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Why the Punisher still works in 2023 according to Marvel (and why Frank Castle was replaced)

In a recent substack post, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort discussed Joe Garrison and a new chapter for comicdom's deadliest vigilante

Image credit: Marvel

People have strong feelings about the Punisher. For some, the character is outdated, even dangerous, a symbol of violence in a world that's full of it. For others, the character is a perfect opportunity to address that violence, a potential for a powerful and even necessary cautionary tale. Ever since the Jason Aaron/Jesus Suiz run of the character came to a close, Marvel fans have been wondering how this disparity will be handled.

Much to their surprise, the publisher decided to shelve Frank Castle (temporarily, one assumes), but keep the Punisher started back up, with a new character named Joe Garrison adopting the moniker. Recently, we got some insight into this decision, thanks to longtime editor at the House of Ideas, Tom Brevoort.

This insight comes from Brevoort's Substack, which has been rife with behind-the-scenes looks at Marvel since he began writing it (check out our piece on the scale of the X-Men relaunch and you'll see what I mean). In this entry, dated November 12, Brevoort responds to two questions about the gun-toting antihero, the first of which comes from a reader only calling themselves JV. "What do you think is the appeal of a character like the Punisher in this modern age?" this individual asks.

"From a storytelling point of view," responds Brevoort, "the strong man who never misses, who never chooses wrong, who always gets the bad guy and who isn’t cowed by the weaknesses of excessive morality is a very potent image."

He continues, "The particulars may change—maybe he’s a cowboy, maybe he’s a cop who plays by his own rules, maybe he’s an activist who breaks the law in pursuit of a higher justice, maybe he’s not a he at all—but the element of singular empowerment and catharsis is always going to be potent."

Indeed, the particulars have changed, and with the question immediately following JV's, Brevoort got into why. That question was asked by a writer called Alex Segura, who we can't confirm is the writer, publisher, and ex-Archie Comics co-president of the same name.

Responding to Segura's question on the "revamping" of the Punisher title, Brevoort opened the door on how he (and the creative team) came up with Joe Garrison.

"My approach," says Brevoort, "was to identify which elements of the classic Punisher I thought were at the heart of his appeal, and what aspects of the character had aged poorly, or had drifted away from best practices over the years."

"A bunch of people asked when the project was first announced," he continues, "why we didn’t differentiate [Garrison] more, make him a different ethnicity or a woman or whatnot, the answer from my point of view is that we weren’t looking to reinvent [the] wheel here. Rather, we were looking to create a new sturdy wheel, one that could potentially bear the same weight that Frank Castle had, but be different from Frank in a number of key respects."

At the moment, readers have yet to see exactly how Joe will be different than Frank (their appearances and origin stories are perhaps deceptively similar), or what poorly-aged aspects of the character will be done away with. However, if there's one thing Brevort made abundantly clear in this edition of his substack, it's that there's so much that we'll know about Joe Garrison as the adventure continues.

"There’s only going to be so much that I can get into," says the Punisher's editor, "[...] the story isn’t over yet, and it would require revealing too much about what is to come to lay all of my cards out here."

With three issues still to go in the current run, there's no telling when we'll know exactly what Brevoort means. However, we can be sure of this: once we find out, someone's going to have strong feelings about it.

The Punisher is written by David Pepose, drawn and inked by Dave Wachter, colored by Dan Brown, and lettered by Cory Petit. Issue #1 is available now, with Issue #2 hitting comic stands December 13.

Want to know what's next for Marvel? Read Popverse on Marvel's return to the Ultimate Universe.

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