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Characters / The Punisher The Character

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AKA: Francis David Castiglione/Frank Castle
Debut: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, #129 (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.

  • '90s Anti-Hero: The Ur-Example despite debuting in the '70s.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: For a brief period before he first got his own series in the early 80's, Punisher went off the deep end and decided that all crimes were equal since they'd end up snowballing into rape and murder, so he goes after people for such things as littering and arguing too loud. In his series proper, this was retconned as the result of being involuntarily drugged, which he sweated off in prison.
  • 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.
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  • Anti-Hero: Varies between an Unscrupulous Hero and Nominal Hero in the Marvel Universe. He spends his days on two things: Killing the worst scum on earth and planning to kill the worst scum on earth.
  • Ax-Crazy: Depending on the Writer, he's a calculating killing machine or a nut who offs criminals for the sake of it.
  • Badass Beard: On occasion when it goes beyond his usual Perma-Stubble. He sported one for most of Greg Rucka's run.
  • Badass Longcoat: He frequently dons a black trenchcoat.
  • 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.
  • Badasses Wear Bandanas: A bandana was a regular part of his ensemble during the nineties, usually in stories drawn by Jim Lee.
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  • Berserk Button: Hurting kids, for one. Insulting Captain America and the ideal he stands for, for another (just ask Hate-Monger III, who got his throat crushed with a boot for daring to use a version of Cap's costume to spread racist propaganda).
  • Blood Knight: Why does Frank kill? 33% justice, 33% revenge, 33% because he likes it, and the other 1% is just plain Ax-Crazy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Celibate Hero: Modern characterization; he used to border on Really Gets Around, though it was almost always nothing more than a fling, being caught up in the heat of the moment, or simply satiating an annoying biological urge.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Cool Mask: During Edmondson's run, Punisher sported a balaclava with his skull insignia on 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 then effects genocide 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 Seeker: It has been suggested more than once that Castle's ultimate goal in life is suicide by gangster.
  • 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 an 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.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Waking up in the hospital and realizing his entire family was dead destroyed Castle. Only the Punisher remains.
  • The Don: Became briefly one for the Geracis, a minor crime family 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.
  • The Dreaded: Every crook and mobster (and most "street" level supervillains) brown their trousers at the mere mention of Frank.
  • Empowered Badass Normal
    • When he was recruited to be an agent for Heaven, he gained an ability to summon weapons from his jacket and make them as lethal as he wanted them to be.
    • After his death at the hands of Wolverine's son Daken during the Dark Reign event, he was built into a Frankensteinian Mix-and-Match Man who was physically much stronger in undeath than in life.
  • 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.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Among the Marvel more squeeky clean super hero community Frank is easily the most reviled. Even Namor, post Phoenix Five, has a few other heroes that he can call friend. 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 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 get along well with them as they all have a decent amount of respect for each other because of their similar backgrounds. Interesting, 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.
    • 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, Frank nonetheless is shown to have a soft spot for them.
  • Good Is Not Nice: He isn't a very pleasant individual, but he nonetheless hunts down the worst of the criminals.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Frank doesn't say much be he isn't a dumb brute. He's actually extremely complex (when written well). Deep down he is a decent and good man but also has to contend with the blood lust that was awakened inside of him when he went to war. When his family died the good man inside lost the strength to keep the demons at bay, all he could do was choose the target. While he does have Death Seeker tendences and when it comes to his past self believes That Man Is Dead, Frank has expressed (to a goddess no less!) that he does what he does and becomes the monster so that the right things get done. He's willing to be the monster all of the other heroes despise (and are secretly terrified of) and do terrible things so long as people are saved and bad guys can't get away with the evil they've done. Frank is willing to damn himself if it will help other people in the end.
    Punisher: So I thought "it's fine". It doesn't matter what you have to do or what you have to become. So long as you do the right thing and the right thing gets done. Be a monster if you have to. It's fine.
  • 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 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 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.
  • Karmic Thief: He swipes the cash that he finds on his raids to finance the war.
  • Knife Nut: If Frank uses a close combat weapon, it'll be a knife.
  • 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), he makes up for in highly trained reflexes, sheer determination, and the upmost brutality he brings to the table in any bouts.
  • 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 than in life but since he lacked the muscle memory of his old self, he was much slower and cumbersome in combat.
  • 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.
  • 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 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).
  • 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 vs. 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.
  • Papa Wolf: The catalyst for his continuous Roaring Rampage of Revenge against criminals everywhere is his family being killed.
  • Perma-Stubble: Quite regularly.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Frank's default expression.
  • 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.
  • Phrase Catcher: When Frank enters a room, the response is usually some variation of...
    Mobster: Holy shit! It's the fucking Punisher!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • That Man Is Dead: A favorite saying of his; Frank Castle died with his family. He's the Punisher.
  • 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.
  • Torture Technician: Push one of his Berserk Buttons, and you'll wish he was just using the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
  • 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.
  • Vigilante Man: One of the ultimate examples in the Marvel Universe
  • Villain Protagonist: Sometimes, 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.
  • 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 and 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.
  • 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.


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