Marvel comics have often portrayed heroes having run-ins with the supernatural: the X-Men and other famous characters have fought Dracula, for example, on a number of occasions. It’s rarer, however, for a character to become a monster himself, though that’s exactly what happened to Frank Castle (the Punisher, a hero many would say was already plenty monstrous on his own). Today, we look back at the utterly insane time when Punisher stopped being a well-armed vigilante and was instead transformed into Franken-Castle, a bizarre version of Frankenstein’s monster.
The Punisher had a very…interesting…run during the late-aughts, not only was he an Angel, he became Frankenstein’s Monster.
If you’re trying to remember when Marvel’s most iconic vigilante could ever have been turned into Franken-Castle, it happened back during the 2009 Punisher series written by the always-excellent Rick Remender. Our hero doesn’t start that series as a monster, but he does get into some crazy hijinks, including using Pym particles, an Ant-Man helmet, and other stolen gear to take on C-list magic user The Hood. Eventually, though, Punisher runs into Wolverine’s son, Daken, and the villain does what he does best: cutting his enemy into various pieces.
If you thought Frank Castle would stay dead, we’re guessing you’ve never read a comic book. The yellow-skinned Moleoids end up grabbing his body parts from where they were dumped in an alley and eventually bring them to the underground area known as Monster Metropolis. There, Morbius (he of our favorite movie catchphrase, “it’s Morbin’ time”) resurrects Frank Castle as Franken-Castle.
And if you thought the vigilante would be happy about being forcibly turned into the living dead, we’re guessing you’ve never read a Punisher comic book in particular. He goes on a rampage until a powerful lava monster calms his ass down, allowing Morbius to explain that he brought Franken-Castle to life to stop Robert Hellsgaard, a man whose family was killed by werewolves. Like Frank Castle, he takes this murder of his family personally and is now devoted to killing every monster he can find.
Speaking of healing, the entire Franken-Castle thing was over in less than a year because our vicious vigilante was healed once a Bloodstone Gem was embedded in his chest.
Obviously, this first Franken-Castle adventure is meant to hold a dark mirror up to Frank Castle himself. While Punisher used the murder of his family to become a dangerous vigilante, he still discriminates between targets, and that’s what makes him an antihero rather than just another unhinged shooter. Hellsgaard is ready to kill both evil and innocent monsters, which means it’s up to the newly-minted monster Franken-Castle to prevent genocide.
After that, the only other Franken-Castle arc involves a rematch with Daken, Wolverine’s killer kid. Rather than play this as a vicious fight, though, the story plays out like an old Looney Tunes short: for example, Franken-Castle #19 (the 2009 Punisher series was briefly renamed Franken-Castle for issues #17-21) shows how Daken keeps falling for Frank’s traps, and Frank keeps cracking bad one-liners. Despite our hero’s trapping and fighting abilities, the regenerative properties of Daken’s mutant power ensure that he keeps healing from whatever Frank dishes out.
If you thought Frank Castle would stay dead, we’re guessing you’ve never read a comic book.
Speaking of healing, the entire Franken-Castle thing was over in less than a year because our vicious vigilante was healed once a Bloodstone Gem was embedded in his chest. In retrospect, it’s tough not to think that Marvel wanted to make sure their major change to The Punisher didn’t overstay its welcome. Generally, that plan worked: modern fans generally look back on more fondness to the Franken-Castle days than they ever did on The Punisher’s time as a literal avenging angel.
Suppose you’ve never wanted to check out The Punisher comics because the character seems so serious. In that case, these Franken-Castle stories are proof that this grim character can still lead to hilarious stories.
And if you’ve read almost all of Punisher’s previous adventures, you’ll probably enjoy these monstrous side stories as a pleasant change of pace. Just be warned: whenever Frank Castle is doing the Frankenstein thing, “it’s alive” is the last thing anyone will say about any part of the body trail he leaves behind.