Did you hear that sound yesterday? It was the sound of millions of Marvel fans’ jaws hitting the floor as they heard that Jon Bernthal, you know, freakin’ Shane from the freakin’ Walking Dead kicking ass as The Punisher on Daredevil Season 2. That’s right, Bernthal, an actor so intense you can almost cut yourself just by watching him, is brilliant as Marvel’s most intense anti-hero.
It’s time to take a look at some stand out Punisher and Daredevil stories in order to try and suss out what direction Marvel’s latest vigilante might take. The Man Without Fear and Frank Castle have a long history so we’re just going to try and hit a few highlights here. Enjoy!
Daredevil #183-184 (1982)
Writers: Frank Miller & Roger McKenzie Artist: Frank Miller
The first meeting between Matt Murdock and Frank Castle would forever define their relationship. Yes, the Punisher first appeared in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, but during these early appearances, he was little more than a half-assed bad guy with a handful of gimmicks. The character was loaded with potential, and through the contrast with Daredevil in these unforgettable issues, Frank Castle became a fully realized character for the first time.
Through Daredevil and Punisher, Miller and McKenzie created a tale of two vigilantes, one, in Daredevil, who was dedicated to the preservation of justice, and one, in the Punisher who was dedicated to the self indulgent satisfaction of vengeance. The story centered on the pair trying to bring down a PCP dealer who was responsible for the death of a little girl. Daredevil swore there would be justice and Punisher swore there would be vengeance and the mean streets of the Marvel Universe would never be the same.
The existence and actions of the Punisher truly forced Daredevil to confront this own mission and morality. Fans of the show will discover what comic fans found out in 1982: when Daredevil and the Punisher mix it up, volatile and thought provoking action follows.
“The Devil in Cell-Block D”
Daredevil #82-87 (2006)
Writer: Ed Brubaker Artist: Michael Lark
What’s more intense than a meet up between Daredevil and the Punisher? How about a team up inside a maximum security hellhole?
That’s right, Matt Murdock is arrested and thrown into prison. He’s not alone in there because the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen must share a cell block with the Kingpin, the Owl, Bullseye, and Hammerhead. Red was the new black as Daredevil had to survive life imprisoned with his greatest enemies in order to find a way to escape and find the man who seemingly killed his best friend Foggy Nelson. Always one for some general mayhem and a chance to disrupt some villainous plans, Frank Castle got himself arrested so he could give Matt some back up behind bars.
So what you had was essentially all the really cool members of Daredevil’s rogues gallery in a big house drama where Daredevil’s only back up was the Punisher. It’s awesome.
Punisher #3 (2000)
Writer: Garth Ennis Artist: Steve Dillon
As you can see from the above entry, there have been times where Daredevil and the Punisher have been on the same page. This stunning issue was not one of those times.
Tired of Matt Murdock’s morality, the Punisher got the drop on his scarlet clad sometimes foe and knocked the bejeezus out of him. When Murdock woke up, he found himself tied up with a pistol in his hands. Punisher then gave Daredevil an ultimatum: if the justice seeking lawyer didn’t shoot the Punisher, then he would kill a murderous criminal.
Frank Castle had a sniper rifle set up and was taking aim at his prey. Daredevil had a choice to make, would he commit a murder to prevent a murder? This was a culmination of the violent chess match that Daredevil and the Punisher had played for years as Frank Castle forced his adversary to see the world in the same way he does. Left with no choice, Daredevil pulled the trigger.
Of course, Frank Castle had removed the firing pin.
This was a moment that truly defined Frank Castle as more than just a killing machine. It showed that Castle was a Machiavellian plotter who could out fight or out think any opponent. Daredevil has rarely been defeated in the Marvel Universe, but because of the Punisher, Matt Murdock failed a true test of morality. And in case you were wondering, Frank still killed his victim and Daredevil could do nothing to stop it.
Marvel Knights (2000)
Writer: Chuck Dixon Artist: Ed Barreto
One time when the two found themselves on the same team, was in Marvel Knights, an obscure but fun little title published back in 2000. It featured a team of street level heroes informally teaming up and kicking ass. The two main draws to the book were, you guessed it, Daredevil and the Punisher. The two vigilantes formed an uneasy alliance to lead the team of mostly unpowered heroes.
Joining Murdock and Castle on this obscure gathering were Dagger (of Cloak and Dagger fame), Shang-Chi, and none other than current Avengers film superstar, the Black Widow. One of the central dramatic conflicts of the book was the constant struggle between Daredevil and the Punisher about how the unit would operate. Would they use lethal force like Castle desired or abide by a code of morality like Daredevil wished?
Marvel Knights didn’t last very long but man, was it fun with the street level heroes fighting such threats as the Asgardian brute Ulik the Troll. It also seems like the team dynamic introduced in Marvel Knights could serve as a structural and tonal inspiration for the coming Marvel’s Defenders Netflix series, especially if they decide to include the Punisher in that party.
Daredevil vs. Punisher: Means & Ends (2005)
Writer and Artist: David Lapham
One of comics’ greatest crime writers, Stray Bullets‘ David Lapham got to explore the Murdock/Castle dynamic in Daredevil vs. Punisher, which took place right after Wilson Fisk was disposed as the Kingpin of Crime. In this hard hitting series, New York is in chaos and both Daredevil and the Punisher try to restore order in their own unique way.
Hey, at the end of Daredevil season one, Fisk was certainly disposed, so could the second season deal with the power vacuum in New York’s underworld and if so, could we have a turf war similar to the one crafted by Lapham in this series? This series also featured some major crime figures from Marvel’s past like the Jackal and Hammerhead. Some day, we’d like to see them on screen, too.
This article originally ran on June 10th, 2015. It has been lightly updated since then.