Late last month, Marvel released a week of teaser images showing members of the Avengers targeted by an unknown assailant — before paying off that it was promoting an October-debuting miniseries using the familiar Punisher: War Zone title. Sunday afternoon during Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man panel at Comic-Con, details arrived that it's from the Punisher team of writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto, who are wrapping their run on the character with the five-issue series. Newsarama talked with Marvel senior editor Stephen Wacker to learn more about the impending war between Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Frank Castle, and why it might be more even than you think.
Newsarama: Stephen, structurally, why was it important for Punisher: War Zone to exist as its own, separate miniseries, rather than as five issues of the ongoing Punisher series? How much is it an extension of what Greg and Marco have been doing on that book?
Stephen Wacker: It's a direct continuation of Greg and Marco's plan. What we were faced with was a situation where we had a book that getting great critical notices and our job is to find a way to get it under as many noses as possible. There's no doubt that a new #1 will do that. It fit in precisely where Greg had an act break, so we're taking the shot.
Nrama: Though obviously there's a long way to go before October and issue #1, what can be said at this point to what incites the Avengers to target Punisher, who's obviously been doing things counter to their way of thinking for years? And does the climate of the post-Avengers vs. X-Men landscape play into it at all?
Wacker: Frank's been a long existing problem for a number of heroes. As we near the next few issues of Punisher we'll see the stakes raised in a very personal way that will force several hands.
Basically Frank Castle is compromised and the Avengers — distracted by the events of recent months — now have no choice but to engage.
Nrama: In that regard, Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers are certainly the more conventional heroes, so does that make the Punisher the villain in this book? Or is it, as it so often the case, not quite that simple?
Wacker: Personally I think the Punisher is the villain of every issue… even when my heart agrees with him.
Nrama: Also, as tenacious and persistent as Frank Castle may be, it's hard not to view him as hopelessly outmatched against the Avengers. Does he realistically have a, wait for it, shot in this war? Is he aided by allies, or weaponry that helps tilt the scales?
Wacker: If it takes the Avengers to try and bring you down… then it's fair to say you're rarely outmatched.
Frank plans. And plan. And plans. While you're out enjoying the summer sun and reading your comics… Frank plans. I don't believe for a second that he didn't think this might be a possibility at some point.
Nrama: At face, the story seems similar to past ones like Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe or Marvel Universe Versus the Punisher, but with the pronounced difference of being set in the Marvel Universe proper. Is that a semi-accurate way of looking at this? Did those books inform the development of this story at all?
Wacker: Not really. This was all party of Greg's initial ideas for the run. While I love both those books, they're ultimately over-the-top and in their way… fun. (At least I thought so.)
War Zone will be much more in line with the silent, heavy-hearted Frank we've seen for the past couple years. I don't see Greg's Punisher as bloodthirsty, I see him as focused and reluctant to engage unless he has a precise plan. This what Rucka does best… systematically making the fantastic seem real… and showing you precisely how it's done.
Nrama: The teaser campaign that rolled out in advance of the series reveal certainly suggested that Marvel is treating this like a big deal. Is part of the goal to firmly establish Punisher as a major player, and one that merits inclusion among Marvel's biggest icons?
Wacker: That's the message. Those teasers came about from our brilliant artist Marco Checchetto who drew all the pieces as parts of one amazing cover. (He's Italian, so I assume it was created in an evening of romance, wine and inspiration.)Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!