It was a sense of fresh air when Frank Castle made his Marvel Comics debut in 1974’s Amazing Spider-Man #129. Unlike the spandex-wearing superheroes we had been accustomed to forever, the Punisher stepped onto the pages with the willingness to do what most Marvel characters never would.
With a tragic backstory and a love for guns, the Punisher and his iconic skull logo ushered in a new age of anti-heroes in the world of comics. Over five decades, with reiterations in comics, movies, and TV, the Punisher has racked up a high body count. But it isn’t just gangsters that have ended up in the ex-marine’s crosshairs.
Thanks to his ability to heal himself even when he is shot in the head, Deadpool is basically unkillable. However, leave it to the Punisher to find a way. In 2014’s Thunderbolts #29, the pair fought to a supposed stalemate before the Punisher took advantage and hacked Deadpool to pieces and placed the parts in separate vibranium-lined jars so he couldn’t regenerate.
In the 1994 alternate universe title “What If The Punisher Had Killed Spider-Man?” the Punisher equipped a Doctor Octopus dummy with a bomb and blew Spiderman to spidery bits. Realizing that he took out the wrong guy, he goes after Jackal in an act of vengeance. Unfortunately, Frank ends up dead thanks to the NYPD.
The Punisher MAX comic book series is darker and grittier than the original. It tells the story of an older vigilante who is still cleaning up Marvel’s underbelly of crime. This series, which takes place outside of mainline continuity, sees an alternate version of the Kingpin make his final stand against the Punisher.
Castle suffers a beatdown by the Kingpin, but just before the coup de grace, a quick bullet to the head ends the villain’s tyranny over New York City.
In the House of M comic book “What If” series, the Punisher is pitted against the Daredevil. Castle incapacitates his foe with a tranquilizer dart, causing him to fall off a ledge to his death. Seeking to avenge his friend’s death, Spiderman goes after the Punisher. The pair duke it out, with Spidey ending up in the hospital with a gunshot wound.
This ultimately exposes his secret identity and leads to Aunt May’s death. An enraged Spiderman goes after Castle again and nearly defeats him. Castle later realizes that he had been set up by Kingpin from the very beginning. Unfortunately, due to the severe injuries sustained from his fight with Spiderman, the Punisher is no match for the Kingpin and is killed.
In the end, a package lands on the Kingpin’s doorstep in true Punisher fashion, which blows up straight in the crimelord’s face.
Throughout the 1995 storyline “Over The Edge”, a brainwashed Castle hunted down the Shield Director to avenge the death of his family. Despite Fury taking the Infinity Formula to expand his lifespan by decades, he was gunned down by the Punisher in the issue titled Double Edge Omega.
When the story was revisited in a later issue, it turned out that what was killed was a robotic decoy. Still, fake or not, the Fury kill remains one of Punisher’s most high-profile kills.
In a 1991 issue of “What If?” the Punisher became the new Van Helsing after Dracula turned many of the X-Men into vampires. Armed with silver bullets and sunlight channeled via the Eye of Agamotto, the Punisher took down the likes of vampire Cyclops, Storm, and Nightcrawler. It helped that Castle was possessed by the spirit of Dr. Strange, who was killed by a vampiric Juggernaut.
Although Stilt-Man isn’t as popular as Spiderman and Daredevil, he causes Iron man and Thor problems over the years. Using the Superhero Registration Act as an excuse to turn over a new leaf from his checkered past, Stilt-Man teamed up with the Punisher to hunt down a villain. However, the Punisher could not look past Stilt-Man’s previous crimes and decided to kill him by blasting him with a rocket launcher.
The Entire Marvel Universe
In this alternate universe, the Punisher literally kills everyone. It begins when Castle’s family is killed by the crossfire between the Avengers and the X-Men. The Punisher goes on a serial killing spree with a list that includes Hawkeye, Spiderman, Venom, Hulk, Doctor Doom, Ghostrider, and the X-men.
The carnage mercilessly ends when Castle rams a spear in Daredevil’s chest. After removing Daredevil’s mask and seeing that it’s his best friend, Matt Murdoch, the Punisher chooses to end his own life.
In 1998, the Punisher ended his own life by putting a bullet in his head in a dark alleyway. The alley ends up becoming a shrine to Castle and his vigilantism. Considering his war against the mob was a death wish, and everyone he cared about was long dead, this end certainly made sense.