Is The Punisher A “Serial Killer”?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: OK, let’s back up and take a look at the latest scandal on the internets…

So basically,  some members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department were under investigation for posting questionable things on social media…including the customized “blue line” Punisher skull logo. The police union, in their infinite wisdom, decided to drum up support for the cops under investigation by encouraging others to post said logo as a sign of “solidarity.”

The custom “blue line” Punisher logo

Said the police union:

The Blue Line symbol and the Blue Line Punisher symbol have been widely embraced by the law enforcement community as a symbol of the war against those who hate law enforcement. It’s how we show the world that we hold the line between good and evil.

Now…that’s a WEE bit problematic, in that the Punisher is widely known as a VIGILANTE.

The Punisher, traditionally, took the “law” into his own hands and netted out justice with a number of different boomsticks. Which…is not really a great symbol for cops, especially with nationwide issues concerning police brutality (and…threatening comic book writers over the internet).

But the unofficial (and unlicensed) use of the Punisher logo as a symbol representing not just cops, but the military and other types of organizations (both “legit” and kinda militia-type), has been going on for a long, long, lonnnnnng time. This is not some inexplicable flavor-of-the-moment meme that these St. Louis police officers pulled out of their ass.

“Navy Seal” Punisher logo patch

In fact, there has been a whole thriving cottage industry of bootleg Punisher logo merch sold online and in local stores. And as far as I know–and I could be wrong here–it seems like Marvel has mostly taken a blind (or winking) eye at it.

But as has been established given the nature of the Punisher character–who works outside the law, kills a lot of people, and, let’s face it, has some degree of lingering untreated PTSD–it’s not an ideal symbol for police.

But some comics professionals have taken to Twitter to take this “condemnation” of the Punisher himself one step further…branding him a “serial killer” and not a superhero at all.

Per Kurt Busiek:

He’s a serial killer AND a mass murderer.

and:

The Punisher isn’t a soldier.

He likes to think of himself as one, but it’s a metaphor. He’s not really a soldier, he’s a criminal.

and:

He’s a murdery guy. He does lots of serial killer stuff and plenty of people know he’s a dangerous criminal.

While I appreciate what Busiek was trying to do here, it sort of “muddies up” the entire debate (opening the door for shit like throwing in the likes of James Bond, Wolverine, and Batman into the mix).

The Punisher is a vigilante in the mold of Dirty Harry, Death Wish, Rambo, and most especially Mack Bolan’s Executioner series.

“The Executioner,” often cited as one of the inspirations for The Punisher

A vigilante is defined as:
a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.

A serial killer, in contrast, is defined as:
a person who commits a series of murders, often with no apparent motive and typically following a characteristic, predictable behavior pattern.

Notorious serial killer Zac Efron

We know what Frank Castle’s motivation is…he’s not jerking off on the bodies…he’s a *vigilante*.

The fact that he’s a vigilante, as stated before, doesn’t make the Punisher a great role model for law enforcement. But calling him a “serial killer” smacks of overkill.

And the elephant in the room is–Marvel and writers like Busiek made big bank over the Punisher not because the masses were like: “wow, I really dig these stories about this troubled bad guy psychopath with mental problems” but because he was presented more or less (especially via official merchandise) as a HERO.

The Punisher in his patently “unheroic” stance

Where was all this industry outrage over the last several decades?

As things stand currently, a solemn procession of comic industry types have stepped up on Twitter to “bury” The Punisher as “always a bad guy.” And a recent issue of the comic, written by Matthew Rosenberg (who you might remember from this really great Uncanny X-Men issue) has the title character telling cops not to glorify him.

Yup, I’m *sure* The Punisher would actually say this

But let’s end on a positive note. Remember that “Shape Shifter” Transformers-type Punisher action figure from waaay back?

Remember?

Yep…those were the days, folks. Those were the days.

2 comments

  1. If the Punisher is no longer a superhero, does this mean that Rick Jones can finally get promoted to take his slot on the Marvel Superhero roster?

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