In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.
Sometimes the sliding timescales used in most comics are a bitch. But some are worse than others, especially when it comes to origin stories. It’s fairly easy to keep Spider-Man rooted in modern times, but a little hand-waving needs to be done to get Iron Man away from the Korean War. And the less said about Reed Richards stealing a rocket-ship in order to “beat the Commies” the better. But few origins have created as many headaches as the Punisher’s.
Now, the exact circumstances of his family’s death are pretty fluid. As long as they’re killed by some kind of criminals, Frank’s good to don the skull and start punishing. But the man himself, that’s another story. After he first appeared in 1974 it was quickly established that he was a veteran of the Vietnam War. This fit the character perfectly, as such a military quagmire has arguably never been experienced by America before or since. But as time has moved on, and the sliding timescale of Marvel Time has moved slowly along with it, it gets harder to ignore the fact that Frank is portrayed as younger than he should be while still retaining ties to ‘Nam. Now, the MAX series is it’s own beast, and they’ve pretty much aged him however they see fit. That’s fine, since he’s not interacting with other 616 characters in it. But in the mainstream continuity, something needs to be done. I’ve got two solutions.
First off, right now Frank’s running around in the FrankenCastle arc of his own book. It’s be really easy to de-age him upon the conclusion of that story. Just stick his brain in a clone of his original body and boom, instant younger Punisher. But then there’s the idea I can up with a while ago, before Frank got sliced up by Daken. And it involves embracing a piece of Punisher continuity that most fans would rather ignore.
Yes, I’m talking about the time Frank was manipulated by demons into killing himself and was resurrected as an angelic assassin. Good idea? Bad idea? Save that discussion for later. I’m more interested in it’s after-effects. No matter how hard you might want to forget it, it happened. Garth Ennis even mentions it in the first issue of his run. According to Ennis, when Frank refused to work for Heaven, they took him up, showed him the paradise his slain family was in, then cast him back down to Earth as punishment. Frank being Frank, this only invigorated him. But let’s take a second and examine his return to life. It was never said exactly how he was returned, so why should it be assumed he just got back his body the way it was before his death? The agents of Heaven are, after all, supposed to be the Good Guys, right? It would make sense they’d know their actions would reenergize Frank, so wouldn’t it make sense for them to put Frank back in a younger version of his body? That way their “punishment” looks even worse, forcing him to live longer, with the true goal being to give him more time with which to rid the world of scum and killers. And now a younger Frank Castle is walking around Marvel, back in his physical peak and still haunted by his experiences in Vietnam. It’s a win for Heaven, a win for Frank, and a win for Marvel readers.
Still a loss for criminals, but not everyone gets a happy ending, right?