For years the criminals of the Marvel Universe have been dreaming of a world where the Punisher was dead. Recently, Wolverine's villainous son Daken made that dream a reality when he literally sliced the heavily armed vigilante to pieces. The current dream is about to become a nightmare, however, because the pieces of the Punisher were found and put back together to form an undead, super strong, Frankenstein-style monstrosity dubbed FrankenCastle...and he's assembled a hit list. This July, he'll be gunning for the chief target on that list when Daken's "Dark Wolverine" series by writers Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu begins a four part crossover story with Rick Remender's "Punisher" series, which becomes "FrankenCastle" with issue #17. CBR News spoke with Way and Remender about the storyline that kicks off in "Dark Wolverine" #88.
The Punisher's initial confrontation with Daken came in the 2009 one-shot "Dark Reign: The List-Punisher" by Remender and artist John Romita Jr. When Remender was developing that story he chatted with Way at a convention in Seattle. sowing the seeds for an inevitable rematch., one that moved closer to reality several months later when the "Dark Wolverine" and "FrankenCastle" crossover was born in a phone conference between Remender, Way, Liu and their editors.
"I was actually driving while we were doing it. The bones of 75% of the story lined up pretty quickly. It was almost like a call and answer type thing, because the last time the two characters went up against one another, Daken literally tore him apart. So this was going to be the answer to that. We just had to figure out how to throw in some cool complications, one of which I brought up to Rick in Seattle," Daniel Way told CBR News. "The only thing we were stuck on was the ending. Everybody was kind of joking around. Then I made a suggestion and Rick jumped on it and we had our ending that quick. It was 20 minutes max."
"It was a really good conversation and we wanted to make sure that this wasn't four issues of just cutting and shooting. We've got two stages of giant complications in this story and they're pretty crazy," Rick Remender added. "When we discussed this story, we all got excited and it got done quick. So I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
Part of the reason Way and Remender got so fired up about writing the crossover is it allowed them a chance to tackle each others' characters. "I've always liked the Punisher as a character, but every time I've had a chance to use him he's been a secondary or tertiary character. He is one of those characters where he's so extremely confident that stories tend to happen around him. He always drives towards a single goal and you spend most of your story with the fallout from that; the carnage around him," Way remarked. "Because of the state that he's in now in 'FrankenCastle,' a lot of that is internalized. He's the Punisher, but he's the Punisher in pieces. So he's literally trying to hold himself together as he's trying to accomplish this mission. Then, when things start to get complicated, he has to rely more on his mind. His mind is extremely fractured at this point, though."
While Remender obviously had a chance to write Daken in "Dark Reign: The List-Punisher," the writer is relishing the chance to delve deeper into the character's psyche with this story. "I like writing highly arrogant characters, whether they're winning or losing. There's a lot of fun to be had with it, because when Daken is winning that arrogance makes you really want to see him taken down a peg," Remender explained. "The story is structured in a way where Daken is still involved in his normal daily routine and I like that. I like that Dan wanted to have this story happen with the 'Dark Wolverine' book proceeding as normal and then in comes the freight train that is Frank Castle."
Way added, "I wanted to do this story that way because Daken is thinking that he just totally snuck out the back door of the Dark Avengers leaving everyone else to hold the bag. He's thinking that he's scot-free and that there's no fallout. Now he can go do what he wants to do. Then his past just comes out and tags him in a big way."
The Punisher's vendetta against Daken definitely stems from his murder at Daken's hands, but Frank Castle rationalizes his grudge in a different way. "It's really difficult with Frank, because I have some stuff leading up to this; conversations he's having with Henry [The young computer hacker who assists the Punisher with information about criminals he's targeting] about the idea of revenge," Remender remarked. "I don't think Frank is above vengeance, as long as the people that he wants to get revenge against are murderers, or people that are defined as not good by his own, personal moral compass.
"Yeah, I think it doesn't take much to get on Frank Castle's list: be evil or be a murderer and once you're on there, there's no getting off of it," Way added. "The first time Daken reached out and touched Frank, that was it. It was going to be a fight to the death and Daken thought he won it, but he was wrong."
While Daken will assuredly be plenty irked when the Punisher comes calling, the devious mutant is always looking for a way to turn inconvenience and disaster into opportunity. "He's not really a character who gets frightened. So getting waylaid like this is an annoyance at first and what's most annoying about it is the fact that FrankenCastle is so effective," Way stated. "The worm turns quickly, though, and being the opportunistic son of bitch that he is, Daken finds a way to make this work to his advantage, at least in theory."
Remender added. "Without giving anything away, one of my favorite things is seeing Daken take this and turn it around to his advantage. I think one of the fun things about this story is that Frank is using some things to strengthen his position to go out and get revenge against someone like Daken. And halfway through this story, Frank realizes that he may have inadvertently brought something very powerful to Daken. Then it kind of flips and Frank realizes that he's no longer hunting Daken and maybe Daken is hunting him. And before the story is finished, it goes back and forth a few times. The twists and turns came quick and easy. They're intuitive and natural, but I really don't think people are going to see them coming."
The current "Reckoning" crossover between "Dark Wolverine" and "Wolverine Origins" will change Daken's status quo and set up the series' crossover with "FrankenCastle," so Way and Remender couldn't get give away too many plot details about their story. "At the end of 'Reckoning' Daken is left at an extreme disadvantage as far as attaining his ultimate goal," Way explained. "So he's traveled to Japan to try and rectify that. He's intentionally looking for something and that's one of the big reasons why Frank catches him so off guard."
Remender added, "Frank has been in Tokyo. In 'FrankenCastle' #18, the issue before the crossover begins, he goes to Tokyo to hunt a member of the Hand who had caused him some pain and suffering in the 'Jigsaw' arc of 'Punisher War Journal' that Matt Fraction and I wrote"
Much to both party's chagrin, the Punisher and Daken's rematch won't be a completely one-on-one affair with other characters appearing and getting involved. Way and Remender couldn't reveal who, but many fans are wondering if Wolverine will make an appearance in the crossover between "FrankenCastle" and "Dark Wolverine?" "That's a very good question," Way said. "And if he does show up, what side would he land on? And could he stay there?"
Remender added, " It's interesting especially given the complex nature of Frank and Wolverine's history. If Wolverine were to show up and see the undead Frank Castle come back for revenge against his kid, knowing that his kid had gone out assassin style and taken Frank down, you would see if Wolverine really respects Frank and what he does, or if he just sees him as sort of a mindless psychopath."
Boiled down to it's essence, the crossover between "Dark Wolverine" and "FrankenCastle" is essentially about a hulking undead soldier and a bloodthirsty mutant with a healing factor and claws trying to tear each other apart and the tone of the story will reflect that. "I think aesthetically it's definitely going to be a story with these two guys going at each other," Remender revealed. "It fit really well with where Daken was going to be and it fit really well with where Frank is. Frank is on a payback mission. He's got a list of his own now."
Artist Stephen Segovia has been tasked with bringing to life all the carnage of the "Dark Wolverine" chapters of the crossover. "A lot of 'Dark Wolverine' stories have been extremely cerebral with a lot of internalization and this is such a balls out gore fest that I think it's really going to fit Segovia's style, because he really attacks the page. Everything is always jumping out at you," Way said. "I think this story is really in his wheelhouse. I've seen some of his pages."
For the "FrankenCastle" chapters of the crossover, Rick Remender is collaborating with the man who helped him launch the FrankenCastle era of the Punisher, artist Tony Moore. "Sequentially there are very few people who can do things as well as Tony when it comes to staging action sequences. He's got a storyboarder's eye, but he's a master illustrator as well. So his stuff is fluid and it moves like film," Remender stated. "It's nice to have somebody of Tony's caliber on hand, because like Dan said, it's a high throttle action book. There's not a lot of sitting around and talking. So you need guys who can really knock things out of the park."
It's not just the interior art of the "FrankenCastle" and "Dark Wolverine" crossover that's thrilling Way and Remender. Each issue of the storyline will feature a cover by artist Simone Bianchi. "You can see in his cover that Simone responded really well to the matchup of these two characters," Remender remarked. "The covers are gorgeous. They're so good that they're almost painful to look at."
Once the crossover between "Dark Wolverine" and "FrankenCastle" has wrapped, both the Punisher and Wolverine will have been profoundly impacted by their second encounter. "This story plays a gigantic role in where Frank will eventually end up. The issue after this is a special that Dan Brereton will be painting and it deals with the repercussions of this story and puts an end to the second arc of the FrankenCastle stuff," Remender revealed. "I know where I'm going with the book and I know where the story I'm writing comes to an end."
Way added, "As far as Daken is concerned, he'll take something from this story. He always does. At the end of it he has a couple of pretty big realizations, but the question will be, is he being honest with himself? He's incredibly power hungry, but does he have what it takes to ultimately wield it? And is it the tactically smart thing for him to be the front man for his operations? Or is he better off doing what we've seen him do so many times in the past; work behind the scenes to manipulate and use others? He's going to have to go one way or the other."