#1 With a Bullet - Rick Remender Talks New Punisher Series

The Punisher #1 cover

This new series finds Frank Castle engaging in a new war as Dark Reign looms. If you've seen the cover released in the January 2009 advance solicitations, then you know that Frank isn't pulling any punches – he's got the Sentry in his sights. But why?

That's a question we're asking series writer Rick Remender, who's coming in from Punisher War Journal with artist Jerome Opeña. The duo are long-time collaborators on Fear Agent, and recently did a short story in the one-shot Wolverine: Dangerous Game.

We've cornered Rick Remender for more, so let's interrogate.

Newsarama: There was a cover by Mike McKone released to coincide with the new series announcement showing the Sentry in Punisher's sights. First of all Rick, damn. You don't beat around the bush. What's Frank doing?

Rick Remender: Murder is the case that they gave him. Frank isn't screwing around; he sees dark days on the horizon and will take out anyone he thinks will prevent this. With everything that'll be coming up, all the new threats.

He has some new allies with some new ideas on how to address the sorts of problems the world will be facing. The fight with The Sentry is a direct result of the new direction of Frank's war.

NRAMA: What can you tell us about the focus - the mission statement of this new series?

RR: Go to the source of the problem and kill it. He's never played a bigger role in the events within the MU. Frank's targets are bigger, very pertinent, I think everyone will be surprised by the results of this new strategy. This new focus naturally makes Frank a target to some heavy hitters. There is a gigantic goddamned wave of villainy about to be unleashed on Frank. Can't go into much more without some serious spoilers.

NRAMA: Back in the Punisher War Journal series you joined with writer Matt Fraction, the character of Jigsaw was really reinvigorated to be one of the big figures in Punisher's rogues gallery. How do you see him in comparison to Frank, and will he be showing up in the new series?

RR: Spoilers ahead for anyone who didn't read our Jigsaw arc...

Matt and I wanted to tell one of the ultimate Jigsaw/Punisher stories, and we I think we did. The great thing about the plan was the idea of reinvigorating Jigsaw, delving into his insanity, his motivations, his clear love for Frank... and then kill him. Take him out on a high note.

With Jigsaw dead I think we cleared the plate for a new era of The Punisher in the MU. His past is cleaned up a bit making it easier to focus on his future. One of the big builds in this new series will be Frank's new rogues' gallery, I wish I could tell you who the members will be. It's going to be insane. The stakes are going to be turned up so high; the new threats are unlike anything you've ever seen Frank up against. Let's talk again about this in June.

NRAMA: Speaking of rogue's galleries - who are the most prominent of Frank's as you see it?

RR: The crime bosses have always stood out to me, Kingpin, Jigsaw etc.

It's natural for whoever is running New York's crime to be at the top of Frank's hit list. It's a logical fit. I think he's a ton of awesome against heroes as well, Frank versus Deadpool or Daredevil or Spider-man, that's good fun. Frank versus The Senrty should be a well remembered sparring.

NRAMA: You're working with your long-time collaborator Jerome Opeña, going from Fear Agent to a story in the Wolverine: Dangerous Game one-shot and now a new Punisher series.

You've known all about collaboration in comics, doing it as an inker with pencilers and now as a writer with an artist. How does working together with someone long-term like this help, and with Jerome in particular?

RR: Collaboration, be it in the form of penciling books with writers like Bruce Campbell or Brian Posehn, inking over Kieron Dwyer on The Avengers, writing on games like EA's Dead Space, the forthcoming XXXombies screenplay, or writing comics with longtime collaborators like Jerome Opeña on Fear Agent and Punisher, is different from project to project but the goal is always the same-- to meld into a highly functioning unit, with one brain, working towards achieving the intent of the same story as seamlessly as possible.

The specifics obviously change depending on my role. When penciling a comic, my responsibility is to the writer, to give a visually exciting and clear interpretation of his/her script with an eye on staying true to their intention. Staging, acting camera movement, the fine-tuning comes much more into play in penciling, the writer has taken care of the broad strokes.

Inking is more about staying true to what the penciler intended, embellishing the drawing, clarifying expression and to never do any harm.

Writing in video games or film requires you to be able to exert flexibility, to work within the constraints of the media as well as the people orchestrating the project. Which is not too dissimilar from mainstream comic work.

In mainstream comics you have a set stage with specific objectives to hit and must find the most concise and entertaining way to work within those parameters. Given the wide-open freedom of creator-owned work, this took me some time to acclimate to, but I think it's improved my writing greatly. On Punisher, Axel has forced me to focus on one idea at a time, to realize when enough is enough and give each idea or character time to develop, to slow down a bit and find my focus. He's really pushed me to look at my writing, to find and build on what works and cleanly cut away what doesn't.

As for Jerome, he perfectly tells any story given to him. I think he's been given all of one note on the Punisher stuff so far. He is the rare artist who not only interprets the script, but also greatly improves it with spot perfect acting, dynamic clear action and the kind of staging sense you're either born with or not. We work smoothly as a team; two well-oiled nerds wrestling in a mud bath of fun. The essence of collaboration is bringing out the best in each other and that couldn't be truer than with the Punisher team.

NRAMA: How'd this new series come about, Rick?

RR: I'd been working with Matt Fraction and editor Axel Alonso on The Punisher War Journal series, and having a blast, so when Fraction decided it was time to move on to some unknown book called "Uncanny something-or-other" I was offered the job. [Editor's Note: Fraction joined writer Ed Brubaker on Uncanny X-Men with issue #500]

Axel and I spoke at great lengths about what role we'd like to see Frank play in the coming Dark Reign, how to place him squarely in the center of the new MU, and it all gelled from there.

Jerome and I have a long history working together on Fear Agent and Axel had worked with us on our Wolverine story so the mighty Opeña was a natural fit for art.

NRAMA: This announcement comes just as the new Punisher: War Zone movie is being promoted. Any cross-over, tie-ins or comic book signings at shooting ranges with the cast planned?

RR: Yeah, we've set up target practice competition, who ever can destroy the most VHS copies of the Dolph Lundgren's Punisher movie gets to knock off a few dozen hours of their court ordered community service.

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