When Wolverine's villainous son Daken cut Frank Castle, aka The Punisher into little pieces, he was probably thinking that that was the only time he would ever have to deal with the heavily armed vigilante. As readers of "Punisher" know, however, Daken couldn't have been more wrong. By murdering the Punisher, Daken was actually doing him a favor. In recent issues, The Legion of Monsters found the remains of Frank Castle and put him back together as an undead, patchwork, Frankenstein-style monstrosity dubbed FrankenCastle. So Frank Castle lives again, and this time he's armed with a body that gives him superhuman strength and endurance. This May, he'll use his newfound power and all the other tools at his disposal to gain his revenge on Daken and other villains of the Marvel Universe that have wronged him. CBR News spoke with writer Rick Remender about his plans for "Punisher." which morphs into "FrankenCastle" with May's issue #17.
The decision to change the series title from "Punisher" to "FrankenCastle" is more about the direction of the series than it is about the title character's identity. "He still is the Punisher, but I think Marvel's decision to call the book 'FrankenCastle' was to ensure that people don't think that the changes we're making and the things that we're doing are going right away," Remender told CBR News. "People who love the FrankenCastle direction are nervous that it's just a flash in the pan and that we're going to jump right back into Frank killing gangsters. And for people who don't like this direction, the title change will make it very clear that this is the new direction of the book and that 'PunisherMax' is there for them [with] the gritty, hardboiled stuff. So I'm imagining [Marvel] chose to change the title to help solidify the direction."
The current arc of "Punisher" is about the character's first mission in his FrankenCastle form, aiding the Legion of Monsters against Robert Hellsgaard, a deranged steampunk-style cyborg who seeks to wipe all monsters from the face of the Earth , regardless of their level of evilness or lack thereof. Once he's finished with Hellsgaard and his forces, the Punisher will turn his attention to the business of payback.
"Frank has not had a great track record for success in the past year and a half, which is around the time I joined Matt Fraction on the previous 'Punisher War Journal' series. So since my involvement with the Punisher, he's been getting his ass consecutively kicked [Laughs]. Jigsaw and his team got Frank put in jail, and Lady Gorgon and the Hand played a big role in that. The Shaolin Scientist Squad have had a few run ins with Frank. He's fought the resurrected Scourge villains, the Deadly Dozen. He's got Microchip still out there. He's got the Hood. And most importantly, he's got a nice big grudge against Daken," Remender explained. "So what he's looking forward to at the end of his battle with Hellsgaard in Limbo and all of the craziness that's coming up, is that Norman Osborn had his List [as detailed in the "Dark Reign: The List" series of specials], and now Frank is going to make a list of his own. He's going to take that list of all the scumbags he's run into that need to be put down, and based on his philosophy and the fact that they've screwed with him, there's going to be a little revenge there, which is a fun angle to take with Frank.
"The interesting thing will be that the payback mission that he embarks on at the end of this first FrankenCastle arc is a continuation of that story," Remender continued. "This story started in issue #11 and plays all the way through to issue #21 as one big tale. And really, even the arc after that is a continuation. It's a big, big story. When the Heroic Age begins, Frank is in the middle of this payback crusade. He has a list of these folks that he's going to kill, so that probably doesn't fit in with the idea of this Heroic Age, and I that's appropriate for Frank. He's on a vendetta jag, while everybody else is washing their cars and cleaning up the streets."
"FrankenCastle" #17 picks up right where the FrankenCastle arc ends, setting the stage for the Punisher's mission of vengeance. "It deals with Frank, his partner and intelligence provider Henry and the Legion of Monsters. They're down in Franks's new base in the Legion's catacombs beneath New York City. The first person on his hit list is going to be Lady Gorgon. She's a high operative of the Hand who has been dishonored because she was hired to kill Frank Castle and failed," Remender remarked. "So he's going down his list, and as he's hunting Lady Gorgon in Tokyo, that then leads into a big four part crossover with 'Dark Wolverine.' Working with Dan Way and Marjorie Liu has been a blast; I love what they've been doing on the 'Dark Wolverine' side of things. It's going to be four issues of blood-soaked insanity. That then bleeds into some gigantic craziness that I cannot talk about. So you've got these bridge issues, basically. #17-18 ties up the events of our first FrankenCastle story and sets him on the path to payback."
The tone of the payback stories told in "FrankenCastle" will be a mix of the series' current style and Remender's original direction for the "Punisher" series, which had the character hunting down super criminals. "I think if you look past the aesthetic of what Tony Moore and I have been doing, you see a Punisher story, especially in issue #13. We're not holding back on the brutal violence caused by Frank Castle. In fact, I'd wager that issue #13 featured one of the highest body counts that Frank has chocked up in some time, and I love writing that stuff; finding new and hopefully clever ways for Frank to kill bad people. Of course, it's also good to get down to some brutal fisticuffs, and in some of the stories that are coming up, he won't have quite as many opportunities to be so clever. I don't think that Frank ever goes into a battle without having his back covered and without having a few outs," Remender stated. "So you'll get to see a lot of classic 'Frank hunting bad guys' coming up. Given that he's made this list and is now being proactive, it's a different kind of war for Frank. The people he's hunting don't know that he's coming, and that's been a lot of fun to write, especially with Lady Gorgon in issue #18. She's not aware Frank is hunting her, and when it goes down, it's a well laid trap - sort of akin to the trap that she laid for him in 'War Journal.' So it's been a lot of fun to write it."
The Punisher's careful planning and his new super-strong and super-tough body mean that fans can expect the character to achieve some successes during his payback crusade. "Get ready for Frank to win. As anybody who has read 'Fear Agent' knows, I do like taking a character and dragging them face first through the mud so that you can get a thrill when they finally rise. It's a nice character arc. There's nothing better than seeing someone who is the underdog and has been beaten and laid low rise up and get a win. Frank is not going to win everything that's coming at him right now, but there are some wins on the horizon for Frank Castle."
Frank's right-hand man Henry will continue to be on hand to offer the Punisher intelligence and tech support during his mission of vengeance, but Frank Castle will be going after the targets on his list by himself. "The Legion of Monster isn't going with Frank on his vendetta mission. He's back to solo Frank. The Legion is not out of the picture, though," Remender teased. "They are going to play a big role in one of the coming stories."
Frank Castle's crusade will involve multiple targets, and his assassination attempts on these targets will be drawn by a team of artists. "Roland Boschi ["Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire"] and Tony Moore are sort of alternating on art duties right now. Then Dan Brereton is coming back for a special wrap-up issue. So, yeah, the art team will be rotating between Tony Moore, Dan Brereton, and Roland Boschi," Remender revealed. "These are three of the best guys working today, so I'm very fortunate that we get to have such talent on the book."
The Punisher's newest mission of revenge is an extended one that will last well into 2011. "I know where the story I'm telling right now ends. I have 11 more issues broken down, and I'm working on them right now. So I'm a few months into 2011 right now, and I hope anybody who hasn't read this series and has heard the great buzz about it will give it a shot," Remender said. "It's been a joy for us to make. It's the kind of comic books we wanted to see, so we're making them. Not to pat our own dicks, but I do think it's a fresh and unique take on a classic character while still staying true to his sensibilities and I would hope that people who haven't read it go out and pick up the issues."