Sometimes, taking a character out of his comfort zone means his reaction will change.
But not so much with Frank Castle.
Preview pages meant for mature readers
page 1With this week's Punisher: Frank Castle Max #71 from Marvel Comics, crime novelist Victor Gischler begins a four-issue storyline titled "Welcome to the Bayou," putting the Punisher smack dap into the back woods of Louisiana -- far from his usual haunts in the mob-infested streets of New York City.
"How characters react when they're in unfamiliar surroundings is always interesting, but what's interesting about Frank is that he feels ultra-confident no matter where he is. He adapts and charges forward," Gischler said.
page 2The story, which features pencils and inks by Goran Parlov, involves something that happens to Frank "sort of out of the blue," Gischler explained. "He's actually on another job, when some suspicious bayou action presents itself. Frank likes to make things his business."
While driving through Louisiana, Castle discovers the Geatraeuxs, a group of strange characters that Gischler called an "odd, backwater family up to no good. Sort of Deliverance meets Devil's Rejects meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
page 3"Frank's ability to take punishment and then to dish it out is always what makes Frank great. Put most of us in the same situation, and we'd curl up and cry ourselves to death. Not Frank. He takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'," Gischler said. "He is one of the most purely physical characters I've ever written.
The author admits that the Geatraeuxs are a little cliché. After all, he lives in Louisiana, so he should know.
page 4"I thought it would be pretty cool to set something here in the state where I live," Gischler said. "It's important to note I'm engaging the 'cliché of Louisiana' -- the backwoods rednecks, gator-infested swamps, etc.," he said. "I love to work with cliché ... and it's important to note the difference between working with cliché and relying on cliché. Relying on cliché is lazy writing. But knowingly fooling around with cliché can be interesting."
Since he started writing the Punisher MAX series last year, Gischler has been using his experience as a crime novelist to give the comic stories a unique twist -- and "Welcome to the Bayou" is no different.
page 5"I'm trying to bring a different notion of crime here. It doesn't all have to be mob stories and tough guys," Gischler said. "The Geautreax family is living a lifestyle which is itself criminal (and a bit twisted.) Crime is more personal to people like this and less of a shadowy business endeavor.
The approach to Punisher must be working, because Marvel is giving the writer more work. Beginning in July, Gischler's new series Deadpool: Merc with the Mouth beings with a new #1 issue. "I'm pretty psyched about it, and I've been getting great feedback about it so far from the folks at the home office," Gischler said.
page 6The writer also has a new hardboiled crime novel coming out in August called The Deputy. And in Septemper, Touchstone will publish Vampire A Go-Go, a fantastic tale of alchemists, werewolves and vampires.
But Gischler said that while he broke into the business as a novelist, he's a comic fan at heart and loves the collaborative experience of working on a comic book.
"I'm not just the writer, I'm a fan. I've always loved the Punisher, so I hope I'm providing something readers will dig," Gischler said. "Comics are much more collaborative. It's got more of a team feeling. I'm actually having a ball."