Nick Spencer wraps up an epic event with SECRET EMPIRE OMEGA.

Each week, we use our super sleuth skills to dig into the histories of the characters fighting on both sides of Secret Empire!

Nick Spencer kickstarted an epic tale starting with CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1 last year and this week, he wrapped it all up with SECRET EMPIRE: OMEGA #1 along with artists Andrea Sorrentino and Joe Bennett. 

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Before getting to the main event, let’s look at a few of the side stories that found their completion in this issue. First, as Clint Barton wept over Black Widow’s casket, Bucky Barnes found himself in Madripoor looking into the upcoming assassination of a general who aligned himself with Hydra. When the guy gets shot, Barnes thinks that the killer had to be Black Widow.

At the same time, Emma Frost and Hank McCoy talked about the dissolution of the mutant nation New Tian. While McCoy said that the efforts to put forth a solid mutant society would mean a lot to younger generations, Frost regretted that they would never know who their actual queen was.

Meanwhile, we also caught up with one of the more surprising members of HydraCap’s crew: The Punisher. Feeling betrayed and used, Frank Castle decided to make it his mission to burn Hydra to the ground. As Punisher continued his crusade, Nick Fury looked on and said to Control, “He’s ready.”

With those mysterious set-ups out of the way, it’s time to talk about the main confrontation in this issue which came between Steve Rogers and his Cosmic Cube-created copy with the octopus tattoo across his chest. To do so, Cap broke into a jail holding just the one captive.

Inside, he faced the man with his face. HydraCap, still convinced that the reality he understood thanks to Red Skull’s essential brainwashing of Kobik, was the correct one and one still worth fighting for. He also brought to Steve’s attention how quickly people seemed to turn on one another and reach for the power he offered them.

Rogers, while concerned with the damage HydraCap did to his image and reputation, still saw some good in the whole situation, hoping that this whole nasty endeavor would stop some people from blindly following anyone, even himself.

Ultimately, though, the true Captain America believes in the goodness of people and the resilience of his homeland. We’ll see him trying to make up for the mistakes a man with his face made over in MARVEL LEGACY #1 and CAPTAIN AMERICA #695.

The Empire Strikes Back

Upon leaving HydraCap’s cell, Steve Rogers warned his double not to leave his cell, letting him know that he’d be able to spot him no matter the face he wore. As the guards rushed in at the very end, though, one of them whispered something in his ear: “Hail Hydra.” So, while the threat of HydraCap seems low at this point, don’t be surprised if we see him again!

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Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan send the Runaways back to NYC...and back in time!

Before Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s RUNAWAYS launches in September, take a look at all of their major adventures as seen on Marvel Unlimited!

When series creators Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona announced they planned to leave RUNAWAYS with #24, fans clamored to find out who could possibly replace them. The answer soon came forth, surprising many: Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan.

Readers will remember that BKV and Alphona left the kids in a precarious position as they left, facing off against Iron Man and armored S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the Hostel. As Whedon picked the story up, the kids sat in a fancy New York City restaurant waiting to meet with The Kingpin! 

Runaways (2005) #25

Runaways (2005) #25

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Playing off of Wilson Fisk’s respect for their parents, the kids agreed to do a favor for the Kingpin of Crime in exchange for room and board that would allow them to stay below the radar in a post-Civil War Big Apple.

That favor involved breaking into a secure location to steal a device that Chase’s parents actually built. In the process, they attracted the attention of the Punisher who didn’t take kindly to the Kingpin using children for crime. 

Runaways (2005) #26

Runaways (2005) #26

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Eventually, the kids decided to take the device and run, but Fisk figured on this move and revealed that he’d been hired to make all of this happen by an old woman and her giant, winged assistant Tristan. In making their escape, the Runaways hooked the object to Leapfrog and wound up back in 1907!

While there, they met a number of other young people with powers – dubbed Wonders back then – including a young girl named Klara with power over plants. And that’s not even mentioning the likes of The Sinners, the Mineola, the Merchant’s Trust and the Upward Path all of whom the Runaways get tangled up with in their search for a way home. 

Runaways (2005) #27

Runaways (2005) #27

What is Marvel Unlimited?

None of them actually hold a candle to the nova of surprise that came when Chase and Xavin met Gert’s time-traveling parents, the Yorkes, also working in the same era! 

Runaways (2005) #29

Runaways (2005) #29

What is Marvel Unlimited?

All of these elements bubble to a full-on boil as they explode into a street war. Thanks to some time-travel shenanigans on Chase’s part and Nico getting a power upgrade thanks to her great grandmother, the kids made their way back home with Klara in tow, but not Victor’s new flame Lillie because she had to stick around in order to hire Kingpin to get them to steal the device in the first place! 

Runaways (2005) #30

Runaways (2005) #30

What is Marvel Unlimited?

LOST & FOUND

Before returning to Los Angeles, the kids stuck around New York City to give Klara a chance to say goodbye to her home as seen in SECRET INVASION: RUNAWAYS/YOUNG AVENGERS #1-3. That leads to another meeting between the Runaways and their Young Avengers counterparts as the Skrulls lead into their full-on invasion thanks to both teams playing home to Skrulls in Xavin and Hulkling. That leads to more than one conflict with various green-skinned aliens, but ultimately a win for both squads at the end.

Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos launch a brand new volume of RUNAWAYS next week!

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Goran Parlov on re-enlisting with Frank Castle.

Before the skull, Frank Castle shipped off for Vietnam where his life changed forever. Surrounded by blood and death, the man who would become the Punisher witnessed the cruelty and awfulness the world had to offer, but also the power of violence.

Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov plan to explore these facets of Frank even further in the pages of the long-awaited, PUNISHER: THE PLATOON, debuting in October.

We talked with Parlov about tackling each script, drawing inspiration from everyday life and constructing a pre-Punisher Frank Castle.

Marvel.com: What is it about Frank Castle and his world that keeps capturing your imagination as an artist? 

Goran Parlov: I love the fact that he acts like a robot – the Terminator. Matter of fact, in the first issues I pictured him as the Terminator. He’s all business, emotionless… Or at least it appears so.

He works in binary code, 1 or 0, plus or minus…guilty or not guilty, as simple as that. I love his steady, emotionless face, but with eyes that burn – the stare that scares you.

I took that from “The Terminator.” The way Arnie stares at us, with that red eye. Wow, thats’s it, you just freeze! It’s even better when the endoskeleton does that. Frank, in my version, acts like the Terminator, thinks like him, walks like him.

Frank is the Terminator for me. Maybe the fact that I’d been working on the Terminator books right before I started my run on the PUNISHER MAX had some influence on me. Yeah, I am a big fan of the Terminator and it was just easy for me to adapt the things from the movies into the Punisher books.

Marvel.com: You mentioned that you often laugh when reading Garth’s scripts. How do you translate that reaction on your part onto the page?

Goran Parlov: It is very positive thing for me. It means that the thing works. If I am the first to laugh, I know many others will too.

Usually I never read the whole script. I read it as any other reader, page by page, day after day. This way I allow the script to surprise me. And the emotions it gives me in that moment, I put them on the page right away. It’s very immediate.

If I read the whole script, later I would only remember the emotions from when I first read it, not really feeling them. Yeah, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I am disgusted, some other time it’s something else. But I always like to use those immediate emotions that the script gives me.

Marvel.com: This is a pre-Punisher Frank Castle, so what sets him apart from his skull-wearing future self?

Goran Parlov: This is a Frank Castle before the “anger.” Before his family has been killed. So here he doesn’t carry that frustration with him.

I hope that will be noticeable.

Marvel.com: Your characters are so expressive. How do you achieve that? Is it purely out of your imagination and sketching?

Goran Parlov: Yes, for the most part. The rest comes from observing the world. Or TV. Or magazines. Or comic books. The important part is not to observe comic books only.

Marvel.com: Do you use a mirror or photo reference of yourself?

Goran Parlov: No, I never had that habit. I don’t even own a small mirror. I use photo references a lot, but I don’t copy them. It’s rare for me to find a photo that is exactly what I need. It’s almost a curse. Happens that I always have to draw an object from a slightly different angle than it is on a photo, so that excludes copying the photo. In almost 90% of cases it’s like that. I have the exact image in my head, and I don’t want to change the image just because the object on a photo is taken from a different angle. So I render the things in my head and draw them from the angle I want.

Marvel.com: Do you use in-person models or get your hands on physical objects for reference?

Goran Parlov: I don’t. Think I would feel uncomfortable having one in my studio. Or, at least not really focused on work.

As for weapon models, etc., I don’t have them. The only models I have are one Dodge Charger from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and a Ford Capri, a car owned by my father and still in my garage. And a Tin Tin rocket model! Two of them! A bigger one and a smaller one. I did a variation of that rocket in my Starlight book. The Dodge Charger, I used it in my Terminator book. I really like that car, but it was way before I bought the actual model. I love cars. And my dream would be a Punisher book with lots of cars. Something like The Punisher meets “Mad Max 2,” one of my all-time favorite movies.

Actually, now I remember… I had a small endoskeleton model that I borrowed from my friend. I used it a lot while working on The Terminator. And I took a hundreds of photos of it.

Marvel.com: What sort of approach did you take on character design for this book? It takes place in both the past and the present with soldiers in Vietnam who are later seen as veterans. Do you get your inspiration more from movies or television or just from people around you in Croatia?

Goran Parlov: Both, I think. One of the main characters has been inspired by Steve Buscemi, but after he went through all my filters he might have became completely unrecognizable. But the initial inspiration came from there.

I’ve been using Steve Buscemi as a starting point for a whole lot of characters during my professional career, but surprisingly all those characters went completely different in final versions that one would never say they all started from good ole Steve.

I don’t want to look at his photos all the time. Or to copy those. A drawing often loses its energy when it’s a copied photo. It is static, completely different from the rest of the book, because you try to copy all the information that’s there on a photo – the things that you would never draw if you didn’t see it on a photo. There’s too much graphic information there. You need to synthesize those and make them coherent with the rest. And if an artist is not very skilled, the result might be scarce.

So, back to Steve; I see him, I do few sketches and then the character evolves, all by himself, throughout the book. I don’t care if that’s not Steve anymore. Another one of the four has been inspired by one of the bosses at my previous publisher. Some of my friends might recognize themselves here and there. Things like that. You never know where an inspiration might come from. It just strikes you.

Marvel.com: Who are your biggest influences? I see some Alex Toth, some Moebius… a little Milt Caniff? Some Hal Foster?

Goran Parlov: Alex Toth, Jean Giraud – Moebius, Alfonso Font, Bernet, Frank Thorne, Frank Robbins, Ernesto Garcia Seijas, John Romita Sr, John Prentice, Jim Holdaway, John M. Burns, Romero, Angelo Stano, Sergio Tacconi, Duncan Fegredo, … and billions of others. Those are my top. But I actually often find myself learning something even from the artists that I consider bad. You can always pick something good even from the worst artist in the world.

PUNISHER: THE PLATOON #1 by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov ships off on October 4.

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The remorseless vigilante ends up in the office of Marvel.com’s resident therapist.

While not actively seeing Frank Castle, better known as the violent street vigilante and wanted criminal Punisher, as a client, I am nonetheless writing up our recent encounter as a session note. I explained this to Castle as well, as I was doing it for reasons of liability—had he told me he had a plan to kill someone, I would have had to report in accordance with Tarasoff—and he consented, albeit gruffly.

During a recent blackout, Mr. Castle and this therapist spent an hour or so in lockdown in my office due to a pre-existing protocol meant to protect the staff in the case of some kind of violent event like a super powered battle in the city streets. Castle had accessed the building to find and utilize first aid supplies and his timing was “perfect” to get in before the lockdown but not get out prior to it taking place. With only the two of us locked in together, given that it was after hours, the “client” eventually began to engage the therapist.

It was clear from the outset that Mr. Castle is a skeptic when it comes to therapy. He immediately cast aspersions on the value and validity of talking therapy and insisted that some pain was not able to be gotten over. As this was not an active client but rather a heavily armed man with a skull on his shirt, and at least one still-fresh wound, I initially resisted his invitation to debate him on this topic. Over time however, it felt clear to this writer that he did not represent a danger to me and I began to question his basic assumptions about therapy, trauma, and the nature of “getting over” pain.

The Punisher #16

As Castle has been arrested multiple times and much evidence on his psychological makeup has been presented in court hearings, as well as less savory sources of information like disreputable 24 hour news therapists and true crime writers, I was fairly familiar with the basics of Castle’s transition from “average” man to the Punisher. In fact, he was—and I imagine remains—a well-studied example of vigilante psychology in most graduate programs.

While I never directly addressed the shooting deaths of his wife and kids—I did not wish to see how “far” I could take it under the circumstances—I made sure to present hypotheticals that would speak to that traumatic event as well as his time as a soldier in an active combat zone. I validated his pain and frustration with the legal system and agreed that some pain does not disappear while contesting the underlying assumptions—that pain that never goes away always feels as intense, or the same as it does from the start, that the impossibility to ever truly eliminate psychological pain means that it should not be addressed, explored, and processed, and that the inability of the justice system to work with 100% effectiveness and therapy’s lack of magical properties to simply return a person to a pre-trauma state justifies going outside the law to seek justice.

When the system override finally completed and he and I were released, it was obvious he remained skeptical. Nonetheless, I offered him a follow-up appointment with Doctors Becky Cloonan and Matt Horak, who both have significant experience working with veterans, survivors of violent trauma, and those living with survivor’s guilt. While I do not expect Frank Castle to follow through, if he does, the appointment is set for September 27 and any notes on that session will be found in the file marked PUNISHER #16.

Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens is a Staff Therapist who has never used a weapon in anger because his remarks are so much more devastating.

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Get ready to defend!

The Guardians flew back down, Spidey swung through again, and now the Defenders of Hell’s Kitchen return to Avengers Academy to battle a new threat in their neighborhood. Kingpin’s been imprisoned for nearly a year, and in that time Madame Gao stepped in to fill the power vacuum left in the criminal underworld of Hell’s Kitchen. The Defenders and the rest of the Academy students – with the help of a few new friends – need to dispatch Madame Gao and take back the neighborhood once more.

We grabbed a few minutes with Allen Warner, Lead Narrative Designer at TinyCo, to see what The Hand has in store for us at the “Marvel Avengers Academy”.

Marvel.com: The Defenders are making their way back to Avengers Academy! What’s bringing the team to campus once more?

Allen Warner: With the Kingpin imprisoned, Madame Gao has seized control of the Hand, and conquered Hell’s Kitchen.  The Defenders held her off as long as they could, but she countered by kidnapping some of their closest friends and allies, forcing them to regroup and call in reinforcements.  With a firm hold on Hell’s Kitchen, and the combined resources of both the Hand and Kingpin’s entire operation, Madame Gao sets her sights on retrieving a powerful artifact that Director Fury has locked away in one of his secret vaults, launching a full-scale assault on Avengers Academy.

Marvel.com: Will players be returning to Hell’s Kitchen with the new event district?

Allen Warner: Yes, we’ll be revisiting Hell’s Kitchen and all of its iconic locales like Alias Investigations, Josie’s, and the law offices of Nelson and Murdock.  We’ll also be bringing back the Academy Courthouse from our Daredevil event, and giving some new recruits fun courtroom animations.

Marvel.com: How will the Avengers battle Madame Gao and her Hand minions?

Allen Warner: The Defenders and Avengers will team up to battle Madame Gao and her special henchmen on campus, as well as traveling away from the school to stop the Hand ninjas from attempting to take over the world.

Marvel.com: As with the Guardians and Spidey events before this, will players once again be able to recruit Defenders heroes from the previous event?

Allen Warner: Yes, this is a similar structure where players will be given another opportunity to get characters from the original Daredevil event, as well as some other characters who weren’t part of that event, but make sense to be involved with the Defenders.  Players will have a chance to get Iron Fist, Daredevil, Hellcat, Elektra, Misty Knight, Punisher, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones.  They may also have an opportunity to get some characters who you wouldn’t associate with the Defenders TV show, but who have been part of various Defenders teams in the comics.  We’ll also be resurfacing all of the outfits from the Daredevil event, including what might be my personal favorite Avengers Academy outfit of all time, Lawyer Loki.  We learned in the original Daredevil event that Loki has a gift for lawyering, and a fondness for lawyers and the profession, and that will continue in this event with some fun results.

Marvel.com: While those who missed out will be excited to try for all those returning favorites, what new faces join the mix?

Allen Warner: A cool and diverse group of characters who are often thought of as supporting players, but who will take center stage and show their heroic sides during this event: Foggy Nelson, Colleen Wing, Stick, and Claire Temple.  They each bring a really unique and fresh perspective to not only the events at hand, but the Avengers heroes and Avengers Academy traditions.  Our awesome art team did some really great and brand-new things with their various visual levels, and their animations are really fun, and play to their unique occupations, personalities, and talents.  I’m really excited about this group from a narrative perspective because there is so much unexplored territory.  These characters typically only interact with the characters in their respective spheres, so there’s a ton of opportunity to do things that no one has ever seen before.  Foggy will form relationships and go on adventures with Loki and Captain America.  Claire Temple will go on an intergalactic rescue mission with Cosmo the Spacedog.  Stick will butt heads with J. Jonah Jameson.  Madame Gao will match wits with Mephisto, and so on.  One of my favorite things about the world we’ve built in this game is having the opportunity to reimagine and expand upon existing characters and Marvel lore, and this event and this group of recruits provided an awesome opportunity to do a lot of things that have never been done before.

Marvel.com: What new ways will our heroes suit up to dispatch the Hand threat?

Allen Warner: In addition to the resurfaced outfits from the previous Daredevil event, there will be new outfits and stories for Hulk, Punisher, Elektra, Iron Fist, and Misty Knight.  We love coming up with new looks for our characters that are unique to the world of Avengers Academy, but we decided to take a different approach this time around and only include outfits that have appeared in the comics.  Some are very recent looks that fans may not even be aware of, while others are iconic looks that have been around for decades.  They all look incredible, are completely different from the characters’ usual outfits, and add a new angle to their personalities and powers that make for some really fun animations and stories.

Marvel.com: As excited as we are to dive back into Hell’s Kitchen and dispatch Madame Gao, there’s always one eye on the horizon. Can you tease anything coming down the line for the Academy and its heroes?

Allen Warner: One of our frequently teased schools will finally have to come out of hiding, and they’ll be bringing more recruitable characters with them than ever before.

For all the latest on “Marvel Avengers Academy,” stay tuned to Marvel.com and @MarvelGames on Twitter!

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With Miles Morales held by Hydra, check out these other heroes who have spent time behind bars.

Not every hero in the Marvel Universe stays on the right side of the law. Sometimes they go one step too far—and other times, the law works actively against them. Take Miles Morales for instance: the SPIDER-MAN star fought against the vision Ulysses gave him back in CIVIL WAR II and surrendered himself to Hydra instead of killing Captain America.

Surely the former denizen of the Ultimate Universe will find his way out of the clink—but until then, he can take solace in the fact that a few of his fellow heroes have had their own stints under lock and key.

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Look at that, even the honorable Steve Rogers spent time in the pen! More than once, too! Most notably, Cap was locked up between his surrender in the last issue of CIVIL WAR and his apparent death in CAPTAIN AMERICA #25.

LUKE CAGE

Carl Lucas might have become a hero without heading to jail, but he probably wouldn’t be super strong and possess his signature impervious skin. Wrongfully accused in a drug bust and sentenced to the big house, the future Avenger agreed to participate in an experiment that gave him super abilities. After his transformation, he escaped from captivity and resumed life under the name we all know him by today.

PUNISHER

Over the years, many people have wanted to lock Frank Castle up—but no one seems capable of actually keeping him imprisoned. During the mid-‘90s, the authorities tried to send him to the electric chair—and failed. And during the most recent PUNISHER WAR ZONE, he sat in an underwater prison, but of course no walls—not even ones surrounded by water—could stop The Punisher.

DAREDEVIL

At the end of Brian Michael Bendis’ epic run on DAREDEVIL, he left ol’ Matt Murdock in quite a pickle—inside a jail cell where new series writer Ed Brubaker kept the blind lawyer incarcerated for a while. Murdock eventually got out when none other than master escape artist Frank Castle was purposefully captured as part of a jailbreak plan.

SONGBIRD

Since their inception, the Thunderbolts revolved around characters who served time in one way or another. The original squad, including Songbird, was assembled by Baron Zemo and consisted of villains masquerading as heroes. After her stint in jail, the former Screaming Mimi took to the lawful side of things—and even served as a warden on the maximum security prison known as the Raft!

IRON FIST

During CIVIL WAR, nearly every hero who sided against Tony Stark’s Superhuman Registration Act wound up incarcerated—including Iron Fist. While posing as Daredevil in an attempt to keep Hell’s Kitchen safe, Danny Rand was captured as a means to help Captain America and the other anti-registration heroes to the Negative Zone prison for a jailbreak!

WOLVERINE

Not at all unfamiliar with jail cells, Wolverine found himself imprisoned in the pages of LOGAN. Captured by the Japanese during World War II, the mutant was kept in Nagasaki before he escaped and fell in love with a local woman named Atsuko. When Atsuko was murdered, Logan followed her killer to Hiroshima, where they were caught in the atomic bombing of the city. Wolverine survived the blast, but was left scarred by the loss of his former love.

BUCKY BARNES

Even though he stepped up and filled in for Steve Rogers after the original Cap died, Bucky Barnes still stood trial for his crimes as his previous identity, the Winter Soldier. Declared innocent in the United States, Russia judged him differently—and locked him up on heightened charges. Thanks to help from someone familiar with Russian prisons—Black Widow—Bucky escaped and headed back to the U.S., where he then decided that his days holding the mantle of Captain America were over.

PETER PARKER

Miles Morales doesn’t lay claim as the only Spider-Man to wind up incarcerated—back in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #219, Peter Parker attempted to sneak into a jail as part of an exposé, but instead got caught and tossed in a cell! After Matt Murdock helped him get out of the predicament, Pete managed to publish his exposé—and apprehend a few escaped inmates in the process.

Go behind bars with SPIDER-MAN #20, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Oscar Bazaldua, available September 6!

 

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Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov reunite for a new look at Frank's early days!

Get ready to paint it black with Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s long-awaited PUNISHER: THE PLATOON limited series, which will take us back to a pre-Punisher era this October. PLATOON takes place during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s when Frank Castle was just an innocent doe-eyed soldier…though he was never that innocent according to Ennis and Parlov, the duo behind PUNISHER MAX who are writing the story and drawing the art, respectively.

Speaking of, you could not find two more passionate guys for the job; they’re committed to accurately nailing the time period while also delivering an epic and detailed story filled with colorful characters. So, does Mr. Castle love the smell of napalm in the morning? What ‘Nam-related movies did the duo watch before tackling this project? Queue up some CCR and read our in-depth interview with Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov as they prepare us for a run in the jungle…

Marvel.com: So, guys, the hype for this comic series goes back to 2015 at least. What’s it like to finally see it come to fruition?

Garth Ennis: All the pages are in and no one got killed or tortured. So that’s not bad.

Goran Parlov: I just cannot wait to see it out. [I’m] thrilled people can finally read it soon. So much sweat over those pages, so many all-nighters…Yeah, I can’t be happier than I am now.

Marvel.com: You two have worked on Punisher books before. What do you each admire in one another when it comes to bringing Frank Castle to the page?

Garth Ennis: For me Goran is pretty close to being the definitive Punisher artist. He captures Frank’s essential character in his body language: The easy grace, the repressed violence, the lack of drama. The sense of a man just getting on with the job.

Goran Parlov: You can’t say that something or someone is perfect. It is more like a utopic value. But Garth, as a writer, is very close to it. He understands the storytelling, he knows what works in a comic sequence and what doesn’t, what is important and what is superfluous. He can explain himself perfectly with just [a] few words. The scripts are never over explanatory. There are no page-long explanations for a single panel. Short and concise, but everything is there in just [a] few lines. I like to think I can connect very easily with his scripts. [The] stories themselves are always top notch–sometimes funny, sometimes a pure horror, but never boring, and always involving. Matter of fact, I often find myself laughing while drawing, and I can’t help it. Which is good. Means that the thing works. If I am the first to laugh then everybody else will also. On the other side, there were some sequences that I really wanted somebody else [to draw] for me. Talk about “real horror” sequences. With Garth you always get the whole package, and I am addicted to it, to the point that I have problems with other writers. Because I am always looking for Garth in the scripts. Which brings me to a conclusion and to the very essence of your question: Working with Garth for me is very easy.

Marvel.com: This series will focus on Frank’s time in Vietnam, and I can already hear “Fortunate Son” playing in the background. How are you guys capturing the feel of that era as well as the utter grittiness and destruction of this war?

 Garth Ennis: The story is set during the Tet offensive of 1968, with Frank’s first battlefield command–an understrength platoon of US Marines–involved in the defense of Khe Sanh, the famous Marine base which was subjected to quite an arduous siege by the North Vietnamese Army. This is a look at the war from the point of view of the average grunt, who finds himself at the center of a maelstrom of unimaginable destruction. The U.S. expended vast reserves of firepower to hold the base, but somehow the matter is still decided in close combat, often hand-to-hand, with the Marines risking life and sanity to survive. At the same time, we’ll see Colonel Letrong Giap–from FURY: MY WAR GONE BY–whose NVA unit is one of those charged with taking Khe Sanh, as he struggles to carry out the often impossible orders he’s been given by the regime in Hanoi. With him is one Ly Quang, a young Viet Cong fighter with an agenda all her own after she comes off worse in an early encounter with Frank.

Goran Parlov: Well, this might sound strange, but I didn’t prepare myself by watching all those famous Vietnam movies. I just remembered them–I watched them while working on FURY: MY WAR GONE BY and previous Punisher books. I wanted to capture the sensation as I remembered it. Of course I had several screenshots and photos from the internet, but those were mostly for weapons, uniforms, machinery. I love to be pretty accurate about those. But the overall feel was completely from within my head. 

Marvel.com: In addition, were you influenced by any Vietnam War-related movies, comics, or other similar pieces of pop culture when putting this together?

Garth Ennis: My go-to reading on Vietnam would be “Nam” by Mark Baker, “If I Die in a Combat Zone” and “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “A Bright Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan, “A Rumor of War” by Philip Caputo, and “Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land” edited by Andrew Wiest. The conflict hasn’t been particularly well served by comics; the only two that come to mind are Marvel’s THE NAM–the first couple of years’ worth–and Fighting Man by Alan Hebden and Cam Kennedy, which I recently managed to get reprinted in the Battle Classics series. For movies, I like “Apocalypse Now,” as much for the lunacy of it as anything else, and a curious little flick called “84 Charlie MoPic.” My favorite Vietnam War film is still “Full Metal Jacket,” partly because it’s so good, partly because I believe a peculiar war deserves a peculiar movie.

Goran Parlov: I was at the middle of the book, three or four episodes behind me, when I decided to watch Oliver Stone’s “Platoon.” It completely confused me. I was all like, “Oh my god, this thing is made this way and not like I did it. That other thing is also different.’ I found a billion things that are not like in my pages…and that blocked me completely. [I was] totally confused. Should I re-draw all those things? Should I start all over from the beginning? Then I talked shortly with Garth about that. He didn’t understand what exactly I thought I did wrong. Well, his question put me back at ease, but deep inside I still felt a bit frustrated. Fortunately, the scenery changed completely in the next few issues and I was able to put all the things that I’ve seen and loved in “Platoon.” My frustration disappeared and no harm has been done to the previous pages. Actually, later on I was very happy with how the things merged together with positive results.

Marvel.com: In your own words, how would you describe this Frank Castle compared the one we know in pop culture? Put another way, will readers be surprised at this facet of Frank?

Garth Ennis: As I say, this is Frank’s first combat command, and in fact his first time in battle. Not even 20, he’s been entrusted with the lives of two dozen young Marines whose abiding motivating factor is the desire to survive their tours of duty, go home, and never look back. He’s been plunged straight into the unspeakable hell of close quarter combat, and expected not just to survive but to lead- and to win.  Now, that may seem like an insurmountable task, but I personally believe that Frank was never really particularly green or raw, never some blushing virgin. I think he hit the ground running–partly because he grew up with a certain degree of street smarts and was therefore possessed of strong survival instincts from the get-go, and partly because of whatever was waiting inside him, something that began to awaken as soon as he arrived in Vietnam. Frank has the enviable ability to watch, learn, and act fast–so even before the bullets started flying he at least had a pretty good idea what not to do.

Goran Parlov: I think there will be no surprises. Speaking about his character features, he is the same Frank Castle as we know in PUNISHER MAX, only younger and in a different environment. But I am sure readers will recognize Frank right away under that helmet.

Marvel.com: Going off that, can you talk a little bit about the psychological trauma he’ll be going through in this series and how it will impact his transformation into Punisher?

Goran Parlov: I could find a word or two about the argument, but I’d prefer to leave this question to Garth.

Garth Ennis: Once Second-Lieutenant Castle begins to reveal himself as a first-class problem-solver, certain figures within the military establishment will start keeping an eye on him, only too keen to exploit his particular skill set. So the events in THE PLATOON will at least start him down the road he’s on. Of course, this is only his first tour of duty, and the events of BORN happen during his third, so he has a long way to go on his journey to Firebase Valley Forge. I’ve hinted at some of the things he got up to on his second tour before, and maybe one day soon I’ll get a chance to go into more detail on them.

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the supporting characters in this story and the way in which they affect Frank’s journey? 

Garth Ennis: There’s the aforementioned LeTrong Giap, who initially has too much of an eye on the big picture to worry about some young American officer. There’s also Ly, who wants to kill our hero with all her heart–and then dig him up and kill him again. [Then] there are the men of his platoon, initially wary of their new commander, but who gradually come to see him as their best and possibly only chance of survival as the war sucks them in deeper and deeper, and the horrors of ‘Nam close in around them. Speaking of BORN, you might say that in some ways THE PLATOON is the opposite of that story. It is, perhaps, a look at what might have been for Frank Castle.

Goran Parlov: Reading the story you can barely tell who the protagonist is and who the supporting characters are. They are all important for the story and all together meritorious for the magic. Back when I put my first sketches down on the paper, I thought of them [as if each] one of them is about to have a spinoff eventually. What I want to say is I always try to fall in love with each character and to love ‘em all the way. To personalize them, to give ‘em specific character…in a few words, to give them life. That is, [in] my opinion, how they eventually become interesting characters to me and ultimately to the readers. That is why I love Garth’s scripts because I can easily fall in love with his characters.

Pick up PUNISHER: THE PLATOON #1 in October!

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We return to Frank Castle’s first skirmish with Spider-Man!

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

Frank Castle returned to New York City in this week’s PUNISHER #13 by Becky Cloonan and Kris Anka. Homecomings always bring up old memories, so it’s the best possible time to take a look at the first appearance of The Punisher in 1974’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #129.

Writer Gerry Conway dreamt up the gun-toting vigilante and then had resident Bullpen artist John Romita whip up a design that Ross Andru brought to life in the pages of that issue. In fact, the installment began with Punisher blasting a plaster model of Spider-Man as The Jackal watched. Their initial retort ended with Castle claiming that our favorite Wall-Crawler deserved to die for unknown reasons.

Cut to the future target slinging around the city, stopping an armed robbery, and then heading to the Daily Bugle where J. Jonah Jameson chastised him for not getting the first photos of The Punisher.  Peter put his costume back on in an attempt to find JJJ’s new quarry, but accidentally swung right into the assassin’s sights. Luckily, the old Spider-Sense kicked in and our hero dodged the gunman’s first blast.

Spidey immediately gave chase, but Punisher pulled a fast one, grabbing a hidden weapon to wrap the Web-Slinger up, giving him time to spout off about the evils of the world. Just as Spider-Man broke free, Jackal jumped out and swatted him off a roof! The antagonists thought they succeeded in killing their prey and ran off.

Back in their secret lair, Punisher and Jackal argued about methodology, but also explained that the newcomer wanted to kill Spider-Man for supposedly murdering Norman Osborn. “If I’m ever to live with myself, I have to know I’m doing the right thing…and letting a man die by accident doesn’t qualify,” Castle explained.

Later, as Spidey followed up on a lead to check out weapons-maker The Mechanic, Punisher showed up right after him and attacked. He became even further enraged when he saw the Mechanic’s body on the floor, but Spider-Man used his superior strength to knock him down and tie him up. Instead of swinging away, the hero pointed out to Punisher that Jackal actually killed his armorer and the black-clad man swore his vengeance before retreating into the shadows.

Eventually, Punisher’s backstory came to light: the former Marine had returned home to his wife, son and daughter. The quartet had gone to the park for a picnic when gunshots rang out, killing all but Frank. That day, he swore to use his particular skills to wipe evil off the face of the Earth, a mission he’s continued to this day.

Flash Forward

Thanks to Frank’s status as an anti-hero, he became incredibly popular, eventually earning his own limited series and then, basically, at least one ongoing series going from 1987 all the way to today. Though usually a loner, he’s taken part in some of the biggest events in the Marvel Universe. He sided with Captain America during the first Civil War, helped investigate the Watcher’s death during Original Sin, killed a whole bunch of villains as Secret Wars kicked off, and can currently be seen working for Steve Rogers once again in Secret Empire.

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Kris Anka brings Frank Castle home in an exclusive sketchbook!

In a lot of ways, New York City made Frank Castle the man he is today. In THE PUNISHER #13, he’ll return home to continue keeping families safe from the kind of tragedy he suffered all those years ago.

After sending Frank on a series of adventures across the American Northeast, series writer Becky Cloonan and guest artist Kris Anka plan to welcome The Punisher back with all the flair, violence and bloodshed you’d expect! With the issue hitting on June 28, we talked with Anka about his love of the character, returning Castle to the city that never sleeps, and developing his targets with Cloonan.

Marvel.com: The last issue of STAR-LORD hit not too long ago. Is it a big transition going from a series like that to PUNISHER?

Kris Anka: Sort of, not really. It’s no secret that the PUNISHER MAX series by Garth Ennis is one of my favorite [comics] of all time, so I’ve definitely always itched to draw a Punisher book. Thankfully, I finally got to scratch that itch. The fun part was I was able to stretch muscles I’ve never gotten to really play with before. There was a fair amount of me just cutting loose and experimenting with things on this issue that helped make it fresh for me and [embraced] the tonal shift between this book and STAR-LORD.

Marvel.com: What are the key visual and physical elements in capturing Frank Castle?

Kris Anka: The word I kept going back to with Frank was “foreboding.” I wanted the character oozing intimidation as soon as he steps in to the room. There are a lot of scenes in this issue of Frank walking up to people, and I wanted the terror of Frank to be immediate and believable. A lot of what went to this was hiding Frank in shadow a lot; not seeing everything helped to shape him more of a force of nature rather [than] just a human.

Marvel.com: Becky Cloonan is an artist as well as a writer. Does that come across in her scripts or your communications with her about the story?

Kris Anka: There is a conciseness to her scripts that helps convey just enough for me to picture what she has in mind. However, there is still enough wiggle room for me to really make the pages my own without feeling like I’m stepping on someone’s creative toes.

Marvel.com: This issue finds Punisher back in New York City. How does operating in his home town change the way Frank does his business?

Kris Anka: Yeah there is sort of an ease to it. These are environments Frank is comfortable in so he doesn’t have to constantly be on edge and looking over his shoulder. This is his home, and he’s here to remind everyone of it.

Marvel.com: Can you talk about any of the targets Frank will be aiming for? What’s the design process like for developing them? 

Kris Anka: The targets this issue are mostly normal people, people who have forgotten about Frank. Something that was fun I got to play with was rather than making Frank be full on attack [instead] keeping him reserved. Playing with less is more, that it doesn’t take a lot to remind them of who Frank is and why they should be afraid.

Frank Castle heads back to the Big Apple in THE PUNISHER #13 by Becky Cloonan and Kris Anka on June 28!

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Look back at some classic adventures set in the Land of the Rising Sun!

CABLE #2—due out June 28—finds our hero traveling back in time to feudal Japan in pursuit of a mysterious adversary! Marvel heroes have a long history of traveling to Asia’s island nation, so take a look back at five other stories set in the land of the rising sun.

Wolverine (1982) #1

Wolverine (1982) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?
WOLVERINE
Wolverine stories could easily dominate any list of the best comics set in Japan, so let’s start with the “best there is”—the original WOLVERINE #1-4, by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. One of Marvel’s first limited series redefined the character as he traveled to Japan to find his long-lost love, Mariko Yashida. Shingen, her crimelord father, forced her to marry one of his stooges, which did not set well with Logan. Miller and colorist Glynis Oliver provide ninja fights amidst the neon lights of Tokyo, making this not only the must-read Wolverine tale, but also one of the quintessential works within comics as a whole.

Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan (2005) #1

Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan (2005) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?
FANTASTIC FOUR & IRON MAN
While action and drama typically drive Wolverine’s journeys to Japan, “fun” fueled this comic by Zeb Wells and the late Seth Fisher.  The Fantastic Four head abroad for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Tokyo’s new Giant Monster Museum and Expo Center, when—you guessed it—giant monsters attack. Luckily Iron Man also had business in the area and joined the fray. Fisher created each monster as a dedicated work of art for an insanely delightful story that never lets up.

Big Hero 6 (2008) #1

Big Hero 6 (2008) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?
BIG HERO SIX
Before jumping to the big screen, Hiro, Baymax and the rest of the team starred in two different series: one by Scott Lobdell and Gus Vasquez in 1998, and another by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama in 2008. When the Japanese government decides they need their own team of heroes, they recruit Silver Samurai, Honey Lemon, and the rest of the crew, who battle the likes of Everwraith and Yandroth.

5 Ronin (2010) #1

5 Ronin (2010) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?
5 RONIN
The 2011 series 5 RONIN recast Hulk, Wolverine, Deadpool, Punisher, and Psylocke as master-less samurai living in 17th century Japan. Featuring the work of Peter Milligan and a variety of artists, including covers by David Aja, each issue told the story of one of the five characters, whose destines became interlinked as they sought revenge against the dreaded Damiyo.

Punisher War Journal (1988) #8

Punisher War Journal (1988) #8

  • Published: September 10, 1989
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: May 27, 2010
What is Marvel Unlimited?
THE PUNISHER
Back in 1989, Carl Potts and Jim Lee introduced The Punisher to a group called the Shadowmasters, who graduated from PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL into their own series. This ancient clan of martial arts masters protected the province of Iga, and Punisher came into contact with one of them, Kathryn Yakamoto, who helped him infiltrate a ninja camp run by a shady American corporation. Later Frank Castle and Black Widow teamed up with them again against the Sunrise Society, a Japanese business used as a cover for a crime syndicate.

Travel to Japan once more with CABLE #2 by James Robinson and Carlos Pacheco!

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