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They laugh at the law. The rich ones who buy it and twist it to their whims. The other ones, who have nothing to lose, who don't care about themselves, or other people. All the ones who think they're above the law, or outside it, or beyond it. They know all the law is good for is to keep good people in line. And they all laugh. They laugh at the law. But they don't laugh at me.
~ The Punisher's speech during Return To Big Nothing.
The Punisher (real name: Frank Castle) is perhaps one of the best examples of an anti-hero - created and owned by Marvel Comics, this vigilante is both a protagonist (with his own series and film franchise) and an antagonist. He has also allied himself with the Thunderbolts.
Frank Castle was once a decorated U.S. Marine with a happy life and family, until one fateful and tragic day when he and his family accidentally stumbled upon a gang lynching in a park. His wife and children were gunned down and he was left for dead. Horribly scarred for life, Castle swore to "punish" all criminals in any way possible, and became a violent vigilante hellbent on wiping crime off the face of the earth.
The Punisher is a borderline sociopath who is obsessed with killing criminals - he does not just solve crime, he brutally punishes those who commit such acts. What makes the Punisher stand out from most anti-heroes is his tendency to utilize murder, kidnapping, torture, coercion, extortion, and other illegal methods to get the job done and he is rightfully feared and respected by those who know of him.
The Punisher has always been blurred between the distinction of "good" and "evil" but is as worthy of note as any other anti-hero in fiction (especially given his brutal nature).
Despite his faults, the Punisher does not wish for anyone else to follow in his own footsteps and he will not kill innocent people unless he knows they are secretly evil.
The Punisher is one of Marvel's most popular anti-heroes and has appeared in a great many media outwith his origins as a comic book character. Although the character is one of Marvel's most "mature" titles due to its graphic violence and controversial themes, the Punisher himself has appeared in media that is geared towards younger audiences. However, his personality is often softened somewhat and/or his violence toned down.
The Punisher differs from the majority of vigilantes. The Punisher works outside the traditional system of law and order. He is cold-blooded and cruel when it comes to killing criminals, but he cares about the lives of innocent civilians.
The Punisher possesses no superhuman abilities and succeeds solely through ingenuity and the rigorous training of his military upbringing, a finely honed killer instinct and an extensive arsenal of weapons culled from fallen foes and military allies.
Unlike most heroes, Castle has no dual identity, no "real world" job, no known hobbies, and few friends. He spends nearly all of his time planning his next hit, stopping only to recover from injuries or fatigue. Money taken from criminals is used to purchase food, weapons, ammunition, and pay the rent of his many safe-houses.
The Punisher also disregards what the police and the public think of him, and is known to kill corrupt cops. He is viewed as a dangerous criminal by the public and by most members of the superhero community.
Castle's years of vigilantism have made him increasingly suspicious and cynical about the capabilities of the American justice system, especially in regard to its failure to successfully prosecute his family's homicide, due to the witnessed killer's false alibi and the mob's influence in the New York City Police Department. The reason Castle kills those he regards as criminals is his desire to make them pay for the pain that they have caused.
An Army colonel who once questioned Castle asked him why in which he responded, "So they can't get away. So they can't profit from the misery they've caused." While it is true that Frank derives a dark pleasure from what he does, his motivation is that the thought of letting a criminal he could kill go would "drive him crazy." Some members of law enforcement are reluctant to arrest the Punisher because they believe he often deals with criminals that the law cannot convict. Additionally, several law enforcement officers would also supply the Punisher with information regarding any criminal enterprises which are too sensitive for them to bring down on their own.
Castle stated he did not want others to follow his path, on the grounds that his personal war against criminals was his alone, and he harbored resentment toward other (usually short-lived) vigilantes, taking exception at what he saw as their lack of "professionalism".
The Punisher knows that no matter how many hundreds or thousands of criminals he kills, it does not make a difference in the world. Frank knows that his actions do not make the world a safer place. Writer Steven Grantnotes that:
Heidegger, who took Kierkegaard's philosophy further, comes even closer to describing the Punisher: 'Since we can never hope to understand why we're here, if there's even anything to understand, the individual should choose a goal and pursue it wholeheartedly, despite the certainty of death and the meaninglessness of action.' That's sure the Punisher as I conceived him: a man who knows he's going to die and who knows in the big picture his actions will count for nothing, but who pursues his course because this is what he has chosen to do.
Even though he has stated several times that nobody should be like him (as toward a previous partner, Rachel Cole-Alves), he has not a single regret about what he does, as shown during his fight with Ghost Rider when he withstood his Penance Stare without even flinching.
Powers and Abilities
Nick Fury's intel classified him as being power level 6 or greater due to his fighting skills, his weaponry and his use of lethal force.
Master Martial Artist: Castle is a very thoroughly seasoned veteran in exceptional forms of several martial arts and hand-to-hand combat skills. Becoming highly adept in Nash Ryu Jujutsu, Ninjutsu, Shorin-ryu Karate, Hwa Rang Do, and Chin Na. His styles of choice being Nash Ryu Jujutsu.
Weapons Specialist: As an authority on biological warfare, the Punisher is recipient of multi-disciplinary military knowledge from the United States Arm Forces. Thanks to this and continued training, the Punisher is a master in most weapons favoring daggers and long-range shooting weapons.
Krav Maga Knife Training: Castle has instilled much of the techniques in Krav Maga to his knife fighting and close range weapon attacks. Known for its extreme efficiency and brutal counter-attacks in real-world situations. Krav Maga has a philosophy emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers, with high aggression. He tends to carries up to three or four different types of edged weapons, preferring the knife he learned to fight with in the USMC: the KA-BAR.
Expert Marksman: He is an exceptional marksman of every type of firearm who is sometimes depicted as being ambidextrous in this respect. He is skilled in sharpshooting and knife throwing as well.
Expert Pilot: Castle received helicopter training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command.
Interrogation Expert: Castle uses his interrogating skills to get information from people who has links to criminals through very creative use of torture as well such as water boarding, electrocution, suffocation, sleep deprivation, starvation, etc.
Extensive special ops training: Besides his Marine training, Castle also received U.S. Navy SEAL/UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) training, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) training, U.S. Army Ranger training, U.S. Army Airborne School training, U.S. Army Special Forces Q-Course training, and LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) training. He also took part in cross-training with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment.
Expert Tactician: Armed solely with conventional weapons and motivated by a fanatical hatred for criminals like those who murdered his family, the Punisher has single-handedly incapacitated up to a dozen well-armed and experienced opponents in a single encounter and escaped uninjured. It is his military training and his attention to detail that allows him to achieve this.
Pain Tolerance: The Punisher possess extremely powerful physical pain tolerance, Frank does not take even over-the-counter painkillers, believing that their benefit of dulling pain isn't worth the side effects of drowsiness or slowed reflexes.
The Punisher possesses the normal human strength of a 6'1" 200-pound man, who engages in intensive and extensive physical exercise. Frank is capable of press lifting up to twice his body-weight and can press lift 400 lbs. Frank engages in a brutal regimen of calisthenics, katas and firing range practice daily, maintaining his combat skills and he does not drink alcohol or do drugs.
Non-Superhuman Physical Conditioning: Castle is as susceptible to physical injury and disease as any other normal human, often having to rely more on strategy than strength when up against a superhuman opponent. However, different characters like Nick Fury have commented on how extraordinarily high his pain tolerance is. Frank does not take even over-the-counter painkillers, believing that their benefit of dulling pain isn't worth the side effects of drowsiness or slowed reflexes.
Military equipment as appropriate.
The Punisher's first outfit was a form-fitting black Kevlar bodysuit with a large white skull on his chest. According to Frank Castle, this drew the attention and the aim of the criminals to his heavily armored body, instead of his more vulnerable head. Each tooth of the skull was actually spare ammunition for firearms.
He later chose not to utilize any costume outside of a black shirt with a white skull splashed across the front. His other clothing, which sometimes included combat boots, blazers, leather jackets, trench coats, bulletproof vests, body armor, black battle dress uniforms, and camouflage outfits was worn for the sake of protection or camouflage in urban and wilderness areas.
Many vehicles such as van, cars, armored vehicles, HMMVW trucks, or any readily available vehicle.
The Punisher employs a vast array of conventional firearms including machine guns, rifles, shotguns, handguns, knives, explosives and other weapons culled from common and organized criminals and military sources during his operations. (His personal favorite sidearm is the M1911 .45 pistol).
A vast majority of his weapons have roots in military forces around the world, and typically employs weapons and accessories limited to military operations.
The Punisher often customizes his weapons for greater effectiveness with both standard and custom items including magnified optics, reflex sights, night vision scopes, flashlights, grenade launchers, sound and flash suppressors, bipods, high-capacity magazines and drums and various ammunition including hollow point or armor piercing bullets.