Reaching a "Dead End": Rick Remender on The Punisher

Rick Remender on The Punisher

Punisher #5

Marvel Comics’ The Punisher has been turning some heads in recent months in his new monthly series by Rick Remender and Jerome Opena. He’s not just targeting street level thugs, punks, pushers—he’s had his sights set on some baddies along the lines of Norman Osborn and The Hood. And guess what? They’re not too happy. So, in last week’s issue of Punisher, The Hood decided to call in some reinforcements—from the afterlife.

Fans may have noticed that the villains who were resurrected in Punisher #5 all had something in common—they were all murdered by the same guy, Scourge, or more correctly The Scourge of the Underworld—the most deadly of deadlies, a serial killer of super-villains. At times, he kind of made Frank Castle look like ‘Diet Vigilante’—just one calorie short of being the guy who gets his hands dirtiest. Well, the villains are back—and for some reason—The Hood has them all putting Frank Castle at the top of their ‘To Do’ lists in the next act of The Punisher entitled, ‘Dead End’.

Newsarama contacted Rick Remender to talk about the Dirty Dozen and Frank’s turn of bad luck that’s coming in the latest arc of his mainstream series.

Newsarama: Rick, Punisher #5 has hit and things couldn't be any worse for Frank Castle; let’s start this at the top: who are the members of The Deadly Dozen?

Rick Remender: There are seventeen villains, all victims of Scourge, that have been resurrected; some of them group up and name themselves “The Deadly Dozen” and some of them don’t. Do you want the whole list? There’s The Fly, Letha, Megatak—the Living Computer Program, the Hijacker, Firebrand, my two favorites—Basilisk and Death Adder—they’re some bad mother @#$%-ers to deal with. Let’s see…Black Abbot, Miracle Man, Cyclone…they’re all a part of The Hood’s plan—he thinks they’re going to be easily manipulated into killing Frank Castle. He’s probably right.

NRAMA: What's the premise for the next arc, ‘Dead End’?

Punisher #6

RR: “Dead End” is an exploration of Frank’s psyche and what he’s dealing with in regards to the offer The Hood has made him to bring his family back. Frank can’t sleep at night; he’s riddled with nightmares. In his waking life, in front of Henry, he tries to appear as if it’s business as usual but he’s becoming worn down. He’s out hunting all night and he doesn’t sleep—he doesn’t eat—and the whole arc begs the question, “If Frank could have his family back and his war on crime was over…could he stop killing?”

He’s really wrestling with that issue and he’s also torn over making a deal with the devil to get your family back. He’s got a lot of difficult choices to make—because none of the answers to these questions are going to be easy. While we’re dealing with Frank’s bad headspace—we’re also dealing with some of Henry’s personal issues as we reveal more of his background and its connection to Frank. Readers will get a better idea of who Henry is and why he’s involved in Frank’s life.

So, as they’re both dealing with their own demons and hiding them from one another, their working relationship takes a hit. Then in comes this army of new super-villains led by Microchip who are all highly motivated to kill Frank Castle and we find our guys in a bad spot of trouble. I’m sure readers have figured out by now that Microchip has several motivating factors for wanting Frank to go down. We get a look at them in this arc.

So, yeah, basically, there are some bad times ahead for Frank and Henry.

NRAMA: The solicits for August have hit--what can you tell readers about the cover of Punisher that really The Avengers circa 1987?

Punisher #8

RR: Without giving away too much about the storyline—all I can say is that Microchip has access to all of The Hood’s technology—and I know this is difficult for some readers to wrap their heads around still—but The Hood is the kingpin; The Hood is the ‘the guy’ who runs all of the super-villains and crime in the Marvel Universe—and he’s got access to some wild stuff, let me tell you.

NRAMA: Taking on a bevy of Marvel heavies seems to up the ante for a lone guy with some guns; is there a challenge to tackling Frank's handicap against the likes of The Hood? Is it just an issue of keeping the two of them at a distance?

RR: Well, they have a head on collision coming up—and the way that plays out will be pretty interesting. I’ll just say that it gets interesting because…they are other ways to hurt someone than physically. You have to remember that Frank is smart—if Captain America is the ultimate ‘Super-Soldier’ then Frank Castle is the ultimate ‘Street-Soldier’. Frank’s not still out there because he’s this savage brute; he’s calculating and I think when he and The Hood finally square off he’s going to have an ace up his sleeve. Hell, The Hood might just have a couple aces up his sleeve as well. Neither one of these guys is stupid.

NRAMA: Frank's becoming more inventive with his arsenal; he actually did some pretty nasty work on some guards with some Pym tech—will his usage of superhero tech have some repercussions down the road?

RR: Only in that the stuff he’s using enables him to fight people that he shouldn’t be fighting on a regular basis. When you think about it, even the Scourge villains we’re bringing back, who may not seem like that big of a deal one-on-one, are now augmented by The Shaolin Scientist Squad and equipped by The Hood’s Black Stream organization—and there are a lot of them! (laughs)

They’ve all got a lot more power now; it’s highly likely that this band of villains will #$%@ Frank up. I don’t think Frank would stand a chance against them if he didn’t have his arsenal. No matter how much of a badass you are, if you’re a soldier with just a knife who is about to take on an entire army—you’re going to find yourself in a bad spot; whereas, if you’re armed to the teeth and you’ve got the tools to do the job, you’ve got a better shot.

NRAMA: Is there a confrontation coming between The Punisher and The Green Goblin?

Punisher #7

RR: Yes, but I can’t go into that any further. Norman and Frank are going to have their day. I mean, he tried to assassinate the guy, you know?

NRAMA: That’s true. The Punisher has come a long way as a character; what are some of the challenges of keeping him fresh? Could there be an heir apparent to this sort of vigilante legacy or will Frank Castle always have a purpose?

RR: I think that the difficulty with anything that has a legacy and the idea of someone taking a character’s place revolves around the longevity of the character. A lot of Frank’s mythos and legend is built around the fact that this guy has been out there for decades unstoppable; doing his thing in the shadows taking down criminals like a gutter Batman. If anyone else were to try and dawn the costume, to be the next Punisher, it’s not like you can hand over his experience or his training; or his instinct; or his fighting ability; or his motivation. Those are all things you just can’t hand down to a successor. He doesn’t have a Dick Grayson.

NRAMA: Would you like to tackle some of Marvel's other dark characters--like Moon Knight or Ghost Rider?

RR: Absolutely, those are all fun characters—for me right now, that’s sort of the part of the Marvel Universe I want to hang out in…in the gutter—in the dark shadows. The supernatural stuff, the street level stuff—stuff like Frank’s battle—that’s the stuff that appeals to me.

NRAMA: What are your plans for convention season this year? Where can fans expect to see you?

RR: With the new baby, I’ve had to limit it—so I will be at San Diego and I think that’s going to be it for me this year. I have to wrap up Fear Agent and I’ve got Last Days of American Crime at Radical Publishing and I’ve got three projects going on with Marvel. I’m also wrapping up The End League and Gigantic—so suffice to say, I would be best suited at the computer making sure that all these things are going along smoothly and as good as I can make it for fans before hitting all the shows again.

NRAMA: You've been working with several up and coming artists on the contemporary scene--are there any veteran names that you'd like to see next to yours on the cover of one of your projects?

RR: Oh yeah, I mean that list would be long, long, long—off the top of my head, Kevin Nowlan always comes to mind; I don’t know how realistic that goal is but Kevin is one of my heroes. He inked Kieron Dwyer on a cover for one of my creator-owned books at Image. That was a real thrill for me. I’d like to work with a bevy of creators—John Romita, Jr., Adam Kubert—there’s just so many that my brain locks up; Chris Bachalo has always been one of my favorites since the Shade The Changing Man days. There’s just so many.

NRAMA: To close, in five words...or less, sum up why readers should be buying The Punisher for the upcoming arc?

RR: Five words or less? Boiling it down… I have the five in mind, I wish I could tell you—but that would be giving away too much.

NRAMA: Okay, you can do it in more than five words…

RR: Okay, cool—I think what we’re doing with Frank is making a new mythology for The Punisher. The fan reaction, if that’s any indicator of the stuff we’ve done so far, has been through the roof. With the stuff that’s coming up in the next five months, I don’t think anyone can see where we’re coming from and where we’re going to be going with Frank Castle. No one will walk away from these books disappointed.

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