Salon doesn't want the Punisher to be popular with police
The Punisher is one of my favorite comic book characters. Created in 1974 by Gerry Conway and artist John Romita Sr. for Marvel Comics, he is a sociopathic vigilante and antihero who wages his own one-man war on crime. I have read almost every story that features the Punisher. I also wear a T-shirt emblazoned with his logo when I go to the gun range. In the original story, the Punisher (the character’s real name is Frank Castle) began his campaign of vengeance after his family was killed in a shootout between rival organized crime factions. Unlike characters such as Spider-Man or Captain America, the Punisher has no superpowers. Like my other favorite character, Hawkeye, the Punisher relies on training and discipline to accomplish his goals.Wait a minute, a Salon writer who makes use of guns?!? And all this on a site that can be just as gun control-advocating as any other of its sort. Wow, what'll they think of next?
Personally, I take issue with the assertion that Frank was depicted as a sociopath. There were stories where he could act relatively sane and respectable towards the various innocents and flawed-but-reliable guests appearing in his book. Yes, there may have been a few stories where his behavior was questionable, but let's remember, he's a fictional character, and if sociopathy is such a problem, then the writer should've taken it up with Gerry Conway and his successors long ago. And Conway, who's also mentioned in the piece, has long become a leftist loony tune joke.
They next point to a leftist story IO9/Gizmodo was running, about police in Kentucky who used the skull logo:
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Catlettsburg Police Department added the Punisher skull, complete with Blue Lives Matter slogan and flag decal, to eight of its vehicles. The city council and mayor approved the designs, which were essentially funded by local taxpayers. It’s part of a statewide effort to legally safeguard “Blue Lives Matter,” a pro-police movement, including a bill (which passed the House earlier this month) that would make attacking police officers a hate crime.And what does Salon's writer say?
Police chief Cameron Logan told io9 that they’ve since removed the car decals after receiving several phone calls admonishing the logo, as well as the inclusion of a Blue Lives Matter slogan on government property. He said he regrets using the image, calling it an oversight, and said in the future he’d do “a little more research” on the history behind some of Blue Lives Matter’s more popular icons.
The Punisher should not be a role model for police. His co-creator Gerry Conway confirmed this on social media. When asked about the Kentucky case, Conway replied, “He’s a complex morally compromised anti-hero, not to be emulated by cops. If a cop killed an innocent man and tried to cover it up, Frank might not hesitate to kill him. Not someone police should root for. As Castle himself said in my recent Punisher Annual story, ‘I’m not a good man.'”Groan. Here they go again, making American police out to be aggressors only, and refusing to acknowledge that people of different race aren't saints. They don't even acknowledge there's millions of police officials working in the USA who're of different racial background too. If a police officer's life was in danger of a violent criminal, as was the true story in Ferguson, does Conway think the Punisher should be seen turning his back? Besides, it's not like there weren't times when Frank did prove useful to police officials in past stories, many of which Conway didn't write himself. Indeed, now that I think of it, in the 43 years since he created the Punisher, Conway wrote very little of his own creation; it was successive writers, whatever their politics, who took up the task, and 3 of the most notable were right-leaning (Carl Potts, Chuck Dixon, Mike Baron). If it matters, yes, I figure it was around the turn of the century, some time after Microchip was turned bad and killed off in the original series (decidedly a mistake), that writing for Frank Castle went downhill, yet they spectacularly fail to admit that.
This is not a superficial coincidence where politics and popular culture just happen to intersect. It is symptomatic of a larger problem with America’s police (and police culture) where citizens — especially people of color, the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, as well as other marginalized and vulnerable people — are viewed as enemies rather than as individuals and communities that are to be served and protected.
Furthermore, while there were some crooked cops who appeared in the Punisher's original 3 series, there were also honest ones whom he helped, and/or showed no hostility to, even if he refused to allow them to arrest him (though there were a few times he wound up in prison). For example, I recall issue 81 of the flagship series from 1993 where the Punisher was investigating a policeman involved in criminal activity. An honest patrolman of a younger age realized during the climax that his partner was evil and tried to arrest the crook, but was injured. Frank managed to gun down the corrupt cop. The younger officer wanted to arrest Frank despite saving the day, but Frank respectfully refused. Before leaving, the good cop asked why he was keeping a lot of sandbags in one of his hideouts. Frank provided a simple explanation, "exercise." That's one example of a story where police weren't depicted negatively for the sake of it. Yet none of this matters to Salon. They go on to quote an alleged sociologist who said:
The Punisher employs such tactics as threats, extortion, coercion, blackmail, kidnapping, torture and murder to achieve his ends. Over the last few decades, American police forces are increasingly being caught (even more so on camera) using these very same vigilante tactics and are criticized for acting as through they are the law (rather than being servants of the law). The use of the Punisher as an avatar by local police departments and other law enforcement agencies may also worsen the well-documented psychological phenomenon where police are faster to shoot African-Americans than they are whites. It is reasonable to suggest, therefore, that the adoption of a vigilante killer’s logo (who murders with impunity and without consequence) could worsen and entrench this already extant pattern.Oh really, does he use those tactics? But from what era, exactly? First, look how they're confusing the Punisher's targeting of lethal criminals like murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals in years gone by with "murder". Say, does that mean self-defense is also out of the question? And about the blackmail and threats, didn't that occur during the time when left-wing writer Garth Ennis did the writing post-2000, at which time he contributed to some of Marvel's early political propaganda of the 21st century, like a story where Frank broke into the White House when Bush was president? (If memory serves, it was a story where Dubya could be seen drinking or something.) Fascinating how there's no distinctions made between good or bad story elements, let alone the entertainment value of the finished product. It's all just a big putdown of the vigilante concept as a whole, as only an ultra-leftist possibly could. In fact, by the logic they're going by, wouldn't that make the Punisher a creation to shun? Indeed, why's the writer of this silly rant even bothering to read anything Punisher-related? But hey, if he wants, maybe I'll buy all his inventory leading up to 1995! Then he won't have to worry about being a hypocrite.
Oh, and what proof do they have that police are more likely to use lethal force on racial minorities than whites? Or, why don't violent crimes committed by racial minorities matter? I noticed Conway had the chutzpah to suggest his fictional creation would side with rioters during Ferguson. And all the while, nobody has anything to say about the other criminal activities committed by Michael Brown, the man who assaulted officer Darren Wilson. The Salon writer continues to assail the right-wing with the following:
The embrace of the Punisher and the values he represents by a small-town police department also signals at the racist “law and order” politics that Donald Trump and other Republican elected officials have used since the 1960s to win public office. The emergence of so-called “Blue Lives Matter” laws are also a function of this resurgence of white racial authoritarianism and white supremacy, which too often deems human rights organizations such as Black Lives Matter to be a threat to white social and political power.Yes, keep going about how this is all the fault of conservatives, please. But liberals can never make mistakes. And innocent police officers are expendable, huh? They also quoted a would-be expert on police matters, who concluded:
[...] Perhaps letting The Punisher loose on society was not such a good idea.Perhaps ignoring the violent criminal activities of felons he was usually seen going after in the original series runs is not such a good idea. But hey, if that's what they think, then they don't have to read any Punisher material, because that'll only validate the concept of vigilantism. Speaking of which, they doubtless consider Power Man and Iron Fist illegitimate too, don't they? Why, I'll bet they don't even approve of the Vigilante Marv Wolfman created in the mid-80s in the New Teen Titans, Adrian Chase, who had a series published during 1983-88. Heck, they must not even approve of Batman! Why not just come out and say that they throughly disapprove of vigilantism?
While the Catlettsburg Police Department eventually removed the Punisher logo from its vehicles, the question still remains why police, the mayor and the city council thought it would be a good idea to use such an image in the first place. The answer lies in a broken police (and civic) culture that views the public — especially if they are black or Latino — as the enemy.Again, ignoring the millions of black/Latino police officials working in any and every city coast to coast. What if the answer is because they admire how Frank Castle was created to do a lot of the things regular police would have serious difficulty doing? Taking on some of the most truly deserving scum of the earth and penalizing them in ways the actual law enforcement would have to plow through red tape to get done? I'm not saying it is a good idea for police to use skull logos as symbols, but if it's all a form of admiration for what you can't manage as an official law enforcer, then it's not exactly the same as full embrace, is it?
For now, what's laughable is how somebody who has such an issue with any kind of quest for justice and practices with firearms could possibly be a fan of the Punisher. What's disturbing about the article is how it suggests the writer has a narrow idea of what the Punisher should be all about, and it may not be fighting street crime at all; just representing the kind of far-left politics writers like Garth Ennis dealt with over a decade ago when the Marvel MAX line was in publication.