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Punisher Video Game

Ganny McVagflaps

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MAXIM: You seem like the busiest guys in comics. How do you crank out all this stuff on a regular basis?


PALMIOTTI: It's true. Between masturbating, we manage to put out a lot of stuff. Wait a minute, this is being recorded, right? [laughs] Actually, take out the "masturbating" thing, 'cause I could see Marvel saying, "Goddamn it!"


MAXIM: Consider it cut. Now, before you guys took over the Punisher, he was a pretty different guy. How'd you make him better than before?


ENNIS: I don't know if we made him better, 'cause he's always been the same. You know what he looks like, you know what he does, you know how he acts. He says very little. He kills criminals. But the character had sort of staggered along for a while. I looked at the classic Punisher and took that as my lead.


PALMIOTTI: When we took it over, the book had been canceled 'cause of low sales. So we brought the title back and set the stage until Garth was free to do the book. We thought, Wouldn't it be great to get the guys who did [the comic book] Preacher and see their take on Punisher? Then I added myself to the mix 'cause I need to pay bills.


ENNIS: What draws me to the Punisher is, he kills a lot of people and he does it proactively, not in self-defense. And that's something people withdraw from. So, over the years people have tried to find ways of avoiding that, like making him a supernatural character who kills monsters rather than people or using rubber bullets on people or only killing when he's attacked, which, to me, is not what he's about at all.


MAXIM: What makes up Frank Castle?


PALMIOTTI: He's more of an animal and instinctively knows where to look for the scum of the earth. He's not James Bond. He's more like Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, with a lot more kills.


ENNIS: In terms of how he operates, he was a trained soldier, and he knows the best way to attack the enemy is to wipe out as many of them as possible with minimal risk to yourself. So he'll bomb a building and kill a group of people. He'll snipe someone from a distance. If, through his own contrivances, he can bring a number of criminals together at one place and turn a heavy machine gun on them when their backs are turned, that's what works best for him.


MAXIM: We had pretty much stopped reading comics till titles like The Punisher and Preacher came out. How'd you guys make comic books cool?


PALMIOTTI: Most comics stay at this level where it's the same book you read when you were a kid and the same guys slapping each other in spandex. The Punisher is also a different audience than Superman and Batman. That's why some guys who write the regular superhero stuff try The Punisher and it just doesn't feel right.


ENNIS: A lot of them won't touch it and are revolted that the character even exists.


PALMIOTTI: Mostly people with children.


ENNIS: And the sort of blue-eyed boys who grew up on-


MAXIM: Captain America?


ENNIS: Exactly.


MAXIM: Where's the inspiration for the new and interesting ways you mangle bad guys?


ENNIS: Like all ideas, they come from everywhere. If you look at this [picks up a copy of Welcome Back, Frank], there's an episode where he's in the Central Park Zoo. That simply came from me walking around the Central Park Zoo and thinking, Supposing he lost his gun and was being chased around here by a large force of mobsters; what would he do? And in the one-step-removed-from-reality world that the Punisher lives in, you can dunk a man in a piranha tank and he'll come out a skeleton. You can punch a bear in the face and get him angry enough to rip your opponents to pieces.


MAXIM: What's been your favorite Punisher torture technique?


ENNIS: I like the one Chuck Dixon wrote that they used in the movie, where he torched the steak and pressed the Popsicle against his back to make the guy think he was burning a hole in him. That was quite clever.


MAXIM: How'd you feel about the movie? You inspired it.


ENNIS: I was pretty impressed when the violence got going [laughs]. It was a lot harsher than I expected. I did get a kick out of John Travolta going,

"Call the Russian," 'cause that's my guy. [The Punisher's subsequent fight with the Russian] was almost shot-for-shot from Steve Dillon's artwork. So on the whole, I enjoyed it.


MAXIM: What was your involvement in the game?


PALMIOTTI: We pretty much wrote the whole story. We start out with his family getting killed. It's an overblown, epic revenge game. Most of it is set in New York, and we took a lot of the elements from Welcome Back, Frank. Then we threw in some winks to Marvel comics fans, like having Frank breaking into Stark Labs to get some new guns and fighting alongside Ironman.


MAXIM: What are some of the methods of punishment?


PALMIOTTI: The kills are extremely, excessively, excessively violent. I'm a big video game player, but Punisher is the most violent game I've ever seen. Guys get their faces peeled off, and you actually see skull flying at some point. As far as the kills, we have piranhas, wood chippers, boat engines, rats, and there's so many guns. Even if Frank's running with a gun and it's out of bullets, he'll throw it at the bad guy, and as the guy goes to catch it, he'll pull out knife and stab him in the head. Thomas Jane [star of the Punisher movie] actually recorded the dialogue.


ENNIS: Sometimes you are stunned by what you can get away with in comics and video games. Usually, if you do run into trouble, it's from an angle you couldn't have imagined in a million years. You see the carnage and the slaughter and the filth and the pornography make it through, then someone says, "I don't like red boots on that guy."


PALMIOTTI: It happens all the time. I once did a full-page ad in Wizard magazine and I had a .357 magnum pointed at my cat's head with a caption that read, "Buy my comic or I'll kill my cat." People wrote in letters about it. But it's hysterical 'cause the cat's sniffing the barrel, and people got really upset at that. The Punisher's satisfying 'cause there are a thousand movies where the bad guy will always get thrown off a building at the end.


ENNIS: Or he'll be shot 'cause he goes for a gun. He can never be killed in cold blood.


PALMIOTTI: And that doesn't happen with us, 'cause the villain gets it just as bad as he's been giving it. All those superhero movies have a the bad guy drop off a building, and I'm just like, "When is somebody gonna just get a hammer and beat the guy to death?" This guy killed your whole family!


MAXIM: Does Marvel ever get nervous about letting you near certain characters because they're afraid of what you're going to do to them?


ENNIS: I've probably gotten away with a lot more than I expected to in that department. Any time a superhero somehow wanders into the Punisher, he's always been brutalized. And there are Marvel editors who are upset about that, but I guess the right people are on my side and the stuff gets through.


MAXIM: Have you written anything that even freaked you out?


ENNIS: There's a comic book that a friend of mine, John McCray, and I do that's called Dicks, ostensibly 'cause the two guys are private detectives. But it's sheer.fucking.filth. The cover of last year's Christmas special had one of the lead characters getting forced to fellate the Devil. And it's up close.


PALMIOTTI: That's not what offended me. The cover where the guy's taking a dump on the other guy's head.


ENNIS: That was pretty bad.


MAXIM: Do you ever incorporate fan ideas into your comics?


ENNIS: Marvel got a new publisher about four or five years ago, Bill Jemas. He had some good ideas and bad ideas, but his best idea was: Never give people what they say they want. Always give them what they don't know they want. Because if you start to write to what people say they want in some poll about a story line they'd like to see, then half the surprise is gone. You're just writing the order.


MAXIM: What's the best kind of editor to work with?


ENNIS: The ones who aren't company men. The smart ones have a sort of attitude where they say this place has its good points and bad points, and if you come with me, I'll keep the idiots off your back. Then there are people who get idealistic and romantic about this stuff, but at the end of the day, they're using these characters to sell donuts and coffee and burgers and other such shit. So when they're talking about protecting modern American icons, you do have to look askance at that. I went into Dunkin Donuts to get my 710-milliliter-more-than-a-fucking-pint of coffee-whoever came up with that is a fucking genius-and I saw a life-size cutout of Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry shilling something called Wolverine's Redberry Rampage. And I think, There's my modern American icons being treated with the respect they deserve. [laughs]


MAXIM: Is it any less nerdy telling people that you write comics than it is telling them that you read them?


PALMIOTTI: I think 40 and younger understand it, and older people have a different view, and suburbia has a totally different view. But it's not a good pick-up line. Remember, we don't have guitars in our hands.


MAXIM: Is the word peace in Frank Castle's vocabulary?


PALMIOTTI: Yeah, "That's a nice piece."


ENNIS: No, he's gonna continue being exactly who he is and doing exactly what he does all the way till his last breath. He's never gonna say, "It's enough." 'Cause it never will be.


MAXIM: Is that the best part, knowing that he can do anything and never turn back?


ENNIS: It's very liberating. People talk a lot about character development in comics, which is a very dubious term. Characters don't develop-they can't develop. They start out, develop up to a point and then stick at that point, 'cause otherwise they'd become a different character. Batman's not gonna change, Superman's not gonna change, Punisher's not gonna change, because it would remove his reason for being. It's like real life in a way. Most people reach a certain maturity and don't change after that.


MAXIM: What character would you like to see Frank Castle end?


PALMIOTTI: Batman would be fun, 'cause no one ever shoots him in the head. And he's the only flesh-and-bone character.


ENNIS: Probably Batman. You're fucking Robin. I know you're fucking Robin. You can't not be fucking Robin. Child molester.


MAXIM: How do your friends and family react to this stuff?


ENNIS: There are few surprises in the stuff I write for anyone who's been drinking with me for the past 10 or 15 years.


PALMIOTTI: We will find humor in the most horrific thing and then feel bad about it afterward. I think that it's good if Castle's killing 85 people and you're laughing at how crazy it is. And that's what the video game is. You're gonna giggle while you're playing, but the reality of it is horrendous. But it's not real.

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