The Punisher (AKA Frank Castle) is infamous across the Marvel Universe for using his combat skills to single handedly dismantle criminal organizations. It's one of the reasons why the Red Hulk (AKA General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross) recruited the former Marine to be part of his strike team, the Thunderbolts. What the Red Hulk didn't count on was Frank Castle's insistence that evil be destroyed and not co-opted for the greater good. So when the Punisher quit the team in "Thunderbolts" #27, the debut issue by new writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker and featuring art by Carlo Barberi, the Red Hulk decided to make sure the vigilante couldn't complicate any of his future plans by blowing him up.
Unfortunately for Ross and the Thunderbolts, the Punisher survived the bomb blast and Frank Castle will soon unleash the full fury of his tactical mind on his former teammates. CBR News spoke with Acker and Blacker, who answered questions collectively via e-mail, about the current arc of "Thunderbolts and what it means for the team's status quo moving forward.
CBR News: Ben and Ben, let's kick off by talking about the last page of "Thunderbolts" #27, part one of the current "The Punisher Vs. the Thunderbolts" arc. On that page the titular conflict literally explodes because Ross decides the Punisher doesn't get to walk away from the Thunderbolts and tries to kill him with a bomb. What can you tell us about Ross' justification for doing this? Why didn't he let Frank walk away? And why try and kill him with a bomb, something the Punisher could possibly survive, instead of doing something like, say, surprising him as the Red Hulk?
Ben Acker & Ben Blacker: Well, A) It was a hell of a lot of bomb. B) Confronting the Punisher directly can be dangerous, even for a Hulk.
The Punisher and Ross' falling out came over Ross' desire to use the villainous Doctor Faustus' skills for the team. This is the second time they've clashed over this, the first being when the Punisher shot the now Red Leader in the head during the initial arc of this volume of "Thunderbolts." Why do you think Ross is so adamant about forcing villainous and dangerous characters to be part of the team rather than dispatching them?
He's adamant that he's in charge, hardly welcoming conflicting points of view. He's got an idea about how to fix the world and if you don't like it, leave. See what happens then.
Let's talk a little bit about the Punisher's attitudes. I imagine he'll want to fire back at Ross for attempting to kill him, but since this arc is titled "Punisher Vs. Thunderbolts" I imagine the other team members will get drawn into the conflict as well. What can you tell us about Frank's feelings toward his former T-Bolts teammates going into issue #28? Does he bear them any ill will?
Some of them more than others, I imagine.
Elektra has been sort of romantically involved with the Punisher. What are your thoughts on how Elektra views Frank? Is one of the larger questions of this story whether she'll choose Frank or her teammates?
I feel like the answer to most of your questions is "wait and see." Which means that you’re doing a good job asking questions and we did a good job answering them in the story. High five.
[Laughs] Let's move on to Deadpool and Ghost Rider. In issue #27 Blaze comments on how married life is doing Deadpool well, which suggests to me that those two might be friends. Is that correct? How would you describe the relationship between these two guys going into "Thunderbolts" #28? What do you think the Thunderbolts means to them?
This incarnation of the Thunderbolts has been about solo operators being part of a team. Deadpool and Ghost Rider have been part of teams before, but they are mostly known for being loners. Being in the Thunderbolts means belonging to something bigger than themselves, which conflicts with their solitary natures.
There's no love lost between the Red Leader [AKA Samuel Sterns] and his other Thunderbolts teammates. So what can you tell us about his role in "Punisher Vs Thunderbolts?" How does Sterns view Frank Castle?
For our money, these are the two most dangerous guys on the team and they each know it about themselves and the other one.
In issue #28 Hawkeye, a former member of the original incarnation of the Thunderbolts, gets involved in this story. What's it like writing Hawkeye? What do you feel he adds to the book's dynamic?
Hawkeye is fun to write. Thanks, Matt Fraction! The 'bolts are a covert team. Hawkeye sniffing around adds the threat of being exposed by the wider superhero community.
Carlo Barberi provided the art for "Thunderbolts" #27 and artist Gerardo Sandoval comes in for issue #28. What do you feel they each bring to this story as artists?
Character, action, fun! What don't they bring? These guys really bring the story to life. They knock us out. We think you'll like 'em too.
Finally what other hints, details, and teases can you offer up about the remaining action of the "Punisher Vs. Thunderbolts" arc? How big of an impact will this story have on the Thunderbolts and their role in the Marvel Universe?
Here's something you may not know about yet -- our story will shed new light on an event in Marvel history that you thought you already knew everything about.
Plus, this story will have a major impact on "Thunderbolts." When the Punisher decides to versus someone, they don't just walk away.
"Thunderbolts" #28 is on sale July 16.