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Characters / Marvel Comics: Frank Castle
aka: The Punisher Frank Castle

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Francis G. "Frank" Castle (né Castiglione) / The Punisher

Notable Aliases: Mr. Smith, Charles Fort, Frank Rook, Johnny Tower, Franken-Castle

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #129 (February, 1974)

"They laugh at the law. The rich ones who buy it and twist it to their whims. The other ones, who have nothing to lose. Who don't care about themselves, or other people. All the ones who think they're above the law, or outside it, or beyond it. They know all the law is good for is to keep good people in line. And they all laugh. They laugh at the law. But they don't laugh at me."

A traumatized 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 superhero community being strained at best.

Frank Castle provides examples of:

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  • '90s Anti-Hero: The Ur-Example because despite debuting in the '70s, he demonstrates a lot of the common traits of one. A bleak outlook, preference towards violence, dark outfit and a gritty name.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: During his days as a semi-antagonist in the pages of Spider-Man and Daredevil, Punisher briefly became one of these, going after people for crimes like jaywalking and littering, having gone off the deep end and decided that all small crimes eventually cascade into big ones. This was eventually retconned when he was given his own series and it was revealed that he'd been involuntarily drugged during this period and eventually detoxed in prison. These days he doesn't care much about crimes beyond drug dealing and murder, though he's obviously not happy with smaller crimes either.
  • Aesop Amnesia: In his first appearances in Spider-Man comics, he would repeatedly think that Spider-Man is a criminal, only to learn that he truly is a good guy that he says he is at the end of the story. But then again, this is Spider-Man we're talking about.
  • 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.
  • Alternate Self: Cosmic Ghost Rider, a version of the Punisher from a future timeline where Thanos had killed nearly the entire Marvel Universe.
  • Ambiguously Evil: This has mostly to do with inconsistent writing, but it's still debatable whether Frank is an Anti-Hero or a psychotic serial killer. Many story settings and writers end up presenting him as both, but many will attempt in-story to present him as strictly the former or the latter.
  • Anti-Hero: One of the most extreme examples ever, driven by vengeance and with few if any qualms about murder. He's at best Unscrupulous, often Nominal, if not a Villain Protagonist. He usually spends his days on two things: Killing the worst scum on earth and planning to kill the worst scum on earth.
  • 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.
  • The Atoner: Depending on the Writer, Frank's reason for becoming the Punisher is to punish himself for failing to protect his family.
    Frank: know what this is all about? Maybe I'm just trying to kill myself, in expiation for having failed to protect my family. Go out in a blaze of glory.
  • Ax-Crazy: Depending on the Writer, he's a calculating killing machine or a nut who offs criminals for the sake of it.
  • Back from the Dead: The Punisher himself has been killed twice and brought back. The first time, he was resurrected by the Angel Gabriel, granting him access to all the weapons of Heaven in the process. The second time, he was revived by Morbius as a Frankenstein-esque creature known as Franken-Castle. He was eventually turned back into a normal human by Elsa Bloodstone using the Bloodstone.
  • 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 using skill and psychotic levels of determination.
    • Exemplified with his fight against The Sentry where Frank wins against the Cosmic - Level villain through a combination of guile and military grade C-4. To be clear, Frank's victory was not actually defeating him in combat, but simply escaping from a being who is fast enough to travel across a continent in seconds. A near-impossible feat for any mortal, even those with superpowers.
    • Nick Fury is well aware of Frank's capabilities, and despite him having no superpowers, he states that Frank's training, fighting skills, use of weaponry, and ability to carefully plan his attacks make him the equal of many supers. He even goes so far as to tell his people that if they ever really needed to take out Doctor Doom, part of the plan would be to drop both the Hulk and the Punisher on opposite ends of Latveria, turn them loose, and watch to see which one would reach the center of the nation (and Doom) first. This actually makes very good sense, as Doom would likely focus all his efforts on the Hulk and not have the time to realize how much Frank was fucking things up under the radar or the resources to spare in order to deal with him.
  • Badasses Wear Bandanas: A bandana was a regular part of his ensemble during the nineties, usually in stories drawn by Jim Lee.
  • Badbutt: Any censored animated version of him will inevitably wind up as this. For example...
  • Berserk Button: Frank doesn't go berserk very often. However, if someone pisses him off or is on his list, he will go about killing them very methodically and efficiently. He can, and will, go berserk if you hurt women or children. In addition, mocking, ridiculing, or insulting Captain America and the ideal he stands for means he will go insane on your ass. He respects Cap so much that on one occasion when Cap was kicking his ass, Frank absolutely refused to fight back at all. In one storyline, he saw a news story where the latest Hate-Monger, dressed in a costume that was very similar to Cap's, was boasting about killing illegal immigrants and spreading racist propaganda.
Frank: "I'm stealing a car. I'm driving to New Mexico. And when I get there I'm going to shoot that guy in the face!"
  • On that same note, Frank also really hates vigilantes who use his actions and image as inspiration to commit hate crimes or think they are in any way like him. Best case scenario for such folks is getting away with a withering dismissal and Frank making clear he has nothing but contempt for him.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Punisher is a sociopathic, cruel, Knight Templar, Blood Knight, mass-murderering, Vigilante Man, but is recurrently put against exaggerated 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. Many morally dubious superheroes and even normal citizens secretly enable Frank to allow him to do the dirty work of getting rid of baddies in ways they wouldn't want to do themselves.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: Depending on the writer, of course, but some versions of the Punisher show his obsession with justice as twisting his mind. Taken to the extreme in "The Punisher: The End", where he tracks down the sole survivors on a post-nuclear apocalypse Earth and executes them because they're the various corrupt and amoral power players whose greed led to the war in the first place. What makes this example worse is that Punisher knows that their bunker also has a stockpile of preserved human embryos and the devices to bring them to term, meaning that this bunker could be used to restore the human race... and he still kills everyone. Not just the fat cats, but the doctors who could look after that stockpile. His rationale boils down to, essentially, because humans create crime, humanity doesn't deserve to live.
  • Black Like Me: One arc has Frank go to a Back-Alley Doctor after Jigsaw slashes up Frank's face. The doc's treatment heals the scars but also turns Frank black, allowing him to fight alongside Luke Cage for a while.
  • Blood Knight: Why does Frank kill? 33% for revenge, 33% for justice, and 33% because he likes it; the remaining 1% is just plain Ax-Crazy.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Criminals and heroes alike are forever pointing out to Frank that he's fighting a war he cannot win: no matter how many rapists, dealers and murderers he kills, there will always be others to take their place, and once he dies he won't have accomplished anything. None of them ever seem to realize that Frank is perfectly aware of this, and is absolutely not afraid to die (in one story he's poisoned, spends the last six hours of his life killing as many criminals as he can, and is pissed off that he gets injected with the antidote at the last second).
  • 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.
    • He once used an unconscious Spider-Man as a shield while fighting the resurrected Russian. When Spidey came to, he had one hell of a headache.
    • His first hit in The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank features a firefight in a morgue, where a mook lifts up a corpse and tries to use it as a shield. Frank's comment as he shoots both is that you should not hide behind a skinny corpse.
  • 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: See here.
  • 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.
  • Byronic Hero: Sometimes has moments of this, being an utterly ruthless, brooding and intelligent former Vietnam vet vigilante going on a one man war against crime.
  • Can Always Spot a Cop: Frank is very good at spotting cops. One reason is that his line of work requires him to avoid them (although many writers have made it clear that most street cops wholeheartedly approve of his war on crime and don't put any effort into apprehending him). Another reason is that he is very careful to make certain there aren't any undercover police officers present when he targets criminals. It's one of the reasons why he surveils his targets for a considerable length of time while planning the hit. His internal monologue during one encounter highlights both this trope and his Sherlock Scan abilities:
    This guy says he's homeless. Put some effort into looking the part. Tattered clothes. Rundown shoes. Unshaven. But he obviously works out. Being homeless doesn't come with a gym membership. Those teeth are in real good shape. Regular brushing and flossing and trips to the dentist. Homelessness doesn't have a dental plan. The tinted contact lenses don't help either. Definitely a cop.
  • 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 home 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.
  • Charles Atlas Super Power: Frank is occasionally depicted as this, between being a Vietnam veteran Determinator having Improbable Aiming Skills and (as in the War Zone movie) extremely sensitive hearing. Some of his enemies — particularly The Russian — are similarly empowered. In addition, Frank's ability to tolerate pain is shown to be off the scale, which allows him to keep functioning despite injuries that would have any other man completely incapacitated. It helps that Frank is both Made Of Iron and a Determinator. Nick Fury and Tony Stark have both observed that Frank's ability to tolerate pain is absolutely psychopathic. When he's going after a target it doesn't matter how much he gets hurt. He just doesn't care.
  • 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.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Some writers tend to portray him as this; a lonely, feared unstable shell of a man with no future, who can only function as a killing machine.
  • Cold Sniper: Has the persona and was one in Vietnam.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Even though he was only a Captain in Vietnam, he still fits this trope.
  • Contempt Crossfire: Frank often ends up creating these (with himself as the extremist regarding bringing criminals to justice) when another superhero (usually Daredevil or Spider-Man who just want the criminals arrested) tries to prevent him from killing a criminal. Said criminal usually ends up shooting at both of them, even knowing going with the super means he'll live, albeit in prison.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Frank is 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."
    • 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.
  • Cool Car: At the height of his alliance with Microchip, Microchip fixed him up with some extremely advanced tech including modifying the Punisher's van so that it had plasma guns built into the hubcaps and robot tentacles to deal with intruders that somehow made it inside. The Punisher van's security system slaughtered a gang and permanently crippled the leader using the above weapons.
  • Cool Mask: During Edmondson's run, Punisher sported a balaclava with his skull insignia on it.
  • 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.
  • Cruel Mercy: During the second chapter of Greg Rucka's run, the Punisher cornered Liam Malloy, a low level thug who recklessly shot up a wedding reception, and actually let him go. Predictably, Liam immediately went to the nearest Bad Guy Bar and told his comrades about how he survived an encounter with the Punisher. They saw him as a marked man and refused to offer him asylum, and he was brutally executed by his bosses soon after.
  • Crusading Widower: He seeks vengeance on the American criminal element for the murder of his family during a botched mob hit.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: In some versions, especially the MAX series, shows that Frank Castle has been around violence and crime his whole life.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Tends to dress in black, aside from the white skull emblem, but wants to protect the innocent from the criminals who prey on them. He just has a very violent way of doing that.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Frank occasionally shows a sense of Black Humor.
  • Death by Origin Story: He became a vigilante after his wife and children were killed.
  • Death Seeker: It has been suggested more than once that Castle's ultimate goal in life is suicide by gangster. It's happened a few times, but Frank happens to be a popular anti-hero in a comic book, so it never sticks.
  • Decapitation Strike: The Punisher often pulls these off, as disorganized crime is easier to deal with. Averted where the Kingpin is involved, the usual justification being that taking him out will cause gang wars that will hurt civilians.
  • Depending on the Writer: He's vacillated between a somewhat reasonable vigilante fully willing to abide by other heroes' no-killing rules during team-ups, to a frothing lunatic who'll murder jaywalkers (retconned into being due to drugs he was exposed to without his knowledge), to being a serial killer who uses his family's deaths as a justification for the endless war he wages to sate his bloodlust.
    • 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? Weaklings who can't do what's necessary?
  • Despair Event Horizon: Waking up in the hospital and realizing his entire family was dead destroyed Castle. Only the Punisher remains.
  • Determinator: Frank, of course. As he once said, "A man who doesn't have anything to lose, can't help but win."
  • The Don: Became briefly one for the Geraci family, a minor crime syndicate in New York, after they rescued him from an electric chair and convinced him that the best way to fight the crime is to control it. As you can imagine, this is almost uniformly ignored today.
  • Doom Magnet: Lampshaded in Marvel Year in Review 1993:
    You know, it's kind of a waste of time to create new characters for The Punisher's books. If they're Frank's enemies, they get shot dead after an appearance or two. If they're Frank's friends, they get shot dead after an appearance or two.
  • Doomed Fellow Prisoner: Inverted. Anyone who winds up in a cell with him tends to wind up dead.
  • The Dreaded: Every crook and mobster (and most "street" level supervillains) brown their trousers at the mere mention of Frank. 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.
  • Drugs Are Bad: To an almost cartoonish degree in the 80's, Frank apparently considered drug dealing to be the worst crime a person could commit this side of the Nuremberg trials. Has lessened since them, though he's not exactly thrilled about people using or selling drugs now either, he'll usually just go after dealers who are also killers.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: These days it's generally accepted that Frank doesn't kill children or teenagers and if any writer contradicts that, they must hate him (this is commonly said about Frank's appearance in Runaways for example). However, back before he even got his first book and was being used by Frank Miller as a rival and foil to Daredevil, there was a story where he hunts down and murders a drug dealer stated to be between 13 and 15 years old note  and then rants how it wasn't him who killed the boy but the Crime itself. Really early in his run, he once shot a guy for jaywalking. It is safe to say Frank has since switched to decaf.
  • 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. Not knowing what the symbiote is (he thought it might be some sort of S.H.I.E.L.D. experimental weapon) he uses the suit to it's full extent, until it starts going out at night when he's asleep to kill people, and at one point even hits Microchip. When the symbiote is cornered by Spider-Man, Moon Knight and Daredevil, Frank regains consciousness and realizes what has happened. He undergoes a Battle in the Center of the Mind and regains control of his body, and tells the symbiote that he will literally blow his brains out rather than let it control him, and basically forces it to obey him.
    • 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: "Tried it. Didn't like it. Told them where to stick it.."
    • 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. Frank was eventually returned to normal by the healing power of the Bloodstone, and abandoned the stone when his monster allies helped him realize that its continued influence could lead to him turning on the innocent.
    • In 2018, Nick Fury Jr. needs Frank to do some international wetworks for him. In return, he gives Frank the location of the warehouse storing the War Machine armour. So for at least a number of issues, Frank is the new War Machine. It backfires when Frank decides to steal the Armor for his crusade and goes on a rampage.
    • Also in 2018, Frank becomes Ghost Rider, a Herald of Galactus and a minion of Thanos. Unlike some of the other examples of him getting powers, Cosmic Ghost Rider is a Breakout Character who got his own series.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Believe it or not, there ARE some lines he will not cross and he has rules he sticks to it vehemently, though note that some of these are Depending on the Writer:
    • He will not kill cops as a general rule, even crooked ones. The rare occasions where he does are usually accidental, self-defense, or the guy just REALLY deserved it.
    • He's willing to spare people who make their case that they're only committing crime under duress. He's let people go who were being blackmailed or forced into criminal activities, since they convinced Frank they weren't going to be career criminals. The trick, however, is getting him to ease off the trigger long enough to convince him.
    • He's also more willing to spare kids and teenagers, under the logic that they're young and will learn from his little visit to not be involved anymore.
    • Criminals that are currently being processed by the system (e.g. in court or custody) he leaves alone. He also doesn't go after defendants who have been legitimately cleared by a court of law. Now, if they get off when they're clearly guilty, then they become fair game once more. Though at times, he has killed prisoners he deemed deserving while they were were held in custody.
    • As much as he has a beef with New York's other costumed heroes (most of them really aren't into the whole "killing without trial" thing), any time he goes fisticuffs with them, he will never kill them, only seek to disable them. As much as he thinks they don't do enough about crime, he respects that they're doing something.
    • Part of the reason other costumed heroes are willing to work with him when circumstances demand is that they respect that he doesn’t harm the innocent; Spider-Man noted that he’s heard that the Punisher has vowed to turn himself in if his actions ever cause the direct death of an innocent person.
    • While Frank Castle is eager to kill criminals quickly and without a trial, he does genuinely want to make certain that they are guilty and not innocent and being framed for the crimes, so he often doesn't go after people he isn't absolutely sure are guilty.
    • He also doesn't look kindly upon those who idolize him, or see him as a role model. In one comic, he encountered a couple of fanboy cops (claiming to be part of a larger group) who had a sticker of his skull symbol placed on their car's bumper, and told him, "We believe in you". In response, Frank took off the sticker and ripped it up, at the same time calling out the officers for idolizing him of all people.
      Frank: I'll say this once. We're not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don't do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name is Captain America, and he'd be happy to have you.
    • He won't kill the Kingpin, since Fisk's death would end up causing much worse threats to pop up.
    • Frank only uses lethal force against criminals guilty of very serious crimes like murder, rape, child abuse, assault of innocents and the like. He won't bother with people doing stuff that's illegal but harmless and mid-level stuff like drug dealing or petty theft will usually just get a stern warning from him.
    • Despite his vigilantism, Frank is not a racist or bigot and absolutely abhors vigilantes who use him as a symbol for their hateful rhetoric or as inspiration to commit racially motivated attacks.
  • Evil Wears Black: He's easily the darkest of Marvel's nominally heroic characters, and his all black costume (military-goth chic, as Spider-Man dubs it) is intended to contrast with the brightly colored outfits of the more traditional superheroes.
  • Exact Words: Frank is a big fan of this. He said he'd scratch your name off his list if you cooperated with him, he never said anything about sparing your life.
  • Expy: Of the old pulp character The Executioner, who is basically Frank with a different name.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Sported one for most of Greg Rucka's run, after he nearly lost an eye during a battle with the fourth Vulture.
  • Familial Foe: The Punisher fills this role toward various villainous families in comics written by Garth Ennis (who tends to avert Comic-Book Time). In The Punisher Vs Bullseye, the Punisher has been killing members of the Patrillo crime family since the 1980s, and only a few (largely ineffectual) family members are left by 2006.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Among the Marvel Universe's more squeaky-clean super hero community, Frank is easily the most reviled. Even Namor, post Phoenix Five, has a few other heroes that he can call friends. Frank has absolutely no support among the larger hero community because he deems himself Judge, Jury, and Executioner to virtually every criminal he meets. Even people that are willing to put up with that won't work with him because he point blank refuses to compromise, even for the sake of pragmatism. The only other "heroes" he gets along with are those cut from the same cloth as himself. He usually gets along with guys like Blade, Ghost Rider (most of them), Wolverine (at least when not written by Garth Ennis), and other people on the side of good that are willing to take things to the limit to stop the bad guys. While he doesn't consider the others like him friends exactly, he usually gets along well with them as they all have a decent amount of respect for each other because of their similar backgrounds. Interestingly, even the more noble heroes will work with Frank when they need to and don't usually hate him if they can, on some level, relate to him. He gets on well with Thor because both of them are warriors and Thor at the least understands that sometimes killing is necessary (Ditto to the other Asgardians because they're all Proud Warrior Race Guys and respect Frank's resolve and code of honor). Captain America hates Frank's outlook but doesn't hate the man as a fellow soldier, as he understands Frank's outlook and also know that Frank is needed in certain circumstances.
    Deadpool: Chuck Bronson called. He wants everything he ever did back.
    • Ironically, the closest he has to a friend in the superhero community is also his worst opponent; Daredevil. The two have been closely associated since the 80's, and have similar backgrounds. Daredevil desperately wants to stop the Punisher from continuing his crusade, and both hates and sympathizes with him at the same time. Frank has lost track of the amount of times that Matt has kicked the shit out of him and told him that he's a maniac who is just as bad as most of the scum he fights, and Matt has lost track of the amount of times that Frank has caught him off-guard with a lucky hit or sensory overload long enough to incapacitate him and told him that he's an insufferable moral grandstanding hypocrite who needs to stay in his own lane, but at the end of the day, both will grudgingly concede that the other has a point, and while they fight constantly, Frank respects Matt enough to not put a bullet through his head, and Matt respects Frank enough to not snap his spine.
  • Friend to All Children: While not necessarily good with kids due to his gruff demeanor, Frank nonetheless is shown to have a soft spot for them and they are generally the ones to bring out his kinder side. The flip side is that harming kids is a good way to really get on his bad side.
  • Genius Bruiser: In addition to his devastating combat skills, Frank is a very skilled investigator and an excellent tactician and planner. He is also extremely adept at intelligence gathering, getting in to secure locations undetected and sneaking up on enemies, capturing people and sizing up opponents quickly to know how best to defeat them and using psychological warfare, both in combat and in interrogations. He is also skilled with just about every weapon and knows how to maintain them properly and is an adept pilot who can fly planes and helicopters.
  • Good Is Not Nice: He isn't a very pleasant individual, but he nonetheless hunts down the worst of the criminals.
  • Graceful Loser: After a fight between and Daredevil in the latter's 2019 run. After another ideological clash, Matt beats Frank down and boasts that if he were a killer like Frank, the death toll Punisher leaves is nothing compared to what Daredevil would, and Frank would be dead. Frank doesn't deny it and admits Matt killing him would be worth it, since he knew Matt would carry on Frank's war against crime better than he ever could.

  • He Who Fights Monsters: Skirts the line of Moral Event Horizon here a lot. Frank himself freely admits that he's a monster that hunts other monsters.
  • I Am What I Am: Frank makes no allusions or pretensions to what he does. He point blank calls himself a monster that just hunts other monsters and he really doesn't care what other people think nor does he feel the need to debate them. It's not that he feels he's justified in what he does as he doesn't need any justification. He just kills bad guys period.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: One of the most humiliating moments in Castle's life was getting one-shotted by Molly "Princess Powerful" Hayes.
  • I Work Alone: Repeatedly discussed. In his opinion, "no one should be like me."
  • Iconic Item: His skull T-shirt. It was originally a Kevlar suit, and is sometimes a bulletproof vest.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Once No-Selled a sexuality-based mind control power from two villainesses who ordered Spider-Man to attack him (something about his using his reptilian brain more than other brain functions).
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Frank's a big fan of this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be a violent, deranged borderline sociopath and a jerk to almost everyone he meets but it's shown that Frank does genuinely care about the people he saves and his few friends and cares about preventing innocent people from dying. He is also capable of being very kind to victims of crimes and helping them out and has a huge soft spot for kids.
  • Karmic Thief: He swipes the cash that he finds on his raids to finance his war on crime.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Depending on the Writer he is this. Sometimes he is very brutal, fully self-aware yet very tragic. Other times he acts the opposite.
  • Knight Templar: At his most brutal, he's this. He's still on the side of good, but his methods are way beyond what most people find acceptable and his moral absolutist tendencies generally don't help sway anyone.
  • Lightning Bruiser: What he lacks in straight heroic based powers (super speed, durability, strength, etc.), he makes up for in highly trained reflexes, sheer determination, and the upmost brutality he brings to the table in any bouts.
  • Made of Iron: Frank can take ridiculous amounts of punishment and damage with seemingly no ill effect. No matter how hurt or messed up, none of his injuries ever seem permanent. While he has died and come back a few times, it never made any lasting change on him.
    • While Garth Ennis established Frank as having made a deal with/been chosen by Death itself in the Max series, it was very much a case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Here in the main 616 universe, he has been heavily implied by the lady herself that he's one of her chosen knights and avatars like Thanos or Deadpool.
      Death: Once I have chosen a being to be my living instrument on the mortal plane, I'm afraid their path is set in stone. And I choose...many children, Francis Castle.
  • Mentor: To Rachel Cole-Alves. Might qualify as an Evil Mentor depending on how you want to look at it.
  • Mighty Glacier: As Franken-Castle, he was much stronger and tougher than in life but since he lacked the muscle memory of his old self, he was much slower and more cumbersome in combat.
  • Military Superhero: A key part of his backstory is that he was soldier who fought in a war.
  • More Dakka: His solution to most problems.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: One of the reasons why the Punisher is an Anti Hero. Well, he won't kill innocents, and he probably won't give them any permanent injuries.
  • Nominal Hero: Discussed. It's been brought up that Frank enjoys killing and even when he had a normal a normal family life, he admits didn't feel right. This lead many heroes to believe that he hides behind revenge as a justification for murder (and sometimes not even with that), and just so happens to target bad guys over innocents. While he can occasionally veer into that characterization, Frank is usually someone who believes in justice, however brutal he may be.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Frank is a very skilled Marine and formidable to other soldiers. But against untrained civilians and small-time criminals, his combat and tactical skills make him borderline unstoppable. However, this trope as also come back to bite him as he is still just a human going up against super powered beings, meaning he struggles outside his small pond. He's also been blindsided when facing criminals who also have military training or experience or are just more intelligent and capable than his normal opponents.
  • No-Sell: One of Ghost Rider's most powerful techniques is the Penance Stare, which causes anyone with an ounce of remorse for what they've done to experience the pain that they've inflicted on others. When he tried to do this on Frank during a Let's You and Him Fight, nothing happened, because Frank has no regrets about his brutal war on crime.
  • One-Man Army: Zig-Zagged depending on the circumstances. Frank is only human but he has near peak level physical ability, is an expert in weapons and warfare, a cunning tactician, basically psychopathic levels of pain endurance, and The Gift when it comes to fighting and killing. He's unstoppable among rank and file human criminals and can even hold his own against other Badass Normal and otherwise "street level" heroes like Daredevil. How well he does against the superpower set is based on the arms he has available. If he's not expecting to fight someone with superpowers and he isn't equipped for it then he will get his ass kicked and barely survive. If he's going after super people and he is appropriately armed (like hunting frost giants with Asgardian weapons) then he is still a one man army.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: For a decade, The Punisher was never referred to by his real name, even when he stood trial in The Spectacular Spider-Man. It took until 1985 for his actual name to be established as Frank Castle (born Castiglione).
  • Outliving One's Offspring: His children were killed as well as his wife, and their deaths are why he goes around murdering criminals.
  • Papa Wolf: The catalyst for his continuous Roaring Rampage of Revenge against criminals everywhere is his family being killed.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: This trope defines him. He brutally guns down criminals. How this is received depends on where in the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism the comic he's appearing in is. But one thing's for sure. If he has you on his list, he will kick you when you are down. And shoot you. And throw a grenade on you. And push you in front of a moving subway train. And pull out all your teeth while you're tied to a dentist's chair. And run you over with his car, then back up and run you over again. And hook your balls up to a car battery, turn the ignition key until you've shit all over yourself, and then turn the key some more. If you're on his list, you deserve everything he does to you. So don't get on Frank's list.
  • Perma-Stubble: Quite regularly.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Frank's default expression.
  • Phrase Catcher: When Frank enters a room, the response is usually some variation of...
    Mobster: Holy shit! It's the fucking Punisher!
  • Powered Armor: He had to resort to using this against the Reavers, a pair of thugs hopped up on a kind of "super-PCP" and the Red Hulk. He later wears a set of War Machine armor for a while.
  • Pragmatic Hero: While not a hero in the conventional sense as he is a anti-hero. When written in a lighter story, he kills less but still shows no mercy, and does whatever it takes in the task at hand.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: While Frank Castle hunts down, kills, and tortures every criminal he comes across, he has an extra hatred towards rapists and reserves the worst form of torture he can think of for them (particularly sex traffickers and child rapists).
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Focus on "what HE thinks is right", which unfortunately isn't shared by his more heroic contemporaries who'd rather he not turn New York into a worse war zone than it already is.
  • Semper Fi: Frank was a marine.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Considering who Frank is, he brutally kills murderers.
  • 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.
  • Sociopathic Hero: The comic book mascot of this trope. He was, by far, the most popular costumed "superhero" to kill his enemies rather than putting them to jail. And he's been doing it way before The Dark Age of Comic Books
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: In Punisher: War Machine, Frank gets to borrow a set of War Machine armor to complete a dangerous "off the books" mission for Nick Fury. Recognizing its potential as a weapon in his one man war on crime, he decides to keep it for himself.
    Fury: Remember, when this mission is over, that suit goes right back to me.
    Frank: Fuck that.
  • The Stoic: Frank is either calm, detached, and homicidal, or (much more rarely) pissed off and homicidal. That's it. To quote the 2005 video game (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.
  • Strong and Skilled: Frank is in excellent shape and a highly skilled Marine who is trained in numerous forms of combat such as Krav Maga, Karate, Ninjitsu, Boxing, Wrestling, Chin Na, Brazilian Jujitsu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, Judo, Muay Thai and Kickboxing.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: On the times Frank is working with another superhero (which is more often out of necessity than a desire to team up), he'll be certain to butt heads with how he's doing things and how much he disapproves of the other's actions. Notably, Spider-Man in particular and Frank have a mutual dislike of one another since they are on opposite sides of the superhero spectrum.
  • Terror Hero: BIG TIME! Frank was a trained special forces soldier and even among his peers was considered The Ace. This means that he has no problem with lethal force, Just Shoot Him, Cold-Blooded Torture, and being a Combat Pragmatist. The bad guys know that Spider-Man or Captain America will just beat them up and give them to the cops. Frank on the other hand will put them in a grave. He's also this to other heroes because try as they might to dismiss him as an Ax-Crazy Vigilante Man, they know he and they are not so different. Like most of the other heroes, Frank has a strong moral code and will always prioritize saving innocent people over killing the bad guy. He will never harm innocent people and will make sure there's no collateral damage in the form of civilian lives. He is also the The Determinator and has as much willpower as any of them. Frank is feared by other heroes because he represents what they could become if they go too far.
  • That Man Is Dead: A favorite saying of his; Frank Castle died with his family. He's the Punisher.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In his Idiot Ball moments, Frank is prone to picking fights with characters well beyond his weight class. Worst cases include;
    • He had a run with a large green man who was very obviously the HULK, a being who the US army has been trying to kill for years with no success. Frank can't scratch him, and his first reaction was that the giant green man must be wearing body armor, rather than it was, you know, THE HULK.
    • When teaming up with Anti-Venom in an attack on a Mexican crime syndicate. After realizing Anti-Venom is Eddie Brock under a new alias, Frank shoots him in the head and nearly shoots Eddie's Morality Pet when she's used as a Human Shield. Anti-Venom's Healing Factor meant he regenerated and nearly killed Punisher. Despite Brock sparring Frank, he still kept trying to kill Eddie. On top of having powers, Anti-Venom is an Anti-Hero who thinks nothing of killing his enemies and has at times also eaten them, so Frank is lucky he didn't join Eddie's long list of victims.
    • When Norman Osborn, another superpowered villain who was at the time had his own suit of Powered Armor designed by Tony Stark was the head of SHIELD and the leader of his own supervillain team the Dark Avengers, which included The Sentry as his personal attack dog, Frank tried to assassinate him. This was predictable thwarted by the Sentry, and led to Norman sending Daken after Frank who sliced him into pieces.
  • Torture Technician: Push one of his Berserk Buttons, and you'll wish he was just using the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
  • Tragic Hero: Despite gunning down organized crime as fast as he can, it never ceases to exist, which condemns him to do it until the day he dies.
  • 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.
  • Unwitting Pawn: One of the more hated parts of The Punisher: Purgatory was the retcon that Frank was really one of these for the demon Olivier (who once he regained his memories of his true self after being reborn as gangster Frank Costa decided to arrange the death of Frank's family so he could have an avatar to build an army for him out of those Frank killed).
  • The Vietnam Vet: This guy's history as a Vietnam veteran was a key part of his backstory, and some have suggested it's part of why his response to his family's murder was to wage a one-man war on crime. In 2019, it's no longer the case as History of the Marvel Universe issue 2 retconned a war with the Fictional Country of Siancong and moved Frank's history to that conflict.
  • Vigilante Man: One of the ultimate examples in the Marvel Universe
  • Villain Protagonist: More less his entire character, but the fact that he typically targets some really vile criminals - sex traffickers, gangsters and the occasional C-List Fodder supervillain - keeps him from landing squarely in the trope most of the time. He'll occasionally find himself having to oppose heroes, since most of Marvel's heroic community oppose Frank's ideology and methods, most notably in Greg Rucka's 2009 War Zone miniseries when he goes up against the Avengers.
  • Villainous Underdog: Given how underpowered he is compared to most superheroes, any story in which he's the bad guy is likely to make him this. Notable examples include his early Spider-Man and Daredevil appearances, and especially War Zone (2009) miniseries where he goes up against The Avengers with nothing but his guns and his tactical acumen.
  • Villainous Widow's Peak: When Frank was still an antagonist in his early appearances, he had a pronounced widow's peak.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: A Downplayed Trope with Frank because he doesn't like to work with or get close to anyone which is stated by Frank to Joan, an old neighbor of his, who suggested that the reason is because of losing his family and him responding, "If I can, I try to make sure to not like them" when he does have to work with others, but Frank has a few people he can call close acquaintances if not friends.
    • While he's clashed with Wolverine a few times, they're often portrayed as working together and understanding each other (except when written by Garth Ennis who hates Wolverine). Frank's come to James' rescue before and in turn he's helped out Frank like when the avengers decided to bring the punisher in.
    • Thor and the Asgardians tend to think well of him as they are all Proud Warrior Race people and, like Frank, believe in punishing the wicked severely. The only issue Thor has with Frank is he believes Frank goes too far at times and can get drunk on "warrior's madness" (I.E. consumed by bloodlust to the point of crossing the line due to the thrill of battle). Surprisingly, Thor's mom Freyja thinks the world of Frank after he helped and supported her during War of the Realms.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He does almost whatever it takes, no matter how gritty and dark it gets to kill criminals. Yet he never kills innocents or those working on the side of the law.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gets a constant stream of this from other heroes, not just because of his lethal methods, but also because of his willingness to execute beaten opponents, mutilate, steal, commit arson, and pretty much do things that would make him a supervillain in any other context.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Frank has a number of sympathizers like Microchip who have access to modern military-grade hardware and technology that's even more advanced. Some of the more violent superheroes actually like the guy and are willing to throw him something really special for some of his tougher missions (Black Widow and the Winter Soldier gave him special ammo that can go through the Mandarin's force field, while Red Hulk got him gamma-modified body armor for his days as a Thunderbolt). He still has contacts with officers from different military units around the world that he's able to get guns and information from, either through bribing them or appealing to their sympathies. And of course, he's happy to steal money and weapons from criminal organizations.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Frank is generally depicted as especially cruel to abusers. One issue had him tailing a pair of cops, one of them a crook, the other an alcoholic. Frank disapproves of his drinking problem, but decides he'll let him go... until the cop's wife comes into the room and he starts beating her.
  • Worthy Opponent: His relationship with a few heroes, most notably Daredevil. Matt thinks that he's a psychopathic maniac whose methods go well beyond what could even be argued to be justifiable, while Frank thinks that Matt is a self-congratulating moralist who needs to stay the fuck out of his way. Their encounters typically end with either Matt beating the hell out of Frank or Frank incapacitating Matt for long enough to give him a "mind you own goddamn business" lecture, but while both parties have had countless opportunities to kill or cripple one another over the years, the fact that they haven't indicates some kind of grudging respect.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Castle has no problems killing female villains.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: He'll never use lethal force against clean cops. Nor will he do so against superheroes, unless he knows said super can survive it.

Alternative Title(s): The Punisher Frank Castle