By Paul Montgomery
Frank Castle has done what the Avengers refused to do, hunting the lowest criminal to the ground, eschewing due process for swift death. Now the vigilante moves on from his New York haunts, poised to punish the wicked in a new jurisdiction.
In February, Frank ushers his signature brand of black and white justice to sun-soaked Los Angeles, only to discover he’s hardly operating at the top of the food chain. Who comprises the 1-3-1, and why have they taken on a target as volatile as Frank Castle?
The hunter becomes the hunted in PUNISHER #1 by Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads.
We spoke to Edmondson and Gerads about lending PUNISHER tactical authenticity and channeling the anger that continues to drive the man behind the death’s head.
Marvel.com: What’s Frank Castle up to in this new series?
Nathan Edmondson: First, we’ve relocated Frank to Los Angeles for reasons that will eventually become known. Frank has taken on this city. There’s a new gang rising, a very, very powerful gang with connections to the super villain world. So Frank finds himself outmatched.
On the other side of the coin, Frank learns that he’s being hunted by a very mysterious group. He’s outmatched by them as well. They’re shadowing him, actually hunting him down like they would an animal.
Marvel.com: There’s a case to be made that, in the making of your previous collaboration, The Activity, you’ve both embarked on some unprecedentedly high level research trips. You’ve seen some stuff. It seems like that level of access would be helpful here.
Mitch Gerads: 100%, without a doubt. One of the benefits of having done The Activity is that we’ve met a lot of these guys, these special operators. We’ve really gotten to know that world, and more important than knowing how they operate, we know what they don’t do, how they don’t act. We’re bringing that understanding to Frank. Frank knows his stuff and acts like he should. We’re bringing all that knowledge from our trips and our research and our meetings right to this book and it fits perfectly.
Marvel.com: Does the way you incorporate the tech and the ammunition you’ve seen change at all in the jump to the Marvel Universe?
|The Punisher by Mitch Gerads|
Nathan Edmondson: It’s a super hero book. This exists in the Marvel Universe and Frank is at an interesting strata where he’s fighting some vicious criminals but he’s also not fighting the same people the Avengers might be fighting. Still, you have to reconcile the fact that he lives in that same world. There’s a departure from the realism we embraced in The Activity, but in terms of how we’re treating Frank, how Frank might change, we are going to infuse his character with a little more tactical authenticity, if you will. He’s going to look and seem more like a calculating, precise, well-honed instrument of war. At the same time, this is the Frank who’d jump from a helicopter after a super villain. That’s who he is. In other words, he might be a little more realistic, but no less badass. Certainly no less tough.
Marvel.com: Does seeing a weapon, does meeting a person who has carried or will carry that weapon, inform a story development or a character? Or the way you portray either of those things?
Mitch Gerads: For me, drawing the book, absolutely.
Nathan Edmondson: Something Mitch often said when we started this was, “This will be the Punisher who walks in with his eye on the red dot sight and can take out five guys in five seconds, not the guy who runs in with a heavy machine gun in each arm, blasting the jungle away.”
Mitch Gerads: Exactly. He should walk into a room with five guys and only expend five bullets.
Nathan Edmondson: And that’s much cooler, I think. It’s one of the big style transitions in action films from the 80’s and 90’s to the 2000’s. We’ve moved a little bit away from that exaggerated action, but that makes it no less intense.
Mitch Gerads: I’d say it’s more so.
Nathan Edmondson: I think so too. You can be inundated with lead that you don’t even feel the impact of the shots. When Frank takes a shot or gets hit, you’re definitely going to feel it in this book.
Marvel.com: Do you listen to music or watch movies when you draw?
Mitch Gerads: Let’s put it this way: Ours is less the “Slipknot soundtrack” Punisher book and more the “Hans Zimmer scored” Punisher book.
Marvel.com: What inspires Frank’s stance, Frank’s movement? What kind of warrior is he?
Mitch Gerads: He’s very tactical. Nothing is for show. He knows exactly where he needs to move in a room, how to move in a room. He knows how to cover himself and how not to expose himself. He moves with that grace and fluidity, but also with raw energy.
Nathan Edmondson: Our Frank is a little less gorilla and a little more panther. Maybe panther’s too lithe. Maybe it’s more lion. Not necessarily suave, but he’s got that “Tread lightly” ability. Criminals won’t hear him coming. He’s not afraid to kick the door open, but more often they’ll just turn around only for him to strike from the shadows. They’ll have no idea how he got in the room.
Mitch Gerads: A little less bull in a china shop.
Nathan Edmondson: Blunt force when he needs to be, but that’s his last resort. If he’s absolutely got to drive a truck through that door rather than sneak through the vents, he’ll get in that truck. It’ll probably be a fire engine.
|The Punisher by Mitch Gerads|
Marvel.com: It’s often about Frank Castle against the world. Does anyone have Frank’s back these days? What are the important relationships?
Nathan Edmondson: He’s still a lone wolf, as it were. Or a lone coyote. But he does have a weapon supplier. That’s a guy still in the military. This guy is Frank’s connection to the world, someone who tolerates and even likes Frank while still being afraid of him. We’re calling him “Tugs.” There’s also a girl who likes Frank, has a crush on him. So we get to see what happens to that relationship, for better or worse, once Frank becomes aware of that. We’ll also see further connections between Frank and the military and the government, which should come as no surprise given his past. While many of the relationships may seem casual or incidental, they should build over the long term. We’re playing the long game. The heroes don’t like him and the villains, even less, but he’s doing something necessary. He’s cleaning up the streets and dealing with criminals too small to be on Iron Man’s radar, but too powerful for the LAPD to handle. So, if not Frank, then who?
Marvel.com: Often the Punisher represents a product of pure imagination. This guy could not possibly exist. Have you had any conversations with your contacts about individuals like this, with his shark-eyed single-mindedness? These resources? How much of this is science fiction and how much is speculative fiction? Is the Punisher possible?
Mitch Gerads: It’s a tough question, especially if you phrase it as “Is the Punisher possible?” I think [one] of the things that distinguishes our military special operators or special operators around the world is the amount of training, the amount of situational awareness that a single person could achieve through training. Most of these special operators, not only are they total badasses, but they’re also extremely well educated. For our book, Frank is just a very well-rounded individual who’s soaked up all this knowledge—tactical, physical, etc.—and he is that force of nature. He sees the situation and he immediately starts figuring out how to take advantage and come out on top.
Marvel.com: Frank Castle has been angry for a really long time. What continues to drive this guy to do what he does, to be what he is?
Nathan Edmondson: That was one of the important questions for us. The kind of pain that Frank endured, it’s a wound that never heals. He distracts himself from that ache with the mission, this self-identified role. If he stops punishing criminals, the pain will start to rise to the surface again. It won’t be muted. It won’t be numbed anymore. Even if his actions bring out another kind of pain. He could get shot five times, and that’s excruciating, but it’s nothing compared to this deep, psychological pain, which, for a guy with all of his training and capability, he has no idea how to deal with it. He has to keep going forward or else he’ll sink.
Marvel.com: Is there a distinction between Frank Castle and the Punisher at this point, if not explicit on the page then perhaps in your own mind as you track his behavior?
Nathan Edmondson: There is a distinction. When he uniforms up and the skull emblem is visible, he’s going to work. That’s not 24/7. He’s smart enough to know never to completely drop his guard, but there are places where you’re going to see him a little more Frank Castle. A fun question is, “What happens if they come at him when he’s being Frank Castle? What happens if they strike when he’s sitting on his sofa watching TV?” Not that Frank watches TV, but metaphorically. So, there is a distinction, but it’s not as if we’re going to see the transformation as he pulls off his vest and puts on a smile. It’s more in his remarks and demeanor on either side, unique to whether he’s on the job or not. No one is invulnerable. Even the Punisher needs to sleep. He needs to eat. If he were angry all the time, he’d just kill himself, directly or through recklessness.
Marvel.com: Is there anyone more dangerous than Frank Castle?
Nathan Edmondson: Oh, definitely. You’re gonna see him in a couple of issues.
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