank uses a close combat weapon, it'll be a knife.
Fury: Drop the Punisher on one end of Latveria, and the Hulk on the other, and see who gets to the middle first.
Papa Wolf: Do not desecrate the memory of his dead wife and children, as Nicky Cavella learned the hard way. Likewise, Barracuda meets the fate he does by attempting to kill Sarah Frank's illegitimate daughter with Kathryn O'Brien.
He promises Galina that noone will hurt her again, and he makes good on his promise, from swinging the Mongolian like a flail, to beating his ally when the man attempted to kill her and get her blood, to acting as her bodyguard after their pick-up so the medics can't stick her with needles to extract the biological superweapon put inside her.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: Frank definitely fits the bill. After three brutal tours of duty in The Vietnam War, Frank Castle lost his wife and children to Mafia thugs and now wages a one-man war on crime. Various authors have toyed with Frank's mental state, and Garth Ennis has suggested that in Vietnam, Frank started to love combat and killing people, with the death of his family possibly being only the final straw that caused his killing sprees.
Ungrateful Bastard: Rare 'heroic' version. If you aid the Punisher, even save his life repeatedly, don't expect him to show much gratitude if you're on his 'bad' list. Or his 'good' list either, as Yorkie has found out.
Used to Be a Sweet Kid: As seen in the one-shot The Tyger Frank was a tough but quiet, thoughtful kid who liked poetry, stood up to bullies who picked on weaker kids, and was friends with an older girl whom he had a crush on, and her older brother, a Marine. Then this girl was raped by the jackass son of the local mafia don and killed herself. Frank then takes his father's gun and tails the don's son, intending to kill him, only to witness the girl's brother brutally murder the guy himself.
Killed Off for Real: So far. Given how many of the Punisher's most well known stories feature Frank solo, it seems unlikely that any writer will be motivated to bring him back long term.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Even people who didn't know about his activities usually just called him "Chip". Frank refers to him by his first name once during their entire partnership.
Accidental Misnaming: Mickey usually referred to Frank as "Johnny", the alias he was using when they first met.
Chronic Villainy: Despite being a main source of information for the Punisher, he tended to be embroiled in various petty crimes whenever Frank contacted him. He had to remind him of their arrangment.
Heel-Face Turn: In the original "Marvel Knights" series, he got hit by one of Dagger's light daggers, which sometimes cure someone's criminal impulses. Seeing that he genuinely turned over a new leaf, Frank let him be.
Biggus Dickus: Apparently. At the end of the series he's left the force and found a career in porn.
Butt Monkey: He's the biggest joke in the NYPD. Some of his highlights include getting dropped on the head as a newborn, finding an ax murderer by getting drunk and sleeping with him, going out with an obvious crossdresser, and accidentally dating his own mother.
Childhood Brain Damage: A variation of the trope occurs: We see the nurse dropping him on his head just after being born, but he doesn't end up with any mental handicap for it (it's just there to show the crap life shoves on him started very early and never let up).
Interrupted Suicide The first time he tried to commit suicide, The Punisher talks him out of it and convinces him to be a mole for him. The second time, he Ate His Gun in the restroom of his favorite bar and the bartender stops him, but only so he wouldn't have to clean up the blood. This leads to Soap...
NYPD: He manges to blackmail his way to Commissioner before being blackmailed back down.
Took a Level in Badass: He threatens the cruel bartender, breaks the nose of an snitch, and even shoots the Punisher and almost arrests him.
Then subverted almost immediately as the Punisher just gives him a mean look in the middle of his attempted arrest and Soap breaks down whimpering.
Colonel Yorkie Mitchell
A British officer who served with Castle in Vietnam. Shows up periodically to provide intelligence or recruit Frank for a mission in Britain.
A Marine sergeant and decorated Afghan War veteran, Rachel saw her husband and entire wedding party die when they got in the way of a gangland hit ordered by Stephanie Gerard and Chris Poulsen. She worked alongside The Punisher for a time, eventually donning the same skull insignia worn by him.
Woman in Black: Wears a black special ops suit at first, then dons a replica of Castle's Punisher costume.
AKA: Billy "The Beaut" Russo
A hitman for the Maggia and the Costa crime family, pretty-boy Billy "The Beaut" Russo had his face mangled when The Punisher shoved him through a plate glass window. Left with a tattered mess of a face, Billy took the name Jigsaw, and set about doing his best to ruin Castle's life.
Abusive Parents: Billy abused his son Henry, even forcing him to kill a cat that he had let inside by telling him that he'd kill his mother if he didn't.
Affably Evil: In Matt Fraction's The Punisher: War Journal, he's extremely personable (if still a psychotic sociopath). Probably because he's tired of the whole "try to kill the Punisher" circus and just wants to move on with his life.
Evil Counterpart: Often wears an inverted version of The Punisher's costume (white with a black skull on the chest), and has trained himself to be Frank's physical match.
Genre Savvy: Every now and then. In the Suicide Run arc, Jigsaw shows up at a meeting between several big wig criminals for the sole purpose of telling them that no matter what they have planned, Frank will turn it back on them and kill them. During John Ostander's run, when Jigsaw has kidnapped a mafia family Frank has befriended and hears that Frank is coming for the hostages, he orders his men to kill them because he knows that Frank can't win if he can't save his friends.
Joker Immunity: Jigsaw even lampshades this and the Punisher justifies letting him live since Jigsaw is more of a danger to his fellow criminals than innocents.
Mad Eye: The reconstruction of his face left his left eye larger in appereance.
Man in White: Favours white suits, and a colour inverted Punisher costume much of the time.
Nightmare Face: He's been mutilated to a grotesque degree, to the point that his surgeons were forced to reconstruct his features from scratch.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: When he heard that Castle had been fried in electric chair, he started killing those responsible while ranting how inappropiate it was that he didn't get to kill him.
Professional Killer: Was an assassin for the Maggia before reaching his current station in life.
Von Burian was part of Frank's military unit in The Vietnam War. After the conflict, he was hired by the DEA for illegal drug operations. He later became a mercenary whose brand of work made him a target to The Punisher.
A mercenary and terrorist-for-hire of Middle Eastern extraction, Muzaffar Lambert, alias Saracen, brooked no interference with his operations. When Frank Castle destroyed one of his missions, Saracen took it personally, kicking off a rivalry that would result in the deaths of Castle's only remaining relatives, and Lambert himself.
Badass Moustache: Saracen was an evil, evil guy, but there was no denying that both he and his moustache were very badass.
Badass Normal: Like most of Castle's enemies, Saracen had no superhuman powers. He earns points, however, for being one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, in a 'verse where a sizeable portion of the population can shoot lasers out of their orifices and throw cars around like dolls.
You Killed My Father: You killed my aunt and uncle, actually. There's a reason Castle wanted this guy dead.
AKA: Salvatore "Sal" Carbone
Cannot rest until the stone-face man dies. Cannot rest until I stand over him. Until I see him breathe his last breath.
Sal was the younger brother of mob boss Julius Carbone, who was nearly killed when Frank (who was infiltrating the Carbone organization as Johnny Tower) chased him into a frozen lake. He barely survived, but now shows no reaction to pain, and has no memory beyond knowing who tried to kill him.
A hulking giant from Smolensk with clear, if undisclosed, superhuman powers, the relentlessly cheerful Russian exists to mock Frank Castle's ability to kill people. Initially hired by Ma Gnucci, The Russian has clashed with The Punisher on several occasions, and despite seemingly dying a number of times, always comes back.
Adorkable: A rare evil example. Affectionate towards his allies/friends, wants to get "lots of Levis and CD's" with a million dollar reward, and is openly a fan of GOOD Superheroes (Mighty Thor Good Communist, with that Big Hammer of his!).
Affably Evil: Murderous, violent and psychopathic. He is, nonetheless, incredibly friendly to his enemies, actively complimenting and joking with them mid-fight.
Ascended Fanboy: He is a huge fan of the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Spider-man and is the president of his local chapter of the "Daredevil: Man Without Fear" fan club.
Super Strength: The Russian's strength crosses into the metahuman. He can punch through walls, ripped a toilet out of the floor and swung it like a club, and once crushed a man while trying to hug him.
A former AIM scientist, Stephanie Gerard left her parent organisation to set up a new criminal organisation, The Exchange. Wearing civilian clothes instead of spandex, she and her allies recruit former AIM and Hydra personnel in the interests of creating a new force in the underworld.
Antivillain: At least when compared to most of The Punisher's other foes. Stephanie has no interest in hurting innocent people (berating the men who shot up Rachel's wedding), tries to run her organisation with a minimum of casualties, and in general tries to get things accomplished with a minimum of bloodshed and fuss.
Frame Up: Calls the police, claims Castle and Cole-Alves are attacking his office building, then proceeds to slaughter them all himself. The resulting shootout leaves sixteen dead, including Poulsen and three cops, and sees Castle and Cole-Alves hunted for murder (though Cole-Alves really did kill Detective Walter Bolt).
Hand Cannon: His modified nine milimetre, with which he's able to hit police officers on the street from several stories up in an office building.
Abhorrent Admirer: Theresa. While she isn't that bad looking, what really qualifies her for this trope is her attitude. Casually threatening to close peoples' penises shut, dropping Cluster F Bombs at the drop of the hat, generally being a scary Jerkass. Like brother like sister. Nicky is very in denial when Rawlins points out Theresa has a crush on him, to boot.
Broken Pedestal: While Tony was very supportive of Nicky's ascension at first, when he discovered just how badly he and his crew were screwed over by Nicky's carelessness he lets him have it.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Yes and no - Cavella has ideas on how best to tackle Frank, but continually fumbles the endgame. When he first sees Frank tied up, he instantly goes to shoot him in the head note Frank bites his fingers and distracts him long enough to get free. He sets up Pittsy to take Frank downnote He's tough, but Frank's tougher. He desecrates the remains of Frank's family to piss him off and make him pull a Leeroy Jenkinsnote Which works perfectly, except even Rawlins points out that a bunch of scared mobsters still probably wouldn't be enough to take Frank down, even if he just came at them straight on without any real tactics. The last one is a gamble too far...
Groin Attack: Pittsy and Theresa seem to have a thing for these.
Left for Dead: At the end of Up is Down and Black is White, Frank drags Nicky far, far out into the woods and shoots him low down in the stomach, leaving him there to die over a couple of days. Subverted as it's confirmed in the next story that Nicky's corpse was found some time later.
Made of Iron: Pittsy for sure. He gets thrown out a window and impaled on a wrought iron fence and still wants to fight. Even when Frank blows his face apart with a shotgun he takes a few steps forward, which Frank hoped were just twitches.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Nicky Cavella freely admits to hating everyone in the whole wide world, and thinks when he dies and goes to heaven (as if) he'll bring that attitude with him.
Too Dumb to Live: Theresa, after feeling jilted by Nicky's rejections, goes into the Punisher's place without a gun in order to kill him in a blind rage. Even when she gets the drop on him, she doesn't even stab him correctly, instead nonfatally stabbing him so she can rant about how no one wants to touch her. All of this started because she thought that the best time to screw her boss was during a stake-out of the wounded Castle.
Villainous Breakdown: After losing the respect of his Mooks and sight of Theresa, Nicky becomes a whimpering coward begging for mercy.
Dangerously Genre Savvy / Too Dumb to Live: Maginty is a rare case of being BOTH. He's very cunning and begins a campaign of psychological warfare and biting around the edges, looking to strike when the other players are weak (must've played a lot of Risk as a kid) and even correctly spots a hole in the Punisher's defenses and comes really close to killing him—too bad a mook screwed it up. Even so, he blindly walked into a trap a five-year old would've seen coming TWICE. First time he got lucky, second not so much.
Informed Ability: Finn Cooley, both now and in later comics, constantly gets his Ax-Crazy reputation hyped by other characters. But he's really one of the more level-headed and thoughtful villains of this Gambit Pileup; despite being rather cavalier about civilian casualties he was far less unbalanced than most of the other participants.
Knight Templar Big Brother: Eamon fancies himself as this, going so far as to kill a crew mate who made a tasteless incest joke about him and Polly—but Polly figuratively spits in his face when he tries to present himself as one of these to her, backhandedly calling him a failure.
Mad Bomber: Cooley's specialty. The arc kicks off when a bomb he planted to kill off the other factions in the gang war detonated early, killing dozens of civilians.
Nightmare Face: Cooley blew off the upper half of his face with one of his own bombs several years earlier, and in the first chapter is seen wearing a plastic mask to keep the remaining tissue from sliding off. Frank shoots it off in the second chapter, so in the third, he has to keep it on with tape. In the final chapter, Frank bites off one of his cheeks!
Parental Incest: Evidently between Polly and her dad, and probably the main reason she's not as sentimental as Eamon.
Retired Monster: The takeaway this arc: do not mess with these people, no matter how nice or harmless they seem. Also, most of the named baddies in this arc were trying to become this.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: Cooley's nephew really believes in the IRA, to an almost pitiful extent. Of course any sympathy you may have had for him evaporates after his (probably unintentional) crossing of the Moral Event Horizon early on.
Pragmatic Villainy: When sent to whack the Punisher, he very sensibly tries to snipe him, rather than try and go one-on one; it would have worked but then his ex-wife (who's still understandably pissed at him for kicking her out of a helicopter into the hands of the Taliban) shows up...
O'Brien: There've been some nice boys too. They never last, usually because I decide they don't deserve the shit this life inflicts. It's mostly guys like Rawlins. Or idiots. Or drunks. Or the truly, irrevocably doomed. That stupid bastardTommy...
Broken Bird: In between three failed marriages, getting raped, thrown in jail, and being in the middle of the violence the Punisher is associated with, it's no wonder she's one.
Dying Alone: Averted - Frank stays with her until her last breath.
Give Her A Normal Life: After giving birth to Sarah, the daughter she and Frank conceived during their affair, Kathryn gives custody of the child to her sister to keep her safe.
Prison Rape: Averted. During her time in jail, a bunch of inmates frequently tried to do this to her. Kathryn would not have any of it.
Badass Grandpa: Tiberiu again. A horrifyingly evil and insane one, to be sure.
Berserk Button: Tiberiu completely flips his shit when Frank calls him a “coward” in Romanian.
Blood Knight: Tiberiu, again. Almost considers Frank a Worthy Opponent ("this will be an interesting man to kill...") when he hears about the events of "Up is Down, Black is White," and claims that had someone desecrated the body of his son Cristu's mother, he would have killed thousands.
Turns out to be the downfall of the Bulats, as Tiberiu was interested in standing and fighting, and felt that Cristu was cowardly and womanly for wanting to avoid the Punisher... as Frank admitted near the end of the story arc, Cristu was right. The family tension over this led to a failed attempt by Cristu to have Tiberiu killed and probably distracted Cristu enough to make vulnerable by not paying his usual attention to personal security.
When we first see Tiberiu, he's murdering a gangster who's tied to a chair, trash talking Tiberiu and telling him to loosen his ropes so they can fight "like real men". When we last see Tiberiu, he's tied to a chair telling Frank to untie him so they can fight "like real men". Frank answers with gasoline and a match.
Pragmatic Villainy: Cristu at least has the paper-thin excuse of genuinely not getting any pleasure out of torturing or killing people, seeing it as just the cost of business—for instance, he tries to spare the lives of some rival gang members, figuring that it's only necessary to kill one to get the rest of them to back off and even wanted to kill the one who had to die quickly and painlessly. Still, a Moral Event Horizon crossed is a Moral Event Horizon crossed, guy; no getting off that crazy train.
Would Hit a Girl: When Frank finds out about what Vera's role was in the operation, he repeatedly throws her against a shatter-resistant window pane face-first. The frame gives out before the pane does.
Affably Evil: Genuinely friendly, optimistic and happy 99% of the time. Will kill you without blinking.
Faux Affably Evil: Very much shown to be this instead during his appearance in Fury Max My War Gone By story, him even lampshading that he is going to turn on the "Barracuda charm" in order to try and get Fury to finish the investigation quickly.
Boisterous Bruiser: Always optimistic and cheerful even when killing people. His response after Frank smashes the fingers off his right hand and sticks a knife in his eye?
Barracuda: Oh, it is on now, motherfucker. It is on.
Wanda: But we're on a raft in the middle of the ocean! What are we going to eat?
Barracuda: Good motherfuckin' question, Wanda. Good motherfuckin' question.
Kick the Dog: You already know he's a piece of work, but when his second arc opens with him killing Yorkie, Frank's old SAS war buddy, it rather reaffirms the point.
In My War Gone By he is responsible for the Obligatory War Crime Scene of him having had a village burned down for seemingly no real reason, worst part being him cutting open a pregnant womans stomach and stomping on the baby. Later he kicks the dead baby at Hatherly (The Idealist), making him completely lose faith in the military and end up dying feeling all he did was pointless.
Bait the Dog: In his first appearance, while there's some whispering of his reputation and he does use the We Have Reserves trope (though he WAS trying to dislodge terrorists from a nuclear silo), Zakharov in the end did stop a nuclear confrontation and showed way more patience with The Starscream than he had a right to. Later, when we see him again, we find out just how he fought in in Afghanistan.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: He uses Mook Chivalry twice to catch Frank unprepared. He's the only one in Russian intel to guess that the Americans would attempt a Moral Event Horizon for their False Flag Operation. Finally, he anticipates a Defensive Feint Trap the Punisher had planned for him and even when warned by Rawlins and Dolnovich that he was heading into a trap, outwits all three of them and captures the Punisher. His only mistake really was taking Smug Snake Rawlins at his word when he said that he searched The Punisher properly. And we have this gem:
Zahrakov: Because I am a soldier and you are something else. It is in your nature to betray, a small child could tell you that. You would betray me and I would be forced to kill you—and why would I create that much trouble for myself?
Expy: He's basically The Kingpin meets Col. Kurtz.
Armchair Military: Both Frank and Fury note none of them have ever seen active service. This does not stop them from trying to tell Colonel George Howe, who is tasked with capturing Frank, how to do his job.
Bullseye: I kill people for a living. What did you expect?
Mysterious Past: He was originally a lawyer for the army. Kingpin isn't able to find out how he got from that to the mercenary he is now.
The Profiler: After some unique investigations, he manages to get inside Frank's head perfectly.
Real After All: He insists that once he studies Frank enough, he'll know everything about him. He even says that he can hear his dreams if he sleeps in a bed Frank has used. For most of the story it seems to be just more evidence of how insane he is. But in the end, not only is he able to pinpoint every one of Frank's safehouses in New York City, he's able to repeat to Frank the last words he said to his wife.
Reality Ensues: During his introduction, he threatens to kill a man with a toothpick. He flicks it at his face...and it bounces off his forehead.
Bullseye: Don't be stupid. I can't kill you with a toothpick. [pulls gun] But I can with this.
To Know Him I Must Become Him: Bullseye takes this about as far as realistically feasible. He studies every place in the city where Frank has killed someone, he wears his clothes and sleeps in his safehouses, and he interrogates Frank's associates to find out every minor detail about him that he can. He even kidnaps families and rearranges the tragedy that Frank went through so that he can fully understand his motivation.
Action Girl: She does the job even better than Frank Castle.
Ax-Crazy: And The Punisher knows it, coming across as intimidated by her. For her part Jenny knows this and discusses the damage the abuse they go through does.
Bad Ass: She methodically trails the mobster widows until they set a trap for Castle, slices open the one who lured him there, picks up his assault rifle and makes the others flee for their lives. She finishes them off when they later try and run from the police, before beating her sister to death in front of a frightened Punisher.
Broken Bird: She gets cancer, is brutally beaten all the time during her arranged marriage and is finally disposed of, left for dead. Then she took a level.
Byronic Hero: She bluntly picks up men, however she cannot feel anything, gets upset and beats them to a pulp, then regrets her actions later. She's also vicious enough to creep The Punisher out, but given what was done to her nothing is too reprehensible to be unjustified.
Cosmic Plaything: Given everything done to her it's little surprise Jenny kills herself after she gains revenge and finds nothing changes.
Despair Event Horizon: After finally getting revenge on the mobster's widows who set her up, she's overcome with the emptiness she feels inside. Unable to "feel" anything, she takes her own life.
Loony Fan: Of Frank Castle. She doesn't particularly bother him, or try and harm him, and he goes along with her desire to be him, but it's safe to say that Frank goes along with this not just because of his injuries but out of fear of setting her off.
Pet the Dog: A old school friend tries to talk to her. Knowing how damaged she is, Jenny politely tells him he has her confused with someone else, and he shouldn't associate with her.