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Comic Book: The Punisher
Frank Castle takes the consequences of drunk driving to their logical conclusion.

Possibly the most enduring Darker and Edgier Anti-Hero ever to appear in a comic, the Punisher is one of Marvel's most reliable cash cows, a Vigilante Man and Judge, Jury, and Executioner whose only passion is finding and executing criminals in the most brutal (and sometimes imaginative) ways possible. The Punisher first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February, 1974), created by writer Gerry Conway, along with artists John Romita, Sr. and Ross Andru.

For a while the Punisher appeared mostly in titles starring Spider-Man. He received his first origin story in Marvel Preview #2 (April, 1975), again written by Conway. He received another solo story in Marvel Super Action #1 (January, 1976), a one-shot publication. After that Punisher returned to making appearances in titles featuring Spider-Man, Captain America, and Daredevil. In the 1980s, Steven Grant and Mike Zeck campaigned for a Punisher mini-series. But Marvel editors were reportedly reluctant. The series eventually did materialize: Punisher vol. 1 (January-May, 1986). It sold well and consequently Punisher gained his first ongoing series in 1987. The Punisher has since starred in various magazines over the years, even gaining two events that ran through all his books in the early nineties: Suicide Run and Countdown.

Frank Castle is a Vietnam War veteran who saw his wife, son and daughter slaughtered in a Mafia hit gone wrong. So he got himself a black shirt with a scary white skull on the front and a whole lot of guns, and started a one-man war on crime (as you do).

The big difference between him and, say, Batman? Castle kills the criminals that he fights. A lot. Often several dozen at a time (his confirmed "high scores" to date are approximately 2,000 in the Marvel Universe with a nuke, and 68 in one night, with 32 in a single location in the MAX continuity. Wizard magazine also had his death count as slightly above 1,000, pre-Ennis and later in MAX, this is mentioned to have climbed to 2K. Combine all that together, and the total death toll comes around to an astounding four thousand bad guys.) He uses machine guns, explosives, a certain amount of martial arts, knives, and on occasion, wildlife (most notably, the time that he punched a polar bear in the face to get it riled enough to eat some Mafia hitmen). He can be very, very sadistic. He tends not to get on with Marvel's actual superheroes, especially when he's written by comic-book scribe Garth Ennis; many fans think Castle and Ennis were a match made in heaven.

The tone of the stories vary from violent pitch-black comedy to intensively grim-and-gritty noir tales to attempts to make him a full-on Super Hero... who just so happens to kill people. His enemies have ranged from sex slavery rings (the MAX arc "The Slavers" being possibly one of the single darkest stories in the history of comics, if not the history of fiction) to gigantic Russian hitmen augmented with cyborg body parts and enormous breasts... both of them written by Ennis.

The character himself often suffers from inconsistent writing. Many writers have portrayed him as a good man at heart who sincerely does want to help people and keep them from suffering the same way he did, while other writers have portrayed him as a psychopath with no pity for anyone and no motivation beyond killing criminals. There are two notably different Punisher series: the main Marvel Universe series and a second series created for Marvel's adults-only MAX imprint (originally titled The Punisher and referred to as Punisher MAX, before changing to The Punisher: Frank Castle and then PunisherMAX). This latter version, written almost exclusively by Garth Ennis for four years, features no superheroes and is deeply rooted in "mundane" crime — The Mafia, Irish terrorist cells, Eastern European sex slavers, gangsters and real-life wars are prominent. It is also considerably less funny than the mainstream Marvel series, though there are touches of black humor here and there. The MAX series is written much more consistently than the mainstream version, due to being almost entirely shaped by Garth Ennis' vision of the character; this series is also notorious for its moral absolutism. The Marvel Universe version may be willing to excuse himself for killing a friend's girlfriend while under the influence of a "hate ray", but the first post-Ennis MAX issue sees Frank on the edge of killing himself after believing that his instinctive shooting had led to an innocent girl's death, declaring to himself that "I must be punished."note 

Punisher comics and stories with their own pages

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This comic contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Detective Martin Soap gets called by the wrong name, and even has to fix the "R" initial on his door to an "M."
  • Affably Evil: The Russian is a murderous, violent and psychopathic killer for hire. He is, nonetheless, incredibly friendly to his enemies, actively complimenting and joking with them mid-fight.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: In some stories, many later stories subvert this somewhat, by having Frank focus on higher ranking Criminals.
  • All Just a Dream: The infamous comic of Frank traveling back in time to kill Al Capone is just Frank having a dream.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Punisher is modeled very closely on the character of Mack Bolan, who also lost his family to mob violence and becomes a vigilante with the nickname "The Executioner". Mack Bolan was featured in a series of books that were first published in 1968, and new books in the series still come out today.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Frank easily kills normal human villains — put him against a genuine supervillain, though, and he's in trouble. Taken to its logical conclusion with the recent "Punisher vs. Daken" (aka Wolverine's psychotic killing machine of a son with all of dad's powers) story arc: Daken takes Frank apart. Literally.
  • Ambiguously Evil: This has mostly do with inconsistent writing, but it's still debatable whether Frank is an Anti-Hero or a psychotic serial killer.
  • And Call Him George: The Russian puts his arm around the shoulder of one of the guys assigned to escort him for reassurance, and it kills him.
  • Arch-Enemy: For obvious reasons, criminals rarely make repeat appearances. The closest thing Frank's got is Billy "Jigsaw" Russo, whose main claim to fame is tussling with Frank a few dozen times and actually living to talk about it.
  • Asshole Victim: Most (if not all) of Frank's victims.
    • A few do stand out. In one case, a man actually managed to get the drop on Frank and drugged him into a stupor, then kicked the shit out of him while he was helpless. If that wasn't enough, he also talked down to the Punisher like he was a pet or a small child. Finally, when he's ready to untie Frank, he explains that he's also given him a slow-acting poison that will kill him in six hours, and that he wants Frank to kill some people for him. "I don't have the antidote. I don't know where it is. My associates do. You'll get it when the job is done. Kill me, you're just killing yourself. Understand?" The Punisher nods, and the man is too stupid to realize that Frank is just confirming that he understands, nothing more. Once he is untied, the Punisher immediately breaks the man's neck. Frank: "Won't waste time looking for the antidote. Probably doesn't exist." Asshole Victim, indeed. The guy was practically begging for what he got.
  • Author Appeal: Garth Ennis' run prior to the MAX series. His distaste for Catholicism is shown with the psycho priest, while his dislike for popular masked super heroes is shown in a fight with Frank vs. The Russian where Spider-Man steps in; all Spidey does is get the shit kicked out of him and act like a human shield for Frank.
  • Avenging the Villain: After Punisher kills Julius Cabrone, his daughter Rosalie hires several assassins after him. This isn't an one-time incident, as in the words of Punisher: "I've got more vendettas against me than I can count."
  • Awesome McCoolname: Frank Castle.
  • Ax-Crazy: Many villains and, Depending on the Writer, Frank himself.
  • Back from the Dead: Jigsaw, Microchip.
  • Badass Boast: Frank gets one at the start of Punisher Noir when his wife tells him to be wary of the Angel of Death.
    Frank: Baby, I ain't got a thing to worry about 'cause I am the Angel of Death.
  • Badass Longcoat: Frank's often depicted wearing a black trench coat, especially in more modern stories where it replaces his more traditional comic costume. Typically, towards the end of the story, when he starts to mean business he just stops wearing it. In War Zone, he trades up the longcoat for a more mobile outfit, replacing the longcoat with body armor.
  • 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.
  • Badbutt: Any animated version of him will inevitably wind up as this, with the exception of Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, which shows him killing a group of terrorists and acting more like his comic book depiction.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • One of the earlier stories had Frank stranded in Alaskan wilderness and picking a fight with a bear.
    • And there is the infamous moment when he deliberately angered a bunch of polar bears to kill mobsters in a zoo.
      Punisher: Cuddly. Lovable. Docile. *POW* That won't do at all.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Punisher is a sociopathic, cruel, Knight Templar, Blood Knight, mass-murderering, Vigilante Man, but is recurrently put against Up to Eleven versions of the worst sorts of people reality has to offer. Most Punisher villains don't seem to even have any character traits besides malice, greed, sadism, and selfishness. Garth Ennis writes the character as 100% aware of this, often repeatedly stating that his only reason to continue living is to punish those worse than himself.
  • Black Comedy: Shows up from time to time throughout the character's history, but Ennis's early 2000s run is built on it.
    Punisher: Gunfight in the morgue rule one. Don't hide behind the thin guy.
  • Blood Knight: Why does Frank kill? 33% for revenge, 33% for justice, and 33% because he likes it; the remaining 1% is just plain crazy.
  • Book Ends: The first issue of Garth Ennis' mainstream series ended with Frank throwing a criminal off of the Empire State building. In the last issue, he does the same thing again and reflects on all that's happened since he came back.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Has happened a couple of times to Frank. He tried killing jaywalkers and his second sidekick's girlfriend.
  • Breakout Character: The Punisher originally appeared as a Spider-Man villain in 1974. He became popular and started to appear on a regular basis, eventually getting his own series in the '80s.
  • Brooklyn Rage: While some men might seek vengeance on those who killed their family, Frank Castle doesn't settle that low. He wants to kill every criminal. Every single one.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: A common tactic of Frank's; use a crook to kill a crook.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Frank's original costume is decorated body armor, but the better writers make it clear that being shot even while wearing such protection is much like getting hit by a truck.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • When Frank walks in on Anti-Venom busting a Mexican crime syndicate in New Ways to Live, they team up until he realizes Anti-Venom is his old adversary Eddie Brock. Castle promptly shoots Anti-Venom — who was in the process of thanking him — point-blank in the face with a shotgun, and when the last surviving thug takes the ex-drug addict Anti-Venom had been using as an informant hostage, Frank coldly states, "That's not a girl... it's a junkie" and takes aim, causing Anti-Venom to pull his head back together, severely pissed off, and smash Frank through a wall.
    • In a crossover with Wolverine written by Garth Ennis, Punisher repeatedly abuses Wolverine, including shooting him in the crotch with a shotgun and crushing him under a steamroller. Even though, as he can plainly see, Wolverine keeps getting back up unhurt after each attack. Fortunately, Wolverine never decides to seriously retaliate, though he does swear a grudge on Castle for everything he did to him.
  • Buried Alive: Oneshot comic Die Hard in Big Easy starts with a Voodoo-practicing villain burying Frank alive as a part of a ritual to turn him into a Voodoo Zombie. He of course manages to get out, and the comic ends with Frank paying the villain in kind.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • Frank's usual reaction when he runs into somebody trying to Avenge The Villain. However, this also applies to people that Frank accidentally helps.
    • At the end of the issue that inroduced Jigsaw, Nightcrawler and Spider-Man discuss how much the guy hated Punisher for disfiguring him; but for Frank, it's such a mundane occurrence he doesn't even remember it.
  • Butt Monkey: Detective Soap, the biggest joke of NYPD, is the prime example. For that matter, if you're a police officer and The Punisher's case is assigned to you, it's a sure sign that you're in danger of becoming this. Charlie Schitti would be another great example of Butt Monkey, if not for the fact that just still being alive at the end is remarkably lucky for a (former) mobster.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • One of the villains was a cult leader named The Rev, who was an analogy to Jim Jones.
    • "Politically naive" actress-turned-activist Alice from War Journal is one to Jane Fonda.
  • Car Fu: In "Welcome Back, Frank," the mafia hires a former Desert Storm sniper to kill him. Frank just runs the guy over with an SUV, then backs up.
  • Carnival of Killers: An early arc in Punisher: War Zone had the New York mob hiring the seven best assassins in the world to hunt down the Punisher. Such things are something of an occupational hazard for The Punisher.
  • 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 has had romantic encounters with some women, including the one that resulted in his illegitimate daughter in the MAX series, but it's not a significant part of his characterization outside of when he's written by Mike Baron, who has him sleeping around as much as your typical action hero.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Given the basic premise, no one is safe from death (even Frank died once, though he came back — while making no reference to the whole affair).
  • Charles Atlas Super Power: Frank is occasionally depicted as this, between being a Vietnam veteran Determinator having Impropable Aiming Skills and (as in the War Zone movie) extremely sensitive hearing. Some of his enemies — particularly The Russian — are similarly empowered.
  • 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.
  • Christmas Special: He's dressed as Santa whilst gunning down mobsters multiple times.
  • Chronically Crashed Car: The Battle Van tended to get wrecked every time Frank brought it out.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Some writers also throw in this, a lonely, unstable shell of a man with no future, who can only function as a killing machine.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: All three new vigilantes watch the same broadcast about them and the Punisher, and say "This gives me an idea!" at the same time.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Frank: (Looking down at a merc who'd just fallen into a pit full of sharpened stakes that Castle had dug for him) "Two through your chest. One through the groin, it looks like. You'll die if you don't get medical attention soon." Merc proceeds to tell Castle everything he wants to know. When he's finished, he asks weakly "...that medical attention...?" Frank: "No."
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • The following quote from "Welcome Back, Frank" sums it up:
    Frank Castle: When you're on your own, behind enemy lines, no artillery, no air strikes, no hope of an evac, you don't fight dirty. You do things that make dirty look good.
    • Also in "Welcome Back, Frank", one of the three hit men hired to kill Castle was an expert in multiple forms of martial arts. Instead of even thinking about trying to fight the man hand-to-hand, Castle surreptiously follows the man into the subway, stands behind him in the crowd on the platform, then pushes him in front of an oncoming train. Castle: "I have a favorite: Splat-Fu."
    • Frank is also shown as being very skilled with in both knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat, but consistently prefers to use firearms unless he absolutely has no other choice. "As far as I'm concerned, if you're too close to shoot, you're too close, period."
  • Combat Sadomasochist: Colonel De Sade from Summer Special issues, who loved to be on the receiving end of pain as much as causing it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Ma Gnucci says she wants to kill the one who crippled her, one of her mooks says, "You want us to put a hit on the bear?"
  • Cool Guns:
    • Even though the Punisher uses a lot of different types of guns, he shows a preference for military weapons such as the M16 rifle or M1911 pistols.
    • He actually had a ten-issue series titled "Armory" dedicated to showing off his guns and other equipment.
    • And from "Punisher: War Journal" (main continuity) - a gun that shoots swords.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Frank personifies this pretty much all the time, to the point where it's very rare for him to ever encounter a situation he is not mentally or physically prepared for. It has simply become a way of life for him, as habitual as getting dressed in the morning. One story even showed how, whenever he travels by air and therefore cannot carry any weapons, the first thing he does when he lands is go to the airport gift shop and buy a pocket knife of some sort. "It's not much, but it'll do until I can get my hands on a gun." This saved him once when he was overpowered, tied up, and tossed in the trunk of a car. His abductor just assumed he didn't have a weapon since he was coming from the airport, and didn't search him. He was very surprised when he opened the trunk and discovered quite suddenly that Frank had not only cut himself loose, but had the knife in his hand and was perfectly willing to use it.
  • Criminals: The Punisher has killed all kinds of them: Mafiosi, The Irish Mob, Yakuza, The Mafiya, South American crime bosses, embezzlers, modern pirates, poachers, gang members, bombers, pyromaniacs, bikers, modern nazis, super villains, mercenaries, assassins, Ninja, serial killers, rapists, child molesters, slavers, terrorists, killer families, Satan worshippers, Voodoo priests, ruthless vigilantes, crooked cops, and so on.
  • Crisis Crossover: He tends to be left out of these big events, partly because they don't fit his "realistic" tone, and partly because, as mentioned above, most of the spandex set really don't like him, and would rather he was in jail. Two notable exceptions:
    • In the Civil War, Captain America recruited him for the anti-registration side. Most of Cap's allies hated this — especially when Cap tried to recruit some low-level villains, who the Punisher promptly shot dead in front of everyone.
    • Frank appears very briefly in the Justice League-Avengers company crossover series. Batman sees him in action, and swiftly kicks the tar out of him.
  • Crusading Widower: Castle seeks vengeance then effects genocide on the American criminal element for the murder of his family during a botched mob hit.
  • Cultural Translation: One of the early arcs had a Carnival of Killers, one of which was described by Frank as shooting "faster 'n greased lightning". The French translation has "shoots faster than his own shadow".
  • Darker and Edgier: Though pretty mainstream by today's standards, the first Punisher miniseries (Circle of Blood) was a far cry from most other Marvel Comics products of the mid 1980s. Today, The Punisher: Frank Castle (the MAX imprint title) is the epitome of this trope for Marvel.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Punisher is an Anti-Hero example who only kills bad guys and he has black clothes with a skull. This, however, is often Depending on the Writer, as a lot of the time he practically qualifies as a Villain Protagonist.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: A Captain America/Punisher teamup comic has Frank cause this with a precise knife-throw into a guard with a machine gun, which takes out the other guards for them.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Frank's old guard dog, Max, which was killed off in the same arc it was introduced in. It's shot by a gangster trying to raid one of Frank's hideouts. When Frank sees that he's dying, he puts him down with a knife. Frank's crying when he does this. In a later two-parter, Max was retconned into surviving, and he's quite possibly still around to this day.
  • Depending on the Writer: How much Frank fights to help innocents and how much because he likes killing, as well as how sane he is in general. His feelings towards other Marvel heroes he runs into also varies with the writer. Does he view them as admirable but too soft? Just annoying obstacles in his path?
  • Depraved Dwarf: Frank and Wolverine take on an entire gang of these at one point, led by the midget brother of a mafia boss killed by Frank. It doesn't end well for them (or Wolverine).
  • The Determinator: Frank, of course. As he once said, "A man who doesn't have anything to lose, can't help but win."
  • Dirty Coward: About 95% of the criminals behave like this when on the wrong end of a gunpoint, begging Frank for their lives and promising him anything and everything (this never helps). The remaining 5% are mostly Psychos For Hire or otherwise too raving mad to feel fear — only very rarely do you see a sane villain who just has enough guts for something like "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner.
  • The Dreaded: Frank himself. The white skull on his chest has become such a terrifying icon of death that just the sight of it can make men from EASTERN EUROPEAN DEATH SQUADS fall to their knees and sob for mercy.
  • Driven to Suicide: The criminal profiler Buddy Plugg hangs himself after receiving disparaging comments from Soap.
  • Empowered Badass Normal:
    • In a What If, Castle visits the Our Lady of Saints church a few minutes before Eddie Brock does and winds up becoming Venom.
    • There was a brief period of time in the late nineties when Castle was given a supernatural bent for two miniseries (Purgatory and Revelation). He became a divine assassin on behalf of God, using angelic firearms to smite demons in return for a chance to be reunited with his family in heaven. Predictably, this didn't turn out to be a popular development. When Ennis began his run in "Welcome Back Frank", he pays lip service to it by acknowledging it before declaring: "It didn't work out."
    • Later, Morbius the Living Vampire resurrected Frank as a Frankenstein's Monster version of himself after a fight with Daken left Frank shredded into pieces.
  • Epic Fail: In Issue #18 of the original Punisher: War Journal series, Frank is in Hawaii tracking down a gang of drug dealers. He ends up armed with an old double barreled pistol taken off the body of Captain Cook. Frank ambushes one of the dealers and fires at him, causing a loud bang and bright flash...followed by the ball bearing slipping out of the pistol. Frank then throws the gun at the guy, which he ducks, causing the pistol to smack against the stump of a tree... which makes the other barrel discharge, hitting Frank right in the kevlar.
  • Exiled from Continuity: The MAX series.
    Marvel Civil War Handbook On Punisher: Although recently Castle has escalated his war on crime even further, with record-breaking body counts, he is paradoxically now rarely encountered in the field by any superhero save Daredevil. (...) It's almost like he inhabits two worlds, one where heroes can capture him and one where they can't, and he can slip from one to the other with ease.
  • Exploding Fish Tanks: Frank has twice shot aquarium tanks with sharks in them to take out bad guys.
  • Failure Is the Only Option:
    • The mainstream incarnation of The Punisher has only once succeeded at dispensing his own brand of justice to significant supervillains he encounters, even those who badly screw with him personally, like Bullseye. Probably that's why he mostly goes for mundane mobsters, who don't have Joker Immunity (or superpowers). The one exception is Stilt Man, which he got with a bazooka to the groin. The saddest aspect of all is, getting offed by the Punisher was probably was the high point of Stilt Man's career.
    • No matter what continuity Frank appears in, he will always lose his family to set up his reason for becoming The Punisher.
  • False Reassurance: If you're a criminal and The Punisher promises you something like "scratching your name from his list"... you better talk anyway, even if you are sufficiently Genre Savvy to recognize what that means, as being shot right after giving him the necessary information is still preferable to his other methods of loosening tongues.
  • Filler Arc: The "Taxi Wars" arc in the Marvel Knights run, those issues(and the one-shot where Frank travels back in time to kill Al Capone) are the only ones during that period not written by Garth Ennis and are also the only Knights issues to not be reprinted.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: The Punisher is well aware of the flamethrower's limitations: "Flamethrower's no good for a prolonged firefight. Sooner or later one of the tanks is going to take a bullet. Too bad for them that's what I'm counting on."
  • Flanderization: Frank's Ultimate Marvel counterpart may be even more fanatic about his crusade than Frank is. Even having the Ultimate Marvel version of Ghost Rider, an agent of Satan, telling him "keep up the good work" doesn't dissuade him from his killing spree. He thinks the message comes from his family, or maybe even God himself.
  • Follow the Leader: Almost single-handedly kick-started the Darker and Edgier trend of the late 80s and on through the 90s, and remains one of the few such series/characters to have retained his popularity and effectiveness after it died out (though Lord knows he's had his share of Dork Ages).
  • Funetik Aksent: Mrs. Pearse
  • Funny Background Event:
    • On a filing cabinet in the police station, there is a stuffed pig in a policeman's uniform. Those cops must have a good sense of humor.
    • When Ma Gnucci is in the hospital after being mauled by polar bears, there's a get well card on the bed with a picture of a teddy bear on it.
  • Genre Blind: The numerous gangsters, mobsters, and other crooks who think that they will be the one to finally bring Frank down.
  • Genre Savvy: Frank always knows when he is being manipulated or played and always refuses to play along.
  • Give Chase with Angry Natives:
    • Chased by Mafia goons through a zoo, Frank runs through the polar bear enclosure, punches the first sleepy one he sees, and keeps running. By the time the goons get there, they are facing three very pissed-off polar bears.
    • In another story, Frank is driving around town killing various gang members and criminals. One group survives the initial attack and gives chase. Frank gets rid of them by driving through a Mafia meeting without stopping; the gangstas following aren't so lucky.
  • Gun Porn: The Punisher: Armory miniseries is an entire line devoted to loving descriptions of the guns and tactics Punisher uses.
  • Guns Akimbo: The Punisher frequently does this.
  • Handicapped Badass: Frank lost an eye during his fight with the Red Vulture.
  • Handy Cuffs: Frank was captured by a minor gang leader named Machete, who insisted on killing a cuffed Castle in a machete duel. Castle rejects the machete, and kills the guy with his bare hands.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Punisher is often presented this way whenever he makes a guest appearance in more idealistic books like Spider-Man or Daredevil. However, in his own books, he's portrayed as a profoundly messed up individual, more tortured machine than man.
    • The MAX imprint is much darker and basically shows Frank operating as an uncompromising engine of vengeance in a Crapsack World. He's fully aware that his war on crime has damned him to Hell and there's no hope of redemption. He just doesn't care.
  • Hero Antagonist: Any superhero that shows up is likely to become this. Especially Daredevil, who is the superhero most determined to put a stop to the Punisher, to the point where they might as well be members of their respective rogues galleries.
  • Heroic Dolphin: Subverted in an issue of The Punisher War Journal. A Hawaiian "kahuna" controls sealife to rescue Frank from being stranded in the sea, and he thinks to himself that he didn't know that dolphins rescuing humans was true. When he gets back to the shore, she reveals that she actually used a shark to help him.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Despite being a fugitive for 30+ years and having his mugshot on the news semi-regularly, the only time he is ever recognized is when he opens his coat and reveals the skull on his chest. Either people recognize him but pretend they don't or they don't watch a lot of news.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Frank uses this among other interrogation techniques. Like most typical Anti-Heroes, he often does go through with the threat of letting them plummet to death.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted in Punisher: War Zone. During Castle's attack on Jigsaw's hideout, Castle uses an M4 variant with a suppressor. The gunshots sound more like muffled cracks than a "fwip". Also, the Smith and Wesson model 500 he uses is fitted with a suppressor which makes the shots sound like loud thuds.
  • I Love This Town: Officer Soap, who was promoted to Chief Inspector at the end of the Welcome Back Frank series, proudly looks out of his office to the Golden Sunset of New York... only to have a passing pigeon defecate on his head. Nevertheless, he warmly quotes this trope, for compared to all the hardships he endured trying to catch The Punisher, he was not going to let something as trivial as bird poop rain on his parade.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Often justified, as most of the mook criminals he faces don't really have much skills or experience in real combat.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Frank has been known to use fake ID to enter crime scenes and get firsthand information before the detectives arrive.
  • Implacable Man: Frank himself, but the trope also extends to the enemies like the amnesiac Thorn, Roc who survived being shot in the head and having his neck broken and the Russian, who's just a large man.
  • Improvised Weapon User:
    • Oh, so much. He uses piranha, giant snakes, rhinos, table saws, nail guns, fuses, meat packing equipment, a shark, the list goes on and on. Some more notable examples:
    • The keeper would have to be punching out a polar bear to anger it into taking out a mob boss, and using a pizza and the morbidly obese Mr. Bumpo on The Russian.
    • Once he used the freakin' Hulk against Daredevil, Spidey, and Wolverine to get them off his back.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: While most of Frank's fights are up close, he pulls this off every now and then. For example, in one of his earliest fights he manages to shoot out both of Spider-Man's web shooters while he's in mid-leap.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Played straight or subverted depending on the comic.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: While attempting to infiltrate a drug cartel, the cartel's boss hands Punisher a rifle and orders him to execute a captured DEA agent. The Punisher turns the gun on the boss only to discover that the gun is unloaded. It was a test of Frank's loyalty.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Frank is a big fan of it.
  • Jerkass: Kevin the bartender, who is always giving Det. Soap a hard time.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Frank is homicidal towards criminals and is very cold to innocents he comes across, but he does genuinely show concern for innocents. He does have a softer side that comes out on very rare occasions, too — he was notably a perfect gentleman towards Miss Grundy in Archie Meets the Punisher.
  • Joker Immunity:
    • Most notably, the Kingpin. The biggest gang boss in New York, but it's been explained that Frank can't kill him because if he does, New York will be devastated by gangs trying to take his place.note  Also Jigsaw, who Frank has let live numerous times except in the 2008 movie, where Frank impales him with a metal rod, then pushes him onto a large torch.
    • Lampshaded in his crossover with Batman. Frank has cornered the Trope Namer himself, who immediately starts cracking jokes about going to Arkham. Frank just coldly cocks his handgun and prepares to blow off the Joker's head, until Batman intervenes.
      The Joker: (Staring at Frank's gun) ... You're really going to do it.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Frank killed the reformed Stiltman, and later bombed the wake held for him by other villains.
    • The villains also constantly do this (if not much, much worse), because as bad as he is, Frank's the protagonist.
  • Kill Sat: The oneshot comic G-Force features a drug-dealing astronaut who uses the laser-firing satellite that his company built for the French government to fry his rivals. Punisher follows the guy into space, and uses the thing to destroy his own operations after killing him.
  • Killer Yoyo: One of Frank's one-time villains was an evil scientist named Dr. Ng, who used a razor-sharp yoyo as a weapon.
  • Knife Nut: When met with an assassin who prefers knives, Frank's inner monologues notes that one must be either insane or really good to use knives. Then he notes that knives are nothing against guns, and blows the guy away.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The aforementioned split in The Punisher's portrayal as regards to his interactions with the rest of the Marvel characters is lampshaded in Secret War: Secret Files (written in the voice of Nick Fury as entries in the SHIELD database); it comments on how it seems like Castle lives in "two different worlds," one where he interacts with the other heroes and one where he never crosses paths with them. Also:
    "I caught a glimpse of heaven once. The Angels showed me. The idea was I'd kill for them. Clean up their mistakes on Earth. Eventually redeem myself. Tried it. Didn't like it. Told them where to stick it. So they brought me up to heaven, to see what I'd be missing. A wife. A son. A daughter. I hadn't seen them since they bled out in my arms. Then I was cast down. Back to a world of killers. Rapists. Psychos. Perverts. A brand new evil every minute, spewed out as fast as men can think them up. A world where pitching a criminal dwarf off a skyscraper to tell his fellow scum you're back is a sane and rational act. The angels thought it would be hell for me. But they were wrong."
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In their very first meeting, Punisher and Wolverine attempted to kill each other because they mistook each other for poachers.
  • Limited Wardrobe: While it's entertaining to think that Frank has been wearing the same skull T-shirt all these years, no doubt stained with the blood of hundreds, he appears to have lots of spares. He even states in one comic devoted to showing his equipment and methods that he orders the shirts by the gross (gross = 144).
  • Made of Iron: To an absolutely insane degree. He has survived falls from considerable heights, countless gunshots (even unarmored), being stabbed, being brutally beaten up and much, much more during his career. He has even tangled with super-powered beings more often than the Average-Joe Badass Normal of the Marvel Universe.
  • Merry Christmas in Gotham: There's a story where Frank is about to snipe a drug lord, when suddenly there's a little girl pulling on his coat telling him she's lost her dad. Frank stares at her and puts the gun away. When they find her dad, he starts to thank him before recognizing his chest emblem and starting to panic. Frank tells him to calm down, that he should really teach his daughter not to talk to strangers, and then leaves.
  • Mook Chivalry: Obviously used quite a lot. What makes this extra-hilarious is that the smarter bosses (Cavella, Zakharov, Maginty) actually take the failings of their Mooks into account and use it to engineer Batman Gambits; Zakharov manages to blindside Frank with this trope twice.
  • More Dakka: Frank's solution to most problems is massive firepower. Submachine guns are just the starting point for automatic ballistic mayhem in his arsenal.
  • Mugging the Monster: Happens to Frank a lot, considering his habit of walking around the worst neighborhoods alone. Naturally, this does not end well. In one short story, Frank pretends to be a drunken hobo to the specific purpose of practicing his knife fighting.
  • Muggles Do It Better: He has fought many super powered heroes and villains, sometimes beating them or at least fighting to a draw, with nothing more than his wits, aim, and guns. Averted of course at times... Depending on the Writer.
  • Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: The Geracis, who convince Frank to be their next Don.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: This is one of the reasons the Punisher is an Anti Hero. He takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties while he's gunning down dozens of goons. Frank has also on occasions been shown to dislike killing animals, because an animal can't truly be guilty. That said, Frank's definition of "innocent" can be very narrow, as he would have shot an otherwise innocent drug addict to get to the gangster holding her hostage in New Ways to Live. This, like many of his traits, varies quite a bit by the writer.
  • New York City Cops: Whenever the NYPD show up, they are usually put into three groups; honest cops who truly believe that the Punisher is a danger to society, Dirty Cops who end up becoming more victims of The Punisher, or cops that secretly approve of the vigilante's activities and don't put that much effort into arresting him.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Inverted (at least with respect to morality) in a Punisher/Batman crossover.
    Punisher: I've got all the therapy you'll ever need right here, comedian.
    Joker: ... you're really going to shoot?
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Generally averted; however, the Punisher has been known to carry less-lethal weapons around. In the earlier stories, he often used "Mercy Bullets" when teamed up with other superheroes so as not to violate their no-kill rules; with no explanation as to what they were. Modern stories will sometimes explicitly mention him using rubber bullets. He'll usually only use non-lethal weapons grudgingly. For instance, in the Omega Effect crossover with Spider-Man and Daredevil:
    Punisher: We'll need forty minutes to prep the action.
    Spider-Man: With zero fatalities?
    Punisher: Forty-five.
  • Non-Powered Costumed Hero: Close enough to hero for the trope.
  • Noodle Incident: We catch the tail end of Soap describing how he was once handcuffed to a dead sheep.
  • Oh, Crap: Punisher was taken aback when Anti-Venom got back up after having his head blown in half by a shotgun.
  • One-Man Army: In the side materials to Secret War, Nick Fury compares the Punisher's destructive capabilities to that of Incredible Hulk's.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Oddly enough, one of the men who killed his family was also named Frank (surname Costa).
  • Only a Flesh Wound: About 90% of times when Frank actually gets shot, it's Only a Flesh Wound, as a side effect of him being Made of Iron. Sure, writers pay some superficial attention to things like blood loss and shock, but Frank still can operate at practically 100% efficiency within hours after, say, taking bullets from a machine gun in his flank and shoulder.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Jigsaw started to feel this way about Punisher when he heard about his (fake) death in the electric chair.
  • Opponent Switch: The Acts of Vengeance event saw Doctor Doom deciding to one-up Kingpin by taking out the Punisher.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Pretty much the cornerstone trope of The Punisher is doing bad things to even worse people.
  • Pet the Dog: Frank is shown to be capable of at least consideration for others, although it rarely approaches truly displaying kindness. Understandable, in that he's a loner who knows better than to let anyone get too close to him. Still, if he feels a debt is owed or that he's obligated to someone, he'll make every effort to even things out.
    • In "Welcome Back, Frank", he sneaks back into his abandoned apartment and leaves behind huge piles of cash (taken from the safe of a crime boss he'd just killed) for his three neighbors to find. Each of them had helped him several times during the arc, and he felt obligated. The last panel shows him standing on the street outside, listening to them laughing with joy and planning on improving their lives with the money. Frank walks away, thinking: "Best I can do. Maybe I am damned. But I'm not dragging you good people down with me."
    • Having beaten Jigsaw, Frank goes to finish the job when Soap calls for help, having been taken prisoner. It nearly costs him his life, as Soap tries to reason not to kill Jigsaw, before shouting a warning when he tries to shoot The Punisher.
    • In the end of Greg Rucka's run, Frank stays behind to take on a whole bunch of superheroes, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Black Widow in order to buy time for his partner, Rachel Cole-Alves, to escape.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Whenever The Punisher is jailed, it's usually because he allowed himself to be (usually he walks up to a police station and says "I surrender"), so he can kill one or more guys who are unreachable otherwise. Given that he's the friggin' Punisher, no one gives him trouble (those that do don't last very long).
    • During the story arc wherein Matt Murdock was in prison, Frank even let himself be captured in order to be put in the same prison, because he knew that Matt was going to need an ally. The two of them have a healthy respect for each other, despite their completely different approaches to crime. They even carried on civil conversations while eating meals in the cafeteria, and Frank respected Matt enough to comply when he asked him not to kill a prisoner who'd just attacked him. They'll never exchange Christmas cards, though.
  • Power Armor: Frank had Micro whip up a suit in order to combat a bunch of cybernetic mutant hunters. He broke it, and had in repaired in order to assault a gang boss who was selling a modified version of PCP... and then broke it again.
  • Power Copying: New Ways To Live reveals that Punisher got replicas of Captain America's shield, the Green Goblin's glider, and Doctor Octopus' tentacles from a raid on one of The Hood's weapons stashes.
  • Psycho for Hire: Mondo Pain, The Russian, Jigsaw - most of Frank's serious opponents are this.
  • Rasputinian Death:
    • Many Dragons or more physically tough Big Bads require a rather spectacular sendoff. This includes Roc and The Russian.
    • Frank himself gets one in "Dark Reign", when Daken quite literally tears him apart piece by piece. Then Morbius the Living Vampire brings him back as a patchwork monster (Franken-Castle).
  • Red Right Hand: The Russian from the Marvel Knights series' has a huge scar on his face.
  • The Resenter: In the Blood & Glory crossover miniseries with Captain America, Punisher resents Cap for being hailed as a hero of World War II, whereas he and other Vietnam veterans were branded as murderers of innocents for just being part of an unpopular war. Which makes it all the easier for the bad guys to dupe Punisher to believe that Cap is corrupted and part of the illegal weapons deals that had been happening recently, and try to assassinate him.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Frank's entire point, in some incarnations, tearing through entire towns worth of criminals connected to the death of his family.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Frank targets modern day pirates as readily as any other criminals.
  • Scope Snipe: The first Punisher story in The Nam depicts Frank Castle as a sniper in Vietnam. The entire two-part story is plagiarized verbatim from Carlos Hathcock's Real Life experience, including the Scope Snipe finale.
  • Serial Killer: In the Young Masters arc of Young Avengers, Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) notes that the superhero community of the Marvel Universe only sees the Punisher as a serial killer and any real hero would bring him down as hard as any villain if necessary.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Frank's more of a Mass Murderer Murderer, but he still fits.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Oddly, Frank's daughter has had at least four different names, Barbara, Donna, Christie and Lisa, while the name of his son (Frank Jr) is always consistent. Also Microchip's real name was originally "Lowell Bartholomew Ori", but was changed to "Linus Liberman" later. Additionally, the first time Frank's father is mentioned he's given the name "Mario", but a later story arc has him named "Lorenzo".
    • Also goes for Frank's last name (sometimes his birth name is Castiglione, other times it isn't; the whole thing was a clumsy attempt to add mobbed-up relatives as part of an Expansion Pack Past) and his Vietnam service (usually shown as an officer, many stories feature him instead as an enlisted rifleman). Several attempts at an Author's Saving Throw have him illegally re-entering the Marine Corps under his assumed name, which only raises further questions.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: 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 relating to his past in the war.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The late, great, Puerto Rican rapper "Big Punn" (he had a heart attack; dude was 400 pounds).
    • Ma Gucci mentions Namor the Sub-Mariner by name in the midst of all her snarking, and it's thrown in with lots of other off-hand reference to lots of different Marvel heroes made throughout the book.
    • One of the mooks is reading The Bridges of Madison County, of all things.
    • In The Punisher: Assassin's Guild oneshot comic, Frank guns down thinly-disguised counterparts of Lupin III and his gang.
    • While fighting Roc, who keeps on going even after having his neck snapped, Frank notes that the guy's "just like Jason, he never dies!"
  • Sinister Minister: The Rev, a Captain Ersatz of Jim Jones, and one of the few villains to survive his initial run-in with Frank.
  • Slasher Smile: Many of the Punisher's Psycho for Hire foes and Frank himself occasionally sports one in the mainstream Marvel universe.
  • Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness: Subverted repeatedly. Killing Anti Villains and Harmless Villains accounts for the majority of Frank's Kick the Dog moments.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Frank is either this or a Villain Protagonist.
  • Squashed Flat: One of the stories has Wolverine coming after Frank, mistaking that recent mutilations are his doing. Due to Wolverine's Healing Factor, Frank uses a steamroller to get him off his track.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: While Frank doesn't do this much in his own books, it is a fairly common way for him to take his leave at the end of a superhero team up.
  • The Stoic: Frank is either calm, detached, and homicidal, or (much more rarely) pissed off and homicidal. That's it. To quote the 2005 videogame (written by Garth Ennis):
    * after blasting Bushwacker through a wall* I don't smile much. Don't smile ever. But if I did, this would be one.
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration: Punisher's various authors have employed this, to incredible anatomical precision.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham:
    • Avoided by having the Darker and Edgier Punisher relegated to his own MAX title while the Marvel Universe Punisher took up Captain America's costume for an issue and had some Lighter and Softer (by comparison) adventures.
    • Greg Rucka indicated, when starting his 2011 series, it was all a matter of viewpoint. The other superheroes are far better equipped to deal with major threats like Galactus, Norman Osborn, and Dormammu, but someone has to pay attention to the drug pushers and mobsters.
    • Tackled head-on in one storyline wherein Daredevil enlisted the assistance of both Spider-Man and Wolverine to capture Castle and turn him over to the police. While the Punisher would not use lethal force against them since he did not regard them as criminals, he still managed to create enough collateral damage that capturing him simply became not worth the cost. In addition, none of them had a ready answer when Frank pointed out that if they put him in prison, all he was going to do was start killing everyone else in there with him. All three heroes left, having to face the fact that short of killing him, there simply wasn't an easy solution to the Punisher.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Force Frank to team up with another hero, and this trope is the result. While he and the hero community in general tend to dislike one another, he's at least willing to work with them against the 'real' villains. Averted more often than most people might assume, at least in the nineties. Frank had quite a few crossovers, and most of the people he worked with were either okay with him or felt he was a good man at heart. There were only a few who outright hated him.
  • Themed Aliases: The Punisher often uses aliases that are linked to Castle, his real last name: Charles Fort, McRook, Frank Rook, Francis Stronghold, Johnny Tower, Frankie Villa, etc.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Unlike the traditional position of heroes, it's rare when the villain du jour doesn't wind up getting killed by the end of the story.
  • Threatening Shark: A couple of mobsters thought that a big shark in an equally big (and not bulletproof) glass fish tank would be a great addition to their opulent mansion. They eventually learn their lesson just before their messy demise.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Quite a lot of villains. One minor gangster was dumb enough to brag about how he would take over his boss' territory and "business" when Frank (who had just offed said boss) was still right there; this was met with the predictable results:
    Gangster: I-I-I...I mean I'm gonna leave all this shit behind me. Get a job. Leave town.
    Frank: Yeah. Well. *shoots him* Just in case.
  • Torture Technician: Not a villain, but Frank is pretty knowledgable about the human anatomy and torture methods. Press a Berserk Button of his and you'll wish he was just practicing the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
  • Tranquil Fury: More often than not, Frank's completely and totally calm when brutally murdering villains. Pushing one of his Berserk Buttons leads to Unstoppable Rage. Either way, people die.
  • Victory By Endurance: There's one story where a mook barely escapes from Frank, and his mental condition gradually worsens as he seeks help everywhere. Frank barely appears at all except at the end, allowing the mook to tire himself out all by himself.
  • Vigilante Execution: Frank once executed an arsonist as he was leaving the court. With a fire truck.
  • Vigilante Man:
    • He's actually been called "Vigilante Man" a couple of times.
    • Frank also has a disdain for other "amateur" vigilantes, as shown when he calls out the "Vigilante Squad" (a trio of Punisher fanboys who don't have as much scruples) for being Ax-Crazy Knight Templars before gunning them down.
  • Wall of Weapons: Frequently, with one issue devoted to a detailed study of his armory.
  • Weaponized Car: The Battle Van, which Frank had a tendency to trash every time he used it. He also once had what was basically a go-cart from Hell. It was destroyed in its second appearance.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Frank's uncompromising morality is mixed with the fact that he's quite nuts.
  • What a Drag: Punisher does this once to a homophobic priest who had killed a young gay man, sparking a near-war between the sheriff (the victim's lover) and the military supplies dealer (the victim's mother).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Averted with most of the recurring villains from earlier books, whose plotpoints were resolved in various one-shots, annuals, and miniseries before all three of Punisher's main books came to an end.
    • Played straight with Thorn, who is probably still shuffling around Newark, and Dr. Ng, who is shown surviving his debut but fails to make an another appearance.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Punisher gets this from almost every superhero (and a few supervillains) he comes across. Frank himself occasionally gets to deliver these.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Frank is extra-cruel towards scum who beat women.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy:

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alternative title(s): Punisher; The Punisher; Punisher
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