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For the comic:

  • Acceptable Targets: Garth Ennis Really hates the IRA. He has several characters call them out in "Kitchen Irish" how stupid and cowardly they are.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Frank is usually treated as a absolute moralist who just happens to be fighting a neverending war on crime. Other interpretations imply he's just as bad as the monsters he fights and is little different from a serial killer. The only thing that stays the same is the reason why he became the Punisher.
    • Punisher: Year One has yet another take on Frank's character - he goes vigilante only after all other methods of bringing the mobsters who killed his family to justice fail spectacularly (the police is ineffective and corrupt; an attempt to do an independent investigation leads only to death of the reporter whom Frank briefly befriended).
    • Punisher: Born has a different take on WHY he became the Punisher. Frank fell in love with killing and made a deal with an unknown supernatural entity to fight a war that would last forever. He wasn't informed until later that the price would be his family, at which point the supernatural entity makes Frank forget that they ever made the deal.
  • Author's Saving Throw: For instance, in an early appearance, he tried to kill people for running stop signs and littering (this was Handwaved at a later date by saying he had been drugged by Jigsaw to make him more violent and hardline). Most notoriously, The Punisher: Purgatory turned the gritty, mafia-killing Vigilante Man into a literal avenging angel, which literally ended up more or less killing The Punisher as both a character and a series...at least, until Garth Ennis brought him back.
  • Complete Monster: Some versions of the Punisher would be this, but are aimed at targets that are even more extreme (similar to the premise of Dexter). Read The Slavers for probably the best example. Or, really, almost any MAX issue at random.
    • Nicky Cavella, among other things, thought that his shooting up of a rival gangster's staff, shooting two of his sons right in front of him, and then revealing that the dinner Kai was eating was his diced-up preteen son was Nicky being reasonable.
      • If one starts his criminal career by executing all his immediate family at the age of eight he's more or less bound to be this trope.
    • MAX Kingpin manages to hit this trope in record time in his second appearance by torturing his abusive father to death by paralyzing him and allowing Rats to tear him to shreds, murdering the wife of a man who raped him in prison, and shooting two of his own partners on the orders of a mob boss. Finally, he is faced with the choice of having his main rival slit the throat of his young son, or letting his enemies get away. Guess which option he chooses?
    • And then there's MAX Bullseye, who manages to be even worse and incredibly disturbing, even more than his mainstream counterpart. Hired by Wilson Fisk to kill the Punisher, he employs his MO of getting inside his target's head; he murders a man and takes his wife and children hostage and is shown cheerfully talking with them at the kitchen table whilst they're all bound, gagged, and crying (and it's hinted he raped the wife too). He then takes them out for a day at the park and has them gunned down by a group of gunmen, then says that now he'll have to find another family. He later explains to Fisk that he's trying to get inside Castle's head by experiencing the rage and sense of loss that the murder of his family provoked in him... but the problem is, to his own confusion, "I didn't feel a thing", and at this point, he's gone through four families this way in the space of a week. Even Fisk, who willingly sacrificed the life of his own young son in order to get ahead, is sickened by this.
    • As far as non-MAX examples go, there was a Psychopathic Manchild who paid money for the homeless to bring him corpses so that he could sleep naked between their rotting bodies.
      • This sickens a former Actual Pacifist next to Frank so much that she punches out his eye while screaming expletives at him. Said person was such a Wide-Eyed Idealist that she actually convinced Frank not to blow the brains out of the hobos who were providing him with corpses.
      • Said pacifist shows up later in the Slavers arc, containing three Complete Monsters, each worse than the last, as the stupid social worker thanks to whom the girl's baby is murdered.
  • Ho Yay: Franken-Castle's fight with Daken was filled with homoerotic banter.
  • Holy Shit Quotient: Issue 18 of the Punisher MAX series, the one by Jason Aaron, kicks things off by having Frank blowing Bullseye's brains out while he's in a coma. Then moves on to Kingpin laying waste to his own lieutenants, then has sex with Elektra amid the carnage, followed by Elektra and Mrs. Fisk getting it on, and finally, out of nowhere Frank digs up the remains of Kingpin's eight year old son.
  • Magnificent Bastard: General Zakharov of the Mother Russia and Man of Stone story arcs. He was sent to investigate the attempted theft of a bioweapon, and when the Punisher goes in to steal it he keeps his identity secret, to the point of letting Moscow think an American trained terrorist group who hijacked a plane for a suicide bombing on Moscow were Al Qaeda. He reasoned that Russia would be too scared to fight Arab terrorists, but were prepared for nuclear war with America, and watched as Castle hid inside a nuclear missile and faked a missile attack to escape. Then there was how he fought in Afghanistan...
    • Frank himself has his moments, such as how he gets out of a seemingly impossible situation during the "Mother Russia" arc, or in the one-shot "The Cell"...
  • Moral Event Horizon: Quite a few examples:
    • In Punisher: The End, Frank Castle of all people got one when he shot up an entire facility full of survivors, including the innocent servants/assistants, because they engineered a Hidden Elf Village in case of nuclear war and he SUSPECTED that they (as in their elite social class, not these people specifically) caused the attack in the first place, killing off the last of humanity. Thank goodness it's non-canon.
    • General Zakharov in Afghanistan throwing a baby off a cliff.
    • The Slavers were already far over the horizon, what with kidnapping young girls and beating and gang-raping them to break their spirits, but when Viorica escapes with her baby and seeks refuge with Jen Cooke, they track her down to Cooke's apartment and steal the baby back, then later send an e-mail with a photo attached of the lifeless baby. At that point, this troper had to put the book down for a minute.
    • The cabal of generals first introduced in the "Mother Russia" arc. To provide a smokescreen for an illegal operation in Russia, they have a team of Arab terrorists they secretly trained for taking out targets inside friendly countries hijack a passenger plane and attempt a suicide bombing on Moscow, only for the plane to be shot down by the missile defenses.
    • MAX Kingpin has one of the worst in the entire series. Faced with his old enemies holding his son at knifepoint, and forced to choose between saving his little boy's life and killing the last people standing in his way, he coldly shoots them, not showing a hint of emotion as his rival cuts the boy's throat. He then embraces his wife and tells her "We can have another."
    • MAX Bullseye takes it even further; he was created beyond the Moral Event Horizon.
      • Frank: I knew a lot of men would have to die.
  • My Real Daddy: He's had a few writers over the years who have done well with the character, but in recent years the one that most readers will think of is Garth Ennis.
  • Nausea Fuel: Punisher MAX is full of it, but probably the worst instance is what happens to Finn Cooley over the course of the series--his face, already blown away by a damn bomb of his own design gets in steadily worse shape. After his scrape with Castle, half of the right side of his face is missing, with most of the teeth yanked out with the flesh.
  • Sequel Displacement: While Frank was one of Marvel's cash cows back in the early nineties (alongside Spider-Man and Wolverine), many of his modern fans know nothing about his stories before Ennis. Sadly this means that a lot of his gentler characterizations are overlooked, as well as the fact that he actually did have something of a supporting cast.
  • Squick: Mainly in the MAX series; since it's geared towards a more adult audience, the series shows off deaths in the most graphic ways imaginable.
    • Frank himself feels this when, injured in a gunfight and handcuffed to a bed so he can't stop it from happening, he watches Jenny complete her Roaring Rampage of Revenge: first by beating her sister to death with a baseball bat while naked for marrying her off to an abusive mobster. Then screwing him to see if she can find any meaning in life now that the last of her tormentors is dead. And finally, the answer being a resounding "no", she shoots herself in the head with Frank's sidearm.
  • Tear Jerker: The flashbacks to his pre-Punisher life in the MAX arc Frank. They show that even when he still had his family he was completely detached and unable to withstand a non-violent life. In fact, the last thing he ever said to his wife is I'm leaving. And in the final issue we get a poignant visual showing just how much he regrets that decision: The words "I'm sorry" painted (perhaps in blood) on a wall inside his old family house. Just for an extra kick we get the final entry in his War Journal: "Still in old house. Sleep in living room now. Bedroom smells too much like Maria. I won't go in there anymore." Or the make it quicker, pretty much the entire second half of the series is one big tearjerker for Frank.
  • They Ruined It Now It Sucks: Which is what a lot of fans said of Angelic Punisher.
    • Many people feared the worst at the announcement of FrankenCastle. Surprisingly, the change has been immensely popular. So much so that his ongoing series is being renamed Franken-Castle.
  • Villain Decay: Nicky Cavella, who is first set up as a Magnificent Bastard master of Xanatos Speed Chess is hit by this trope hard in Up Is Down, Black Is White, revealing him to be little more than a whimpering coward who loses the respect of his own Mooks.
  • Writer on Board: Garth Ennis hates conventional superheroes. You cannot help but notice that whenever any of them appears in an issue of the main Punisher series written by him.
    • The Slavers, probobly the bleakest, most visceral Punisher story ever written, was based on Ennis's opinion of human traffickers. Hint: He doesn't like them
        • Perhaps the cover of Frank sharpening a knife as he reads a book on Basic Human Anatomy will give you a clue that Ennis takes his hatred further than most. Note also that he also wrote the game and this story shows up.
      • Frank Castle's hatred of the human traffickers in The Slavers is (paraphrasing) "the worst he'd ever hated someone in a long time." Note that in MAX continuity, Frank's been The Punisher for at least a couple of decades.
    • Some of Ennis' political thoughts are chilling. The first line of "The End", where the war on terror goes nuclear? Soon.

For the film series:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Joan was cute in the comic, but she's played by Rebecca Romijn in the 2004 movie. Also, Bumpo is much less Gonkish when played by John Pinette.
  • Better on DVD: The 2004 film, if you're watching the "Extended Cut"; several scenes are added in that actually improve upon the film's theatrical cut and flesh out a few plot holes - most specifically, scenes with Frank's former partner, who is revealed to have sold Frank out to Howard Saint, which leads to the Castle family being massacred. (The "Extended Cut" of the film is also the one shown when the film plays on the FX network.)
  • Complete Monster:
    • In the 2004 film, Howard Saint wanted Castle dead for the death of his son. Some would call that fair. His wife on the other hand wanted Castle's ENTIRE family dead. It's pretty clear Howard Saint isn't nearly as evil as his wife.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: In the 'War Zone' film, Jigsaw gives an uncomfortably hilarious patriotic speech to several groups of blatant national stereotypes. It's done in such a way it's impossible to get offended.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: John Travolta's character kills Frank's family as payback for the death of his son. Five years later Travolta's son died.
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