Comics

Punisher: Dressed for War

Matthew Rosenberg outlines Frank Castle’s Marvel Legacy mission!

Image for Punisher: Dressed for War

The Punisher has never been timid with his firepower. Still, give the man a bigger weapon and you can trust he’ll find a bigger target.

So goes the premise of THE PUNISHER #218! On November 15, Frank Castle dons the War Machine armor and heads off to battle. Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Guiu Vilanova introduce the legendary soldier to Marvel Legacy—and a classic character pulling the strings of war.

We found Matthew Rosenberg field-stripping his typewriter and asked him a few questions about the upcoming story.

Marvel.com: Can you describe both the challenges and opportunities presented by putting Frank in the War Machine armor?

Matthew Rosenberg: I think the biggest thing—and maybe what makes this so fun—will be who The Punisher is at his core. Frank Castle, more than almost every other character in the Marvel Universe, does not change. He remains The Punisher when he fights Kingpin and The Punisher when he fights Daredevil. At the end of the world, in space, after death, as a monster, he remains a constant.

So taking his persona and what that means, and changing things around him—that feels exciting to me. There is no greater force in the Marvel Universe than Frank’s desire to punish people, and we’re going to give him the means to do that on a bigger scale. So doing that, but making it still feel like The Punisher, and feel fresh all at once, that’s the challenge and the opportunity. We have this idea, one that I think seems like the logical next step to Frank’s war, and we want to make folks feel comfortable and shocked by it all at once. Should be fun.

Marvel.com: How do you approach the symbolic nature of the War Machine being passed on? Does that carry any significance in this story?

Matthew Rosenberg: This won’t be a story about Frank becoming War Machine. One of the things I love about Marvel heroes in general is how the story is never about the suit or the equipment; it’s about the people on the inside. Everyone gets new costumes every few years, new powers, but their core humanity always counts. As much as they may have tried, when other people pick up the shield, they just aren’t Cap. Even without the bow, he’s still Hawkeye. Call her Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird, or Captain Marvel, it’s still always about Carol.

To me, War Machine will always be Rhodey. That’s War Machine, at the heart. He feels like this idealized version of what the armed forces can be. A hero, an Avenger, someone aspirational.

Frank Castle feels almost like the inverse of that. He received a little bit of power and took it to nightmarish extremes. I’m hoping that by giving Frank the armor, we can examine Frank’s legacy, but also Rhodey’s in a way. We have seen what this armor does in the hands of a true hero, now we see what happens when someone much scarier has it.  This is a story about how The Punisher part of Frank will infect anything he touches.

Marvel.com: How does donning the armor change things for Frank? Does it change his approach?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, that’s our starting point. Frank stands amongst the most dangerous men in the world with a bowie knife and a Beretta, so what happens when he has the power of a whole army at his disposal? There have always been some bad guys who he didn’t focus on—their scope seemed too big. That ends here. Nobody is safe. And we state that in a very simple way. Frank Castle goes to war with a whole country.

He won’t be reshaping the course of a neighborhood or a city, this man changes the geopolitical nature of the world through force. And what that means for the Marvel Universe could be major.

Marvel.com: This marks your first collaboration with Guiu Vilanova—how does his style aid the tone and storytelling of this book? What makes him a great choice for PUNISHER?

Matthew Rosenberg: Guiu has been amazing. His pages look so striking when the inks come in, and to me that always marks a great Punisher book—would it work in black and white? But yeah, he’s done an amazing job so far creating these epic settings and then putting this intense and intimate action inside of that. The quiet scenes feel moody, the violent scenes look crazy and explosive, and through it all he makes Frank Castle this unmovable force of nature. He has a real weight and presence on the page that I don’t think a lot of artists can pull off. I know folks will be blown away by what he’s bringing.

Marvel.com: For readers who might be considering picking up this PUNISHER series, why would you say they should follow through on that choice? For established fans, why should they stick with the book?

Matthew Rosenberg: I think the book works on a few levels by design. We want it to really have something to say about who The Punisher and what his place in the world has been and will be. And I think even if you don’t count yourself as a fan, or are a lapsed fan, an interesting character piece emerges from under all this armor. We’re telling a story about nationalism, a nation’s role as citizens of the world, war, greater and lesser evils, moral relativism, and the legacies we create and honor. There will be a lot to unpack for people interested in those discussions, I hope. It’s also about a guy in a badass mech suit blowing bad guys up.

And for longtime fans, which I consider myself, I keep hearing the same two things. The first: “You better get who Frank is and what he is about.” I think I’ve read every issue of THE PUNISHER ever. I’ve loved this character since childhood. I feel pretty confident we are being very faithful to that.

And the second thing I hear: “This better be #$!*%@& epic.” All I say to that is give us two issues. Read two issues of our book and if it doesn’t feel sufficiently #$!*%@& epic, please tell me what comics you read that do, because I want to read those.

Marvel.com: Last thing: how would you describe the tone of the book? The setting?

Matthew Rosenberg: All-out war.

Matthew Rosenberg and artist Guiu Vilanova’s THE PUNISHER #218 launches on November 15!