For the end of the year, we get to see another major Marvel character who’s going to hit our screen in 2016: new pics from Daredevil Season 2, in fact, gave us a first look at The Punisher, the main antagonist (?) of the new season. This time it’s up to Jon Bernthal to portray the character, who, judging from the producers’ comments, will be a veteran suffering from some kind of PTSD and will bring war home in the worst way possible. This is the fourth live action portrayal of the anti-hero: Dolph Lundgren was the first one, in 1989’s The Punisher, where the character was just a black-dressed guy with a lot of guns intervening in a local war between Italian Mafia and Yakuza slaughtering both of the teams; then, in the 2004 film of the same name, Thomas Jane portrayed Frank Castle, an FBI undercover agent who got busted by mob boss Howard Saint, who killed his family in retaliation; Frank survives, and destroys Saint’s empire. Last but not least, Ryan Stevenson portrayed a more brutal and violent version of Castle in Punisher: War Zone, a vengeance-bent vigilante who goes to an all-out war with Jigsaw, a criminal he disfigured. Now that Punisher’s rights are back to Marvel, let’s see what they’ll do with one of the most popular anti-heroes ever…hoping they’ll do better than their predecessors.
Francis Castiglione was born in Queens, New York, son of Sicilian immigrants Mario and Louisa. Raised as a responsible man and a patriot by his father, young Francis enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and married his girlfriend Maria just before his enlistment. Castiglione showed remarkable natural skills, and was soon promoted to the rank of Captain (while he was in training, Maria gave birth to their first child, Lisa). Continuing his training in Infantry, Castiglione had as a guide Phan Bighawk, an American Indian scout who taught him survival skills. Having completed his training as the very best of his platoon, Castiglione was sent to Vietnam during the war in a Special Operations Unit, and became a war hero during his very first tour. When the Viet Cong attacked Valley Forge Firebase, Castiglione was the sole survivor…from both sides. He earned a number of medals and decorations, and after his second tour, he came back home with honor. He had a second son from Maria, Francis Jr., but despite having the chance to live a happy and serene family life, he still wanted to fight. He legally changed his name in Frank Castle, and illegally re-entered the Corps for a third turn in Vietnam. Finally, when years later the war was over, Frank came back home for good, and he received a new job from the Corps: he would have trained the Marine Recon Commandos in the New York State, preparing them for special black ops. Working in the States gave him the possibility to stay with his family as well, so for the first time in his life Castle had everything he wanted: a family who loved him and whom he loved, and the Marines he had always dedicated himself to. This, unfortunately, didn’t last long. One day, Frank brought his wife and children to Central Park, so that they could enjoy a family day; they had a picnic on the Sheep’s Meadow green…a little bit too close to the spot chosen by a local Mafia for a killing. Fearing witnesses, the mobsters killed the Castles in cold blood; once again, Frank was the sole survivor. Distraught and severely wounded, he offered himself as an eye-witness to the NYPD, but the department was in league with the Mafia, so Castle was denied his testimony, and the shooters were never captured. In that moment, something within Frank’s mind cracked.
Out of the hospital, Castle didn’t come back to the Corps, and he simply disappeared from radars for months. In this time, he dedicated to recovery, he intensified his training, he collected all the weapons and the resources he could get in order to prepare for a new war: the one against criminality, a war police was taking far too lightly. When he came back, he was not Frank Castle anymore: he was The Punisher, a one-man-army wearing a kevlar body-armor with a white skull emblazoned on it, a sign of certain death for all the criminals he would have crossed paths with. The Punisher started patroling the streets of New York, using all his experience from wartimes to hunt down single criminals, gangs, organized criminal groups, and even super villains. The Punisher didn’t fight criminals to arrest them, so that they could escape justice in a crooked system: he slaughtered them, giving them back all the brutality and violence they invaded the streets with. He joined forces with Reiss, a wheelchair-bound armorer who aided him in his quest. When businessman Norman Osborn was apparently killed by Spider-Man, The Punisher was among the ones hired to stop the “swinging menace”, now considered a dangerous murderer (the one who gave Castle the hint was actually the supervillain Jackal). The Punisher, convinced by the death of Reiss, slain by Jackal to frame Spider-Man, nearly killed his target, using his arsenal and his training to best the hero’s superpowers, but he eventually realised that he had been fooled by the Jackal witnessing his target’s heroism. The two teamed-up to take down Jackal, but the criminal escaped; The Punisher still was a murderer at Spider-Man’s eyes, so the hero tried to apprehend him…only to lose him immediately. That was just the first one of many uncomfortable alliances between Punisher and other NY heroes, among which Daredevil, Captain America, or even the X-Men; most of the heroes, with a few ecceptions (Wolverine over all), didn’t like Frank’s methods, and their alliances often ended up with The Punisher incarcerated immediately after the resolution of the immediate threat. Not that in jail Frank stopped killing: prisons were full of people who deserved punishment, and many guards were eager to help him deliver it. The Punisher was not alone at all in his bloody crusade…
Frank Castle is a broken man who lost everything he held dear: his family, his values, the faith in justice and law; from the ashes of the man he was emerged a killing machine who transformed his thirst for vengeance into a sacred mission, and he is now bent on a solitary crusade to wipe out criminality from his city (and beyond…). As The Punisher, he is a one-man army, fully armed with an arsenal provided to him by his few allies and connections, and he’s a master in the use of nearly any kind of weapons, from heavy machineguns to light guns, from knives to rocket launchers, from tasers to mass-destruction explosives; he’s an expert detective and tactician, and one of the most accomplished martial artists in the world, with his style spanning from several schools of kung fu and jujutsu to krav maga, ninjutsu, karate, and even brutal and simple street-fighting. A skilled pilot and driver, a trained soldier and a committed crusader, The Punisher is a man with a mission, a task he totally dedicates himself to: the war will be over when either the last criminal on Earth or The Punisher will have stopped breathing…and the odds are not in mobsters’ favor.