A new Infinite Comic brings this odd couple back together in search of magic bullets!
Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, prefers to work alone, but what happens when he’s vastly out of his element? What happens when bombs and bullets have no effect on the magical threat within the mafia threat that he’s targeting? Why, he calls in Doctor Strange, of course!
That’s the premise of DOCTOR STRANGE/THE PUNISHER: MAGIC BULLETS, an Infinite Comic event coming this fall from Marvel and writer John Barber.
We caught up with Barber to get the scoop on this exciting and—-dare we say it—magical team-up…
Marvel.com: Doctor Strange and the Punisher are two wildly different heroes with two wildly different methods of fighting evil/crime. How did the idea to pair these two opposites up come about?
John Barber: Honestly, I was sitting in the bathtub trying to come up with ideas for the Ultimate Spider-Man Infinite Comic, because I’d just been asked to do a few more of those, and I was relaxing with some Doctor Strange comics. That that got me thinking about Strange, who’s one of the most interesting and cool Marvel characters. And I started thinking about an idea I had about a villain-type guy who saw these fantastical realms that Strange frequents, and was just horrified by what he saw; and I remembered when Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato had Strange with Punisher in Original Sin, it was a really interesting pairing. They were both a little out of their element in that comic, which kinda put them on equal footing. But the idea of having these two characters who both are part of the darker, shadowy recesses of the Marvel Universe, getting jammed together and seeing how different—and similar—those shadows can be, that just seemed really intriguing.
And I was excited about it, but, like, I had a job to do. So I worked on the Spider-Man stuff—which, don’t get me wrong, is incredibly awesome to be a part of. I sent off some pitches, and then I thought about MAGIC BULLETS a little and sent an email to [editor] Nick Lowe. It was sort of a “I know there’s no way this could happen but here’s an idea I had that I wanted to throw out there.” And Nick emailed back and said he maybe had a place for the story, and then he introduced me to Darren Shan in his editorial office, and we started banging the plot into shape and made it an actual story!
Marvel.com: What kind of dynamic can we expect between them? Is it one of friendliness or wariness?
John Barber: Frank Castle doesn’t have time for the mystical nonsense. That’s where he’s coming from. I mean, historically, whenever he’s gotten involved in that stuff, he’s distanced himself from it soon after. I think he’s had his fill—he’s obviously more at home on the street, fighting regular humans. Or, well, killing regular humans, at least.
And Doctor Strange lives in the world of magic; even as magic stands now in the Marvel Universe, that’s where he belongs. He’s not comfortable with a guy who goes around blowing away bad guys; that’s just not a world Strange is accustomed to. He can stop a demon, but a mob soldier with a gun is—it’s not that he can’t deal with that, it’s just not his wheelhouse.
So they’re definitely wary of each other and what the other represents. But there is a respect. Strange kicks a lot of ass, and Frank respects that. And Frank does what he does, fundamentally, out of the love of his family, which isn’t something Strange really expects to see, but maybe he gets a glimpse of this here.
Marvel.com: What’s your favorite part about writing this Marvel Infinite Comic team-up?
John Barber: I think the little moments of Frank and Stephen together are the most fun. There’s big-scale action going on here, lots of magic and lots of shooting, as you’d hope from a story called MAGIC BULLETS. But those little instances where you see the shields drop a little, and you see some of the person behind the cape and behind the skull; those are the moments where it works.
Marvel.com: On a similar note, what is the most challenging thing about writing this team-up?
John Barber: The scale of Strange and Punisher tends to be different. I mean, Strange just is coming out of a story where sorcerers from different realities are all being attacked by forces trying to wipe away magic; and Punisher is coming out of fighting some drug dealers. I mean—neither is better or more interesting than the other, and the current PUNISHER and DOCTOR STRANGE comics are both at the top of my list to read; I love what Jason [Aaron] and Chris Bachalo are doing, and what Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon are doing in PUNISHER is really dark and amazing.
But getting the story to the place where Punisher is doing Punisher-sized things and Strange is doing Strange-sized things and then they both get forced into the other’s world and Frank’s dealing with a scale he’s not used to and Stephen’s dealing with street stuff he’s not equipped for—that’s a tricky balance, but that’s the fun part of the story. Luckily I’ve grown up with these characters, and Nick and Darren know them inside-out, so they keep me on-track.
Marvel.com: Are you Team Strange or Team Punisher?
John Barber: Man, I can’t pick that. I gotta like ‘em both! I mean, I don’t want to just duck the question…I probably have more Punisher books on my shelf than Strange—and probably more than almost any other character—but there are so many great Doctor Strange comics, and he’s such a fantastic character. I’m just lucky to get to be a part of either of ‘em, let alone both!
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