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Does The Punisher Have Supernatural Abilities?

*I wrote this article years ago for our now-defunct nerd website Guerrilla Geek. I dug it up out of my archives in honor of today’s AMAZING Netflix news.

The Punisher is a notorious Marvel character who has not been naturally, chemically, or magically enhanced. Yet this begs the question - how on earth does he continue to survive?

On a typical day, The Punisher is involved in any number of death-defying situations. Whether he is launching an attack on the mob, taking out a drug ring, or simply chasing down information, his life is constantly in danger. He wears a bulletproof vest, but is that enough? The Punisher is frequently injured during his battle against evil, and I love that his character is vulnerable. Unlike the other super heroes that we read about, The Punisher is not invincible. Two bullets here, a knife wound there, missing teeth, a broken arm, the list goes on and on. How can he possibly live through all of that pain?

An explanation can be found in the MAX title Punisher: Born, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Collecting Born #1-4, “superstar Garth Ennis reveals the never-before-told story of the horrors Castle was forced to face to come home from Vietnam alive.” In the last issue, The Final Day, Frank faces immeasurable odds. His men are dying, the Vietnamese are closing in, and there is no chance for survival. No chance, until a voice appears. A voice that is encased in a black speech balloon. A voice that seems suspiciously devilish. It asks Frank to do one simple thing: say yes.

We are left to draw our own conclusions about what exactly happened to Frank Castle on that fateful day. He emerges from an impossible battle riddled with bullet holes, but still breathing. Frank happily returns home to his wife and two children as a decorated war hero. Unfortunately, we all know what happens next.

Ennis insinuates that Frank survived because he said “yes.” What did he say yes to? His skin did not become impenetrable. He can obviously still bleed. Frank can’t fly away from danger, or whip out a set of claws to protect himself. It seems like Frank simply has a little bit of extra luck. His intelligence and cunning helps him locate his prey, while his tactical skills allow him to get close enough to strike. He whips out his guns, and kills hundreds of evildoers without breaking a sweat. Is it pure luck that the Punisher survives all of these encounters?

Where does Frank Castle end, and The Punisher begin? Over the years, The Punisher has allowed himself to care for some of the victims he saves. He tries to be made of stone, but every so often, he lets his guard down. These instances are when I love The Punisher the most. As hard as he tries to simply be a killing machine, he still cares about people. The Punisher doesn’t kill for sport. He kills because he has a deeply rooted need to save as many innocents as he can. Or, perhaps his intentions come from a darker place. Does he kill because someone, or something, compels him to do so?

What do you think?