The Punisher may still be a new character to Netflix viewers, but the gruesome antihero is very familiar to comic book readers. Frank Castle has a storied, nearly 45-year history in Marvel publications, dating back to his first appearance in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man back in 1974. Though his complex character got some shine in the second season of Daredevil on Netflix, fans will get to see much more of the war-torn assassin in his upcoming standalone series The Punisher. Before that premieres later this year (the exact release date has yet to be announced), here's the low-down on the Punisher's history within the Marvel universe.
The Punisher was first introduced as antagonist to Spider-Man in a 1974 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. In his premiere issue, the Punisher goes after Spider-Man, trying to kill him in response to the hero's apparent murder of Norman Osborn (A.K.A. the Green Goblin). The Punisher surprised the comic publishers by booming into unexpected popularity among fans, notably due to his unprecedented lack of restraint when it came to killing criminals in cold blood.
In terms of his character's story, Frank Castle was a U.S. Marines sniper who served in the Vietnam War. After he had returned from combat, his wife and two children were murdered by the mob for witnessing a killing. Motivated by these deaths, Castle took on the mantle of the Punisher to exact vengeance on criminals, torturing and killing any wrongdoer he finds with abandon.
Powers and Abilities
Though he's a major player in Marvel's universe of superheroes, the Punisher actually doesn't have any real superpowers of his own. What he does have, however, is unmatched skill in military tactics. The Punisher uses his special ops training and proficiency in marksmanship and demolitions to outsmart and overpower the criminals he is after.
The Punisher is known for his aversion to working with others, but there are a few notable exceptions in his long history within the Marvel universe. After initially fighting against Spider-Man, the Punisher goes on to team up with him on a regular basis in his early years. He also worked with other big names like Captain America and Nightcrawler for a bit, but his most notable run with a major Marvel hero was his contentious team-up with Daredevil. He and the blind hero represent differing ideals of vigilante justice, with Daredevil constantly taking issue with Punisher's penchant for murdering criminals during their time working together.
The Punisher's most notable ally throughout his adventures has been Microchip, a hacker and mechanics expert who provides the Punisher with all his weapons. The two were allies until ultimately turning against one another. The Punisher has also teamed up with police officers and detectives for brief periods to aid him in tracking down criminals. But, for the most part, the Punisher works alone.
The Punisher has been portrayed numerous times on-screen, all of which translated the character's signature dark and gritty vibe. Dolph Lundgren played him in the 1989 film The Punisher, followed by Thomas Jane in 2004's The Punisher, and then Ray Stevenson in the 2008 reboot Punisher: War Zone. But nowadays, the Punisher is most famously associated with Jon Bernthal's portrayal in the second season of Netflix's Daredevil, which aired in 2016.
Bernthal's Punisher focused heavily on the character's complex relationship with Daredevil in the Netflix series, showing the antihero as a murderous foil to Daredevil's resistance to deadly violence. Despite these differences, the two vigilante's teamed up to defeat the evil band of ninjas The Hand. In the upcoming spinoff The Punisher, viewers will be learning much more about Frank Castle's history as he investigates a larger conspiracy behind the death of his family.