The Punisher

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Trust us, the guy Frank's studying up for really deserves what's going to happen to him.

"It's Omaha Beach. Wounded Knee. Rorke's Drift, The Killing Fields, the first day on The Somme. World War Three in North Jersey. And only now, pouring automatic fire into a human wall -- do I feel something like peace."

Punisher (MAX) #1

Possibly the most enduring Darker and Edgier Anti-Hero ever to appear in a comic, The Punisher is one of Marvel's most reliable cash cows, a Vigilante Man whose only passion is finding and executing criminals in the most brutal (and sometimes imaginative) ways possible. The Punisher first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February, 1974), created by writer Gerry Conway, along with artists John Romita, Sr. and Ross Andru.

For a while the Punisher appeared mostly in titles starring Spider-Man. He received his first origin story in Marvel Preview #2 (April, 1975), again written by Conway. He received another solo story in Marvel Super Action #1 (January, 1976), a one-shot publication. After that Punisher returned to making appearances in titles featuring Spider-Man, Captain America (comics), and Daredevil. In the 1980s, Steven Grant and Mike Zeck campaigned for a Punisher mini-series. But Marvel editors were reportedly reluctant. The series eventually did materialize: Punisher vol. 1 (January-May, 1986). It sold well and consequently Punisher gained his first ongoing series in 1987. The Punisher has since starred in various magazines over the years.

Frank Castle is a Vietnam War veteran who saw his wife, son and daughter slaughtered in a Mafia hit gone wrong. So he got himself a black shirt with a scary white skull on the front and a whole lot of guns, and started a one-man war on crime.

The big difference between him and, say, Batman? Castle kills criminals. A lot. Often several dozen at a time (his confirmed "high scores" to date are approximately 2,000 in the Marvel Universe with a nuke, and 68 in one night, with 32 in a single location in the MAX continuity. Wizard magazine also had his death count as slightly above 1,000, pre-Ennis and later in MAX, this is mentioned to have climbed to 2K. Combine all that together, and the total death toll comes around to an astounding four thousand bad guys.) He uses machine guns, explosives, a certain amount of martial arts, knives, and on occasion, wildlife (most notably, the time that he punched a polar bear in the face to get it riled enough to eat some Mafia hitmen). He can be very, very sadistic. He tends not to get on with Marvel's actual superheroes, especially when he's written by comic-book scribe Garth Ennis; many fans think Castle and Ennis were a match made in heaven.

The tone of the stories vary from violent pitch-black comedy to intensively grim-and-gritty noir tales to attempts to make him a full-on Superhero...who just so happens to kill people. His enemies have ranged from sex slavery rings (the MAX arc "The Slavers" being possibly one of the single darkest stories in comics history) to gigantic Russian hitmen augmented with cyborg body parts and enormous breasts...both of them written by Ennis.

The character himself often suffers from inconsistent writing. Many writers have portrayed him as a good man at heart who sincerely does want to help people and keep them from suffering the same way he did, while other writers have portrayed him as a psychopath with no pity for anyone and no motivation beyond killing criminals. There are two notably different Punisher series: the main Marvel Universe series and a second series created for Marvel's adults-only MAX imprint (originally titled The Punisher and referred to as Punisher MAX, before changing to The Punisher: Frank Castle and then PunisherMAX). This latter version, written almost exclusively by Garth Ennis for four years, features no superheroes and is deeply rooted in "mundane" crime -- The Mafia, Irish terrorist cells, Eastern European sex slavers, gangsters and real-life wars are prominent. It is also considerably less funny than the mainstream Marvel series, though there are touches of black humour here and there. The MAX series is written much more consistently than the mainstream version, due to being almost entirely shaped by Garth Ennis' vision of the character; this series is also notorious for its moral absolutism. The Marvel Universe version may be willing to excuse himself for killing Stuart Clarke's girlfriend while under the influence of a "hate ray", but the first post-Ennis MAX issue sees Frank on the edge of killing himself after believing that his instinctive shooting had led to an innocent girl's death, declaring to himself that "I must be punished."[1]

There have been three Punisher movies: 1989's The Punisher (starring Dolph Lundgren), 2004's The Punisher (starring Thomas Jane), and 2008's Punisher: War Zone (starring Ray Stevenson); Your Mileage May Vary with all three (It should be noted that War Zone is not a direct sequel to the 2004 Punisher film.). Marvel's Daredevil features Frank (played by Jon Bernthal) as a major character in the second season, with the ending leaving the possibility of a full Punisher series open. Such a series was confirmed in April 2016. It debuted in 2017, but met with overwhelmingly negative reception thanks to writing that seemed to openly hate the idea of the character.

There were also several Punisher video games with the most notable being a Beat'Em Up by Capcom also featuring Nick Fury, and a The Punisher third-person action game, which is rife with The Joys of Torturing Mooks

The character has the ignoble distinction of ranking highly in various Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny debates, thanks to a combination of Popularity Power and the comic entitled "The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe" (coincidentally written by Ennis years before his more regular work with the character). He also has the distinction of being one of the two title stars of what is undoubtedly The Single Weirdest Comics Crossover Known to Humankind: Archie Meets the Punisher.

Tropes used in The Punisher include:
  • All Just a Dream: The infamous comic of Frank traveling back in time to kill Al Capone is just Frank having a dream.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Barracuda, despite being a treacherous Psycho for Hire and even a self-admitted cannibal, managed to reach status through being the ever-optimistic, constantly cheerful source of Black Comedy. He not only got better after being iced by Punisher at the end of his first arc, but even starred in his own mini-series, which was unprecedented for MAX villains.
    • The Russian is another example: murderous, violent and psychopathic. He is, nonetheless, incredibly friendly to his enemies, actively complimenting and joking with them mid-fight.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Punisher is modeled very closely on the character of Mack Bolan, who also lost his family to mob violence and becomes a vigilante with the nickname "The Executioner". Mack Bolan was featured in a series of books that were first published in 1968, and new books in the series still come out today.
  • And Call Him George: The Russian puts his arm around the shoulder of one of the guys assigned to escort him for reassurance, and it kills him.
  • Androcles' Lion: The Delta commander in "Valley Forge, Valley Forge", or at least what his hapless "minder" ends up thinking happened. When the colonel was a regular soldier in Vietnam, he was rescued by a Special Forces raid that inspired him to enter Special Forces himself; the lieutenant realizes at the end that one of the participants was none other than Frank Castle.
  • Ambiguously Evil: This has mostly do with inconsistent writing, but it's still debatable whether Frank is an Anti-Hero or a psychotic serial killer.
  • Anti-Hero: Originally type IV in the Marvel universe, but Depending on the Writer slides into type V. Remains at type V in the "MAX" series. Of course, others see him more as a Villain Protagonist.
  • Arch Enemy: For obvious reasons, criminals rarely make repeat appearances. The closest thing Frank's got is Billy "Jigsaw" Russo, whose main claim to fame is tusseling with Frank a few dozen times and actually living to talk about it.
    • In the Marvel 'verse there are some superheroes that semi-regularly tussle with Frank, like Captain America, Daredevil and Spiderman being three common ones. It should also be noted, however, that they are, just as often, on the same side.
  • Asshole Victim: Most (if not all) of Frank's victims.
  • The Atoner: Frank's mission against criminals is partially motivated by his failure to protect his family from being gunned down. Frank feels that he sacrificed his family, as the voice he heard in Vietnam (the devil?) kept hounding him about a neverending war, which when the Vietcong overran his base he accepted to save his life, only to be told his family would be payment. This trope shows up under Ennis's authorship. Prior to that, though it was rarely brought up, Frank did what he did in part to punish himself, for being unable to save his family.
    • The second MAX series reveals Frank to be this in a bigger, more disturbing way than ever thought. The reason why Frank continues to wage his war on crime is to punish himself with a life of endless suffering. He feels he deserves this because it is revealed that shortly before his family was killed, he had made a decision to divorce his wife and leave his kids with her, because his time in Vietnam had made life outside the battlefield unbearable for him. The fact that he was willing to toss aside his family in favor of his bloodlust sticks with him.
  • Author Appeal: Garth Ennis' run prior the MAX print of series. His distaste for Catholicism is shown with the psycho priest, while his dislike for popular masked super heroes is shown in a fight with Frank vs. The Russian where Spider Man steps in; all Spidey does is get the shit kicked out of him and act like a human shield for Frank.
  • Avenging the Villain
  • Awesome McCoolname: Frank Castle.
  • Ax Crazy: Many of villains and arguably Frank himself.
    • "Arguably"? Punisher: Born firmly cements his status as Ax Fucking Crazy.
  • Back From the Dead: Jigsaw, Microchip.
  • Badass Grandpa: While this isn't as prominent in the mainstream universe thanks to Comic Book Time, in MAX, he is drawn to look like the fifty-to-sixty-year-old man that he is, and his age is mentioned from time to time.
  • Badass Longcoat: Frank's often depicted wearing a black trenchcoat, especially in more modern stories where it replaces his more traditional comic costume. Typically, towards the end of the story, when he starts to mean business he just stops wearing it. In War Zone, he trades up the longcoat for a more mobile outfit, replacing the longcoat with body armor.
  • Badass Normal: Castle has no superpowers of his own, and typically most of his foes are either just mooks or other badass normals. However, he has gone toe-to-toe with various superheroes and villains in the past.
    • In the MAX continuity, no superheroes exist, but Frank's badassery is not lessened one bit.
  • Bait the Dog: General freaking Zakharov. In his first appearance, while there's some whispering of his reputation and he does use the We Have Reserves trope (though he was trying to dislodge terrorists from a nuclear silo), Zakharov in the end did stop a nuclear confrontation and showed way more patience with The Starscream than he had a right to. Later, when we see him again, we find out just how he fought in in Afghanistan.
  • Berserk Button: Frank has several. His family is one, his illegitimate daughter is another, and God help you if he finds out you're a human trafficker. In general, violence against women tends to be this, and at one point a group of widows (of gangsters killed by Frank) attempt to use this against him, by luring him into an ambush under the guise of a fake human-trafficking operation... it almost works.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The Punisher is a sociopathic, cruel, Knight Templar, Blood Knight, mass-murderering, Vigilante Man, but is recurrently put against Up to Eleven versions of the worst sorts of CompleteMonsters reality has to offer. Most Punisher villains don't seem to even have any character traits besides malice, greed, sadism, and selfishness. Garth Ennis writes the character as 100% aware of this, often repeatedly stating that his only reason to continue living is to punish those worse than himself.
  • Black Comedy: Shows up from time to time throughout the character's history, but Ennis's 90s run is built on it.

Punisher: Gunfight in the morgue rule one. Don't hide behind the thin guy.

  • Blood Knight: Why does Frank kill? 33% for revenge, 33% for justice, and 33% because he likes it; the remaining 1% is just plain crazy.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: The Russian. Just... the Russian.
    • And Barracuda.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Has happened a couple of times to Frank. He ended up killing jaywalkers and his second sidekick's girlfriend.
    • He actually ended up missing the jaywalkers (unless we're thinking of different incidents).
  • Breakout Character: The Punisher originally appeared as a Spider-Man villain in 1974. He became popular and started to appear on a regular basis, eventually getting his own series in the '80s.
    • Barracuda again, his popularity eventually giving him his own mini series.
  • Broad Strokes: The first Punisher MAX series in relation to the Garth Ennis Marvel Knights series. The MAX series started immediately after the Knights series ended and though it takes place in its own continuity characters from the Knights series like Jen Cooke and Yorkie make appearances in the MAX series with events from the Knights series referenced, while superheroes who were in the Knights series (Spider-Man, Wolverine and Daredevil particularly) presumably don't exist.
  • Brooklyn Rage
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: A common tactic of Frank's; use a crook to kill a crook.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Frank's original costume is decorated body armor, but the better writers make it clear that being shot even while wearing such protection is much like getting hit by a truck.
  • But for Me It Was Tuesday: Frank's usual reaction when he runs into somebody attempting to Avenge The Villain. However, this also applies to people that Frank accidentally helps. In the penultimate issue of Garth Ennis' Punisher Max "Widowmaker" arc, Castle is rescued by a woman who explains that she did it because Castle killed her brutal mobster husband who beat and raped her and let his friends beat and rape her... Let's just say that she was really grateful for that slaughter in the first issue, as she knew for a fact she didn't have a chance in hell of pulling it off herself.
    • And in the final issue of Ennis' run, Castle is outmaneuvered and captured by a Special Forces unit. Turns out that its commander, Colonel Howe, owes Frank his life - he rescued a teenage Howe from a Viet Cong camp during the war. To Castle, it was just another of his countless deniable operations. To Howe, it was the most important moment in his life - the reason he joined Special Forces in the first place. This is why he volunteered to take Castle alive, and upon discovering that the generals who ordered him captured were Complete Monsters, he freed Castle and let him kill them all.
  • Butt Monkey: Detective Soap, the biggest joke of NYPD, is the prime example. For that matter, if you're a police officer and The Punisher's case is assigned to you, it's a sure sign that you're in danger of becoming this. Charlie Schitti would be another great example of Butt Monkey, if not for the fact that just still being alive at the end is remarkably lucky for a (former) mobster.
  • Car Fu: In "Welcome Back, Frank," the mafia hires a former Desert Storm sniper to kill him. Frank just runs the guy over with an SUV, then backs up.
  • Carnival of Killers
  • Celibate Hero: Frank doesn't seem to have much interest in the ladies, but this is most likely justified by the fact that he still thinks about his family and/or he's too busy killing scum.
    • Although he did sleep with Painkiller Jane in their crossover.
    • Also slept with O'Brien on two occasions. The first time resulted in a daughter who gets kidnapped by Barracuda.
    • Also slept with Mr.Carbone's daughter when he went undercover in the mob as Johnny Tower.
    • Also not the case when he's written by Mike Baron, who has him sleeping around as much as your typical action hero.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Frank is occasionally depicted as this, between being a Vietnam veteran Determinator having Impropable Aiming Skills and (as in the War Zone movie) extremely sensitive hearing.
    • Some of his enemies - particularly The Russian - are similarly empowered.
  • Chest Insignia: The Punisher's iconic skull. Like Batman, it serves as a heavily armored target and in the earlier issues the teeth were spare ammo magazines.
  • Chronically Crashed Car: The Battle Van tended to get wrecked every time Frank brought it out.
  • Christmas Special: He's dressed as Santa whilst gunning down mobsters multiple times.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: All three new vigilantes watch the same broadcast about them and the Punisher, and say "This gives me an idea!" at the same time.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Particularly in the MAX series.
  • Cold Sniper: Castle himself. His second tour of duty in 'Nam was spent performing sniper work and recon. Its never said exactly what went on (and the men he led on his third tour only knew rumours too grisly to be true) but Microchip knows about it and apparently it was when he first started to love violence.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The following quote from "Welcome Back, Frank" sums it up:

Frank Castle: When you're on your own, behind enemy lines, no artillery, no airstrikes, no hope of an evac, you don't fight dirty. You do things that make dirty look good.

  • Comically Missing the Point: When Ma Gnucci says she wants to kill the one who crippled her, one of her mooks says, "You want us to put a hit on the bear?"
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: The MAX version is a beefy Clint Eastwood. This particularly evident in the first arc when he's held prisoner by Microchip.
  • Comic Book Time: Explicitly averted, in the MAX series at least. Frank fought in and is described as a product of the Vietnam war. In the MAX series, he ages appropriately, and is drawn as a beefy 50/60 year old man...while the main continuity just tries not draw your attention to it too much.
  • Cool Guns: Even though the Punisher uses a lot of different types of guns, he shows a preference for military weapons such as the M16 rifle or M1911 pistols.
    • He actually had a 10-issue series titled "Armory" dedicated to showing off his guns and other equipment.
    • In one arc of the MAX series he explains this as force of habit, from his days in Vietnam.
    • And from "Punisher : War Journal" (main continuity) - a gun that shoots swords
  • Costumed Nonsuper Hero: Close enough to hero for the trope.
  • Crapsack World: The MAX series is the best example.
  • Criminal Doppelganger: In the Crossover Archie Meets The Punisher, a criminal the Punisher has tracked to Riverdale looks very similar to Archie.
  • Crisis Crossover: He tends to be left out of these big events, partly because they don't fit his "realistic" tone, and partly because, as mentioned above, most of the spandex set really don't like him, and would rather he was in jail. Two notable exceptions:
    • In the Marvel Civil War, Captain America (comics) recruited him for the anti-registration side. Most of Cap's allies hated this -- especially when Cap tried to recruit some low-level villains, who the Punisher promptly shot dead in front of everyone.
    • Frank appears very briefly in the Justice League-Avengers company crossover series. Batman sees him in action, and swiftly kicks the tar out of him.
  • Crusading Widower
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: General Zahrakov, again. He uses Mook Chivalry twice to catch Frank unprepared. He's the only one in Russian intel to guess that the Americans would attempt a Moral Event Horizon for their False-Flag Operation (though it takes a Complete Monster to know one). Finally, he anticipates a Defensive Feint Trap the Punisher had planned for him and even when warned by Rawlins and Dolnovich that he was heading into a trap, outwits all three of them and captures the Punisher. His only mistake really was taking Smug Snake Rawlins at his word when he said that he searched The Punisher properly. And we have this gem:

Rawlins: For God's sake, why not {{[[[Psycho for Hire]] give me a job}}]?
Zahrakov: Because I am a soldier and you are something else. It is in your nature to betray, a small child could tell you that. You would betray me and I would be forced to kill you--and why would I create that much trouble for myself?

  • Darker and Edgier: Though pretty mainstream by today's standards, the first Punisher miniseries (Circle of Blood) was a far cry from most other Marvel Comics products of the mid 1980s. Today, The Punisher: Frank Castle (the MAX imprint title) is the epitome of this trope for Marvel.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Punisher is an Anti-Hero example who only kills bad guys and he has black clothes with a skull.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's rare for him to make a joke, but when he does, Frank's shows he's got a very dark and cynical sense of humor.

Cop: You think you're hot stuff, big guy? You wanna go for another round?
Frank: I'm not really dating right now.

  • Deal with the Devil: In the MAX-continuity miniseries Punisher: Born, which shows Frank during his last tour in Vietnam, he appears to talk with a mysterious voice in his head. Frank refuses to accept that the US is withdrawing from Vietnam and does everything he can to postpone shutting down his camp. The Vietcong finally assault the base during a storm while the US army air support is cut off, killing everyone. Frank is the last American alive, and the voice makes him an offer. Eternal war, in exchange for something. Frank accepts and survives when the US air strike finally arrives. Frank comes back home and meets his family at the airport, and the voice returns to claim the price for his eternal war: Frank's family.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Frank's old guard dog, Max, which was killed off in the same arc is was introduced in. It's shot by a gangster trying to raid one of Frank's hidehouts. When Frank sees that he's dying, he puts him down with a knife. Frank's crying when he does this.
  • Decompressed Comic: The Punisher MAX.
  • Dented Iron: Becomes a plot point in the second Punisher MAX series, in which the physical and sometimes emotional toll of waging a 30+ year war on crime has on Frank is explored. Frank goes through an increasingly ruthless Rogues Gallery worth of foes including The Mennonite, MAX!Bullseye, MAX!Elektra, and finally, MAX!Kingpin, getting more and more irrevocably battered after dispatching each one, with the last one culminating in a long, drawn out, excruciating Mutual Kill.
  • Depending on the Writer: How much Frank fights to help innocents and how much because he likes killing, as well as how sane he is in general.
  • Determinator: Frank, of course. As he once said "A man who doesn't have anything to lose, can't help but win."
  • Dirty Coward: About 95% of the criminals behave like this when on the wrong end of a gunpoint, begging Frank for their lives and promising him anything and everything (this never helps). The remaining 5% are mostly Psychos For Hire or otherwise too raving mad to feel fear - only very rarely you can see a sane villain who just has enough guts for something like Facing the Bullets One-Liner.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Zahrakov and Dolnovich get bitten back in the worse way by Smug Snake Rawlins after attacking his groin several times, wiping blood on his shirt, and generally kicking him around. Granted, Rawlins is such a bastard that they probably would've gotten a knife in the back regardless but at least don't give the guy ammunition.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Inverted in Mother Russia. Frank catches his partner doing something he shouldn't be doing. His partner shouts "Back off! Don't make me fuck you up!" Frank just kicks him in the face and knocks half his teeth out.
  • Double Standard Rape (Female on Male): Averted: Nicky Cavella was raped by his aunt when he was very young.
  • The Dreaded: Frank himself. The white skull on his chest has become such a terrifying icon of death that just the sight of it can make men from EASTERN EUROPEAN DEATH SQUADS fall to their knees and sob for mercy.
  • Driven to Suicide: Frank at the end of "Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe"
    • Also, criminal profiler Buddy Plugg.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Frank himself arguably qualifies, if you accept Ennis' version, in that he's a monster who knows he's a monster and has a strict code against harming innocents.
  • Everything Is Worse With Bears: One of the earlier stories had Frank stranded in Alaskan wilderness and picking a fight with a bear. And there is the infamous moment when he deliberately angered a bunch of polar bears to kill mobsters in a zoo.

Punisher: Cuddly. Lovable. Docile. *POW* That won't do at all.

  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: A couple of mobsters thought that a big shark in equally big (and not bulletproof) glass fish tank would be a great addition to their opulent mansion. They eventually learn their lesson just before their messy demise.
    • Barracuda was thought to have met his end by one in his first arc in the MAX series.
  • Exiled From Continuity: First MAX series. Second is completely in Alternate Universe with it's own versions of Kingpin and Bullseye.
    • Broad Strokes: While the second MAX series is set in a different continuity from the first, it often references characters and events present in the first one, up to and including the appearance of Garth Ennis' version of Nick Fury. These are often treated as Backstory for Frank, and will certainly seem that way to fans who follow the second series but not the first.

Marvel Civil War Handbook On Punisher: Although recently Castle has escalated his war on crime even further, with record-breaking body counts, he is paradoxically now rarely encountered in the field by any super hero save Daredevil.(...)It’s almost like he inhabits two worlds, one where heroes can capture him and one where they can’t, and he can slip from one to the other with ease.

  • Failure Is the Only Option: The mainstream incarnation of The Punisher never succeeds at dispensing his own brand of justice to significant supervillains he encounters, even those who badly screw with him personally, like Bullseye. Probably that's why he mostly goes for mundane mobsters, who don't have Joker Immunity (and superpowers, for that matter).
    • He did bag Stilt Man. With a bazooka to the groin. The saddest aspect of all is that this probably was the high point of Stilt Man's career - getting offed by the Punisher.
    • The second Punisher MAX series applies this trope to Frank's war on crime in general, with a common theme in the series being Frank's inability to effect any lasting change on New York's crime scene, where new criminals keep popping up every time Frank offs the old ones. MAX!Nick Fury, who is revealed to have shadowed Frank for much of his war, laments at the end of the series that Frank murdered, suffered and ultimately, died all for nothing.
  • False Reassurance: If you're a criminal and The Punisher promises you something like "scratching your name from his list"... you better talk anyway, even if you are sufficiently Genre Savvy to recognize what that means, as being shot right after giving him the necessary information is still preferable to his other methods of loosening tongues.
  • Fan Disservice: Mamma Cesare is at least eighty years old. Both Fisk and the reader are given a view of her naked body.
  • Farmer's Daughter: In the "Welcome To The Bayou" Punisher story, Frank runs into one of these (on a gas station in the middle of nowhere, but the idea is the same), who is a) dressed in far-too-revealing clothes and b) "crazy as a shithouse rat". She also turns out to be part of a family of inbred cannibal hicks.
  • Follow the Leader: Almost single-handedly kick-started the Darker and Edgier trend of the late 80s and on through the 90s, and remains one of the few such series/characters to have retained his popularity and effectiveness after it died out (though Lord knows he's had his share of Dork Ages).
  • Funetik Aksent: Mrs. Pearse
  • Funny Background Event: On a filing cabinet in the police station, there is a stuffed pig in a policeman's uniform. Those cops must have a good sense of humor.
    • When Ma Gnucci is in the hospital after being mauled by polar bears, there's a get well card on the bed with a picture of a teddy bear on it.
  • Gag Penis: Horribly, horribly subverted: the Guy is known only by the dimensions of his member when he's not aroused, and his employers use it to the fullest extent in their Snuff Film enterprise (he splits the girls open). Needless to say, revenge was had when his destined victims ripped him apart.
  • Gangsta Style: Subverted in one of the Ennis comics. A gang member fires at Castle like this multiple times, but misses every shot. Frank calmly says "They put the sights on top for a reason" before downing the gangster with pinpoint accuracy.
  • Genre Blind: The numerous gansters, mobsters and other crooks who think that they will be the one to finally bring Frank down. A few are Genre Savvy enough to know that the best course of action is to just try to avoid him like the plague.

Christu Bulat: Father, everyone who goes up against this man dies.

    • Maginty, who is otherwise one of the most Dangerously Genre Savvy villains in the comics, cheerfully walks into his hideout without an armed escort after mentally torturing a Retired Monster and leaving him in the room by himself. It's a good thing his Mooks came back to check on him--of course getting his fingers sliced off by said murderer didn't do much to dissuade him from walking into Nesbitt's Batman Gambit, making him doubly Genre Blind.
  • Genre Savvy: During the whole "Kills the Marvel Universe" issue, Frank manages to kill The Hulk. How? By following him undetected until he turns back into Banner. And then killing Banner.
  • Give Chase With Angry Natives
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Unsurprisingly averted in the Max comics, in many, many glorious ways.
  • Guns Akimbo: The Punisher frequently does this.
  • Gun Porn: The Punisher Arsenal is an entire line devoted to loving descriptions of the guns and tactics he uses.
  • Handy Cuffs: Frank was captured by a minor gang leader named Machete, who insisted on killing a cuffed Castle in a machete duel. Castle rejects the machete, and kills the guy with his bare hands.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Frank doesn't do this often, being The Stoic, but he completely destroys the last shreds of dignity Nicky Cavella has with one.

Cavella: Either I walk outta here or I blow this little fuck all over you. It's your call.
Castle: You won't shoot him. You're a coward. ...Psycho rep only takes you so far. After that, you've nothing. Hurt the boy and you die bad. You know that. But there's a part of you that still thinks that if you let him go, you've got a chance. And that part of you just won't shut up.

    • Frank's S.A.S. pal Yorkie is the master of these. He'd probably have the Trope Namer weeping for forgiveness after a few minutes with him.
      • Double Subversion Barracuda laughs off one of these after killing Yorkie, but true to form his dying speech echoes in his head at a most inopportune moment and gets under his skin -- allowing the Brit to punk him from the grave. (It's possible that Yorkie did it in the hopes that this would actually happen.)

Yorkie: He's going to kill you. Not over me. You're going up against him, so he'll kill you. Because you're a joke, in spite of it all...and he's the most dangerous man who ever walked this Earth.

  • Hero Antagonist: Any superhero that shows up is likely to become this. Especially Daredevil who is the superhero most determined to put a stop to the Punisher.
  • The (Anti-)Hero Dies: The second Punisher MAX series.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: BIGTIME
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Despite being a fugitive for 30+ years and having his mugshot on the news semi-regularly the only time he is ever recognized is when he opens his coat and reveals the skull on his chest. Either people recognize him but pretend they don't or they don't watch a lot of news.
  • High Altitude Interrogation: Frank uses this among other interrogation techniques. Like most typical Anti-Heroes, he often does go through with the threat of letting them plummet to death.
    • Dolnovich used this trope on Rawlins to give him a last-minute attempt to come up with the Batman Gambit of his life. Notably he didn't even want to let Rawlins live in the first place and even tried to shoot down the latter's attempt to save his life.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted in Punisher: War Zone. During Castle's attack on Jigsaw's hideout, Castle uses an M4 variant with a supressor. The gunshots sound more like muffled cracks than a "fwip". Also, the Smith and Wesson model 500 he uses is fitted with a supressor which makes the shots sound like loud thuds.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Often justified, as most of the mook criminals he faces don't really have much skills or experience in real combat.
    • Averted in the case of "The Slavers", when Frank loses his self-discipline and breaks his cover by attacking a 'straggling' gunman, alerting his fellows...who are infantry veterans, aim down their weapons' sights, and use small unit tactics such as (effective) suppressing fire and flanking. End result: although he's able to swim away, non-powered gunmen actually defeat Frank Castle in combat and force him to flee for his life.

Frank's monologue: I saw from the start it was a mistake. They weren't gutter trash, thugs who ran at the first sign of a fire-fight. They were soldiers ... [splash page of Frank being hit] It was over even sooner than I expected.

  • Implacable Man: Thorn, an older villain. Originally the brother of a mob boss, he was nearly killed when Frank threw him into a frozen lake. He barely survived, but now shows no reaction to pain, and has no memory beyond knowing who tried to kill him. Also Roc, who survived being shot in the head and having his neck broken and the Russian, who's just a large man.
    • Frank himself qualifies.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Oh, so much. He uses pirahna, giant snakes, rhinos, table saws, nail guns, fuses, meat packing equipment, a shark, the list goes on and on. The keeper would have to be punching out a polar bear to anger it into taking out a mob boss, and using a pizza and the morbidly obese Mr Bumpo on The Russian.
    • One issue involved Castle assaulting an office building that was being used for snuff films. Security was ultra-tight, so he couldn't bring guns inside. Instead, he ended up killing the guards one by one with increasingly bizarre and brutal uses of office equipment. He started with pens and pencils, worked his way up to computer monitors as blunt instruments, staplers to the eyes, smashing a man's head to pulp in a copier machine....
    • And don't forget he used the freakin' Hulk against Daredevil, Spidey and Wolverine to get them off his back.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Played straight or subverted depending on the comic.
    • Notably subverted in the finale to the Punisher MAX story arc, Up is Down and Black is White.
  • It Works Better with Bullets
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Frank is a big fan of it.
  • Jerkass: Kevin the bartender
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Frank is homicidal towards criminals and is very cold to innocents he comes across, but he does geniunely show concern for innocents. He does have a softer side that comes out on very rare occasions, too-he was notably a perfect gentleman towards Miss Grundy in Archie Meets The Punisher.
  • Joker Immunity: Most notably, the Kingpin. The biggest gang boss in New York, but it's been explained that Frank can't kill him because if he does, New York will be devastated by gangs trying to take his place. Also Jigsaw, who Frank has let live numerous times except in the 2008 movie, where Frank impales him with a metal rod, then pushes him onto a large torch.
    • Lampshaded in his crossover with Batman. Frank has cornered the Trope Namer himself, who immediately starts cracking jokes about going to Arkham. Frank just coldly cocks his handgun and prepares to blow off the Joker's head, until Batman intervenes.

The Joker (Staring at Frank's gun) ... You're really going to do it.

  • The Joys of Torturing Mooks: The video game was basically built on this.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Tons.
    • His first ongoing series, The Punisher, Vol. 2, ran for 108 issues and had seven annuals. Its only available in the black and white softcover Essentials collections, and those only have the first 40 issues and the first 3 annuals. Want the rest? Gotta wait and hope they continue the line. Oh, and some of the volumes are out of print.
    • His second ongoing series, The Punisher Journal, ran for 80 issues. There is a single trade paperback collecting the series and it only has the first eight issues.
    • His third ongoing series, The Punisher Warzone, ran for 41 issues and had two annuals. There are three trades collecting it but issues 7-25 and 37-41 and the annuals remain uncollected.
    • His fourth ongoing series, simply titled Punisher, ran for 18 issues. It is not collected in any format.
    • His fifth ongoing series, The Punisher, ran for 37 issues. It was written by Garth Ennis very successful and popular. It was collected in trade paperbacks, save for issues 8-12 which weren't written by Ennis. The paperbacks are out of print. It was released in hardcovers but the hardcover line is incomplete with no sign of Marvel continuing. The hardcovers that do exist are also out of print. Finally, it was collected in one massive omnibus, which also collected the Welcome Back, Frank storyline. This is also out of print. As a final kicker, an issue included within the omnibus is The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. This is a very collectable issue and was collected in a trade paperback with Welcome Back, Frank. Welcome Back, Frank has gotten a new trade edition. Kills the Marvel Universe is not included.
  • Kick the Dog: Frank's murder of Microchip, his sidekick. Frank also killed the reformed Stiltman.
    • Microchip was killed because he was turning a blind eye to government-funded drug operations to get his dough, making it a Kick the Dog moment for himself as well. He was also given the chance to escape. They were holed up in a warehouse awaiting an attack from the mob. Frank told Micro to run but Micro decided to stay. Apparently he didn't quite understand what Frank meant.
    • The villains also constantly do this (if not much, much worse), because as bad as he is, Frank's the protagonist.
    • After rescuing a not-so-corrupt corporate executive from retaliatory gang rape for threatening to blow the whistle on a scheme, Frank shows an alarming amount of callousness towards the victim, telling him 'I bought you eggs and bacon--two days is more than enough to get over this'; unusual since he's usually more sympathetic to female rape victims. His indifference comes back to bite him in the ass later.
    • Dolnovich, who was otherwise portrayed as a loyal, level-headed hardass kills a reporter who wrote an unflattering book about his boss. Even then, he probably didn't deserve to die believing that his only son was going to be raped to death his his Smug Snake killer.
  • Knight Templar: The question is not "How far?" The question is "How fast will he get there?"
    • Knight Templar Parent: In the MAX series, Barracuda kidnaps the daughter Frank had with O'Brien. He reacts...violently.
      • Specifically, he has flashbacks to his children's deaths. He wakes up in the hospital with no idea what happened, but the skin doctors found under his fingernails and the flesh between his teeth jog his memory.
        • Which is very much a Berserk Button for old Frank...he goes absolutely batshit insane on the Mongolian when he pictures Galena as his daughter, and the death count (which is actually higher than the stated 68 as he hits a drug den afterwards) after Nicky Cavella's actions.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The aforementioned split in The Punisher's portrayal as regards to his interactions with the rest of the Marvel characters is lampshaded in Secret War: Secret Files (written in the voice of Nick Fury as entries in the SHIELD database); it comments on how it seems like Castle lives in "two different worlds," one where he interacts with the other heroes and one where he never crosses paths with them.

"I caught a glimpse of heaven once. The Angels showed me. The idea was I'd kill for them. Clean up their mistakes on Earth. Eventually redeem myself. Tried it. Didn't like it. Told them where to stick it. So they brought me up to heaven, to see what I'd be missing. A wife. A son. A daughter. I hadn't seen them since they bled out in my arms. Then I was cast down. Back to a world of killers. Rapists. Psychos. Perverts. A brand new evil every minute, spewed out as fast as men can think them up. A world where pitching a criminal dwarf off a skyscraper to tell his fellow scum you're back is a sane and rational act. The angels thought it would be hell for me. But they were wrong."

  • Large Ham: Dominic West as Jigsaw. Lordy.
  • Left for Dead: In the Punisher MAX continuity, you can NOT count on this trope to save your bacon one it. One particularly noteworthy example was when Castle drove Cavella out to some abandoned woods and shot him low in the gut with the intention of slowly killing him over several hours/days while he walked away. Perfect setup for Cavella to come back, right? Well, just to shoot down any ideas of him returning some mooks talk about how they found his corpse with the eyes eaten out. Just as well, as Villain Decay had wrung out any threat he had to begin with.
  • Limited Wardrobe: While it's entertaining to think that Frank has been wearing the same skull T-shirt all these years, no doubt stained with the blood of hundreds, he appears to have lots of spares.
    • He states in one comic devoted to showing his equipment and methods that he orders the shirts by the gross (gross = 144).
  • Made of Iron: Especially in MAX, but even in mainstream continuity Castle's a tough bastard. By human standards, anyway.

Frank: That's a rib gone. Not broken. Gone.

    • In "The List", he continues trying to stab Daken after - in less than a half hour - having being shot, hit with grenades, punched around, cut across the chest by Daken, broke a leg, getting his throat slashed, lost (and I do mean LOST) an arm and about 3 gallons of blood. He probably would still be fighting him as a disembodied head!
      • Black Knight? Is that you?
      • The Russian, Barracuda, and oh god, Pittsy.
        • In the finale to Punisher MAX Frank gets stabbed, shot, and beaten half to death by Electra (to the point where his face is described as looking like "a swollen wad of hamburger" by Nick Fury), shot multiple times by The Kingpin's goons, and endures a savage beating by Fisk himself, and still manages to kill him in the end. Only succumbing to his wounds much later.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Its stated in the MAX series that the first time he killed a woman he lost a lot of his supporters.
  • Merry Christmas in Gotham: There's a story where Frank is about to snipe a druglord, when suddenly there's a little girl pulling on his coat telling him she's lost her dad. Frank stares at her and puts the gun away. When they find her dad, he starts to thank him before recognizing his chest emblem and starting to panic. Frank tells him to calm down, that he should really teach his daughter not to talk to strangers, and then leaves.
  • Mook Chivalry: Obviously used quite a lot. What makes this extra-hilarious is that the smarter bosses (Cavella, Zakharov, Maginty) actually take the failings of their Mooks into account and use it to engineer Batman Gambits; Zakharov got his Magnificent Bastard status cemented by blindsiding Frank with this trope twice.
  • Mook Horror Show: Happens a lot.
  • More Dakka: Frank's solution to most problems.
  • Morality Chain: Frank's family was this to him. In his origin story set in 'Nam he says to a fellow soldier that they might be his "last chance" to be something other than a Blood Knight.
  • Morality Pet: Katie Power of Power Pack is one to Frank whenever they crossed over (which was surprisingly often).
  • Mugging the Monster: Happens to Frank a lot, considering his habit of walking around the worst neighborhoods alone. Naturally this does not end well. In one short story, Frank pretends to be a drunken hobo to the specific purpose of practicing his knife fighting.
  • Muggles Do It Better: He has fought many super powered heros and villains, often beating them or at least fighting to a draw, with nothing more than his wits, aim, and guns.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Detective Martin Soap gets called by the wrong name, and even has to fix the "R" initial on his door to an "M."
  • Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: The Geracis, who convince Frank to be their next Don.
  • Nerd Glasses: Buddy Plug
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: This is one of the reasons the Punisher is an Anti Hero. He takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties while he's gunning down dozens of goons.
    • In a small variation, Frank has on occasions been shown to dislike killing animals, because an animal can't truly be guilty.
  • Never Live It Down: Invoked. The Head general of the terrorist plot after getting his face wrecked by Nick Fury. Characters in the story repeatedly bring up his humiliating beating and he reacts predictably in each case (i.e. snivelling).
  • New York City Cops: Whenever the NYPD show up, they are usually put into three groups; honest cops who truly believe that the Punisher is a danger to society, Dirty Cops who end up becoming more victims of The Punisher, or cops that secretly approve of the vigilante's activities and don't put that much effort into arresting him.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Frank.
  • Noodle Incident: We catch the tail end of Soap describing how he was once handcuffed to a dead sheep.
  • Oh Crap: The closest Castle has ever gotten to doing one of these was when he was fighting Pittsy, a balding fatso of at least 60 years old. Halfway into the fight, he tore off Pittsy's bandage where he received an Eye Scream and broke his fingers. Pittsy gave him a Cluster F-Bomb in defiance and popped all of his fingers in place, ready to fight. Frank looked on in disbelief.

Frank: "Asshole's been eating his spinach."

  • Omniscient Morality License: Quite common, particularly in issues written by Garth Ennis; Frank seems to know without fail whether any given person is a criminal who deserves death or not. Or he's just extremely good at self-justification.
  • Once Killed a Man with A Noodle Implement: One mook is called Inky because he killed a man with a pen. Subverted when they describe, in great detail, how it happened.
  • One-Man Army: In the side materials to Secret War, Nick Fury compares the Punisher's destructive capabilities to that of The Incredible Hulk's
  • Only a Flesh Wound: About 90% of times when Frank actually gets shot, it's Only a Flesh Wound, as a side effect of him being Made of Iron. Sure, writers pay some superficial attention to things like blood loss and shock, but Frank still can operate at practically 100% efficiency within hours after, say, taking bullets from a machine gun in his flank and shoulder.
    • The MAX series doesn't completely subvert this, but since it's set in a more realistic universe than most Marvel books, Frank is noticably impaired by severe injuries. Of course, in such situations he doesn't stop fighting, he just starts fighting dirty. The less strength he has to call on, the more creative he gets in his combat and interrogation methods. Barracuda once succeeds in putting him in traction - less than three days later Frank's got his nuts wired to a car battery, "and the world was a beautiful place". Less than three hours after that Frank's burying a fire ax in his chest.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Jigsaw.
  • Papa Wolf: In the MAX series, regarding his illegitimate daughter. Barracuda learned this the hard way. Also in the "Mother Russia" arc, Frank is sent to retrieve a biological weapon that is inside a little girl. The little girl is sad that people are "always mean to her" and Frank promises that if anyone tries to be mean to her he will be much meaner to them. He keeps that promise.
  • The Paragon: At the end of the second MAX series, Frank becomes this in a dark, Family-Unfriendly Aesop-y kind of way. His latest skirmish with MAX!Kingpin has proven fatal for the both of them, and after over 30 years, Frank Castle's war is finally over. As MAX!Nick Fury cleans up the carnage left by Frank's last battle, he muses that Frank's war was ultimately useless in the big picture. Cue news reports of citizens across New York banding together in Punisher-themed gear and exacting vigilante justice on local criminals. Even Fury had to crack a smile.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: Pretty much the cornerstone trope of The Punisher.
  • Pet the Dog: Having beaten Jigsaw, Frank goes to finish the job when Soap calls for help, having been taken prisoner. It nearly costs him his life, as Soap tries to reason not to kill Jigsaw, before shouting a warning when he tries to shoot The Punisher.
    • Frank's an avid dog petter, though of course it's a case of Depending on the Writer. A typical moment would be when his Berserk Button is smashed and he discovers women smuggled into sex slavery. He rescues them then as they speed off he hands a detonator to one of the captives, telling her to blow up the ship and the slavers.
    • In his final appearance, Nick Fury finds Frank had written I'm sorry on the walls of his old house (for failing to save his family.) Fury then pets the dog by using Frank's flamethrower to burn the house down and drive away the police raking over old wounds.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Whenever The Punisher is jailed, it's usually because he allowed himself to be (usually he walks up to a police station and says "I surrender"), so he can kill one or more guys who are unreachable otherwise. Given that he's the friggin' Punisher, no one gives him trouble (those that do don't last very long).
  • Plot-Powered Stamina: After shrugging off shotgun shells and sniper rifle bullets for years, in "Widowmaker", Frank takes a nine mil from a suppressed MP 5 at considerable distance, and apparently it went right through his chest, creating a hole in his back that according to Jenny, "was too big for sutures, all I could do was pack it full of gauze." He spends the rest of the story arc bed-ridden, allowing Jenny to become the "She-Punisher" for a short while.
  • Private Eye Monologue: The MAX series is typically narrated by The Punisher, who's every bit as gritty and cynical as one would expect.
  • Power Armor: Frank had Micro whip up a suit in order to combat a bunch of cybernetic mutant hunters. He broke it, and had in repaired in order to assault a gang boss who was selling a modified version of PCP...and then broke it again.
  • Psycho for Hire: Barracuda, The Russian, Jigsaw - most of Frank's serious opponents are this.
    • Finn Cooley used to be this, until he decided that this lifestyle was for the birds and that he was going to get him some sweet inheritance money. So he could ride Angelina Jolie if she'd have him, apparently. Didn't last long, unfortunately.
    • MAX Bullseye takes this to a whole new level.
  • Rasputinian Death: Many Dragons or more physically tough Big Bads require a rather spectacular sendoff. See Pitsy, The Russian, and Barracuda.
    • Frank gets one in "Dark Reign", when Daken quite literally tears him apart piece by piece. Then Morbius the Living Vampire brings him back as a pachtwork monster (Frankencastle?).
  • Red Right Hand: The Russian has a huge scar on his face.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Frank's entire point, in some incarnations.
    • Though it's more of a Roaring Marathon of Revenge.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Frank targets modern day pirates as readily as any other criminals. The River Rats from Punisher MAX are one example.
  • Scope Snipe
  • Searching the Stalls: In the "Suicide Run" storyline, a bunch of mafia Mooks hide in the bathroom. The Punisher is not sure which stall contains what, so he shoots through all of them.
  • Semper Fi: Frank's a Marine. Subverted in Ennis's work, especially The Punisher: Born. The story takes place in a base filled with Marines who are amoral washouts, apathetic or cruel, run by idiot commanding officers. As a Marine, Frank Castle was shown to be addicted to combat, willing to indirectly kill a general in order to keep his firebase (and therefore, his war) going. Certainly doesn't sit well with the brave, heroic image the USMC typically has.
  • Serial Killer: Arguably so, with vigilante tendencies. He tries to present himself as the Mission-Based type, but in later stories, he's shown to be more of the Hedonistic type; subconsciously obsessed with the idea of a never-ending war to sate the bloodlust he developed in Vietnam.
    • In the Young Masters arc of Young Avengers, Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) notes that the superhero community of the Marvel Universe only sees the Punisher as a serial killer and any real hero would bring him down as hard as any villain if nessessary.
  • Serial Killer Killer: Frank's more of a Mass Murderer Murderer but he still fits.
  • Series Continuity Error: Oddly, Frank's daughter has had at least three different names, while the name of his son (Frank Jr) is always consistent. Also Microchip's real name was originally "Bartholomew", but was changed to "Linus" later.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Frank definitely fits the bill. After three brutal tours of duty in The Vietnam War, Frank Castle lost his wife and children to Mafia thugs and now wages a one-man war on crime. Various authors have toyed with Frank's mental state, and Garth Ennis has suggested that in Vietnam, Frank started to love combat and killing people, with the death of his family possibly being only the final straw that caused his killing sprees.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Welcome to the Bayou has an absolutely psychotic woman suggesting this as Frank's fate. He thinks he'd prefer being eaten by cannibals.
  • Shout-Out: The late, great, Puerto Rican rapper "Big Punn" (he had a heart attack; dude was 400 pounds).
    • Morgan Freeman is the Colonel who tries to capture The Punisher in "Valley Forge, Valley Forge".
    • Ma Gucci mentions Namor the Sub-Mariner by name in the midst of all her snarking, and it's thrown in with lots of other off-hand reference to lots of different Marvel heroes made throughout the book.
    • One of the mooks is reading The Bridges of Madison County, of all things.
  • Sinister Minister: The Rev, a Captain Ersatz of Jim Jones, and one of the few villains to survive his initial run-in with Frank.
  • Slasher Smile: Many of the Punisher's Psycho for Hire foes and Frank himself occasionally sports one in the mainstream Marvel universe.
  • Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes: Most of the time, Frank sits firmly at Type 4.
  • Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness: Subverted repeatedly. Killing Anti Villains and Harmless Villains accounts for the majority of Frank's Kick the Dog moments.
  • Smug Snake: The conspiracy of generals in the MAX arc "Valley Forge, Valley Forge" is perhaps the best example, as it consists of eight incompetent Smug Snakes (who cause a great deal of death and suffering nevertheless), but it is far from the only example. The Punisher's opponents in general are no criminal masterminds, even if they aren't totally...
    • Nicky Cavella was downgraded from Magnificent Bastard to this as the start of his Villain Decay.
    • Rawlins is so much of a smug snake that he can't help but crack wise even when he's getting his eye pulled out by the Punisher. It'd make him pretty badass actually if he wasn't such a sniveller.
    • If MAX Bullseye wasn't so frightening and bloodthirsty he'd go down as the biggest Smug Snake of them all. He's so full of himself that he takes time out to tease Frank during their chases.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Depending on the reader and writer Frank is either this or a Villain Protagonist.
  • Spoiler Title: There's an Alternate Continuity comic which asks the question "What would happen if the Castle's had been caught in the middle of a Superhero battle instead of a gangland shooting?" It's called Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe.
  • Squashed Flat: One of the stories has Wolverine coming after Frank, mistaking that recent mutilations are his doing. Due to Wolverine's Healing Factor, Frank uses a steamroller to get him off his tracks.
  • The Stoic: Frank is either calm, detached, and homicidal, or (much more rarely) pissed off and homicidal. That's it. To quote the videogame (written by Garth Ennis):

* after blasting Bushwacker through a wall* I don't smile much. Don't smile ever. But if I did, this would be one.

Zakharov: Kill (Rawlins), Castle. Our world is bad, but we are soldiers. He is a parasite; he would make the world this way forever.

    • The ONLY person Frank feels sorry for when he guns down a cadre of swamp-dwelling cannibals is the Psychopathic Manchild banished to the edge of the community, kinda-sorta blaming himself for pissing the poor bastard off.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Force Frank to team up with another hero, and this trope is the result. While he tends to dislike the rest of the hero community, and the feeling is mutual, he's at least willing to work with them against the real villains.
    • Averted more often than most people might assume, at least in the nineties. Frank had quite a few crossovers, and most of the people he worked with were either okay with him or felt he was a good man at heart. There were only a few who outright hated him.
  • Themed Aliases: The Punisher often uses aliases that are linked to Castle, his real last name: Charles Fort, Mc Rook, Frank Rook, Francis Stronghold, Johnny Tower, Frankie Villa, etc.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Extremely averted to the point of inversion.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Quite a lot of villains. One minor gangster was dumb enough to brag about how he would take over his boss' territory and "business" when Frank (who had just offed said boss) was still right there; this was met with the predictable results:

Gangster: I-I-I...I mean I'm gonna leave all this shit behind me. Get a job. Leave town.
Frank: Yeah. Well. * shoots him* Just in case.

    • Special mention goes to Nicky Cavella, a jackass of a mob dude who got the astoundingly bright idea to dig up the remains of Frank's family and urinates on them. And then release the footage to the news media in the hopes of getting Castle pissed off and go berserk. Yeah. It's been nice knowing you, Nicky.
    • Another special mention goes to the Westies/Maginty/River Rats/Cooley for actually believing that their Retired Monster boss actually wanted to give them his fortune. Frank and Yorkie couldn't help but think that this was odd and they didn't even know him.
  • Torture Technician: Not a villain, but Frank is pretty knowledgable about the human anatomy and torture methods. Press a Berserk Button of his and you'll wish he was just practicing the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
  • Tranquil Fury: More often than not, Frank's completely and totally calm when brutally murdering villains. Pushing one of his Berserk Buttons leads to Unstoppable Rage. Either way, people die.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback
  • Victory by Endurance: There's one story where a mook barely escapes from Frank, and his mental condition gradually worsens as he seeks help everywhere. Frank barely appears at all except at the end, allowing the mook to tire himself out all by himself.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The 2005 videogame's big draw was the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, wherein Frank could beat, threaten, or otherwise pry answers out of enemy grunts he manages to grab. Combine that with environment specific actions (Piranha tank interrogation anyone?), and you have this trope.
    • The game ended up being censored (scenes turned black-and-white when the violence got exceedingly brutal), but a patch for the PC version restores the game to its original form.
  • The Vietnam War: Frank served in Vietnam, and certain actions he did during the war are brought up in his appearances occasionally.
    • In the 2004 movie, this is changed to Operation Desert Storm / the first war with Iraq.
    • Frank will often bring up and compare his experiences in conversations with veterans of other wars, like Captain America (comics).
    • The comics rarely miss an opportunity to show Frank talking to other vets as well. Frank loses respect for his pal Iceman after the latter is revealed to be a Sour Supporter/Knight in Sour Armor who (misjudging Frank's motives) tells him to 'we all got messed up in the war: get over it'. Yorkie (actually British S.A.S.) has changed into a Hannibal Lecture-spewing Blood Knight who despite bouncing from that to patrols against the IRA to fighting in Afghanistan shows no signs of stopping. And poor, poor Walter...
  • Vigilante Execution: With a fire truck, no less.
  • Vigilante Man: He's actually been called "Vigilante Man" a couple of times.
    • Frank also has a disdain for other "amateur" vigilantes as shown when he calls out the "Vigilante Squad" (a trio of Punisher fanboys who don't have as much scruples) for being Ax Crazy Knight Templars before gunning them down.
  • The Villain Must Be Punished: The Punisher's entire schtick revolves around this. He doesn't want to just lock crooks up; he wants to make them pay for their crimes with their lives.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Cavella and Barracuda break down spectacularly, the first turning into a simpering pants-wetter and the latter turning into a raving lunatic. Finn Cooley's breakdown is more physical than mental, as his face continues rotting with each appearance. Surprisingly averted with Rawlins, though, because even as things repeatedly go to hell for him he can't help but act the smug little weasel he is.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: Frank doesn't kill honest cops (Dirty Cops aren't so lucky). In fact, the final run of Garth Ennis' take on The Punisher involved Frank being in the sights of a cabal of Corrupt US Army Generals... who use their connections to send a group of honest US Soldiers after him. Frank doesn't kill them, but the soldiers learn the hard way that non-lethal force doesn't mean gentle force.
  • Wall of Weapons: Frequently.
  • We Have Reserves: Subverted spectacularly at one point; Nicky Cavella, desperate to finish off the Punisher, attempts to bully his capo underlings into giving him their men. Not only do they tell him to get bent, they also rant at how they're not going to serve as cannon fodder for an obvious General Failure complete with his mooks giving him a Hannibal Lecture on how much of a fuckup he is. This took major brass on their end, since Nicky was known for among other things chopping up a preteen and serving him to his father.
    • It was either the chance of Nicky being able to do anything about it (it helped that they outnumbered Cavella at the time), versus the certainty that Frank Castle would take them out if they actually fought him.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Frank's uncompromising morality is mixed with the fact that he's quite nuts.
  • What a Drag
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Punisher gets this from almost every superhero (and a few supervillains) he comes across. Frank himself occasionally gets to deliver these.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him: Averted with Frank himself, who is quite happy to just shoot his opponents most of the time. Played straight with many of the villains. Some of them, like Barracuda, learn nothing even after their first attempt of killing Frank in some elaborate and sadistic way backfires spectacularly.
    • Rawlins probably would've gotten away with everything if he had finished off General Zakharov and Dolnovich when he got the chance rather than letting them slowly die in the desert, an act which let Zahrakov tell The Punisher where Rawlins was headed. Granted, he was majorly pissed at them.
    • Played with in one of the Punisher/Batman crossovers. Frank corners the Joker, who jokes about it, thinking that Frank is just going to take him off to Arkham Asylum. When he realizes Frank is perfectly content to blow his head off, Joker gives one of the best Oh Crap faces in comics history.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Frank is extra-cruel towards scum who beat women.
  • Worthy Opponent: Frank Castle to General Zakharov in the Mother Russia arc, as he explains after Frank successfully escapes the nuclear missile silo by setting one of the missiles to defuse at 8000 feet, stowing away inside, launching it and parachuting to safety. Especially notable because it came after spending the whole arc insisting to his disbelieving inferiors that they were under attack from Americans and not Arab terrorists.

"That was no American. It was a Russian who was born there by mistake."

  • Would Hit a Girl: When he finds out that Vera was actually the brains behind the human trafficking operation (i.e. was the one who told the mooks to "break" their victims by gang rape) in "The Slavers," he repeatedly throws her face-first against a shatterproof window, reasoning correctly that the frame would give before the windowpane did.
  • Weaponized Car: The Battle Van, which Frank had a tendency to trash every time he used it. He also once had what was basically a go-cart from Hell. It was destroyed in its second appearance.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Overlapping with Thanatos Gambit, Old Man Nesbitt gave each of his Psycho for Hire Inadequate Inheritors a piece of a code that they would have to put together in order to get at his inheritance. After they almost kill each other trying to steal the other pieces of the code, as they expected, they decide to call a truce. When they all come together to collect, it's revealed that the secret location for his funds has no money in it at all, just an extremely powerful explosive with an expletive scrawled on it. That'll get 'em.
  1. Realizing the possibility of a setup is the only thing that lets him live long enough to exhume the body, which he finds was slain with a bullet of a different caliber from what he had been carrying. Turned out that it was a setup to get him out of the way of a local crime syndicate.