Establishing some structure here for a moment: There will be plenty more War Journal and Punisher issue breakdowns forthcoming (found a bombshell in a couple War Journals that slipped by the editors, stay tuned), and I’ll alternate some additional commentary on what makes Frank Frank.
In the strangest twist in comicdom, Frank is Most Hated #1 by Marvel characters, yet killin’ aside, lives the model Puritanical lifestyle. I can think of few other characters whose fans will light the internet on fire over a writer who shows Frank sipping a beer, then an issue later flame up with the same zeal if his bodycount/page ratio drops under 1 in 5. He’s a family man, a patriot, war-hero, a teetotaler, abstinent, former seminary student, and is required to be the most carefully protective of innocents of any hero. If Spider-Man misses a shot, Mary Jane gets some web in her face (if you either don’t know what “double entendre” means or don’t understand how it currently applies then come back when you hit puberty, you’re too young to be reading this). If Frank misses a shot, some bystander loses a face. In the circus of earth 616, is it more exciting to watch clown Daredevil twirling batons over the masses, or Frank wandering the crowd juggling his shotguns, chainsaws, and hatchets? Which one requires the most care, and who bears the greater responsibility to those around them?In short, Frank Castle has a Code, it is literally the only thing that defines his actions as a profession rather than a butcher’s bill. Every writer from Grant to Ennis thinks they have Frank dialed in, but really, all they’re doing is tweaking the boundaries of that code. In order for readers to go along with Frank, to allow these books to exist and to allow him his extremes, he has to be penitent, always has. He must be self-aware, decisive, sober, confident, enduring, and above all, he must constantly suffer. He cannot enjoy what he is doing, or we won’t accept it. That’s how guilty pleasures work. You put Peter Parker or Tony Stark’s personality on Frank and you have a lunatic psychopath; he either becomes a lampooning jester like Deadpool, or just another non-powered flavor of the week Joker carbon-copy.
So for this week the first of Frank’s Manly Virtues: Motherfuckin’ Work Ethic. The James Brown of the superheros, he doesn’t take a break. He doesn’t love his work, he is his work. He has 10 whole issues of Punisher Armory just dedicated to what he does fartin’ around the house. Has any comic character EVER had an entire series devoted to what they do in their garage? And all of it involves guns, cleaning guns, building guns, or shit he found at the Sharper Image that you can hide a gun in. Morning, day, night, he’s killin’ it. You know why Punisher writers love Holiday Issues? So you can be sure to understand that no, he doesn’t take holiday breaks, but he will kill your ass in a Santa hat. His super power is that he works harder and longer than anyone else. It is the forgotten virtue of our fathers that we all want to believe we have, but then go ahead and sneak a double lunch break every Wednesday to head down to the comic book store. Do you think Frank stops killing early on New Books Day? Frank doesn’t give a shit when its New Books Day. Frank is Old School, he is Goddamn Man, he has a Job, he has Shit To Do. Frank Castle is a Worker.
Come back in a couple days for a breakdown of War Journal #1-5.