If upon reading the Marvel Comics news out of this weekend's WonderCon show in Anaheim, your reaction to the news of Frank Tieri's new series fell along the lines of "Space: Punisher?!?!??!?" then you're right where the writer wants you. "The reaction we've gotten from everybody on this is 'Yeah. Cool. I want to see that.' That's exactly the reaction we want. Yeah, this is a crazy, off the wall idea. Come along for the ride," explained Tieri of the out there concept that sees mob-killing superhero Frank Castle transported to the deepest reaches of outer space as painted by artist Mark Texeira.
"If you want to blame someone, blame Rick Remender," the writer said of the book's origin. "My pitch was originally for the the main 'Punisher' book. After 'Frankencastle,' I was asking myself what you could do next with the character. And the one thing that struck me was that the Marvel Universe never had an intergalactic mafia -- just like 'Star Trek' had the Alliance and 'Star Wars' had the Hutts. How come it doesn't? Why wouldn't we have that? So my initial story was that there is such a group, and they set their sites on earth. Then our Frank Castle says 'Not on my planet!' and he'd go out to fight monsters and cosmic mobster, and that's what the book would be. But Marvel saw it as something bigger than that. They saw the potential to do something where they could spin off projects from it."
As with past Marvel series detailing alternate Marvel Us, the take Tieri and Texeira have planned for the four-issue "Space: Punisher" when it debuts in July will strike a few familiar chords with readers. "This is a version of Frank Castle just like 'Punisher Noir' was a version of Frank," the writer said. "And he'll be interacting with versions of other Marvel characters. But as crazy as it sounds with him off in space shooting and killing all sorts of crazy monsters, at the heart it's still a Punisher story. All the elements that make a great Punisher story are there. He's still the guy who lost his family, went nuts and started killing a ton of people. He's still that guy with the obsessive quest for revenge. And he's still going to be killing mobsters -- they're just not human mobsters! So it's still very much a Punisher story, and I think that's the most important thing for people to understand."
At the top of the space villain hierarchy is a mysterious organization known as The Six Fingered Hand. "They're basically the Kaiser Sozes of the universe. They're more myth than anything else to people, but they're the ones responsible for the death of Frank's family, so that's who he wants to take down. Over the course of the series, he'll be seeking them out, trying to prove they do exist and then destroying them. But while we don't know who the true power behind the Six Fingered Hand is, they do have many lieutenants or capos that are the face of the organization. And those are all based on familiar Marvel villains like the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, the Red Skull, Ultron, Magneto and the Sym-Brood-ant Queen -- because in this world the Brood and the Venom Symbiotes have merged into a single species. You'll see that in the first issue. So what Frank is looking to do is take out all the lieutenants one-by-one until he sees the true power show itself.
"In addition to that, one of the main Marvel entities we deal with here is the Avengers Federation," the writer told CBR News. "They're basically what passes for the law in this lawless galaxy. But they're not at all like our Avengers. They're not really nice guys. If the Six Fingered Hand controls what's outside of the law, they control what's inside the law. In this series, they're off fighting the Kree-Skrull war, but we see a little of them. The most dangerous entity in this universe outside the Punisher is the Hulk. He acts as a kind of cosmic Moby Dick. You can't just fly in space anymore because of the Hulk. He's just this giant creature floating through space wrecking ships and killing people. And Frank at one point does have to contend with him."
Of course, being a Punisher story first, readers can expect some familiar callouts to Frank's world itself. "One of the other elements I put in there was that the Punisher has a robot called Chip -- short for Microchip -- and he's one of the funnest character to write," Tieri revealed. "He's essentially along the lines of Twiki from 'Buck Rogers' except he's really the most dangerous thing out there. Because of course, that's how the Punisher would make a robot. You'll see tons of other characters as well like versions of Barracuda, Corsair -- who owns what's basically our Rick's Cafe -- Sabretooth, Deadpool and the Leader. We have all sorts of little cameos that fans are going to love to see."
It's not the first collaboration for Tieri and Texeira who previously worked together on a "Hercules" miniseries for Marvel and "The Darkness: Wanted Dead" for Top Cow. The writer explained that their familiarity has strengthened the project overall. "Tex is a friend of mine, which always helps. I can call him and say 'Hey, this is awesome' or even 'Hey, this sucks' and he'll take it the right way. In Tex's case, especially on this series, very few things suck. The series is fully painted, and I really believe this is some of the best work of his career. People who see the pages are blown away by them. It's absolutely gorgeous."
That level of honesty also extends to Editorial. "The original guy who brought this to was Axel Alonso. When he became Editor-in-Chief, he handed it off to Steve Wacker. I've enjoyed working with both of them," Tieri said. "Axel as an editor I always felt brought some of my best stuff out of me, and Steve has been great to work with too because he pulls no punches. If he doesn't like something, he'll just tell you, which sometimes is the best option."
And as for the future, does Tieri think his "Space" concept could lead to spinoffs the way titles like "Noir" have? "The hope is definitely that," he said. "Our goal is just to tell a great story, but if this hits, then hopefully down the line you'll see 'Space: Spider-Man,' 'Space: Wolverine' or 'Space: Aunt May.' Down the line, I'd love for it to turn into something like 'Marvel Zombies.' Fans always say they're sick of the same stories and the same events over and over. This is not that. So now it's up to the fans. Support it, and there will be more. Because like I said, I'm dying to write 'Space: Aunt May.'"
"Space: Punisher" debuts in July from Marvel Comics.