It may not be The Walking Dead/Punisher crossover we’ve all dreamed of, but as announced yesterday at New York Comic Con, TWD writer/producer Scott Gimple will put on the skull-shirt this January for a five issue miniseries called ’Punisher: Nightmare.’ Working with artist Mark Texiera, the mini tells the tale of a man who’s family is murdered because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time… And that man isn’t The Punisher:
MTV Geek: What do you think it is about the Punisher’s origin that’s so compelling? What keeps writers returning to this moment?
Scott Gimple: I think, as a kid, seeing a life change so suddenly, so brutally, just hit me very hard. The man Frank Castle was died with his family, and yet he kept on living, basically as a vengeful ghost of sorts. He doesn’t take pleasure in what he does, he’s just compelled to do it. And yet, the thing that drives him is the very human hurt of loss — and I love the Punisher stories in which that little spark of humanity is the thing that messes him up.
Geek: Mark, graphically what’s your take on Frank? What does he physically look like?
Mark Texeira: Punisher is a self appointed urban-knight of victims. He’s of a massive but relative normal muscularity…C astle’s not the Hulk or Sabre-tooth, although he has no extreme ability outside of being ready for all conflict. His talent is war. His knowledge and excellent-use modern weaponry’s his power.
Geek: Who is Frank Castle? We’ve seen numerous takes on him, and his war on crime… At his heart, who is he to you?
SG: He’s a human being that’s given into his darker instincts from a benevolent place — he wants to eliminate those who victimize, hurt, and kill other people. He recognizes he is NOT a hero — he’s a killer, he’s a criminal. He knows he’s one of the bad guys. And I believe he looks at himself as someone who’s basically dead. His life is over; there’s nothing but the mission. He doesn’t have good days. He doesn’t have friends. If he didn’t have to eat, he wouldn’t. He just kills, he just survives. That’s it.
But I love that it’s never that simple. Frank can’t get away from the fact that he’s a human being. He DOES sometimes find himself in situations where does feel things. And that’s when things can get pretty interesting/awful for him.
Geek: Frank has never really been about protecting the innocent, so much as punishing the guilty. Is he attempting something different here?
SG: The story goes through a few twists and turns, and I wouldn’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say this: Frank starts in a place where he simply wants to punish the guilty. Things get complicated. He’s affected by circumstances, in a human way… for a millisecond. And that flicker of hesitation sets events in motion that make up the story.
Geek: Who is the guy he’s protecting, and what kind of nightmare are we going to see him sucked into?
SG: The guy in question is Jake Niman, a Special Forces vet recently back from Afghanistan — and his story is eerily similar to Frank Castle’s. Jake, too, finds himself losing his family after they stumble into the crossfire of a mob assassination in Central Park. Jake himself is wounded, burnt, and winds up in a coma. As Frank hunts for Jake’s family’s killers, he learns about Jake from blog entries Jake wrote while in Afghanistan. He gets to know Jake — and getting to know Jake changes Frank’s mission.
Geek: When you’re working on a Punisher book, how much is the focus on “cool kills” versus “he just blasts people non-stop with his guns.”
SG: I think the approach to action in general should be trying to pursue something novel and different. Using unexpected obstacles, difficult environments, surprising complications — and possibly injecting stuff in the action to somehow support the theme and emotion of what’s going on… It can’t just be a volume game — the way the action unfolds should be surprising in some way. I love what Mark does with action (hell, I love what Mark does with coffee cups — his work is SPECTACULAR in this book) — it’s kinetic/frenetic/crazy.
The villain that Frank eventually comes to face, Johnny Nightmare, is unlike any nemesis Frank has faced: shooting, stabbing, blowing him up… It only makes Johnny Nightmare stronger. That’s a particularly difficult problem for Frank to have. He doesn’t stop criminals by chatting with them.
Geek: Do you think there’s any chance of a catharsis for Frank?
SG: Frank will be fighting with that little spark of humanity that can often screw things up for him. Does that humanity win out? I ain’t sayin’…
Geek: Any final thoughts? Things you can’t wait for fans to see?
SG: It was a thrill to work with Mark. I’ve been reading his books since high school and I always felt his art put you right there with the characters on the page. He just sucks you into the worlds he creates. I can’t wait for fans to see what he’s done with this book. We worked hard to give readers an intense, emotional, mind-bending story with a villain as unique as the Punisher.
Nova hits comic shops January, 2013 from Marvel Comics.