- They laugh at the law. The rich ones who buy it and twist it to their whims. The other ones, who have nothing to lose, who don’t care about themselves, or other people. All the ones who think they’re above the law, or outside it, or beyond it. They know all the law is good for is to keep good people in line. And they all laugh. They laugh at the law. But they don’t laugh at me.
- — Punisher
Born in Queens, New York, to parents of Sicilian ancestry, the young Francis Castiglione enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. He married his wife, Maria, who was already pregnant with their first child prior to his enlistment.
During his time in the USMC, Castiglione graduated from boot camp and then went on to United States Marine Corps School of Infantry. While still in training, Castiglione met Phan Bighawk, an American Indian scout. He was assigned to be Castiglione’s guide, and through Phan, he learned how to survive in the wilderness.
Following his training, Castiglione served in the Vietnam War in a Special Operations Unit as a point man. He fought in numerous engagements and was the only survivor (from both sides) of a Viet Cong assault on Valley Forge Firebase in 1971. For heroism in the line of duty, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, 3 times the Silver Star and Bronze Stars, 4 times the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After finishing his second tour of duty in Vietnam, he came back to the United States and had a second child with his wife. He then signed up for a third tour to which he illegally re-entered the U.S. Marine Corps under the name of Frank Castle in order to return to battle. Castle served a total of 4 years in the Vietnam War (1968 to 1971). Six years later (1976) after the American involvement in Vietnam ended, Castle ran Special Black op training missions for Marine Recon Commandos in the upper New York State area.
Death of his Family
While on leave, he took his wife and two small children to Central Park in New York City. Coincidentally, the family happened upon the scene of a mob killing on the Sheep’s Meadow green in the park. Fearing witnesses, the mobsters murdered Castle’s family in cold blood and escaped. Castle managed to survive the attack but was deeply traumatized by the incident. He was going to testify in court to identify the shooters, but Castle was denied this since the New York Police Department were deeply connected with the Mafia. He decided not to return to Marine duty.
When mobsters slew his family, Frank Castle vowed to spend the rest of his life avenging them. Trained as a Marine and equipped with state-of-the-art weapons, he now wages a one-man war against crime as the Punisher.
The Punisher used his combat experience (four years as a U.S. Marine in a special operations unit in the Vietnam War), guerrilla warfare (combat assault attacks, assassinations, ambushes, hit and runs, bombings, using the enemies’ own money, weapons, and supplies against them), urban warfare (using the crowded city of New York to blend in and disappear), psychological warfare (putting fear into the hearts of criminals), using detective-like skills (talking to people, reading obtained files on the people he goes after, tracking and surveying the enemy), always adapting to the enemy such as using the Mafia’s own methods and tactics against them (interrogating and torturing suspects to death in order to get information from them) and whatever resources and means may be necessary to do so, ranging from light anti-tank weaponry to enraged polar bears, piranhas, and even a hydrogen bomb.
The Punisher fought virtually about every known criminal organization, including the Italian Mafia, the Russian Mafia, the Japanese Yakuza, the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, the Chinese Triads, Jamaican Yardies, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Irish Mob, biker gangs, street gangs, gunrunning militias, muggers, killers, rapists, psychopaths, sadists, pedophiles, and corrupt cops.
He clashed with Spider-Man early in his career, believing him to be a common crook, but the two became uneasy allies on a regular basis, for example teaming up with the X-Man Nightcrawler to bring down Jigsaw who was trying to frame Castle for several killings.
The Punisher also assaulted such criminal business enterprises as drugs, weapons smuggling, money laundering and human trafficking. The Punisher fought organized crime long enough to know their modus operandi and predict their actions. Many of these organizations tried to kill the Punisher, using both their own men and hired contract killers. But the Punisher managed to kill almost every type of assassin, hitman, bounty hunter, and mercenary sent after him.
The Punisher was highly mobile. He had many bases of operations and did not limit himself to working only in New York city. He has been to many places in the U.S. and around the globe fighting crime such as the British Isles, Latin America (Central and South America), Europe and Russia. The Punisher had an extensive criminal record due to his activities. Law enforcement such as the police, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and even S.H.I.E.L.D. were aware of his existence and made many attempts to capture him; however, many rank-and-file officers were reluctant to take action against the Punisher because while they disapproved of his methods of fighting crime, they believed he made the world a better place. The Punisher himself disregarded what police and the public thought of him. The Punisher killed corrupt cops, but in doing so stirred police into heightened action against him. Castle was also caught and imprisoned (generally in Ryker’s Island) many times, but always escaped.
Initially Castle was not concerned about the civil war between the heroes until the government started using superpowered criminals to enforce the law. This act made Castle enter the war on the side of Captain America and the Secret Avengers. After rescuing Spider-Man from Pro-Registration forces he brought the beaten and unconscious hero to the Anti-Registration hideout.
Some heroes were apprehensive about having the vigilante in their midst while some were outraged not wanting him there at all, but after he assured them that he could get them into the Baxter Building Captain America allowed him to join. Unfortunately on the eve of the final battle two supervillains attempted to join the Anti-Registration forces and the Punisher killed them outright. Enraged Captain America attacked Castle for his lack of self-control and for not finding the better man within himself.
When the war was over Frank found himself on the run from G.W. Bridge and S.H.I.E.L.D. once again.
The Punisher made a brief appearance in Mexico where he was working on a parallel path with Moon Knight to take out the Alcantara drug cartel.
After the Skrull Invasion, Norman Osborn became the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and renamed it H.A.M.M.E.R. Frank attempted to shoot Norman, but the Sentry stopped the bullet. Sentry began to fight Frank. Frank was able to hide in his van until a man named Henry led him to a hideout. Henry then gave Frank information on a drug ring he wanted the Punisher to eradicate. Hank took photos of the fight, which made the news papers. Norman Osborn read it and ordered the Hood to have Frank killed.
The Hood needed help to take Frank down, so he brought Microchip back from the dead. The Hood said he would bring back David’s son if he took out the Punisher. After Microchip failed to do so, the Hood summoned back some supervillains from the dead to help take out the Punisher. The Hood then took G.W. Bridge’s wife away and killed her, while his son was kidnapped. The Hood also took Frank’s family out of their grave. Frank saw the Hood and Microchip, with G.W. Bridge tied up. The Hood told Frank to kill Bridge so he could have his family, and Microchip’s son, back from the dead . Frank refused to do so. Microchip took the Hood’s gun and killed G.W.Bridge. Microchip’s son and Frank’s family were brought back to life. Frank was shocked to see his family alive. Frank used Firebrand‘s flames to burn his family and Microchip’s son alive. The Hood and Frank battled it out. While Frank was on the losing side, he bribed the Hood with one of his family members. The Hood let him go and told him that Henry was Jigsaw’s son. The Punisher went back to his van, kicking Henry out. Henry then said “Don’t you want to undo what happened in the past?” Frank gave a straight “No” and drove off.
Soon after, Osborn dispatched Daken and dozens of H.A.M.M.E.R. agents to kill Frank. When Frank and Daken fought one on one, Daken emerged victorious, slicing Frank to pieces. Those pieces were then recovered by the Moloids and the Man-Thing.
After his death at the hands of Daken, Castle was resurrected by Morbius and the Legion of Monsters as a patchwork Frankenstein-like creature to help them against a group of Samurai-like men lead by the mysterious Hellsgaard, who killed monsters for “not being of God”. At first Frank refused to help them out and disappeared into the sewers. The Living Mummy later tried to reason with him and showed him Wolfman’s armory.
Again he refused. When the group attacked the monsters hideout Frank was angered by the death of a child Moloid and fought back. After intense violent battles alongside the Legion of Monsters against Hellsgaard he would eventually take his revenge against Daken in Tokyo, but was interrupted by Wolverine. At the conclusion of the series, the character was transformed back into a normal human through use of the namesake of Ulysses Bloodstone.
After healing completely he started hunting the Hood but without results so he went after Micro. On his way a woman in a black leather suit attacked him. She pretended she was his burnt wife but it was later revealed that it was Lady Gorgon who he had also burned working with Jigsaw. This all ended with a final confrontation between Jigsaw, Henry, and Frank. Lady Gorgon was killed by Master Yoshiokya, a leader of the Hand and Jigsaw fell in a fire. Frank told Henry that if he ever saw him again, he would kill him.
A violent gang war resulted in the murders of nearly 30 people at a wedding reception, including the groom, leaving the bride, Marine Sergeant Rachel Cole-Alves, a widow just hours after getting married. Frank had connections with one of the detectives on the case and used the information he gave him to kill members of the Exchange, the group responsible, before the police had a chance to question them. He left one alive and followed him as he searched for a safe haven. But his bosses knew he was marked by the Punisher and killed him, then sent the new Vulture to kill Frank. Though he won his battle with the Vulture, he was left seriously wounded, and spent the next three months recovering.
Back in action, Frank journeyed to upstate New York on a mission to kill multiple Exchange managers. There, he encountered Rachel Cole-Alves, who was using her Marine background to get revenge on the Exchange. Since they both wanted the same thing, the two began to work together.
Eventually, Frank learned that Daredevil was in possession of the Omega Drive, a data drive made of unstable molecules containing information on multiple crime organizations, which Frank wanted for himself. Daredevil refused to hand it over to him, but Frank agreed to help him destroy it since it meant he could spend the night fighting crime. However, Rachel wanted the drive to help her get revenge on the Exchange and stole it off of Daredevil before he could destroy it. It took some convincing from Daredevil to get her to return it. Rachel then fled the scene.
Angry that she has let her emotions dictate her actions, Frank confronts her and has her prove her loyalty to the mission by making her burn her wedding photo. With a renewed sense of focus, the duo made their move against the Exchange. Rachel confronted Stephanie Gerard, the leader of the Exchange, in her heavily protected office while Frank shot his way in through the window using bullets tipped with Adamantium to destroy the bulletproof glass. The confusion gave Rachel the chance to kill Gerard with a garrote, but Gerard’s partner Christian Poulsen, who harbored an unrequited love for her, reacted violently, slaying everyone in the building, innocent or not.
Though they stopped him, his actions resulted in dozens of deaths, including three cops, whose deaths were blamed on the Punisher. The duo split up, but Rachel, having killed one of the cops on accident, wanted to end her life out of guilt. Frank stopped her but she was brought in by the police shortly after. When the news reached Spider-Man, he asked for the Avengers help in bringing him in.
Frank continued his mission outside the country even as Black Widow pursued him around the globe under the orders of the Avengers, only for him to slip away. Thor soon found him and convinced him to return to New York and help save Rachel from the death penalty. But instead of turning himself in, he freed her just as the Avengers planned. However, they did not anticipate his actions and he was able to buy her enough time to escape. As a result, he was captured by the Avengers and placed in a special cell designed by Iron Man that seperated him from other prisoners he might try to kill.
At one point, the Punisher was recruited by General Thaddeus Ross to be a part of his new Thunderbolts team alongside Elektra, Deadpool, and Venom, but unfortunately he went rogue and started killing his fellow members, starting with the Leader, thus beginning his life as a criminal.
The Punisher differs from the majority of vigilantes. The Punisher works outside the traditional system of law and order. He is a remorseless and cold-blooded killer.
The Punisher possesses no superhuman abilities and succeeds solely through ingenuity and the rigorous training of his military upbringing, a finely honed killer instinct and an extensive arsenal of weapons culled from fallen foes and military allies.
Unlike most heroes, Castle has no dual identity, no “real world” job, no known hobbies, and few friends. He spends nearly all of his time planning his next hit, stopping only to recover from injuries or fatigue. Money taken from criminals is used to purchase food, weapons, ammunition, and pay the rent of his many safe-houses.
The Punisher also disregards what the police and the public think of him, and is known to kill corrupt cops. He is viewed as a dangerous criminal by the public and by most members of the superhero community.
Castle’s years of vigilantism have made him increasingly cynical about the capabilities of the American justice system, especially in regard to it’s failure to successfully prosecute his family’s homicide, due to the witnessed killer’s false alibi and the mob’s influence in the New York City Police Department. The reason Castle kills those he regards as criminals is his desire to make them pay for the pain that they’ve caused.
An Army colonel who once questioned Castle asked him why in which Castle responded, “So they can’t get away. So they can’t profit from the misery they’ve caused”. While it is true that Frank derives a dark pleasure from what he does his motivation is that the thought of letting a criminal he could kill go would “drive him crazy”. Some members of law enforcement are reluctant to arrest the Punisher because they believe he often deals with criminals that the law can’t convict.
Castle stated he did not want others to follow his path, on the grounds that his personal war against criminals was his alone, and he harbored resentment toward other (usually short-lived) vigilantes, taking exception at what he saw as their lack of “professionalism”.
The Punisher knows that no matter how many hundreds or thousands of criminals he kills, it doesn’t make a difference in the world. Frank knows that his actions don’t make the world a safer place, as seen when a slaving operation continued despite the Punisher’s extermination of one cell.
Even though he has stated several times that nobody should be like him (like towards his latest partner, Rachel Cole-Alves), he has not a single regret about what he does, as shown during his fight with Ghost Rider when he withstood his Penance Stare without even flinching.
Powers and Abilities
While he was Franken-Castle, Castle had superhuman strength to an unknown degree.
Castle once had a bloodstone fragment which had enhanced him in currently unknown ways, it had also given him some degree of a healing factor which has allowed him to recover from serious injuries including restoring him to his old self.
Master Martial Artist: Castle is a very thoroughly seasoned combat veteran of exceptional skills. He is very well-versed in the arts of warfare, several forms of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. His styles of choice being Nash Ryu Jujutsu, (the four-style martial art founded by his Sensei Adam Nash and the Marine Corps LINE/MAPS combative systems) Ninjutsu, Shorin-ryu Karate, Hwarang-Do, and Chin Na. He is an exceptional knife fighter who carries up to 3 or 4 different types of edged weapons, preferring the knife he learned to fight with in the USMC: the Ka-bar.
Expert Marksman: He is an exceptional marksman of every type of firearm who is sometimes depicted as being ambidextrous in this respect. He is skilled in sharpshooting and knife throwing as well.
Expert Pilot: Castle received helicopter training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command.
Interrogation Expert: Castle uses his interrogating skills to get information from people who has links to criminals through very creative use of torture as well such as water boarding, electrocution, suffocation, sleep deprivation, starvation etc.
Extensive special ops training: Besides his Marine training, Castle also received U.S. Navy SEAL/UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) training, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) training, U.S. Army Ranger training, U.S. Army Airborne School training, U.S. Army Special Forces Q-Course training, and LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) training. He also took part in cross-training with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment.
Expert Tactician: Armed solely with conventional weapons and motivated by a fanatical hatred for criminals like those who murdered his family, the Punisher has single-handedly incapacitated up to a dozen well-armed and experienced opponents in a single encounter and escaped uninjured. It is his military training and his attention to detail that allows him to achieve this.
The Punisher possesses the normal human strength of a 6’1″ 200-pound man, who engages in intensive and extensive physical exercise. Frank is capable of press lifting up to twice his body-weight and can press lift 400 lbs. Frank engages in a brutal regimen of calisthenics, katas and firing range practice daily, maintaining his combat skills and he does not drink alcohol or do drugs.
Non-Superhuman Physical Conditioning: Castle is as susceptible to physical injury and disease as any other normal human, often having to rely more on strategy than strength when up against a superhuman opponent. However, different characters like Nick Fury have commented on how extraordinarily high his pain tolerance is. Frank does not take even over-the-counter painkillers, believing that their benefit of dulling pain isn’t worth the side effects of drowsiness or slowed reflexes.
Military equipment as appropriate.
The Punisher’s first outfit was a form-fitting black Kevlar bodysuit with a large white skull on his chest. According to Frank Castle, this drew the attention and the aim of the criminals to his heavily armored body, instead of his more vulnerable head. Each tooth of the skull was actually spare ammunition for firearms.
Punisher chose not to utilize any costume outside of a black shirt with a white skull splashed across the front. His other clothing, which sometimes included combat boots, blazers, leather jackets, trench coats, bulletproof vests, body armor, black battle dress uniforms, and camouflage outfits was worn for the sake of protection or camouflage in urban and wilderness areas.
The Punisher employs a vast array of conventional firearms including machine guns, rifles, shotguns, handguns, knives, explosives and other weapons culled from common and organized criminals and military sources during his operations.
A vast majority of his weapons have roots in military forces around the world, and typically employs weapons and accessories limited to military operations.
The Punisher often customizes his weapons for greater effectiveness with both standard and custom items including magnified optics, reflex sights, night vision scopes, flashlights, grenade launchers, sound and flash suppressors, bipods, high-capacity magazines and drums and various ammunition including hollow point or armor piercing bullets.
- Punisher usually uses rubber “mercy bullets” (non-lethal ammunition) when guest-starring in other comics, most notably Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Captain America in the 70s and 80s.
- Used to have a pet rottweiler called “Max” which he saved from animal poachers.
- Number plates on The Punisher’s black Pontiac has “Year One” on it; reference to The Company that worked on making the 5 GTOs for the movie.
- According to Don Daley, then editor of The Punisher Vol 2, #98, in his response to a fan mail, he stated that the Punisher’s version of justice is classically based as “an eye for an eye”.
- In the early 1990s, flagging sales drove Marvel to place the then-popular character The Punisher in several guest appearances in The ‘Nam. After the series’ conclusion, an epilogue of sorts was published in the form of a Punisher special, The Punisher in the ‘Nam: Final Invasion.
- As of the mid-2000s, Castle’s timeline remained untouched when Marvel adjusted the time frames of other characters. His history has never been altered or moved up; he has effectively aged in real time from the Vietnam War.
- In the miniseries Born, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, Castle’s roots are traced back to Vietnam, during his third tour of duty in Vietnam, where he undergoes a psychological and possibly supernatural transformation into the Punisher in order to survive a massive assault on his fortification by the combined forces of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.
- The Punisher once went after the Runaways when they were hired by the Kingpin to steal a hyperdrive device. This resulted in one of the more embarrassing moments in Castle’s life, when he was dispatched by a single punch from 12-year-old Molly Hayes.
- Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine has stated that the second part of his band’s hit song “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” is about the Punisher. The lyrics themselves only reinforce this feeling:
Wage the war on organized crime
Sneak attacks, repel down the rocks
Behind the lines
Some people risk to employ me
Some people live to destroy me
Either way they die
- Megadeths first album Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good was also a reference to the Punisher, being that the title track of the album was based on early Punisher comics.
- The Punisher was based of another famous fictional vigilante: Mack Bolan AKA…The Executioner (created by Don Pendleton) who’s popular action/adventure novel series began in 1969, and continues to this day.