castle garth

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“I met a sniper once, at Bragg. Kid from Alabama. Wasn’t long after Korea finished up. Everyone was talking about going home, and some asshole asked this kid how he could do the things he’d done: How he could pull the trigger on so many people. He didn’t bat an eyelid. He said shooting, being a marksman, it helped him make sense of the world. He said the four constant, steady clicks of the bolt– up and back, forward and down– put him in mind of a kind of mechanism. Like clockwork, maybe. In a warzone, in the middle of all that blood and chaos, he’d found one simple thing he could rely on. When things got bad, it banished the fear. In battle, it gave him back control. Well that day in Laos– I watched Frank Castle make the world make sense.”

Fury MAX by Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov

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The Punisher #8

Garth Ennis + Steve Dillon


Frank Castle is not under any delusions about himself. He doesn’t think his methods are better than those of say, Matt Murdock or Peter Parker. Nor does he do his work actually thinking he makes a difference for good; he doesn’t go home and pat himself on the back, or really think he can make a dent in crime. His mindset is a nihilistic one; he knows there is no end, he knows what he does is not right, but it’s the mission he has given himself – and he is very good at it.

Many will criticize the Punisher’s concept, since they believe that we’re supposed to think the opposite: they believe this is a character that justifies brutality and murder as the right course of action; that his behavior is glorified. This is untrue. Here, he doesn’t tell Joan “because of my family” or anything dramatic about how these criminal monsters must be stopped. He doesn’t make excuses for himself. He doesn’t consider himself to be a good person, or a person who makes the world safe, because – well, frankly, that would be a very messed up thing, and that would make the character incredibly shallow.

Punisher MAX: The Tyger

Garth Ennis + John Severin


As is inescapable with comics, variations on characters will arise. Garth Ennis is responsible for reshaping and defining the modern characterization of Frank Castle, and in The Tyger he explored Frank Castle as a child more than any other author. There are several revelations in this oneshot, and most notably is Frank’s demeanor even as a child.

It was, and sometimes still is, a habit to characterize Frank as a glowing, extroverted and gushingly affectionate family man before the events of Central Park. Which, in reflection, doesn’t actually line up well. Such a drastic change in disposition might not be considered unreasonable, especially when older comics depicted Frank as more openly mournful and overdramatic – but it doesn’t fit the modern interpretation of Frank Castle, as a somber, dark, jaded man who honestly cannot remember his family anymore; who continues his work not strictly because of his family, but because it’s all he can do.

Not to say his disposition with his family was unhappy, necessarily (although Jason Aaron’s interpretation speaks differently – which is a whole other discussion), but Ennis presents a more logical standpoint: that he wasn’t a bright ray of sunshine before Central Park, or even before the war; that Frank Castle has always been a silent, introspective, and overall more reserved person, even in his youth. This shines a better light on precisely what sets him apart as the Punisher, why he is something no one else can imitate – which is a theme Ennis explores all the way through Punisher MAX.