In the spirit of current Marvel, The Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway has revealed his wishes for the iconic anti-hero to be rebooted as a black armed forces veteran who “faces the issues that minorities in the world face today.”
Conway touched upon his vision for the Punisher’s future during an October 2021 appearance on the Endless Thread podcast, invited on by hosts Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson for a conversation on Frank Castle’s skull logo as part of a series on the histories and cultural impacts of various pieces of culture which have been imprinted within society as memes.
Beginning his interview with a brief discussion of the character’s development history, Conway explained to the two hosts that the Punisher was originally conceived in protest to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, borne out of his own belief that the “government [was] taking on the wrong people and ignoring the people who are really dangerous.”
“I think that I’ve often said that The Punisher represents kind of a Rorschach test for the era that he’s– that readers discover him in,” he continued. “For me, in the early 70s, he was, you know, a response to a dysfunctional era in American history. In the 80s, he’s a triumphant character representing, you know, a black and white view of the world. And in the 2000s, he’s the dysfunctional Punisher — the despairing tragic hero who is really an outcast and no longer represents anything except his own ID.”
After reiterating his well-known disagreement with the use of The Punisher’s skull by members of the military and law enforcement – eventually claiming to the hosts that when said service members wear the icon of the comic book vigilante, “they are saying they are outlaws and that they are criminals and that they are enemies of society” – Conway explained to Sivertson and Johnson his ideas for reclaiming the skull.
“It’s actually part of the value of the comics is that you can reinterpret these characters as long as you maintain some truth to the original archetype that they represent,” he told the pair. “You can reinterpret them for the time in which you’re creating.”
He then recalled, “I’ve heard one or two people on Twitter saying that there’s literally no way that the Punisher logo can ever be anything except a symbol of oppression. And I think that’s just, you know, no, come on. But even if that were the case, sticking your finger in the eye of the bad guys is always a good deal.”
“And putting out sweatshirts that, or T-shirts, you know, that had the BLM logo with The Punisher logo is a, you know, it’s a pretty hefty “F- you” to people who deserve to have an ‘F- you,’” he added, referencing the Black Lives Matter – Skulls for Justice campaign he launched last June.
Ultimately, Conway affirmed to Sivertson and Johnson, “You know, there’ll come a time, just like in the 80s, when that character can be rebooted, you know, and turned into something new,” revealing that his “personal preference would be that the next iteration of The Punisher would be a black vet, you know, who comes back and faces the issues that minorities in the world face today.”
“Again, as I say, like a Rorschach test,” he concluded. “And when he does, you know, I’ll be proud of him again.”
Surprisingly, such a reboot would not be the first time Frank found himself race-swapped as a black man – albeit the prior instance was less than an exact equivalent.
In 1991, under the direction of storied Punisher writer Mike Baron, Frank found himself in need of a disguise following a razor-thin escape from prison following a brutal beating at the hands of Jigsaw and his goons.
Desperate to avoid detection by the Kingpin as he returned to his mission, Frank asks his companion, Melinda Brewer, to give him such extensive cosmetic surgery that even “my best friend wouldn’t know me.”
Shockingly, thanks to Melinda taking his request to its near-furthest-extent, Frank eventually awakens to discover that he now has black skin.
However, this change was unsurprisingly only temporary, as over the course of a brief, four-issue adventure with Luke Cage, Frank’s skin slowly faded back to its original color.
What do you make of Conway’s idea for a revamped Punisher? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!