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Comic Book / The Punisher
aka: Punisher

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They killed my wife and my baby
With hopes to enslave me
First mistake
Last mistake
Megadeth, "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due"

The Scourge of the Underworld.

The Punisher is a Judge, Jury, and Executioner, a Marvel Comics vigilante whose only passion is finding and executing criminals. 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 (see The Clone Saga). 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 four multi-part events that ran through various titles in the nineties, said events being Suicide Run, Countdown, and Over the Edge.

Frank Castle is a veteran (originally The Vietnam War, though History of the Marvel Universe retconned this to Siancong in 2019) 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.

The big difference between him and, say, Batman? Castle kills the criminals that he fights. A lot. Often several dozen at a time.note  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 along 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 to gigantic Russian hitmen augmented with cyborg body parts and enormous breasts... both of them written by Ennis.

Over the years, there have been attempts to reinvent the character in a different style. At one point he was killed and revived as a supernatural hero empowered by angels. Another storyline made him 'Franken-castle', a reanimated corpse surrounded by monsters. A third gave him a version of the Iron Man 'War Machine' armour. Each time, he’s been returned to the status quo. The Punisher (2022) series by Jason Aaron also touches on this sort of change, and sees Castle becoming an assassin with the supernatural ninja clan the Hand, replacing his iconic skull symbol with a horned demonic version.

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. One thing is certain: He is always a Terror Hero, with criminals often being terrified if they're in his crosshairs.

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 The Punisher MAX. This latter version, written almost exclusively by Garth Ennis for four years, features no superheroes and is deeply rooted in more "mundane" crime and events — The Mafia, Irish terrorist organizations, Eastern European sex slavers, Gangbangers and The War on Terror are prominent. It is also considerably less funny than the mainstream Marvel series, though there are touches of Black Comedy and satire 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 

An Alternate Universe version is a major character in the Spider-Gwen books, where he's portrayed as being somewhat less stable than the mainstream version.

Three films have been based around the character have been produced to date —- one by New World Pictures, with Dolph Lundgren in the role, and two others by Lionsgate: The Punishernote  and Punisher: War Zone. All three films are standalone and aren't linked by any continuity.

When his film rights reverted back to Marvel in the early 2010s, many wondered if the Punisher would ever officially join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Outside of a reference in All Hail the King, there weren't any immediate plans to reintroduce the character. In June 2015, it was announced that the Punisher would make his MCU debut during the second season of Daredevil, played by Jon Bernthal. After months of speculation following the release of Daredevil, it was later confirmed that he would later spin-off into his own series. It lasted for two seasons, and was cancelled along with all Netflix series of Marvel characters as a result of conflicts between the studios. However, that would not be the end of the Punisher's time in the MCU, as he's slated to return in the series Daredevil: Born Again, with Bernthal reprising his role.

Please note that this page covers plot tropes in The Punisher comics only. For tropes pertaining to the character and his personality traits or those of his supporting characters, see the character sheet.

Please note that this page covers The Punisher comics only. For tropes pertaining to all The Punisher media, and a list of comic storylines and other works in the franchise, see the franchise page.

The Punisher provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 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.
    • Ditto with Barracuda from Punisher Max, who is like a bizarre fusion of Michael Clarke Duncan from Armageddon (1998) and Michael Clarke Duncan from Sin City. It can be hard to take him seriously as a villain at first until he kidnaps Frank's baby daughter, murders Frank's only real friend, threatens to eat said baby daughter, and is subsequently chopped into pieces by Frank with a fire axe.
  • 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.
  • All Just a Dream: The infamous comic of Frank traveling back in time to kill Al Capone is just Frank having a dream. His "favorite" as he claims.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: One of the most extreme examples ever, driven by vengeance and with few if any qualms about murder. He's at best an Unscrupulous Hero, often a Nominal Hero, if not a Villain Protagonist.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
    • Kill the Poor-themed vigilante The Elite's son comes after Frank for killing his father, using the same identity. It didnt work out for him either.
  • Ax-Crazy: Many villains and, Depending on the Writer, Frank himself.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: One story takes place through the eyes of a hired arsonist Punisher is chasing. His gang gets shot up and he drives the only other survivor to a shady, unlicensed doctor. The doctor tells him that his friend’s wounds are too severe for anyone but a hospital to treat, and that he probably won’t survive the trip to the hospital.
  • Back from the Dead: Jigsaw, Microchip. The Punisher himself has been killed twice and brought back.
  • 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.
    • Also while Frank is usually portrayed as avoiding the A-Class supervillains, he actually has had a somewhat decent track record of dealing with street level B class villains or supervillains with powers but who lack ambition or foresight in how they could use their powers such as Electro who Frank managed to get on the ropes once he managed to get around Electro’s powers using rubber bullets
  • Badbutt: Any censored animated version of him will inevitably wind up as this. For example...
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: Mocking or ridiculing or insulting Captain America means he will go insane on your ass. He respects Cap so much that he on one occasion where Cap was kicking his ass, Frank absolutely refused to fight back at all. In one story line, he saw a news story where a man dressed in a costume that was very similar to Cap's was boasting about killing illegal immigrants. 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!"
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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).
  • Body Horror: The main villain in POV miniseries is a terrorist who got doused with experimental formula, turning him into a bloodsucking mutant. When he attacks a pregnant woman, the result is a tentacled sewer-dwelling monster baby.
  • 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.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: What If... The Punisher Had Killed Spider-Man?, Frank realizes that killing Spider Man was a mistake in more ways than one. Not only does he find out that he killed an innocent person, but Spider Man's many allies in the superhero come after Frank and quickly realizes he's out of his depth.
  • Broken Aesop: In one issue, Frank meets a group of fanboy cops who actually did put his skull on their car. Frank rips it up, and tells them that nobody should be like him and if they want a role model, Captain America is always around. Of course, Captain America has technically been an outlaw vigilante as well, just not as violent. So the idea of police viewing Cap as a role model in-universe doesn't quite make sense. Also, Cap was willing to kill back in his soldier days, but sees his post-war activities as law enforcement and so follows a no-kill code.
  • 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.
  • 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 introduced Jigsaw, Nightcrawler and Spider-Man discuss how much the guy hated Punisher for disfiguring him; for Frank, it's such a mundane occurrence he doesn't even remember it.
  • Butt-Monkey: Detective Soap, the biggest joke of the 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 and not crippled or disfigured at the end is remarkably lucky for a (former) mobster. Of course.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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, feared unstable shell of a man with no future, who can only function as a killing machine.
  • Clueless Deputy: Occasionally played straight but sometimes averted whenever Frank leaves New York. The deputies in The Punisher: Suicide Run are Red Shirts but don't seem particularly stupid. Gerry from Streets of Laredo during the Garth Ennis run isn't brave enough to join his boss in facing down a mob of three dozen gun runners, but does show a talent for the more investigative side of police work, following Frank and recognizing that he's the Punisher, and later tracking down the hit-and-run driver who kicked off the inflict by running down the local gang leader's son and tipping off Frank to take care of the man.
  • 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." Of course, said merc was already dying; even if Frank wanted to, he couldn't have saved him.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, Depraved Dwarves, 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 see him in jail. Three notable exceptions:
    • In the Civil War, Captain America recruits him for the anti-registration side. Most of Cap's allies hate this — especially when Cap tries to recruit some low-level villains, who the Punisher promptly shoots dead in front of everyone.
    • Frank appears very briefly in JLA/Avengers. Batman sees him in action, and swiftly kicks the tar out of him.
    • In Secret Wars (2015), Frank takes advantage of the impending end of the world as we know it to kill Kingpin, Green Goblin, Sandman, Lizard, Absorbing Man and Bullseye, who are celebrating the apocalypse at a super-villain party.
  • Crusading Widow: 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.
  • 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.
    • The Punisher MAX begins with Frank sneaking up on the birthday party of the centenarian Don Cesare, shooting him and as many of the invited high-rankers as he can. The resulting power vacuum fuels much of the series.
    • In The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank, Frank goes to a lot of trouble to rescue a Don being held hostage from a South American rebel camp. The Ungrateful Bastard betrays Frank and returns to New York, where he calls a meeting of the Mafia to deal with the Punisher once and for all. Frank calls him at that moment to ask him why he'd been rescued, if not as the best way to put a lot of high-ranking Mafia goons in the same room. Then shows up with an M-60.
    • Yet another has Frank booby-trap a building where various organized crime members are having a meeting. He pushes down the detonator, making it clear that if he dies, everyone dies, and promptly starts shooting the helpless criminals.
    • Barracuda once sent out invitations to multiple mob bosses in a single location in order to mow them down... and as bait for Frank.
  • 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).
  • Destination Defenestration: The prequel miniseries The Punisher: Year One shows that Punisher's long-time Arch-Enemy Jigsaw gained his signature mangled visage by getting thrown through a window face-first. This was actually mentioned in Jigsaw's first appearance a full 18 years prior, but we got to see it in action here.
  • 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 a "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • Eat the Rich: Copycat vigilante Mr Payback, who targeted corrupt businessmen and other rich people who prey on the poor. A good deal more sympathetic than his fellow copycats The Holy and The Elite. However, he killed at least four innocent people during his killing sprees, because, as Frank points out, he doesn't bother to actually PLAN anything, he just bursts in and goes nuts. As such, he's just as bad as the people he killed (not helped by him trying to justify himself that "losses has to be expected", something Elite and the Holy also try).
  • 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.
  • Enemy Mine: Very rarely, Frank will team up with a criminal, usually to take out another, worse criminal. This usually ends with both criminals dead, either because You Have Outlived Your Usefulness or trying to pull a gun on Frank.
  • 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.
    • In The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Punisher attempts to assault a group of supervillains including Mister Negative and Tombstone... only for C-Lister Shocker to knock him out in one hit. However, it must be noted that the Shocker is C-List by choice. He's legitimately dangerous and a very skilled fighter, whose suit protects him from injury and his gauntlets can bring down a building. Spider-Man doesn't take him lightly. He keeps a low profile, doesn't try to build a reputation, and avoids killing, because all those things will just attract the attention of SHIELD, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, etc.
    • During the Slavers arc in Punisher MAX, Frank attempts to ambush the hired guns for the slavery ring. Frank has forgotten, however, that these are not the usual street punks with poor aim and no tactics. These were hardened soldiers from the Yugoslav wars. Frank was nearly killed.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Believe it or not, there ARE some lines he will not cross, 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 also more willing to take care when dealing with hired security as opposed to actual criminal gangs, on the reasoning that he isn't going to kill people who are just there for the paycheck and may not have done anything actually wrong.
    • 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. Having said that, he knows that Wolverine, in particular, has a Healing Factor - and some of the tactics Frank has used against him have led to Ludicrous Gibs and would be fatal against anyone else.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • Frank is well aware that he has zero chance of ever actually winning his war on crime, or even making a serious dent in the criminal population. MAX Microchip calculates that Frank has killed about 800 people in the 30 years he's been active (in that continuity, mainstream canon is all over the place). Anyone with even a passing understanding of population statistics can tell you that is less than a fraction of a fraction of 1% of the U.S professional criminal population, much less the rest of the world.
  • 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 recognize what that means, as being shot right after giving him the necessary information is still preferable to his other methods of loosening tongues. Frank might feel generous if you're a random thief or dealer, but if you're a killer, you're basically already dead.
  • Family Extermination: A key part of the Punisher's backstory is the death of his family at the hands of criminals regardless of who is responsible for their murders.
  • 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 ( which was All Just a Dream) are the only ones during that period not written by Garth Ennis and are also the only Knights issues to not be reprinted. They're not bad, they just stick out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the series.
  • 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:
    • The Punisher's appearance in Runaways, which isn't too surprising, as Joss Whedon kind of hates him, infamously referring to Frank as a killing and firearm-glorifying "coward" in an interview with Wizard.
    • Frank's Ultimate Marvel counterpart is 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. He's also even more suicidal than the regular Frank, to the point that, when he thinks he's accidentally killed an innocent person, he demands to be "Punished".
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Frank went from being a marine in his back story to a Vigilante Man who serves as Judge, Jury, and Executioner on other criminals. He's also encountered a number of criminals who were in the military before turning to organized crime (some of which even started dealing drugs while still in the armed forces).
  • Funeral Cut: The Punisher: War Zone mini-series has a scenario where Lieutenant Molly von Richthofen charges into a room full of Mafia goons with the intent to arrest them. Then it cuts to her funeral, with the priest bemoaning how there was little left to bury after the resulting hail of gunfire. Then it cuts back to reality, where Molly wisely decides to hide instead.
  • Funetik Aksent: Mrs. Pearse
  • Gas Station of Doom: Frank Castle runs into one in Louisiana, that's actually a front for an inbred Cannibal Clan (MAX only).
  • Genre Blindness: The numerous gangsters, mobsters, and other crooks who think that they will be the one to finally bring Frank down.
    • Frank has fallen victim to this as well. He kills criminals, he goes after the big fish, so what's the best way to find the Punisher? Get a bunch of criminal bosses all in one place and wait for Frank to show up. Nick Fury even did this once because he needed to contact Frank in a hurry. Frank is aware of this tendency and has kicked himself more than once for getting sucked in this way.
  • Get into Jail Free: Frank is pretty fond of this, occasionally showing up at a police station to get himself tossed into jail to get to a target.
  • 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.
  • Given Name Reveal: As's Brian Cronin noted, the Punisher went over a decade without his real name being established. He was finally identified as Frank Castle in The Punisher: Circle of Blood.
    "Over 10 years just to get a NAME! Wow."
  • The Greatest Style: Played for Laughs in one story where a martial arts assassin is sent to take out the Punisher. After commenting on how many styles the guy's mastered, Frank introduces him to one he doesn't know: Car Fu.
  • Guard Stations Terminally Unattended: The Punisher tends to get rid of watchmen while relentlessly approaching the mob leader - who is more and more afraid whenever he vainly tries to contact one of his minions.
  • 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 in his comics 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.
  • Hero-Worshipper: While Frank has little love for superheroes in general, he idolizes Captain America, allying with him in both Civil War and Secret Empire.
  • 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.
    • Played straight with the police, as it's made very clear the most if not all street cops totally approve of Frank's war on crime and don't put any effort into trying to apprehend him. Even the upper ranks of the NYPD only really focus on the Punisher when they are under intense political pressure. In addition, it's openly hinted many times (particularly in the MAX series) that Nick Fury personally ensures that Frank is not bothered by S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • 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.
  • Holiday Pardon: One issue had Frank following a bunch of guys who had the late Stilt-Man's outfit in their possession. As he is about to open fire on them, Rhino runs into him and convinces him to let them go, as it is Christmas.
  • 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.
    • In Circle of Blood inmates attempting to assassinate Castle while he is imprisoned are able to obtain a pistol from a corrupt guard, but end up having to tape a soda bottle to the muzzle, since their limited resources and timetable make acquiring a real suppressor impossible. The "soda bottle silencer" ends up waking up nearby inmates (who were in on the plot anyway) and slows down the bullet's muzzle velocity to the point that Frank's mattress soaks up the shots.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • Detective Soap's entire life, to the point where it eventually stops being funny and just becomes depressing. Fortunately, his life gets better once he decides to walk away from New York and his job as a police officer. His new occupation? Porn star. Turns out he had unusually large genitals, but was unaware that they were bigger than average.
    • When Punisher ran into Wolverine, he took full advantage of the fact that he couldn't permanently kill or maim him. Blew off his face, blew off his crotch and ran him over with a steamroller. When Wolverine appears the next time, he understandably holds a grudge. Then Frank blows him up with a rocket launcher and has the Hulk punch him halfway across the east coast.
  • I Don't Like You And You Don't Like Me: In the mainstream Marvel Universe, this pretty much sums up how the heroes feel about him (they basically think he's a serial killer and no better than the crooks he kills) while Frank regards most if not all of them as dangerously naïve and unwilling to do what needs to be done.
    • In the MAX Universe, this trope is averted as there are no supers, or at least he never crosses paths with them.
  • Immune to Mind Control: The Punisher no sells every attempt to control his mind. He's so focused on his mission of killing criminals that nothing can distract him from it. Forget mind control, anyone who tries to extort or manipulate him will find out that he doesn't play along and they're going to wish they'd left well enough alone.
  • 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.
  • In Spite of a Nail: In the Spider-Gwen universe, Frank's family were never killed. Despite this, this version of Frank still becomes obsessed with "punishing" criminals (to the point where it actually drives his family away).
  • Instant Death Bullet: Played straight or subverted depending on the comic.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: With Batman (twice)note , Archie Comics, Witchblade, Painkiller Jane and the rapper Eminem.
  • Invincible Hero: Even if Frank has no powers per se (only being in peak physical condition and knowing all about fighting and using weapons), he manages to hold himself pretty well against actual Marvel superheroes - there isn't a one-shot called The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe for nothing. This is taken up to eleven once the Punisher got the War Machine's armor in 2017, meaning a squad led by Captain Marvel went to take him down and Frank still managed to run away.
  • Irish Explosives Expert: The "Kitchen Irish" arc has one ... though his face is mangled from a bomb that blew up in his face, so either he had a bad day or the "Expert" part of the trope name doesn't quite fit. To be fair, homemade explosives are volatile at the best of times, and being an expert won't keep them from backfiring on you.
  • 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.
  • Jealous Romantic Witness: One story has Jigsaw capture Frank and try to break him by projecting footage of Jigsaw having sex with Frank's resurrected wife (actually a hitwoman who underwent Magic Plastic Surgery to look like her) on a wall of Frank's cell with the sound set to maximum. It doesn't work.
  • Jerkass:
    • Kevin the bartender, who is always giving Det. Soap a hard time. In particular, he will often set him up with, encourage him into or fail to warn him against relationships that are possibly incestous or dangerous for the sake of his own amusement.
    • Frank come off as this sometimes, especially towards Soap, who he's even stated that he keeps him around because Soap's whiny personality makes it harder to feel bad in case criminals use Soap to get to him. He's also needlessly antagonistic towards Spider-Man and Daredevil, who's sole crime is trying to keep Frank from turning New York into a slaughterhouse.
    • His time on General Ross's Thunderbolts has a rather nasty scene where Ghost Rider is killed when his powers mysteriously fail in the middle of a crocodile-infested river (secretly sabotaged by The Leader who had found some mystical way of disrupting them), and his only response is a snide remark about how superpowered individuals have no idea how their powers work and how he'd rather trust in his guns. Fittingly, this storyline has both him and Elektra, the Badass Normals of the group, die when they're stuck in a pit trap in an ancient temple, a trap that Ghost Rider could easily have escaped (not that either of them mind all that much, being Death Seekers). This entire timeline is erased when Ross ends up rewinding time with the help of an infant Celestial.
  • 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.
    • Also gets a beautiful one in the MAX story "Mother Russia" , which involves Frank rescuing a little girl from some Russian soldiers. He is very protective of the girl, even admonishing another character for cursing in front of her.
    • Also in "Mother Russia", the Batman Cold Open features Frank rescuing an elderly Russian WW2 veteran from some gangsters, with Frank explaining that he "has a thing about respecting his elders."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Kevin the bartender, who despises Martin Soap. As mentioned above under Jerkass, he always gives Soap a hard time whenever the two interact at Lucky's Bar. Kevin shows himself to be firmly this when Soap attempts to commit suicide in the bathroom, and Kevin stops him... because he just doesn't want to clean up the mess and tells Soap to go and do it at home instead. In response, Soap snaps, grows a spine, and puts Kevin back in his place while telling him off for how he always made him feel a thousand times worse before leaving Kevin crying in the restroom.
  • Job Mindset Inertia:
    • One story has Frank go undercover as Santa Claus in an orphanage. To set up a booby trap, he tells the kids to make snowmen, but ends up barking out orders as if he was still in the armed forces, telling the kids the exact height and spacing to give the snowmen so the grenades will be more effective.
    • In a broader sense, Frank's consistent edge on the mobsters is that he still thinks like a soldier, whereas the mobsters are rarely used to facing anything tougher than another gang.
      • Reversed in the "The Slavers" arc of Punisher MAX. Frank set a trap for the eponymous slavers, but Frank was almost killed because instead of the scared gangbangers or slightly more competent mafioso, these were hardened veterans of the Balkan wars, who immediately used military tactics of their own to fight back.
  • 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. Frank finally kills Kingpin, along with Bullseye, Green Goblin, and several other villains for real just before the Incursion that destroys Earth-616. Though this is undone post Secret Wars, ultimately playing the trope straight.
    • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Strange, given the nature of the character, but there have been a few.
    • One arc set in Baltimore involved a family of drug dealing hicks led by an Evil Matriarch. After killing her boys, Frank breaks into their home and demands to know who's in charge, and Maw blames it all on Paw, allowing her to escape Frank's wrath.
    • A drug designer named "Wizard" also never crosses paths with Frank, and makes it out of the story intact.
    • The "Sicilian Saga" arc had Frank's uncle and aunt killed on the orders of local mafia boss Elio Bessucco. Despite encountering him during a mob wedding in a later arc, he managed to escape and hasn't been seen since.
    • Finally there's Salvatore Carbone, AKA Thorn, who was one of the only recurring villains not killed off before the "Angel Punisher" story arc.
    • And of course, Frank himself counts for the superhero community.
  • 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.
  • Kill the Poor: The Elite, a rich vigilante who starts out targeting any drug dealers who try to move into his neighborhood, but eventually branches out into anyone he considers "lower class", including a hot dog vendor. His personal philosophy is basically Nazi Lite. His son is even worse.
  • Killer Yo-Yo: One of Frank's one-time villains was an evil scientist named Dr. Ng, who used a razor-sharp yo-yo as a weapon.
  • 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 S.H.I.E.L.D. 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. They form a strong friendship soon after.
  • Lighter and Softer: After getting his own series, Punisher became a good deal more sympathetic, to the point that he rarely used real bullets in crossovers. This reached its highpoint in a crossover with Power Pack (Frank does have a soft spot for kids, but that usually extends to just avoiding them so they won't get caught in the crossfire and protecting them from bad guys, not teaming up with them).
  • 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, The Punisher can take a lot of punishment. 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 (with the possible exception of Daredevil).
  • Make Way for the New Villains: Inverted in Remender's 2009 series, The Hood brings back a huge collection of dead villains returned to their old effective characterizations when they were meant to be legitimate threats and it shows, giving Frank a huge amount of trouble.
  • McNinja: Frank doesn't just have his Marine boot-camp training, in Thunderbolts he was given training by Elektra Natchios. In 2022, for the Jason Aaron run of Punisher Frank will be joining the Hand.
  • 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.
  • Military Superhero: A key part of Frank's backstory is that he's a soldier who saw action in a war.
  • Mokele-Mbembe: In the 1988 The Punisher War Journal series, the Punisher takes a "vacation" as the security guard for a cryptozoological expedition that is venturing into the Congolese jungle in search of the Mokele-Mbembe. Unknown to him, two hired guns have infiltrated the operation to poach the dinosaurs for a billionaire oil tycoon. After a misunderstanding with Wolverine, he dispatches the poachers before they can hurt the dinosaurs, and the expedition members decide to keep quiet about the Mokele-Mbembe's existence to prevent more hunters from coming after them.
  • 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 for 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.
    • In Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe Frank kills the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants with a tactical nuke he stole from Doctor Doom. (Of course he killed Doctor Doom before that.)
  • Mutually Unequal Relationship: Soap thinks he's Vitriolic Best Buds with Kevin the bartender, Kevin thinks he's a whiny, annoying little shit (and while the audience sees his point, he also does things like not tell an oblivious Soap he's hitting on a man or a drag queen or his own mother). Things come to a head when Soap attempts to commit suicide in the bathroom, and Kevin is disgusted with him... because of the inconvenience it'll be to clean out the bathroom afterwards. Soap snaps, grows a spine, puts Kevin back in his place and goes out to confront the Punisher at last. It only lasts long enough for Frank to tell him to go away, which Soap does, finally finding a more fulfilling career as a porn star.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Seriously, you don't wanna be on the bad graces of a man who calls himself The Punisher.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: The Geracis, who convince Frank to be their next Don.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: 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.
  • 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. Spider-Man has noted that it has been said the Punisher will turn himself in if he ever harms an innocent person, with this attitude one of the main reasons other heroes are willing to work with him when they have to. 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.
  • No Endor Holocaust: As noted above in Never Hurt an Innocent, it is incredibly lucky that in his forty-plus history (during which he's racked up a criminal body count canonically in the thousands), the Punisher has virtually never hurt an innocent civilian, even accidentally (the number of times it's ever happened can be counted on one hand, even including alternate universes). In-universe this can partly be justified to the Punisher being inhumanly skilled and phenomenally well prepared for every combat situation, out of universe it can justified by it being an Enforced Trope (since it would probably be too much for the audience to continuously stomach an anti-"hero" who's okay with innocent casualties).
  • 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, such as in situations where there is an increased risk of collateral damage. 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.
    • Used for practical purposes when Punisher fought Electro during the 2011 series. Electro's powers makes it impossible to kill him with metal bullets, so Frank switched to rubber ones. It wont kill him obviously, but it hurt like hell.
  • 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.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Inverted. Frank’s military training, combat skill, bulletproof costume and arsenal of weapons make him a One-Man Army who steamrolls standard street thugs. In Real Life or a more grounded work of fiction he’d be one of the most dangerous people in the world. In the Marvel Universe he is... a man who owns some guns; he wouldn’t last thirty seconds against the likes of Doctor Doom, the Green Goblin or Sabretooth. Which is probably why he almost never fights actual supervillains.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Many villains will cry and scream about how Punisher is just as bad as them. While Punisher acknowledges that this is probably true, he just doesn't care about true justice anymore, only vengeance.
  • 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 The 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. He even provides the trope's main image.
  • Perma-Stubble: Sports this in some adaptations.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Phrase Catcher: Joan the Mouse is prone to saying "Oh dear" whenever there's a problem. When a Russian mobster is rendered helpless by Frank's trap and Frank finds out he only has a tiny Swiss Army Knife to dispatch him with...
    Frank: Oh dear.
  • 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.
  • Plot Armor:
    • Frank once resisted Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare, under the reasoning that Frank doesn’t feel guilty about his innumerable murder cases, it was against unrepentant criminals and the like so for Frank it was justice at work, not a collection of sins; that contradicts many instances where the Penance Stare is said to work on absolutely any living being who has ever sinned, taking a life regardless of the motivations behind it, i.e: Galactus can be affected by the Penance Stare even if he is a natural force of the universe who doesn’t consider his planet-sized killings as something evil.
    • While Frank has had frequent clashes with "street level" heroes like Spider-Man and Daredevil, none of the bigger hero teams (such as the Fantastic Four and The Avengers, who could bring him in quite easily) seem to consider him worthy of their time. This is finally deconstructed during Greg Rucka's run; Spider-Man, disgusted by Frank's latest act, goes to his Avenger teammates, asking that they all work together to bring the Punisher in. He is initially ignored, until Captain America points out that allowing the Punisher to roam free means they're essentially condoning what he does, and that cannot stand. The Avengers send the next few issues hunting Frank down, and ultimately succeeding in sending him to prison. It doesn't last, though...
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. The police never seem to be able to catch Frank, or if he is caught they are never able to hold him for long. However, it's been pointed out on several occasions that most rank-and-file cops approve of Frank's actions and put zero effort into trying to apprehend him.
    Cop to his rookie partner: "Kid, the Punisher's the best thing since sprinkles on donuts. Remember that."
  • Popularity Power: Let's be honest; Frank's crusade continues in the world of Marvel because of just how much readers and certain authors love the idea of a Badass Normal '90s Anti-Hero. He has on several occasions managed to achieve feats that, realistically, a normal man with a big gun should not be capable of, such as the time he beat Deadpool almost to death with a sword, or the time he fatally shot Sandman, who is an Elemental Embodiment of sand and thus has no blood or organs to lose.
  • 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.
  • Powered 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. Punisher 2099 has some as well.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Gives one in Secret Wars (2015) when he crashes Kingpin's End of the World Party and kills Kingpin, Bullseye, Green Goblin, Lizard, Absorbing Man, Scorpion and Sandman.
    Frank: Ahem. Gentlemen, they say that when you die, you can't take it with you. Which begs the question: exactly what am I gonna do with all these bullets?
  • Psycho for Hire: Mondo Pain, The Russian, Barracuda, Bullseye, Harry Heck, Jigsaw - most of Frank's serious opponents are this.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Frank was raised Catholic, but didn't have much use for the idea of forgiving people who'd done terrible things. The fact that he saw a lot of terrible things while still a child also caused him to have serious doubts about the idea of a loving God. Now when he sees terrible things done to innocent people, he's pretty direct about the way he feels: "There are times I'd like to get my hands on God."
  • Rasputinian Death:
    • Many Dragons or more physically tough Big Bads require a rather spectacular sendoff. This includes Roc (a broken neck and a barge filled with explosives) and The Russian (a nuke).
    • 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 Eyes, Take Warning: Frank is sometimes drawn with red eyes during his darker moments.
  • Red Right Hand: The Russian from the Marvel Knights series' has a huge scar on his face.
  • Reel Torture: "In The Blood" has Jigsaw capture Frank and try to break him by showing the vigilante footage of Jigsaw having sex with Frank's wife who is has apparently come Back from the Dead. It's actually a hitwoman who was surgically modified to look like her.
  • 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 conflict. 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.
  • Revenge Is Not Justice: This is a typical topic of conversation for any person who tries to talk Frank Castle into stopping his vigilante war. Anyone who tries it is wasting their breath; Frank doesn't care about either cause any more. His exact motives vary Depending on the Writer, but it's usually some combination of the following three: he's trying to clean up the world via total war because it's the only method he's really good at, such a Blood Knight that limiting himself to criminals is the only thing stopping him from going full Ax-Crazy spree killer, or just a Death Seeker.
  • 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.
  • Rogues Gallery: Given his usual M.O., Frank doesn't really have a lot of recurring villains, and even many who have had more than one appearance tend to eventually meet their end at his hands. Still, he's racked up quite an impressive number of enemies who have lasted over several issues (and in a few cases, at least two arcs); the most long-lasting of these is Jigsaw, who Frank has often chosen to keep alive on the grounds that the disfigured assassin is more of a danger to criminals than to innocents. Other villains of special note who have had repeat appearances in the 616 continuity include The Kingpin, Saracen, Damage, Thorn, Rosalie Carbone, Rapido, Ma Gnucci, the Russian, Recoil, Bushwacker, Sniper, Blackwell, the Elite, Gregario, the Rev, and Johnny Nightmare. The MAX continuity gives us Nicky Cavella, Bill Rawlins and Barracuda.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Frank targets modern day pirates as readily as any other criminals.
  • Saved From Their Own Honor: Atelia surrenders her life to the angry mob in her half-human son's place by publicly confessing that she has hidden her past forbidden relationship with Jidan to come to and stay in power. Her family interrupts her Suicide by Cop and, in the finale, the grand master not only spares her and her son but also restores her to power, allowing both of them to help rebuild the Magical Realm.
  • 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.
  • Semper Fi: Frank's a Marine, and often gets help from other Vietnam vets. The "Valley Forge" arc in MAX concerns a Special Forces colonel who decides to take him down nonlethally with American soldiers because it's not right that he should use his training in that way. Also because he owes Frank his life from Vietnam, and lets him go when he discovers the generals who want Frank dead have less-than noble motives.
  • Sequel Episode: Ennis's 2009 Punisher: War Zone miniseries, "The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci", is a direct sequel to Welcome Back, Frank. Ma Gnucci is apparently restored to life, Soap and von Richthofen play major roles, and the Big Bad is the vengeful son of the Elite, one of the wannabes Frank killed at the end of Welcome Back, Frank, who has taken on his father's identity.
  • 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 doesn't limit himself to serial killers, but the trope 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. Castiglione was established as his birth name in the first comic that his name was mentioned in at all. It was said that his parents changed it from Castiglione to Castle when he was six years old. It's not uncommon for immigrants to Americanize their surnames, so maybe it was just to give some extra backstory originally.
  • 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 Punisher" (he had a heart attack; dude was 698 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!"
    • In "The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci", von Richthofen goes to a lesbian bar called "Wonder Wimmin".
  • Simple Solution Won't Work:
    • The usual result of Frank's method of fighting crime clashes hard with Status Quo Is God, so the usual stated reason he doesn't go after The Kingpin is that doing so would cause an Evil Power Vacuum with civilians caught in a mob war. Towards the end of The Punisher MAX's run, he does go to kill Fisk and succeeds at the cost of his life, leading to civilians violently fighting back against organized crime once his death is announced.
    • Frank's M.O. is repeatedly questioned by both criminals and heroes pointing out that he can't hope to keep crime down by killing criminals, and in fact has never done so. The truth is that Frank is perfectly aware of it, he's a Death Seeker whose only goal is to take out as many mobsters as he can before he's finally killed and reunited with his family.
    • Similarly, several encounters with superheroes have Frank bluntly stating that until they decide enough is enough and kill him themselves, he's going to keep killing criminals even when sent to prison (in fact, he often gets himself arrested so he can get to a convicted criminal).
      (to Daredevil) "You want to stop me murdering criminals by taking me off the streets. That's stupid. Send me to prison and I'll just kill every criminal I meet.
      "There's only one way to stop me. You know that. If you haven't got it in you to do it, stop wasting my time."
  • Sinister Minister:
    • The Rev, a Captain Ersatz of Jim Jones, and one of the few villains to survive his initial run-in with Frank.
    • The Holy, a catholic priest who is secretly a psychopathic vigilante targeting gang members and murderers who confess their crimes in his church.
  • Skeleton Motif: The Punisher is a vigilante who kidnaps, tortures and kills criminals. He wears a uniform/shirt with a skull insignia on the chest. It is deliberately done so that people aim for his better-armoured chest, rather than his head or joints.
  • Slasher Smile: Many of the Punisher's Psycho for Hire foes and Frank himself occasionally sports one in the mainstream Marvel universe.
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: In an early story, a mob boss routinely mistreats his underlings, including killing them. When he and another mook open a door to find an explosive with only a few seconds left, the mook tells the boss he's been with the boss' wife for the past two years.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: While Frank usually focuses on street-level criminals rather than the world-threatening supervillains, he tends to look down on the superheroes, believing they don't have the guts to "do what it takes" like he does, which makes them inferior to him.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Frank is either this or a Villain Protagonist.
  • Spin-Off: Of Spider-Man, believe it or not.
  • Squashed Flat: One of the stories has Wolverine coming after Frank, mistaking recent mutilations for his doing (and Frank draws the natural conclusion on seeing Wolverine not far from mobsters whose legs have been cut off). Due to Wolverine's Healing Factor, Frank uses a steamroller to get him off his track.
  • Stealing from Thieves: In order to fund his war on crime, Frank constantly steals the money from criminals he kills (and equipment, when they are gun runners), thinking that already being blood money it's only karmic (and when it comes to guns, it's to make sure criminals aren't better equipped than the police).
  • 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.
  • Stock Shōnen Rival: He can be considered this to Daredevil, with Punisher being a ruthless Anti-Hero and Byronic Hero who isn't necessarily evil but still wears black, has no qualms about killing, and possesses a worldview and philosophy completely the opposite to Matt Murdock in just about every way. The two basically have a Red Oni, Blue Oni relationship and their crimefighting methods and views are so fundamentally incompatible that every time the two meet up, they'll end up exchanging blows more often than they ever 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.
    • This was especially prevalent in Garth Ennis 2000 and 2001 runs on the title, which made it extremely funny when something truly bizarre happened, and Punisher only made a slight facial change in surprise, such as the return of the Russian, who was now packing Double G breasts, or the mobster who's killed by a giant squid in the New York Harbor.
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration: Punisher's various authors have employed this, to incredible anatomical precision.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The Punisher tends to avoid superheroes and villains; the former because they'll probably try to apprehend him and the latter because they're out of his league and Frank knows it.
    • 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 Confederacy of Dunces, 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.
    • This problem is finally dealt with in Punisher War Zone where the Avengers capture Punisher and Iron Man puts him in a highly technological custom prison with no other inmates for him to kill and no loose parts for him to break and free himself with.
    • Surprisingly enough, this eventually becomes something of an Inverted Trope. While Frank has usually considered super-powered villains to be "above his weight class" (except The Hood, who made things personal for him, and the occasional grade-Z clutter Marvel is trying clean out of its closet), he eventually gets sick of nearly getting eaten by the bigger fish his targets have occasionally summoned and decides he needs some upgrades to level the playing field; this is one of the catalysts for his Deal with the Devil in Secret Empire. This is followed by Punisher: War Machine, where he gets a chance to borrow a set of War Machine armor and decides to keep it for himself. This results in several understandably pissed off superheroes hunting him in Punisher: War Criminal. Though Frank eventually returns the armor, he's still got Hydra, The Hand, and a few heroes harboring considerable grudges against him.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Chuck Dixon has stated he regrets not introducing one during his run, noting in hindsight that throwing flamboyant rogues at Frank and seeing if any of them would stick did not create a compelling conflict.
    "For the longest time myself and other writers and editors thought that Frank Castle’s shortcoming was that he was always killing off his villains and there was no rogues gallery being assembled for him. The consensus was that he could re-win the affections of the readers by having gunbattles with a better class of lowlife. Every effort came to nada as none of the new meanies caught on… It’s not until now that I realize that not only was the Punisher the villain on his own book but he had no one to contrast with. We could have him battling to the death in stinking back alleys and abandoned warehouses with some amoral, gun-crazed, homicidal maniac. But that description is the Punisher. You kind of reach a point of diminishing returns where the readers don’t care who wins that kind of fight. That’s why he did so well when he crossed over. By fighting an established hero he achieved what he lacked in his own book: A compelling conflict. Yeah, if I knew then what I know now I would have proposed a recurring good guy for the Punisher titles. A Van Helsing, a Jean Valjean, a Lieutenant Jacobi to relentlessly pursue the Punisher month in and month out. A super virtuous man of morals and conviction who would fight to end Frank Castle’s misguided vigilante spree. This would have added the tension and conflict and contrast that the titles needed. There’d be a reason to pick them up every month."
    • Garth Ennis deconstructed and subverted this trope with the character of Martin Soap. Agent Ortiz filled this role during the Cloonan/Dillon run. Nick Fury has begun to step into this role as a result of the fallout from Punisher: War Criminal.
  • Take That!: Marvel NOW!'s The Punisher #12 opens up with Captain Ersatz versions of the cast of Fantastic Four (2015) being blown to smithereens. No Celebrities Were Harmed, of course, but the characters themselves weren't so lucky. Though the writer of the issue denied actually killing the characters off, and claimed he was looking forward to the movie.
  • Team Mercy vs. Team Murder: A lot of the conflict that Frank encounters often happens because he is essentially "Team Murder" for the entire Marvel Universe. Even the other heroes that are okay with killing often have an issue with Frank's trigger-happiness.
  • 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.
  • That Man Is Dead: Many superheroes and even villains make the mistake of trying to appeal to Frank Castle's conscience, honor, morality or anything else they can think of. Frank Castle is dead. Only the Punisher remains.
  • 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.
  • Token Good Cop:
    • Several versions of Frank Castle (such as in a What If? and on Earth-1610) have him be the only honest cop in his precinct, whose partner and superiors set him and his family up to die in an effort to stop his efforts, leading to his Start of Darkness as The Punisher.
    • Nearly every NYPD cop to appear in more than one issue of The Punisher MAX is corrupt, a weasely bureaucrat, or compromises their integrity by abetting Castle. Paul Budiansky, on the other hand, is only a Cowboy Cop during moments of absolute desperation and realizes that he and Frank are Not So Similar and not natural allies after the one time they come face to face.
  • 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.
    • Frank himself at times. He's usually smart enough to understand that he's just a normal man with guns, so picking a fight with superpowered beings is a bad idea. But some writers throw common sense to the wind and do it anyways, with predictable results.
  • 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.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: He tries not to hurt innocents, but there's a long, long list of non-innocent people he's killed in various messy ways, usually involving whatever guns he can get his hands on. His way of telling the world to put his dead family back in the ground after a mobster dug them up and urinated on them was to grab every gun he owned and see how much of a dent in the local criminal population he could make.
  • 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.
  • The Vietnam Vet: Originally. Until 2019, Frank was a Vietnam Veteran, and is Frozen in Time so this had remained part of his characterisation for years until History of the Marvel Universe saw print. Then it retconned a war in until then-obscure Siancong (a Fictional Country version of Korea and Vietnam) and moved Frank's war history to that conflict.
  • Vigilante Execution: Frank once executed an arsonist as he was leaving the court. With a fire truck.
  • Vigilante Injustice: Subverted or played straight depending on whether he's the hero or the antagonist of the series.
    • Several encounters with Thou Shalt Not Kill superheroes end with him on the receiving end of a Curbstomp Battle, but he says that until they start killing criminals (starting with him), he's going to keep killing criminals (even in prison).
      • One story has Frank lure Daredevil into a trap and force him into a Sadistic Choice: Daredevil is tied up with a gun pointed at Frank's head while Frank is preparing to snipe a mob boss, so either Frank kills the boss or Daredevil kills Frank. Daredevil eventually takes the shot... but the gun was empty.
    • Another story has Daredevil protecting a mob boss from Frank (and preventing the mobster from being rescued) during the man's transfer to Texas (as the mobster's attorney, Matt Murdock wants a fair trial and believes there's no way to get an unbiased jury in New York). Frank (who doesn't know Daredevil's secret identity) sneers at this and calls Murdock a hypocrite to Daredevil's face, claiming the real reason is that Texas still has the death penalty, so Murdock is actually trying to get the mobster killed without getting his hands dirty.
    • It's pointed out many, many times by heroes and criminals alike that Frank's war on crime is no longer justified, that his family's killers are long dead, that no matter how many criminals he's killed there'll always be more, that he hasn't made any change to crime rates, etc. In The Punisher MAX series, turns out Frank is perfectly aware of this: his goal is simply to kill all the criminals he can before he finally dies (he's actually punishing himself for his failure to be with his family after returning from Vietnam).
    • In one comic, Frank comes across a couple of police officers wearing pins of his skull insignia on their uniforms in a show of support for what he does. He takes them to task for this, saying they need to be emulating Captain America, not him.
  • 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.
  • Vigilante Militia:
    • One story has a trio of men inspired by the Punisher's return to join forces. Unfortunately, their methods are too different (one is a rich WASP (Elite), who shoots drug dealers and poor people hanging around his condo, another is a priest (the Holy) who axe-murders people who confess their deadly sins to him with every intention of going back for more, and the third (Mr. Payback) shoots up a board of Corrupt Corporate Executives (accidentally and unknowingly killing a cleaning lady in the process). They're all killed by the Punisher when he finds out, while Elite's son eventually finds his father's diary and tries to avenge him.
    • In a Take That! to several real-life police groups that have begun superimposiong the Punisher logo over the "Thin Blue Line" flag, another story features a couple cops who come across him proudly displaying his logo on their cars, who are a part of a group of other officers who want to emulate Frank's example. Frank is not amused, and tells them in no uncertain terms if he finds out that they've broken their oaths as officers, he'll be gunning for them next because the police are supposed to be better than him, not sink to his level.
  • Villain Killer: As a vigilante, this isn't that surprising. The one constant to not just the comic character, but all versions, is his utter lack of mercy he gives to criminals. He regularly takes down crime syndicates and does so without any scruples whatsoever.
  • The Villain Must Be Punished: It's his name, after all. Unlike heroes like Spider-Man or The Avengers, he doesn't content himself with just stopping criminals, he wants to make them pay for their crimes with their lives.
  • Wasteland Elder: One one-shot story has Punisher go to an isolated town in the desert to help a Vietnam buddy against a MegaCorp which is after their mineral-rich land. The local leader, Roland Hugh, is a tinfoil hat-wearing Conspiracy Theorist who seems to be the oldest person there.
  • 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.
  • Weaponized Stench: One comic has Frank deal with two mooks following him around by hiding in a diaper treatment center, where the horrible smell distracts them long enough for him to ambush them.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Frank's uncompromising morality is mixed with the fact that he's quite nuts.
  • Western Terrorists: Frank has gone up against rogue militia groups, Bomb-Throwing Anarchists, Marxist guerillas, and IRA splinter factions. He also has a grudge against Hydra after the events of Secret Empire. Frank is also considered one by many in the superhero community.
  • What a Drag: Punisher did 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, his most famous one occurring in his crossover with Batman where Bats saves the Joker from him (and allows him to go scotfree), allowing him to continue killing as many innocent people as he can. Frank gives him one major calling out before he leaves Gotham.
  • 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 bribe for guns. And of course, he's happy to steal money and weapons from criminal organizations.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Frank is extra-cruel towards scum who beat women. To anyone who abuses their family, really. In the MAX series, he attacks a neighbor for having cheated on his wife. Granted, this was before he was the Punisher, and just after he'd lost his family, but still. He also snipes a woman who killed her children, even though she was already under arrest.
  • Witless Protection Program: In The Trial of The Punisher, Frank Castle allows himself to be arrested and put on trial because he wanted to explain something in his defense: that he knows the judge presiding the trial used to be a high-ranking mafioso that provided evidence to the FBI and entered Witness Protection, and thus escaped punishment from the law — but not from Frank, who had already killed the corrupt DA that got the mafioso the deal before letting himself be captured, just to get in this room. The judge only has about two seconds to crap his pants before Frank gets out of his cuffs and unleashes the most literal example of "Rage Against the Legal System" ever.
  • Worf Had the Flu: During a time when authorities were seriously breathing down on Punisher's neck, the Super-Soldier Captain America agrees to take him down. But since he is sick at the time (with a Clue from Ed. urging readers to find out why in Cap's own book), Punisher is able to elude capture.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy:
  • Writer on Board: Garth Ennis hates conventional superheroes. You cannot help but notice that whenever any of them appears in an issue of the main Punisher series written by him.

"You know you're just one bad day away from being me..."

Alternative Title(s): Punisher