Growing out of Marvel's recent relaunch of the Punisher MAX title, the upcoming one-shot Punisher MAX: Get Castle by writer Rob Williams and artist Laurence Campbell finds the dark-haired demolition man going to the United Kingdom to do that voodoo that he do so well.
As the title reflects, this special in some ways a homage to the classic Brit cime film Get Carter which saw a young Michael Caine as a mobster seeking revenge in the death of his brother. In the case of this one-hot, the victim on need of avenging is Castle's old friend Yorkie, who was killed by Barracuda in an earlier issue of Punisher MAX. As it turns out Yorkie's son is up to his neck in danger courtesy of his father’s old S.A.S. squadron fresh home from a "vacation" in Afghanistan. They're holed up in the S.A.S. training ground, and Castle's got to go in.
For writer Rob Williams, this is the latest in a surge of work done in the past 18 months. After finally seeing his miniseries Cla$$war get collected (and signed for a feature film adaptation shortly after), he recently began writing a Robocop series for Dynamite. This is Williams' second work for Marvel, after doing a 2006 Wolverine Christmas Special.
But Williams is back at the House of Ideas, and his Wolverine collaborator Laurence Campbell is joining him. Campbell's done several Punisher arcs before, but this one's special for both because it takes place in their U.K. homeland. For more, we recently talked with Williams by email from his home in Wales.
Newsarama: So Rob, what can you tell us about Punisher MAX: Get Castle?
Rob Williams: It's taking Frank out of his comfort zone a little and placing him somewhere that feels a million miles removed from the streets of New York. We start out in the bright lights of Manhattan and end up on the rain-swept mountains of the Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales, which just happens to be where the SAS train their new recruits. Frank's going up against a squadron of the best soldiers in the world. "Those Yank Special Forces boys can suck my granny's hairy &%$£" as the leader of our SAS squadron says. And them's fighting words."
Nrama: 2. The title – it’s a homage to Get Carter, right?
Williams: Yes. That was the basic high concept - Frank comes to Britain, a duck out of water, on a similar revenge mission. It's 'Get Castle'. Laurence Campbell actually came up with the title during a conversation a few years back. It just seemed too perfect. Then it was a case of where we took it from there. There's a few fun homage-y moments in Get Castle but we wanted to make this an autonomous story in its own right, not a cover version, if that makes sense. Get Carter's obviously an inspiration though. Laurence and I pitched it to Axel Alonso at the New York Comic Con a few years back and his immediate reaction was: "Get Carter is my favorite movie." So we thought we were onto a winner.
Nrama: This one-shot explores Punisher’s old friend Yorkie, who was killed a while back by Punisher foe Barracuda. What made you want to go more into Yorkie and his life?
Williams: Well, first off, the Ennis run is just one of the best written comic books you're ever going to read. Yorkie was Frank's friend. Not in a smiles, laughs, pats on back type of way, but in Frank's life, just the fact that Yorkie did him the occasional favor is about as close as Frank would allow anyone to get. So Barracuda murdering Yorkie and his wife in their home as a means of getting to him? That's going to play on Frank's mind. I figured Frank thought he owed Yorkie, and when we were looking for a means of emotionally tying Frank into this story - giving him something that would drive him to travel across the Atlantic, something with a bit of weight and personal importance, Yorkie seemed a logical connection.
Nrama: Getting this in one issue – extra-sized as it may be – is like its own little graphic novel. What’s the challenge in fitting it all into one concise issue?
Williams: It's funny, you start off being given 32 pages and you think - 'plenty of room'. But that disappears very quickly when you start breaking the issue down. I wanted to put Frank in a mentally bad place prior to even leaving the States, so he's troubled by the time he arrives in Wales. Then there was setting up the need for revenge, establishing the link between Frank and Yorkie, making this story a real, tangible, dangerous mission for Frank, fun new characters, the sense of threat, and then of course the all action final act. Put it his way, I didn't exactly have a lot of room for double splash pages.
Nrama: I don’t mean to offend you, but I’ve seen in the past writers bring characters into their own countryside – in your case, England. With Marvel and DC comics having long associations with British writers and seeing them bring characters “across the pond”, what did you see in bringing Punisher to England? And what do you think of the trend?
Williams: None taken. Well, the thing I thought was fun about this from a personal perspective was bringing Frank to Wales, which is where I'm from, and which has specific differences from bringing him to England. Frank asks one of our characters why the SAS should care about a "pissant little farming town." Brecon's a tiny place, surrounded by hills and sheep and a biblical amount of rainfall. It's a total contrast from Frank's normal stomping ground of Manhattan, something we play on in the story. Also, I thought it was funny to place a character like Frank on the "4:45 train from Hereford." Mixing the mundane with this terrifying killing machine. Brecon's not that far from my hometown. I liked the idea of placing Frank in that alien, grey environment. I think there's a fair few nasty pubs, clubs and housing estates in South Wales where Frank would fit right in.
Nrama: Since you talk about this taking place not far from your hometown, did you do photo ref or set it in any specific real-life locations? And does Laurence share your familiarity with the region?
Williams: I sent Laurence some photos for reference as he's not been to Brecon. The Brecons have this really bleak aesthetic when it rains, which is odd as it's a beautiful place when the sun's out (which isn't that often). I wanted us to capture that bleakness and Laurence really nailed it. Just check out the first Brecon panel in the issue and what Laurence has done with the clouds and the sky. It looks like the world's about to end. And then things get an awful lot worse.