On March 18th, we’re heading back to the Devil’s playground, Hell’s Kitchen. For fans without fear, both new and old, that Friday will be the start of a binge watch that will cause many to turn a blind eye to other work or obligations they have as Netflix launches all 13 episodes of Daredevil Season 2. The first season took the streaming service by storm and Matt Murdock gained many new fans as he defeated the nefarious Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin). But with a new season comes new challenges and I’m here to get you ready for them. Over the next few weeks leading up to the new season’s release, I’ll be dropping more Daredevil comic history knowledge, focusing on new characters, storylines and predictions. There’s still a fight to be won on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and with Countdown to Daredevil, you’ll know who all the players are.
This first week, my topic is self explanatory: Punisher vs. Daredevil. Frank Castle, the vigilante who’s family got caught in the crossfire of a mob hit in Central Park, is slated to be the main antagonist of this season. He believes that all criminals should be punished….and by that he means killed. This goes against everything that Matt Murdock believes as he feels that everyone should be tried in a court of law. These conflicting ideologies have caused quite a few confrontations between the two “heroes” in the past. Every time the Punisher crosses paths with DD, there’s bound to be a dust up. Let’s take a look at the 5 Greatest stories where Frank and Matt have got in each others’ way.
Child’s Play (Daredevil Vol. 1 #183-184 – 1982)
Creative Team: Frank Miller (writer/artist), Klaus Janson (artist)
When comic fans think “Punisher vs. Daredevil”, this is the first story to spring to mind. In the early 80s, Frank Miller was bringing us some of his best work in the pages of Daredevil. The dark, gritty, noir style made Hell’s Kitchen feel like it was a living, breathing thing. Tensions were high and the crime rate was even higher. The perfect place for Punisher to come crashing down on drug dealers making the neighbourhood their home. This meant that Matt Murdock now had two problems as he had to take the dealers off the street while making sure that Frank Castle didn’t take them out.
And just so you know, that gun that DD’s holding on the cover is not just for dramatic effect. Both Punisher and Daredevil shoot one another in this story arc. As far as I know, it’s the only time that Daredevil ever actually shoots someone. This was the first throwdown between these two characters and while it wouldn’t be the last, it still stands as one of their most iconic encounters.
The Bully / The Creep (Daredevil Vol. 1 #257, Punisher Vol. 2 #10 – 1988)
Creative Team: Ann Nocenti (writer), Mike Baron (writer), John Romita Jr. (artist), Whilce Portacio (artist)
It’s always fun to play with perspective in comics. The way one man (or woman) sees things may be completely different from another. Back in 1988, Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. told a tale in an issue of Daredevil that was also told by Mike Baron and Whilce Portacio in an issue of The Punisher. Both issues came out the exact same month. While the main plot points were the same (Punisher and Daredevil each trying to catch a madman, coming to blows when they both find him), each issue had its own unique take and narrative.
This fight proves to be one for DD as he takes down Castle and then tells him he’s a corruption in the system of justice. We only get to hear half of his speech in the Daredevil issue as the fight is told from the perspective of the man they’re fighting over. It’s interesting to see the different styles and choices made in telling the same story. It’s also a lot of fun to see Romita art of Daredevil and Punisher beating the crap out of each other.
Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe (one-shot – 1995)
Creative Team: Garth Ennis (writer), Doug Braithwaite (artist)
Back in the mid 90s, Marvel decided to take their long running What If series and spin it out into a series of one shots and miniseries under an imprint titled “Alternaverse“. The imprint was created to compete with the popular “Elseworlds” titles being produced by DC Comics at the time. Most of the Alternaverse books did not fair well, but there was one diamond in the rough: Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe.
Taking the origin of The Punisher and flipping it on it’s end, the death of Frank Castle’s wife and children were caused by collateral damage during a superhero battle taking place in Central Park. Immediately after his family is killed, Frank opens fire on the heroes that caused it, killing a few of them. When he is sent to jail for his actions, he’s busted out by a secret society who are hell bent on the destruction of any and all superheroes and villains. Throughout the entire story, Matt Murdock acts as Frank’s attorney at his multiple court appearances. As the body count rises, the story is counting down to the eventual showdown between Castle and the last hero standing, Daredevil. An epic battle and a great realization are the climax of this alternate reality story. What it boils down to is a story about two kids from the Kitchen who take very different paths. It’s probably one of the best depictions of the major differences between Daredevil and Punisher’s ideas and beliefs.
The Choice (Punisher Vol. 4 #3 – 2000)
Creative Team: Garth Ennis (writer), Steve Dillon (arist)
Back in 2000, The Punisher made his triumphant return to the comics page. After a few missteps with the character (like making him die and become an avenging angel of death….no seriously, they made him an angel that shot angel-fire fueled guns and fought for peoples’ souls), the Marvel Knights imprint brought Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the creative team behind the uber violent Preacher series, and let them loose on Frank Castle. Like any good Punisher story, a lot of dead criminals were piling up in the just first couple of issues as Castle targeted the Gnucci crime family. Readers knew that Daredevil would eventually show up and attempt to stop him. But no one expected the outcome that transpired.
When Daredevil finally makes his move to stop Punisher from executing a hit on one of the Gnucci family members, the fight begins like any altercation between the two. Daredevil is a better “hand to hand” fighter so the battle swings in his favour at first. But Castle is ready for DD. Using an ultra-sonic sound cannon, Punisher gives Murdock a severe case of vertigo and then proceeds to beat him unconscious. When Matt wakes up, he’s chained to a post, with only one hand free. In that hand is a gun. Castle stands with a high powered rifle and is ready to make the shot to take out the mobster. He tells Daredevil he’s only got one bullet and no time to free himself. If he wants to stop the Punisher, he’ll have to shoot him in the head. With no other option, Matt goes against everything he believes and takes the shot. But the gun isn’t loaded. Punisher does what he came to do and knocks Daredevil out once again. It’s the one time that Punisher gets an undisputed victory over the hero of Hell’s Kitchen.
The Omega Effect (Avenging Spider-Man #6, Punisher Vol. 8 #10, Daredevil Vol. 3 #11)
Creative Team: Mark Waid (writer), Greg Rucka (writer), Marco Checchetto (artist)
The Omega Effect is one of the few modern masterpieces in superhero comics. During a time when both characters were going through a renaissance, The Punisher and Daredevil would form an uneasy alliance with one another and your friendly neigbourhood Spider-Man. Matt Murdock has come into possession of the Omega Drive, a computer drive made from unstable molecules that houses all the secrets and financial information of A.I.M., Hydra, The Secret Empire, Agence Byzantine, and the Black Spectre. Punisher and Rachel Alves (his sidekick at the time) want the drive for themselves so that they can take down these organizations once and for all. But Matt instead wants to destroy the drive and in a very public way so that these five crime families know that he no longer has it and they will stop hunting him. Punisher and his teammate agree and thus begins our adventure for this motley crew.
Four against thousands. This story brings out droves of henchmen for this impromptu team to fight and adds conflict between them as Daredevil will not let Punisher kill any of them. There are a few double crosses along the way and in the end, Daredevil convinces the crew that the Omega Drive is safest with him. This story doesn’t really fit the “Punisher vs. Daredevil” theme, but it’s very interesting to watch as Daredevil quietly manipulates Punisher into doing exactly what he wants him to do. Unfortunately for him, Rachel is not as easy to manipulate and attempts to take the drive for herself at one point. With a fantastic tale weaved by Waid and Rucka and breathtaking artwork from Checchetto, this story is a gem of a comic that unfortunately, some have already forgotten about. Track this one down and you’ll see why I consider it one the best DD/Punisher encounters.
So there you have it: The Greatest altercations between the devil in red and the guy with the skull on his chest. These five stories give are the best examples of the ongoing battle between these two men. I can’t wait to see Punisher vs. Daredevil on my t.v. screen when the series drops next month. To tide you over, why not check out these great comic tales and tell me what you think of them in the comments below.
Marvel’s Daredevil, Season 2 debuts on Netflix on March 18th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!