When it comes The Punisher, the character isn’t just a favorite for comic book fans. For many who serve in the military and law enforcement, the character is a symbol. As a result the character’s symbol — the distinctive skull logo — is often used by military personnel and the police on everything from accessories, vehicles, armor, and even decorative artwork proudly displayed in offices and homes.
But, for Punisher creator Gerry Conway, those uses are disturbing and, more than that, offensive.
Conway recently spoke with SYFY Wire about his comic book career and The Punisher ahead of the premiere of season two of Netflix’s Marvel’s The Punisher series and in the interview, Conway opened up about his thoughts on police and military co-opting the logo.
“I’ve talked about this in other interviews,” Conway said. “To me, it’s disturbring whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He’s supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.”
Conway went on to explain that this co-opting of the symbol, the police and military are fundamentally misunderstanding the character, what he stands for, and are aligning themselves with a criminal.
“The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically sides with an enemy of the system,” he said. “They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.”
Conway isn’t wrong. While The Punisher (real name Frank Castle) does ostensibly wage war on people who kind of deserve to have some bad things happen to them in both the comics and the television series, he does it entirely outside of the system, employing tactics of murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, torture, and more to meet his goals. It’s a brutal strategy, one that allows no room for the rule of law that governs our society and with Punisher being judge, jury, and executioner, for those in authority to bear his symbol sends a dangerous message.
“It goes without saying,” Conway said. “In a way, it’s as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he’s also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal’s symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.”
What do you think about Conway’s thoughts about the use of the Punisher logo? Let us know your take in the comments.
Marvel’s The Punisher Season Two debuts on Netflix January 18th.