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The Punisher is pro-gun control

Tim O'Neil at The Hurting has an interesting post on the Punisher. It's a contrast between the era that i'm currently in the middle of reviewing for my Timeline project and a contemporary run that i know nothing about. So it's half very relevant and half lost on me (although O'Neil provides context). What's interesting is that O'Neil says of the Punisher, "He's a right-wing revenge fantasy as it might have been designed by left-wingers who understood the precise limitations of the type." And then he goes on to describe his favorite run, which is Mike Baron's. And i've always understood Baron to be a conservative; certainly his afterward for the 1988 trade paperback collecting the 1986 Punisher mini-series (bottom of the entry) complains about 'liberals'. But his Punisher run is actually much more free of the negative tropes that one associates with the Punisher than you'd think. It's actually Carl Potts, who sounds much more liberal than Baron in that same trade paperback, and who who says some of the same things that O'Neil quotes Eliot Brown saying, that has the Punisher massacring minority gang bangers. Meanwhile Baron has him fighting corrupt South Vietnamese generals, white supremacist groups, and even Wall Street execs. To O'Neil's point, though, both Baron and Potts definitely present the Punisher as a kind of crazy person whose "stories took place in a universe that acknowledged that the Punisher was on the wrong side of the law and existed primarily in dialogue with - and as a foil, not a corrective - to more traditional superheroes like Spider-Man".

By fnord12 | April 27, 2015, 6:29 PM | Comics


When I was a kid The Punisher was a bad-ass! Reading him as an adult, I obviously have adult sensibilities and boy does he come across as a complete loony tune. I know there's nothing 'normal' about super-heroes but at least I can see that they're genuinely trying to do the right thing. Mind you he was born out of the whole Travis Bickle(yes, I think he's that crazy) Death Wish, The Equaliser and Subway Vigilante era so no wonder he's loopy.

Death Wish is an interesting parallel. The first one actually has nuance -- it's about a liberal guy whose family gets senselessly brutalized by some punks. He happens to have a gun (it was a gift from a Texan client), and he starts looking for trouble, making himself look vulnerable and then shooting to death anyone who tries to take advantage. This isn't portrayed as a stable thing to do, and you get the sense that this guy's politics haven't changed -- he's the same as he was, but homicidal now.

Fast forward to Death Wish 3 and you get more of the cartoonish, absolutely mindless violence that I tend to associate with the Punisher of the 80s. I think if I was going to read some era of Punisher, I'd check out the "conservative fantasy violence" movies of that era for comparison.