This article is part 3 of the exclusive Punisher Central interview with Punisher writer, Greg Rucka. It was such a pleasure to be able to chat about his current run with his take on Frank Castle. I hope that you enjoy the interview as much as I did :)
Neil Byce: Is there a long-term potential partnership between Frank and Rachel Cole? What could fans expect from a possible relationship that would obviously not be a romantic relationship between them. Could we see Frank form some kind of companionship with someone else that has had similar pain and life experiences?
Greg Rucka: I don’t want to give anything away. Rachel’s story has a definite arc and it’s one we started from the beginning with a clear plan for it. We know where it’s going, and that story, in turn, leads to a further, larger, Punisher story. I will say that Frank’s interactions with Cole will lead to complications down the line. But I really don’t want to say too much more than that.
Where we are with the Punisher, Frank isn’t really interested in friendship or companionship. There is interest in utility and in the mission at hand. Can you share mission and not form some sort of relationship? I’m not really sure. I would think that’s areally hard thing to avoid doing. One of the facets that I want to explore with Frank is how hard it really is for him to live in the isolation that he has had to live in.
He can’t let people in, because anyone he does let in can really end up being a distraction. Frank Castle does not go to the movies. Frank Castle to me watches the t.v. for the news and the news alone. He lives a very focused life and anytime someone else enters into it that puts his state into jeopardy. His is a very precarious mental state, and he has to maintain discipline. There are things he can’t look at for too long, I think. He can’t allow himself to veer into self-pity or self-loathing.
By the same token he isn’t someone that wants to wake up one day and say, “whoa, what am I doing with my life”? There are certain things that he cannot allow himself to do.
Neil Byce: Could we find Frank dealing with a mental challenge then with the Rachel situation?
Greg Rucka: Yeah. And an emotional one, because when you are under fire with somebody, you form a relationship. There is a phrase that goes something like, a fellow marine is worth more than anyone else whether you like them or not – I’m butchering it, I think it’s actually something like the worst fellow marine is worth the best anybody else. Rachel and Frank don’t even have to like each other. They are both sharing the same war now, but in their own ways. Again, I don’t want to give anything away. Give it another six to twelve issues and we’ll talk again.
Neil Byce: At first I didn’t know how I felt about the Rachel Cole arc, but lately I have started to really feel this story is going to be very special. I can’t wait to see where you are taking it.
Greg Rucka: I know that there is a sense that this isn’t about Frank, that the book isn’t about Frank. But to me, everything is about Frank – he effects and influences every single aspect of the story, even if he isn’t on the page, even if he isn’t speaking. I think some readers are saying there’s not enough dialogue from him, but really, who does he have to talk to? He could have the internal dialogue, the ‘war journal’ version, but that has been done.
One of the things that hopefully comes across through his silence is that sense of isolation I was talking about. He’s moving through the world without being a part of it in many ways; and yet he exerts an incredible influence on the world, all the same. Without the interior monologue and without him saying anything he moves in a very quiet world. That is the goal.
Neil Byce: It feels like that is actually the visual theme that you and Marco Checchetto have applied in this series as well. Especially in the last few issues it feels like there has been a theme of isolation from front to back covers. Just the empty rooms, the shadows, the dead bodies….there is no life!
Greg Rucka: Nope, you just hit it on the head. These are walking dead. That’s what Frank is. You are way ahead of me here. We are talking about stuff that comes up in issue twelve. Issue twelve will have Frank talking because he will have someone to talk to, and more, there will be things that he absolutely need to say.
Neil Byce: A lot of Punisher series come to an end a little too quickly in my opinion. And then you have series from both Marvel and DC that have gone on for hundreds of issues. I look at this as a fan and ask, “Why can’t a Punisher series go on for that long with that much success”? How do you feel about this and where do you feel Marvel’s commitment is to this run?
Greg Rucka: I can’t speak to Marvel’s commitment to the length of the series but I can speak to their commitment to the character, and they are very committed, absolutely. But, you know, one of the things that allows us to have hundreds of issues of Spider-Man and the X-Men and so on is the fact that you have these huge casts, and you have an ever-expanding mythology. With Frank, you’ve got to be very careful with the mythology, I think. You don’t want to rewrite his origin, make it so he didn’t see his family die in front of him, but it turns out they were clones, or something like that. His background, purpose and direction is very set. Because of that there is less opportunity to do anything more with this backstory.
The other big factor is – and this may seem obvious – but Punisher stories end only one of two ways. Either Frank kills the Bad Guy, or the Bad Guy gets away… and then returns later and gets killed by Frank. So the recurring villain is not something that fits in the Punisher paradigm easily.
I’ve been asked if we’ll see other established characters – Microchip comes up a lot – and I’ve thought about it, but, honestly, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I find it hard to accept a Frank who keeps going back to the same people for support and materiel. It just doesn’t track for me.
Neil Byce: Do you feel that we are going to ever have a definitive Punisher series?
Greg Rucka: If by definitive you mean ‘all-defining’ then I’m not sure we haven’t already, you know? Speaking for myself, I’m loving what we’re doing, and I want to continue. We’ve got long-range plans, but the market as much as other factors will dictate whether or not those stories get to be told.
Honestly, I have other commitments I have to honor, as well. I’ve had to leave jobs half-done too many times in my career already, and I would really rather not end up like that here. There is, as I keep saying, a story, a plan… I really want to be able to see that through to its conclusion.
Neil Byce: How would you feel about being involved in the process of selecting future staff on the series if Marvel wanted to continue it after your run?
Greg Rucka: I would love to be consulted in that decision. I would be honored. But Frank isn’t mine. Marvel has given me the honor to be Frank’s custodian for the time being, and they’re paying me to do it, too. My job is to serve the Punisher to the best of my ability. When that time ends, either because of financial or other reasons, it’ll be incumbent upon me to try and leave with grace.
In the past you couldn’t really tell when new writers came into a series until a few months went by and they would start to tinker with things. But in the post Frank Miller era, everybody was looking to be the next Frank Miller, they wanted to have their books be “their” take on the character, to leave “their” mark. The definitive take. That’s… I’ve come to think of that as very dangerous, as well as discourteous. You end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and then you throw the tub out, as well. The older I have gotten I have realized that is incredibly rude. It is arrogant and presumptuous, and, sadly, it’s something that I’ve been guilty of doing myself on more than one occasion. But I now feel that you can’t just throw out everything. You don’t have to do the same thing – a lot of time, frankly, the publisher may tell you they want things changed – but at least acknowledging, trying to honor what’s been done… there’s merit to that. So, sure, I’d love to be involved in any future selection process. But my feelings aren’t going to be hurt if I’m not.
At the end of the day, like I said, Frank isn’t mine. Frank belongs to Marvel, and they’ll make the ultimate decisions as to where they want him, and what they want him to be doing when he gets there.
And that's it everybody! Hope you enjoyed it. If you happened to miss part 1 or part 2 of the interview you can visit them by clicking the links below. And remember to please leave comments or feedback!
PART 1 of Greg Rucka Interview
PART 2 of Greg Rucka Interview