One of the most memorable announcements of March's WonderCon was Space: Punisher, a four-issue miniseries moving the entire Marvel Universe to outer space, and telling the tale through a different-but-still-the-same Frank Castle's distinct point of view. Written by Frank Tieri and fully painted by Mark Texeira, the story begins in July, and also includes a four-armed Hulk acting as an interstellar Moby Dick and the nefarious "Avengers Federation," featuring what Tieri calls a "very unique take on long-time butler Jarvis. Newsarama talked to Tieri to learn more about the book.
Newsarama: Frank, with Space: Punisher, you're not just telling a new Punisher story, you're also presenting the Marvel Universe in a completely new context. With that in mind, why was it important for the first story told in this setting to star the Punisher?
Frank Tieri: It really just evolved that way. What eventually became Space: Punisher was originally my pitch to take over the regular Punisher book. I had an idea for the Punisher to go up against an intergalactic mafia (which I actually had to create since shockingly, Marvel didn’t really have one already) and they liked what I came up with so much that they decided it should be bigger than just a storyline in a book — it should be a whole new universe.
And that’s what it is, really… a whole new futuristic Marvel Universe. In space. (If you haven’t figured that out already.) [Marvel editor-in-chief and original Space: Punisher editor Axel Alonso] likes to say this is really a Marvel Universe story starring the Punisher and I’d say that’s probably accurate. When a series features Marvel mainstays like the Avengers, the Hulk, Dr Octopus, Magneto, the Red Skull, Ultron, Deadpool, Sabretooth, the Green Goblin, etc… Frank Castle is more our entry point into this whole new world than anything.
But what an entry point he is. When you sit down and think about it for a second… it’s the Punisher. With futuristic weaponry. Killing aliens and creatures from outer space. If it sounds crazy and off the wall, it’s because that’s exactly what it is.
Nrama: And though it is a new take on the Punisher, how consistent is this version of the character with what we know of Frank Castle from over the years?
Tieri: There’s certainly differences — this Punisher has a spaceship named Marie, he has a sidekick robot named Chip… and ya know, he’s in ^&*@in’ outer space — but essentially, it’s still the Punisher. Still a guy who lost his family to the mob (the mysterious Six Fingered Hand, in our case). Still a guy hell bent on vengeance. Still a guy who’s going to kill a $%^&load of people.
He just has some shiny new space-age toys to do it with now, that’s all.
Nrama: A series like this, presenting redesigned and reimagined versions of multiple familiar characters, would seem to take a lot more advance planning and forethought than a typical four-issue miniseries — how long has Space: Punisher been in the works?
Tieri: For a while, actually. But that was mainly due to Axel Alonso abandoning us. (Why would somebody leave for another job and miss out on editing Space: Punisher? Oh well… we’ll never hear from that guy again)
Seriously though, the book’s in Steve Wacker’s office now and things are working out just great. He treats me twice as bad as Axel ever did.
Nrama: One of the threats in the story comes from the "Avengers Federation." What can you share about this group, and what familiar characters might count among their ranks?
Tieri: They’re not our Avengers, that’s for sure. If the Six Fingered Hand is what controls everything outside the law, the Avengers are the ones who rule what’s inside it with an iron fist. You can expect a lot of who you might expect… Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Captain America, Jarvis…
Yeah, I said Jarvis. And let’s just say I happen to think we have a very unique take on the Marvel U’s favorite butler…
Nrama: Speaking of familiar characters, it's been established that Hulk has a major role in the story, acting as an interstellar Moby Dick. Hulk is a character that has had many iterations and different physical forms — does this Hulk resemble any that we've seen before, or is it something totally new?
Tieri: Well, it’s sort of both, really. Again, like with the Punisher, there are definite differences-- — like the fact that he now flies through space, is all shiny like the Silver Surfer and has four arms — but there’s a lot of similarities to the purple pants wearing monster we all know and love, as well. (For instance, we have Bruce Banner, Doc Samson, the Hulkbusters… even a nod to a certain red counterpart.)
I think the main difference is our version is even more dangerous than the regular Hulk, if you can believe it. He roams the cosmos, destroying anything and everything that comes across his path. And needless to say, the main question readers will have to ask themselves is will that path of destruction include Frank Castle…
Nrama: Marvel vs. Capcom 3 dealt with multiple characters from the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe — did your experience writing that game help shape or inspire this series at all?
Tieri: Eh, I would say not really — especially since those cosmic Marvel characters of Nova and Rocket Raccoon don’t even appear in this series.
One thing I would say that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and its Ultimate follow up did show though was that I had the ability to write just about any Marvel character that was thrown my way if given the chance. I’ve always had the rep as a “bad guy” writer or a “tough guy” writer but MvC allowed me to write characters like Captain America, Storm, Rocket Raccoon, Dr Strange, etc… characters people wouldn’t normally associate with me.
And by the way? Since you brought up video games… I can safely say Space: Punisher would make for an awesome video game. Get on that, Marvel…
Nrama: For Space: Punisher, you're reuniting with artist Mark Texeira. How has the collaborative process between the two of you evolved over the years?
Tieri: Tex is actually a good friend of mine, so that always helps. Often when you’re working with an artist that you have no history with, there’s a feeling out process — you need to learn what their likes/dislikes are, their strengths/ weaknesses are, etc. With Tex, there’s none of that. We’re like an old married couple (as horrifying as that sounds) — if he has an idea on how to do a scene better or I don’t quite like a character design or whatever, we’ll just give the other guy a shout. I think the most important part of a good working artist/writer relationship is you check your ego at the door and the best idea wins — and I think me and Tex have that and it will very much come through in S: P.
Nrama: In your career, you've seemed to gravitate more towards miniseries, frequently ones that are separate from mainstream continuity. As a writer, is that type of story — and the presumably greater amount of freedom — simply more appealing to you?
Tieri: I like to take projects that I find interesting—and it’s that more than anything that’s what’s most appealing to me. (and some might also say I opt for the eclectic… Space: Punisher, X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula, Wolverine/Hercules: Myths, Monsters & Mutants, etc. I don’t think anybody can look at my body of work and say it’s been dull. Sometimes they’re in continuity, sometimes they’re not. I’ve gotten a kick out of writing monthly books like Wolverine or Deadpool and for crossovers like Civil War and Batman R.I.P.. Because, ya know, sometimes it’s actually nice to feel like you’re working on something that’s part of a bigger something.
And sometimes, it isn’t. Because, as you say, there can be a nice liberating freedom to not worrying about continuity. That’s what I have going on in Space: Punisher — this is my world to play with. If I want to have the Brood and the Venom symbiotes merge into a single race, I can. If I want to have an army of space Hitler clones running around with the Red Skull, I can. If I want Corsair to be the depraved owner of a Mos Eisley Cantina-like bar called the StarJammer, I can.
And I do. It’s the sort of stuff that fans who pick up the series can expect—along with plenty of mysteries, twists, über-violence and black humor thrown in for good measure.
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