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YMMV / The Punisher

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  • Adorkable: The Russian is an evil example. Affectionate towards his allies/friends, wants to get "lots of Levis and CD's" with a million dollar reward, and is openly a fan of GOOD superheroes (Mighty Thor Good Communist, with that Big Hammer of his!).
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Frank is usually treated as an absolute moralist and mass murderer who just happens to be fighting a never ending war on crime. Other interpretations imply he's just as bad as the monsters he fights. The only thing that stays the same is the reason why he became the Punisher.
    • Punisher: Year One has yet another take on Frank's character - he goes vigilante only after all other methods of bringing the mobsters who killed his family to justice fail spectacularly (the police are ineffective and corrupt; an attempt to do an independent investigation leads only to the death of the reporter whom Frank briefly befriended).
    • Punisher: Born from MAX imprint has a different take on WHY he became the Punisher. Frank fell in love with killing and made a deal with an unknown supernatural entity (or just plainly went mad, you choose) to fight a war that would last forever. He wasn't informed until later that the price would be his family, at which point the supernatural entity makes Frank forget that they ever made the deal.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: His scheme of having taxi drivers wage war against each other is a lot less absurd considering that something very similar happened in the country of South Africa.
  • Audience-Alienating Era: See the Marvel Comics page.
  • Catharsis Factor: Let's face it, you want to see the Punisher take down depraved, criminal baddies and act like a badass.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Any Punisher fan is likely to envision the voice of Thomas Jane or Jon Bernthal when reading the comics.
  • Cliché Storm: One story takes place in Scotland, with the requisite haunted castles, bagpipes, haggis, football fans, and miserly locals all making an appearance.
  • Common Knowledge: No, Jigsaw was not in any way responsible for what happened to the Punisher's family. The only time that was said to be the case was in the Ostrander run, where it was very clearly just a Series Continuity Error that is completely nonsensical under any amount of scrutiny, but the belief that Jigsaw somehow killed the Castles persists due that story, and possible conflation with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: After Frank Castle killed third-string villain Stilt Man (with a bazooka shot to the groin no less) a group of other less notable Spider-Man villains held a memorial for their fallen colleague at a local bar. Frank made sure they were all there, then blew up the bar.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Punisher comics are often accused of tacitly endorsing murderous vigilantism, especially since the mid-2010's as various social and political developments made people increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of an armed man roaming the streets as self-appointed Judge, Jury, and Executioner, and more importantly learned how actual law enforcement respond to Frank and his brutal methods. Marvel have tried to defend themselves from this by claiming that Frank is depicted as a deeply flawed man who should not be admired or emulated, with the character stating In-Universe that nobody should follow his example and rejects anyone inspired by him (although that brings up the Fridge Logic of why he keeps doing it). However, even in his most morally dubious incarnations, Frank is a badass Action Hero with a Sympathetic P.O.V. killing the most vile people imaginable, so it's a little hard to argue that readers aren't supposed to think he's awesome and wish they could be like him.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: While many comic books make clear that Frank Castle being an extreme Vigilante Anti-Hero isn't something to be desired as he often crosses the line to being a Villain Protagonist, some fans (not only, but also fangirls) love Frank Castle for his darker and more lethal take on criminals, believing Frank does "what has to be done" and isn't as afraid to take lives unlike other popular superheroes like Spider-Man. This even leads to real-life cops and military members to embrace the Punisher Skull as a symbol (see also Misaimed Fandom below).
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Adorkable Giant Mook The Russian is only in a couple of story arcs, but rivals Punisher's Arch-Enemy Jigsaw in iconic status.
    • Rosalie Carbone, The Queenpin, only stuck around for a few years in the nineties but has a decent number of fans for being Laughably Evil at times but having some Beware the Silly Ones moments, sometimes coming across as a A Lighter Shade of Black in comparison to Frank's other rogues, and being the source of frequent Ms. Fanservice moments. Being (loosely) adapted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe has also raised her profile.
    • Many of the copycat Punisher heroes, especially the ones from the nineties, are decently remembered even though their total number of combined appearances is less than 10% of all the Punisher stories. Put it down to a combination of their cool costumes (save for one or two cases), developed personalities, how many are Lighter and Softer than Frank himself (although by no means pacifistic) and/or manage to leave the Knight Templar vigilante life behind them.
      • Nigel "Outlaw" Higgins appears in less than thirty issues, but is pretty popular among the various Punisher copycats and stands out for being the only black and British member of that group and for being a competent Ascended Fanboy who eventually becomes The Atoner.
      • Lynn Michaels/Lady Punisher was the first one of the bunch to get a wikipedia page by several years, and has more fan art than almost any other character in the franchise.
      • Carlos Cruz only appears in a handful of nineties issues where Microchip tries to get him to replace Frank, but his costume, fighting skills, and nuanced character get him a fair amount of fans.
      • Eddie "Payback" Dyson stands out for being the one who is most hostile to Punisher himself and for eventually forming a Battle Couple with Lynn.
      • Jimmy "Hitman" Pierce has fewer appearences than any of the others besides Carlos, but still has a fair fanbase for having one of the most memorable costumes and widest array of combat skills of the bunch, and for being forced into the role in the first place. Getting an un-costumed In Name Only cameo in the MCU also got him a bit more attention.
      • Left-wing Eat the Rich vigilante Mr. Payback and axe-wielding disillusioned priest the Holy, two of the copycat vigilantes from Welcome Back, Frank, have a lot of people who view them as fascinating and underused characters (even if they are officially considered antagonists) who make the most of what page time they do get.
    • Frank's Butt-Monkey police informant Martin Soap is often considered a highlight of the Garth Ennis pre-MAX run.
    • Gadgeteer Genius Tragic Villain and Van Helsing Hate Crimes practitioner Robert Hellsgaard is still remembered fairly positively despite the alienating nature of the Franken-Castle arc he debuted in.
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • Issues 15-18 of the 1987-1995 series can be tempting to disregard due to Frank behaving out of character in some big ways. First, he recruits a teenager, who he had politely refused the help of during an earlier issue, for his new Vigilante Militia (the boy dies). Second, he decides not to kill Kingpin at the end of the arc (rendering everything a "Shaggy Dog" Story) to prevent a destructive Evil Power Vacuum despite specifically rejecting that as a reason not to kill criminals on other occasions.
    • The events of the arcs where Punisher becomes an attempted Internal Reformist for The Mafia, gets caught up in an angelic war, and becomes a Frankenstein creature are all things that some fans loathe and disregard for departing from the tested formula of the series.
  • He's Just Hiding: Rosalie Carbone has some fans who believe this due to the Disney Villain Death nature of her fate (not to mention its suddenness and lack of major impact).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Remember the gun that shoots swords? Borderlands 2 would later make such a weapon (also, the swords explode, into three smaller swords that also explode).
  • Ho Yay:
    • Frank and Microchip would come off like an old married couple sometimes. In some issues, Micro would even use the word "bubbelah" (Yiddish for "darling") when talking to Frank.
      Punisher: Up for thirty-six hours watching a crack lab, and Micro calls me with a grocery list on the way home. Sometimes having Microchip is like having a wife.
    • The most overt instance of this probably the first issue of War Zone, where Frank and Micro bickering over Micro sneaking off to see a therapist comes off like a couple cracking up due to one member uncovering another's infidelity.
      Microchip: ¢%$#! I don't need this, I'm going out.
      Punisher: Where? I might need you later.
      Microchip: Just out. *¢%, we're not married, Frank.
    • Franken-Castle's fight with Daken was filled with homoerotic banter.
    • Frank's idolization of Captain America can also come off as this.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Gerry Conway has stated he's uncomfortable with how popular the Punisher is with members of the American military and law-enforcement, as he is very anti-war and anti-authoritarian as well as missing the point of a vigilante. He intended for the Punisher to be a tragic anti-hero with ambiguous and sympathetic traits but as primarily an example of the failure of America's military and legal systems:
      "The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they're basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol...My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he's also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal's symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law."
    • An in-universe version happens when 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.
    • Discussion amongst comic professionals and fandom is also starting to highlight the use of the Punisher skull amongst some factions of politically violent militias in the United States, even though Frank himself has never expressed sympathies with any of those ideologies. Garth Ennis, who wrote the very violent The Punisher MAX amongst other Punisher series, condemned the misuse of the skull quite harshly, but there have been requests aimed at Marvel to redesign the skull, reaffirm Frank's condemnation of militia violence, or just retire the Punisher entirely. For a while, Marvel used the character and the logo nonetheless; however, it was revealed in late 2021 that the Punisher's skull was changed, likely to distance the comic from these groups and would later seemingly give in to his critics' demands, retiring the character by leaving Frank stranded in Weirdworld after the end of the run, replacing Frank Castle with a completly new character as the Punisher, safe for a redesigned logo. (Much to his fans' and some general Marvel fans' contention)
  • My Real Daddy: He's had a few writers over the years who have done well with the character, though the ones that most readers will think of are Steven Grant, Mike Baron, Chuck Dixon, and Garth Ennis.
  • Never Live It Down: Seeing that the writers never bothered to fix Castles background after Secret Empire. In-Universe, Frank will always be remembered as someone who joined Hydra, and him trying to atone for what he did by hunting down every Hydra agents and yet Heroes keep undermining him from doing so.
  • Sequel Displacement: While Frank was one of Marvel's cash cows back in the early nineties (alongside Spider-Man and Wolverine), many of his modern fans know nothing about his stories before Ennis. Sadly this means that a lot of his gentler characterizations are overlooked, as well as the fact that he actually did have something of a supporting cast.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Which is what a lot of fans said of Angelic Punisher.
    • Many people feared the worst at the announcement of Franken-Castle. Surprisingly, the change was relatively popular, brief as it was.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Carlos Cruz who has some interesting skill and backstory and is molded by Microchip to try and replace Frank, is in the series for a disappointingly short time and only has one significant fight with Frank, when their feud could have been dragged out for longer and/or eventually made way to an easy truce.
    • Rosalie Carbone, during the Jon Ostrander run. A somewhat long-running, decently layered villainess who still wants Frank dead at a time when he's in a position of unprecedented strength and is also revealed to have some history with the Punisher's erstwhile allies the Geracis. This could have been expanded as a notable subplot, but she is only in one issue of that arc.
    • Stuart Clarke's job as Microchip's replacement and a former super villain feels like it could have been explored for a lot longer and given both him and the Punisher positive development under the right circumstances, but their partnership ends quickly and hostilely, partially due to Clarke's past.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The Punisher came into his own during the decade of the crack epidemic, Bernie Goetz, David Dinkins, and John Gotti. Metaphorically speaking, he's never left.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: He doesn't exactly win popularity contests in the Marvel Universe. Villains hate him since he spends all his time slaughtering them, while other heroes hate him for how much of a ruthless, violent psycho he is, and the few times they do work with him it's going to be strained at best. But for readers he's a fan favorite, due to him slaughtering creeps who have it coming, his status as one of the most Badass Normal characters in Marvel history, and how even when he's written at his most sociopathic he isn't above some acts of compassion (he doesn't kill innocents, and will never kill animals for example).
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Punisher fights against common and grounded criminals (kidnappers, narcos, drug dealers, mafias, rapists, serial killers, and the like) more often than against supervillains with weird superpowers. The Punisher MAX is in fact strictly set in such circumstances, with other superheroes and supervillains being virtually absent. Punisher often kills those criminals, with no remorse and extreme prejudice. This made him popular among people who support hard-line policies against crime, and even far-right extremists. The comic, however, is devoid of such political content: the actions of Punisher are shown as just the actions of Punisher alone, a single vigilante, and never try to address the issue of the way the government or society at large should deal with crime. People from the government, police, and military that appear in his stories are usually shown as either incompetent or corrupt.