You ever see a list of the top Punisher villains? Probably not, because, thanks to the skill and dedication of Frank Castle, most Punisher villains tend to die very quickly in really horrible ways. It’s difficult to maintain a functioning rogues gallery when your whole mission involves blasting them into bad guy McNuggets at every oportunity.
There are some exceptions, however, the most notable of which is Billy “Jigsaw” Russo. Last season, Punisher’s arch nemesis Billy Russo had his visage horrifically carved up in the season finale, and he returns in The Punisher season 2 as a very different take on Jigsaw. His entry to the world of the sadly dwindling Marvel Netflix series of shows should be memorable and potentially violent.
Played by Ben Barnes, TV’s Jigsaw is very different than the comic book Jigsaw, but despite that, it is still fascinating to look at Jigsaw’s history to find hints and clues of what might be coming in the second season of Marvel’s Punisher. So let’s look book at some must read Jigsaw stories of the past and find out how this horrid killer has survived the Punisher’s war for so long.
The First Appearance:
The Amazing Spider-Man #162 (1976)
As you can see from the above, Jigsaw was co-created by the great Len Wein, the writer who also happened to co-create Wolverine and Swamp Thing, and the legendary artist Ross Andru. In this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, a sniper is loose in New York City and the police believe the marksman killer to be the Punisher. This case leads Punisher into a conflict with both Spidey and another Wein co-creation, the mutant Nightcrawler. When it becomes clear the Punisher is being framed, superhero, gun crazy vigilante, and X-Man all team up to find the sniper.
You can probably guess that the sniper was none other than Jigsaw who was out for revenge because the Punisher hideously scarred the murderous madman by smashing his face through a plate glass window. Sound familiar? Jigsaw was a walking, killing, raging reminder that the Punisher’s methods had consequences. And look, it took three legendary Marvel heroes to bring down Jigsaw in his first appearance, so the legacy of Jigsaw gets off to a blazing start!
Punisher Year One (1995)
Jigsaw’s origin is revealed in 1995’s Punisher Year One series. In this hidden gem of a mid-90s series (see not all of the ’90s sucked, kids), Jigsaw’s dark origin plays out as writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (co-creators of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy) introduce Billy “The Beaut” Russo. Billy is assigned by his mob bosses to assassinate Frank Castle after the gangland slaying that left Castle’s family dead. Russo plants a bomb in Castle’s home, but Frank does what he always does, he survives, and goes after Russo.
Castle tracks “The Beaut” and in their first confrontation, readers see the fabled plate glass window spot that Wein and Andru teased in Jigsaw’s Amazing Spider-Man debut. Castle smashes Billy’s handsome features into the window essentially turning “The Beaut” into rotten hamburger. Punisher Year One combines the origins of the Punisher and Jigsaw, essentially narratively linking the two arch foes forever, much like the Netflix series does.
A Deal with the Devil
Punisher #35-40, 55-56 (1990-1991)
In these hard hitting issues of The Punisher, Jigsaw teams up with a faux holy man drug lord named The Rev. The Rev has the powers to heal and finally cures Jigsaw’s mincemeat visage. That doesn’t make Jigsaw any less deadly as he continues to be obsessed with killing Frank Castle. The once again handsome Billy Russo goes after the Punisher and ends up getting himself killed.
Not wanting to lose his special little guy, The Rev makes a deal with the demonic entity known as Belasco to resurrect Russo (for those not in the know, Belasco is a one armed literal devil who is primarily a foe of the New Mutants and the X-Men). Russo goes after the Punisher again, but during a jungle battle, Castle gleefully tears apart Russo’s face. Who says Frank doesn’t have any hobbies?
If You Can’t Beat Him, Become Him
Punisher v3, #4 (1996)
Jigsaw’s obsession with taking down Frank Castle grows so deeply rooted, that when Frank Castle is arrested and seemingly executed, Jigsaw becomes embittered and begins murdering everyone involved with the Punisher’s demise. Donning a mockery of Castle’s Punisher gear, Jigsaw begins murdering all witnesses to the Castle execution.
It turns out the Punisher wasn’t actually dead so Punisher and his sometimes pal Daredevil team up to bring down Jigsaw. Jigsaw is absolutely overjoyed when he sees the Punisher is still alive. A weird cat, that Jigsaw.
That Time He Beats Up Tigra and Films It
New Avengers #35 (2007)
Wait, what? Jigsaw has been a puke inducing foe to many heroes of the Marvel Universe. In this particular tale, a story that will make you scrape your skin off with lye soap just to feel clean, Tigra prevents Jigsaw from robbing a bank. Humiliated, Jigsaw turns to the so-called Kingpin of Super Criminals, the mystically powered Hood, for revenge. The Hood and Jigsaw attack Tigra in her own apartment. As the Hood pistol whips and humiliates Tigra, Jigsaw films the whole thing. This leads to an alliance with the Hood and an attack on the Avengers.
Jigsaw stoops low enough to try and snipe the infant daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Thankfully, Spidey shows up and prevents this heinous act. But, jeez, poor Tigra. This non-Punisher appearance in New Avengers serves to solidify Jigsaw as one of the biggest scumbags in the Marvel Universe.
Punisher: In the Blood #1–5 (2010-2011)
Here, Jigsaw teams up with a similarly scarred dick named Stuart Clarke. Together, Russo and Clarke become the Jigsaw Brothers and hire the HYDRA hitwoman named Lady Gorgon to impersonate Punisher’s long dead wife Maria.
Of course, being the ultimate scumbag, Jigsaw betrays and murders Clarke and is seemingly killed by the Punisher while Jigsaw fights the skull-chested vigilante atop Jigsaw’s burning HQ.
The Punisher v7, #61–65 (2008)
The mature reader world of Punisher MAX is notorious for copious amounts of violence and gore. So you know when Jigsaw, the ultimate Punisher foe, shows up, things get turned up to the (dons sunglasses, looks into camera) max (“yeahhhhhhhhhh!”). In this storyline, Jigsaw is a drug lord that kidnaps women and children from nearby border towns to use as disposable slave labor in his meth lab. The families turn to Punisher for help.
Jigsaw tries to drive the Punisher insane by fooling the vigilante into believing he accidently shot one of the children. Punisher is forced to perform an autopsy on the murdered child and finds that the bullet didn’t come from his weapon. Needless to say, Frank is not happy and takes the fight to Jigsaw, burns the drug lab, frees the captive, and seemingly kills Jigsaw. Of course, like a horribly, horribly scarred penny, Jigsaw returns again and again to push the Punisher, an anti-hero already at the edge of sanity, even further over the edge.
The Punisher season 2 arrives on Netflix on Jan. 18.