Earlier this month Marvel sent out a teaser with the word “Hunted,” and we now know who the hunter is: Frank Castle.
As announced Sunday at Marvel’s “Superior Spider-Man & Friends” panel at New York Comic Con, The Activity’s Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads are moving from a team of black-ops agents to a one-man army as they launch a new Punisher series. Launching this February, this new Punisher series will follow Frank Castle out west on the trail of a major drugs and weapons pipeline that leads him to Los Angeles. Although Castle’s primary hunting grounds have been in and around New York City, this new series sees the anti-hero finding new demons in the City of Angels – while trying to fend of a government hit squad on his tail.
Newsarama spoke with both Edmondson and Gerads about taking on marvel’s gun-toting hero, taking him to California, and their penchant for war-torn stories in this and The Activity.
Newsarama: So guys, what can you tell us about this new Punisher series?
Nathan Edmondson: The Punisher is a tactical operator, a total thrill machine, and an utter bad-ass who's now in a den of vicious criminality. He's a hunter wading through a swamp of drugs, thugs, guns, and worse; he's being hunted by a mysterious and lethal group and he'll find himself up against super villains who are way out of his league. His friends are few, his enemies are many, and being the Punisher is the only thing that keeps Frank Castle's demons at bay.
Mitch Gerads: It's exciting on so many levels. We get to see so much more of Frank than we're used to. He's an extremely tactical yet brutal animal as the Punisher, but as Frank he's a driven human being with personality. In Punisher we explore both these sides more than I think anyone has done in the past. It's a really badass book with action, intrigue, super-villains, and even some humor. I'm really excited about what Nathan and I have put together.
Nrama: What brings Frank out of New York City?
Edmondson: He's a sucker for bacon maple donuts at the Nickel Diner in downtown LA.
More importantly, we'll learn over time that a number of factors drove him west, to a city besieged by gangs with no hero to protect it. He's been dealing with a problem that spans the U.S., too, and he's come to the heart of that problem.
Nrama: Nathan, Frank Castle is well-known for his New York area adventures, so what led you as a writer to take him out to Los Angeles?
Edmondson: From a storytelling standpoint a new city, and especially Los Angeles, offers a fresh opportunity, perspective, and set of adventures and criminals and set pieces for The Punisher. Los Angeles is sprawled and diverse and we can explore shining skyscrapers and gritty ghettos; there are mountains and desert and beaches and subways and all manner of villains. And Central and South America are near at hand (I wonder if that's important…). In terms of the Marvel Universe, also, the reader will understand that the move to Los Angeles says something about the hero/villains goings on in general...
Nrama: Mitch, what does this new scenery for Frank offer to you as an artist?
Gerads: I'm obsessed with research and accuracy. So you can expect a lot of the same real-world locations and ambience you've seen in my other work. Also I'm such a sucker for color-coding scenes and locations so LA brings to mind such a great warm/hot palette that I'm real excited to play with.
Nrama: Frank knows well the lay of the land – especially the underworld – on the East coast… but the West coast is a different animal. What’s Frank walking into here – what’s the world like he’s coming into?
Edmondson: There's a strata of villain in the Marvel U too nefarious, too powerful for the cops, but not front-page enough for the Avengers. This is Frank's world, this is where he expends his ammunition. Los Angeles may be a new city, but he's the same Frank Castle, and he's hellbent on punishing the same kinds of villains for their crimes. Los Angeles has its own challenges, its own underworld, and it's gone unchecked and been left unprotected for too long.
Nrama: But Frank’s not just facing down enemies in his crosshairs, but also enemies coming up behind him – namely a government-sanctioned hit squad. Who exactly is coming down on him from the government, and why?
Edmondson: You'll have to read to find out. That is the big question. Who are the 131? Why are they targeting the Punisher, and why now? And most importantly: does he stand any chance at all of escaping them?
Nrama: Nathan, this isn’t your first op with Frank Castle. Last year you wrote Untold Tales of Punisher MAX #4.What brought you back, and what is your overall take of Punisher as a character?
Edmondson: The Punisher MAX story was really a very different approach from a Marvel NOW launch book. Now, with Mitch and our editors, we've gotten into Frank's head at a depth I barely scraped just doing a one-shot. We had to understand his every motivation and impulse and scar to craft this series. One thing we did set out to do with this series is to embrace Frank as a likable person in a number of ways, showing a contrast between the Frank who sits down for breakfast and may even tell a joke to the Punisher who is a driven, brutal, merciless operator. We know the Punisher, but we have to see him interact a bit with humanity--he would need it, to remind himself, at least, that he punishes the bad for the sake of the good.
Nrama: Mitch, I know from The Activity that you’re a detail-oriented artist. Have you gotten a chance to get to know what Punisher uses, weapon-wise?
Gerads: Nathan and I know our firearms and gear, so you'll see a very practical tactical array of gear in Punisher. But we also really want to give Frank and his new look a sense of branding, so he will definitely have his "go-to" load-out as well. I designed Frank's Punisher kit all after real world gear. Some of which hasn't even hit the market yet and is still in the trial phase at real world military outfitters that we have relationships with.
Nrama: You’ve become well-known for your gun-toting heroes, from Who is Jake Ellis to Dancer and The Activity. How do you feel about that, and what does it allow you do to with Punisher?
Edmondson: I suppose at some level my previous stories have given me practice and experience with the kind of character we're writing in Punisher, but at the same time each character is wholly new; for one thing, I haven't written a lot of Marines so far. I don't really feel like I'm drawing on past experience for this, except that Mitch and I are bringing some of the authenticity we learned working on The Activity to the military side of Punisher.
Nrama: Speaking of The Activity, I can’t help but asking – how did it end up being the two of you together on this? Did they approach you jointly?
Edmondson: No, not exactly; I was offered a few books to choose from for the launch and I told them that I really wanted to work with Mitch on something. Punisher could not have been a more perfect fit for us, and Marvel really believes in creators with strong chemistry. So from the moment we started talking Punisher, it was Mitch and I both on the ticket, really. We conceived much of the story together, though Axel Alonso and Stephen Wacker and Jake Thomas --our editorial team--had some great ideas to begin with in terms of the direction of the story.
Gerads: It's been absolutely incredible. Working with Stephen Wacker, Jake Thomas, and Axel Alonso continues to be a ton of fun. I'm such a Marvel animal so getting to play in the official sandbox is a career high for me.
Nrama: Was does this work for you and Mitch on Punisher mean for the future of The Activity?
Edmondson: We were already planning a break from the series, in part to take time for collections and some other things going on with the property.
Gerads: We've still got the extra-sized The Activity #16 left. I'm working on it as much as I can to get it out as fast as I can. It's really an absolutely incredible wrap-up to this volume of the book. Nathan really outdid himself with this one. I'm really doing my best to get it wrapped up while also working on Punisher. Also, there's some very exciting stuff happening with The Activity that we can't talk about just yet. Secrets!
Edmondson: I wrote a post about it on my blog that goes into (some) more detail.
Nrama: Last question – can you give us a hint of what to expect as issue #1 of Punisher opens?
Edmondson: First you'll get the Punisher doing exactly what he should be doing: taking out some nefarious criminals. We'll see his daily life in LA.
Gerads: Immediately you're given a small glimpse of the big picture story of the series. Just who are the 131? The answer: is awesome.
Edmondson: It's a helluva a first issue. Don't miss it.