I like the Punisher.
I’ve had the decal on the car, but there is more. I have three long boxes of bagged-and-boarded Punisher comics. I have Punisher comics and books that are too wide for my comic boxes. I have the first appearance of the Punisher (Amazing Spider-Man #129) on my wall. I have Punisher collectibles in a wooden display cabinet. I have Punisher wall décor. I have all of the Punisher DVDs and platform games. I have Punisher shirts.
And I have two tattoos: one is my daughter’s name, and the other is a Punisher skull.
I kinda like the Punisher.
For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, the Punisher (aka Frank Castle) is a fictionalized character in the Marvel Comics, debuting in the mid-1970s. He is a former Marine (or an undercover cop, depending on the origin story) who sees his family murdered by mobsters because they all witnessed the mob killing someone else. Castle survives the attack and later seeks revenge on the mob, as well as any other hardened criminal that evades arrest.
No one likes to see criminals get away with their deeds, especially if it’s rape or murder, so the Punisher character sets things straight, kind of like a rated-R version of Batman or Spider-Man. Instead of handing the criminal over to the cops, Frank Castle just leaves carnage for cops to later find.
I grew up on this sort of thing: violent films and comics. Even as a child, I loved the toned-down television versions of horror films. I loved Rambo films and G.I. Joe cartoons. If there was justice to be served, I drank it in.
But I knew it was fiction.
Frank Castle (the Punisher) is just a fictionalized character in a world of Marvel Comics fiction. Rambo was fiction. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger were fiction. I was a cult follower—one among many others.
There was a comradery felt when I saw someone else with a Punisher shirt or decal. I felt like there was another who likes what I like, Punisher or Jason or Dirty Harry. Two different lives that might have ran parallel for a couple of minutes during childhood. There would be that knowingly smile and friendly nod Hello, while commenting, “Hey, I like your tattoo.”
But I’m not sure if that comradery is there anymore.
A quick search on eBay or Amazon for “Punisher” accessories, there seems to be the skull icon made into any shape and brand thinkable, from tie-ins with GM or Ford, “Infidel” or “American Sniper,” fire-fighter unions to anti-Black Lives Matter slogans, American flags to Israeli shapes. Everything that has nothing to do with the Marvel Comics fictionalized character is being [illegally?] merged into the comic book brand.
There are people with the Punisher skull on their shirts and vehicles that might even know about the comic book character’s story line, and may not even be fans. This is not quite a big deal, but when you start thinking about the politics and worldviews behind some of the tie-ins, there is quite a big issue. And though I have the Marvel merchandise, I don’t subscribe to many of these worldviews or political stances.
I won’t necessarily go through each of my views and ethical issues with everything that the Punisher brand has been misused in copyright infringement. That would require an individual book on each solo topic. Instead I will tell you where the character in the fictional comic book and film stories does not stand.
The Punisher is not necessarily pro-police.
The thin blue line crowd using the Punisher skull is probably the worse violation.
A police officer—as well as any other civil servant—takes a sworn oath to uphold the Law. The Constitution guarantees proper search and seizure, due process of arrest and court trial, and the right to not be tortured while in detainment. Anything outside of this is illegal.
And a police officer that seems to praise the made-up methods of the Punisher is an abomination to the police force and civil service. Any cop who pretends to be Frank Castle should be terminated. A cop is either convicted to morally uphold constitutional law or be fired and tried by the same Constitution he or she desired to disobey.
As a Fraternal Order of Police supporter, I will say there is a need for law enforcement. Police officers are needed—and should be overseen—in our society. There are a lot of good police officers out there.
There is also a bad bunch. There are cops out there that think they’re the Rambos and Punishers of the police force. Maybe they feel outnumbered or outgunned by the bad guys out there. Maybe they feel defeated by strict oversight (usually put into place because of prior abuses and assaults done by other police officers). Or maybe they’re just angry people who want to assassinate someone they see as a threat.
Not all litterbugs or jaywalkers should be slammed to the ground. Not all thieves or wife-beaters should be shot in the face. But these blue-line Punisher decal-purchasers seem to think so.
Perhaps they don’t see things as the Law sees things: a criminal is to be tried accordingly to the statute and penalty set forth in the penal code, and the criminal is to be treated as the Constitution demands.
The Punisher is a Tasmanian devil the comic book realm, destroying every life that is not obeying the law. But it’s fiction. And anyone who thinks that they (or other people) should take the law into their own hands is a dangerous person that probably cannot fiction from the real.
These sorts of Punisher fans that are in a position to protect us civilians should maybe be required to relinquish their posts. A hot shot with a quick temper is the last person I want chasing someone fleeing the scene of a crime … even if that crime was done to my own person or property.