Masters of the Universe: Revelation showrunner Kevin Smith has weighed in on Marvel Comics’ recent decision to distance themselves from the Punisher’s iconic emblem, opining that despite the publisher doing so “because it’s been co-opted by some folks that [they don’t] want to be associated with,” the classic skull will inevitably make a return.
As announced by Marvel last December, Frank Castle will soon be swapping his traditional skull symbol for one more reflective of his upcoming role as the warlord of the Hand ninja clan.
“After a shocking secret pushes him to become the warlord of the Hand, he now serves the Beast, a role he’s been fated to fulfill,” teased the publisher in their announcement of the Punisher’s next story arc. “Tragedy, war, and rage come together as he takes up his sword and his new armor with the most notorious clan of assassins in the Marvel Universe. Will it mean an end for the Punisher? Or a whole new bloody beginning?”
This new symbol comes after the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway, launched a campaign to “reclaim” the Punisher’s iconic symbol.
Taking to Twitter in June 2020, Conway announced, “I’m looking for young comic book artists of color who’d like to participate in a small fundraising project for Black Lives Matter to reclaim the Punisher skull as a symbol of justice rather than lawless police oppression. Respond and follow so we can DM.”
A year later, Conway would deride police and military members who wore the symbol.
In January 2021, he told SyFy, “To me, it’s disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He’s supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.”
“They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol,” he asserted.
Conway then declared, “It goes without saying. In a way, it’s as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building.”
“My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he’s also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal’s symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law,” he concluded.
Smith touched on the topic during the January 7th, 2022 episode of the podcast FatMan Beyond, which he hosts alongside Masters of the Universe: Revelation writer Marc Bernardin.
“This character has been insanely popular for decades,” he explained to Bernardin after a brief recap of the character’s history. “He’s recognizable by the skull on his chest.”
He continued, “Apparently, the skull on his chest became problematic because it’s been co-opted by some folks that Marvel doesn’t want to be associated with. So, this seems like their fix.”
“Also,” Smith then speculated, “maybe the character has come under fire in recent years for all the gun use and stuff.”
The former Marvel writer then noted, “So, what they’ve done is changed the skull into a proprietary looking skull. That’s the other reason. Marvel/Disney cannot own, or trademark the image of a skull as seen on The Punisher. ‘Cause it’s too close to a regular skull.”
“By adding the horns and stuff, that is their Punisher logo now,” he affirmed. “It removed them from the Punisher logo as it’s traveled in the world to places that they don’t want to be associated with. Frank Castle no longer using machine guns or any sort of guns because he’s all swords now.”
Speaking to fans who were less than enthused about the new design, Smith maintained, “Naturally, some folks are all upset. I don’t read the comics, so I got no skin in the game. But, as a long-term comic book reader, this is what I will say. If you wait long enough kids, everything comes back around.”
“This is not the first time that Frank Castle has been turned into a different version of The Punisher,” he recalled. “They did this when we did Marvel Knights. They did Frank Castle got killed, went to Hell, came back as a guy who would only kill bad people and monsters. You know, supernatural characters and stuff like that.”
He then argued, “It’s a character that sometimes, based on the culture, has butted up against the culture. So, Marvel has tried to find ways to still keep a beloved character viable while not being associated with whatever they don’t want to be associated with. This is yet another example of that.”
“So, if you’re like ‘Oh, I can’t stand what they’re doing!’ Take it from an old comic book fan, just wait 10 minutes, nothing is forever kids,” he concluded. “You think that skull is gone from The Punisher’s chest forever? No. And when they put it back on his chest, they will sell a bajillion copies.”
What do you make of Smith’s take on the Punisher’s Hand-influenced emblem? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!