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Marvel's Punisher revamp was never going to quieten the controversy surrounding the character (and made Frank Castle an unlikely martyr)

Frank Castle being replaced is being argued as "proof" that Marvel hates Punisher fans

The Punisher(s)
Image credit: Marvel

Pity poor Marvel. For years now, the company has had to deal with multiple people pointing out that right wing groups have co-opted the iconography of its popular anti-hero character The Punisher, to the point where not only did the character’s co-creator address the issue, but so did the character himself.

The Punisher’s transformation into a pop-culture icon with a life entirely outside of corporate control been an uncomfortable thing for Marvel to deal with, clearly. Sure, the Punisher is a skull-toting psychopath who murders people to dole out his very specific definition of justice, but unlike this guy, he’s become famous enough — thanks, in large part to his matching the zeitgeist that produced movies like the Death Wish series, the Dirty Harry series, when 'tough guy who kills the bad guy without mercy' was enough of a novel selling point to transform these characters into figures of idolization — that he’s a profitable piece of intellectual property with a Netflix series and multiple movies to his name. For better or worse, he’s one of the most recognizable characters Marvel has… so seeing him adopted as a symbol of hate groups and quasi-fascists isn’t a particularly attractive proposition for a Disney-owned corporation.

So, Marvel did what Marvel does: it gave the Punisher concept a reboot, transforming him into an entirely new character with a new costume — one that, not coincidentally, replaces the skull logo that had been co-opted by the right-wing groups. (That same logo had, notably, already been replaced for the last year of the original incarnation of the character.) The central conceit of the Punisher remains in this new version: a family man who goes to extremes in the wake of personal tragedy. But, in theory, the move from Frank Castle to Joe Garrison allows Marvel to abandon the controversy surrounding the earlier version of the character altogether and tell new stories without fear. (No, wait, that’s Daredevil.)

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Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.