The Punisher, Marvel Comics’ avenging vigilante, has become a radical. As well as taking out organized crime kingpins and thugs, he’s now taking on U.S. Intelligence and undermining support for the War on Terrorism. The publication of these comic book polemics coincides with the April release of the feature film “The Punisher” starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta.
Leftist propagandizing is not new to Marvel, nor to the author of the Punisher series, Irishman Garth Ennis. Two months after September 11th, the Punisher was featured threatening the life of President George W. Bush. The story portrays the President as a slobbering belching incoherent drunk, gleefully itching to launch nuclear missiles. The Punisher breaks into the Oval Office, tosses a nine-millimeter bullet before the President and warns ominously, “I can get in anywhere …Nine millimeters. I’m never further away than that.” Yes, you’ve got it right – Marvel published a threat to assassinate the President of the United States, only weeks after September 11th. Even viewed as sick humor, the tenor and timing of this piece was inexcusable.
Michael Medved and I addressed the issue of anti-American comic book propaganda in an April 2003 white paper for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Marvel is now using its most recently spotlighted icon, the Punisher, to spread the same message of self-doubt and self-hate, this time published under its new MAX (explicit content) label.
In the new series, U.S. intelligence agents are vilified as the bad guys, selling heroin from Afghanistan to covertly finance assassination squads. Ennis shamelessly writes that “the smack comes packed in body bags along with dead GI’s.” A CIA operative tries to convince the Punisher to “hunt Bin Laden.” In response, the Punisher crudely spits back: “F-ck you.” [fully spelled] None of us realized that the Punisher was actually a closet leftist until, for Garth Ennis, we hear him inarticulately condemn the War on Terrorism: “Fighting for the people who run the world gets you stabbed in the back. You fight the wars they start and feed. You kill the monsters they create. You die from handling depleted uranium, while they get rich on oil. I’m not going back to war so Colt can sell another million M-16s. I had enough of that in Vietnam.” He then desecrates the memory of the 60,000 brave Americans whose names are carved in the black wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by stating that they bear silent witness to this twisted viewpoint.
Marvel and Ennis don’t stop there. In a just released special one-shot story, this comic book franchise is used to denounce America’s pursuit of the War on Terrorism. In “The Punisher – The End” we find our hero in an America totally devastated by nuclear war caused by – of course – American militarism and corporate greed. We are treated to a pedantic “Progressive” discourse by the enlightened Punisher: “Once upon a time there was a bunch of evil f-cks. [fully spelled] Hardly anyone knew, because they were so good at keeping it quiet. But these particular evil f-cks owned the world. And they made the world a cruel and terrible place. They ran the great industries that poisoned the air. Their businesses turned whole countries into slaves. … They made puppets out of presidents and started wars for profit. Eventually, they came to believe that there was nothing that they couldn’t do. And so one day – inevitably – they pushed the planet’s luck too far.”
The Punisher explains how the end will come, “Ten bad years. Iraq was one thing. North Korea. Even Pakistan. You shout War on Terror at the Chinese and they laugh so hard the world blows up in your face. That’s the trouble with a war you never want to end.”
… a war you never want to end? Do our friends at Marvel really believe this drivel?
How very cold. Were we not attacked on September 11th? Hasn’t our Jihadi enemy unambiguously declared the intention to destroy us? Have we not heard their proclamations of bigotry and religious hatred? Hasn’t the world seen bloody terrorist attack upon terrorist attack? Can any sane person question what they will do if they get their hands on weapons of mass destruction?
It appears that Ennis and Marvel prefer to live in a vulgar world of leftist fantasy, where an evil American government allied with greedy multinational corporations is the enemy of humanity. If such self-hating beliefs are allowed to permeate the popular culture unchallenged, if our strength of will is sapped before we defeat our real enemies, our very survival may be jeopardized.
As if that were not enough – all this is really bad storytelling. Garth Ennis uses the Punisher as a two-dimensional stick figure to spout his ““Progressive”” political platitudes. Very uncreative.
Michael Lackner is an attorney and former comic book collector, co-author of “The Betrayal of Captain America” for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.