People are calling on Marvel comics to consider retiring The Punisher character in light of his symbol being seen on rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
The character’s symbol has been a topic of debate for years after it was adopted as a symbol of pride among some in the U.S. military and law enforcement, as well as some far-right activists. Many have found it alarming that police, as well as potentially violent right-leaning groups, find kinship with Marvel’s most violent and murderous anti-hero.
For those unfamiliar, The Punisher, first introduced by Marvel Comics 1974, is the alter ego of Frank Castle. After witnessing the murder of his family, Castle uses his skills as a military veteran in a one-man war against crime. However, unlike other Marvel heroes like Spider-Man or Captain America, Castle isn’t shy about employing torture, violence and even outright murder as a means to his end.
Some people at the Capitol riots, including the person who was photographed carrying zip ties, were sporting The Punisher’s infamous skull with long teeth symbol. As a result, there have been renewed calls for Marvel to either enforce its intellectual property on the symbol or retire the character altogether.
"The seditionists that invaded the Capitol today wore a Punisher logo. I say @marvel needs to either aggressively enforce their trademark so it isn’t printed everywhere or abandon the Punisher completely. You can’t allow your characters to be used by terrorists," one critic wrote.
"I’ve attempted to articulate my thoughts on the controversy of the Punisher, his place at Marvel and in our own reality, to take a closer look at how to move forward with the character," another user wrote. "There’s one thing that is certain, it’s time for a change. An all too necessary evolution."
"When it comes to Punisher (Pepe, PogChamp, etc), it doesn't matter what meanings were originally intended. Enough people see these symbols as aligned with their beliefs and the continued use of them encourages those people to think their numbers are larger. It's that simple," a third person added.
Representatives for Marvel did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Although some have called on Marvel to take action, others have defended the character against those who they say misinterpret his intention. Among them is the star of the most recent live-action adaptation of The Punisher, "The Walking Dead" actor Jon Bernthal, who spoke out on Twitter about the situation.
"I’m with you. Beautiful work," he said in response to a person’s artwork of his character. "These people are misguided, lost, and afraid. They have nothing to do with what Frank stands for or is about. Big love. J."
Comic book writer Garth Ennis, who presided over perhaps the most famous comic book storyline for The Punisher starting in 2000, pulled no punches in denouncing the rioters who wore the symbol at the Capitol building in an interview with SYFY WIRE.
"The people wearing the logo in this context are kidding themselves, just like the police officers who wore it over the summer," he told the outlet. "What they actually want is to wear an apparently scary symbol on a T-shirt, throw their weight around a bit, then go home to the wife and kids and resume everyday life. They've thought no harder about the Punisher symbol than the halfwits I saw [on Wednesday], the ones waving the Stars & Stripes while invading the Capitol building."
The last time that The Punisher’s logo was so hotly debated was when it started showing up on counterprotesters opposing Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer. That prompted the character’s co-creator Gerry Conway to help create a line of clothing that incorporates The Punisher logo into clothes designed by Black artists that helped fund the Black Lives Matter organization.
"For too long, symbols associated with a character I co-created have been co-opted by forces of oppression and to intimidate black Americans. This character and symbol was never intended as a symbol of oppression. This is a symbol of a systematic failure of equal justice. It’s time to claim this symbol for the cause of equal justice and Black Lives Matter," Conway wrote in a statement at the time.
Newsweek reports that in a July 2019 issue of "The Punisher," the character himself addressed the issue of police heralding him as a hero.
The scene sees a pair of officers excitedly meeting Castle in an alley. He tells them in no uncertain terms that their oath to uphold the law makes what they do different from what he does. The scene concludes with Castle threateningly saying that if they continue to worship him, they’ll be next on his hit list.