Is it time for Marvel to retire the Punisher? The character's skull logo was worn by Capitol rioters

The Punisher skull has become a symbol of hate as many far-right groups in the US have taken to championing the character

Jon Bernthal in Marvel's The Punisher. Jessica Miglio/Netflix
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People are calling for Marvel to retire the Punisher, after the character’s skull logo was worn by a number of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol earlier this week.

The Punisher skull, many have pointed out, has become a symbol of hate as many far-right groups in the US have taken to championing the character, donning the emblem on their clothes and backpacks.

This attachment was made most apparent in a photograph showing an unidentified man, thought to be a member of the Proud Boys, inside the US Senate Chamber wearing black camouflage gear, with zip-ties in his hand.

“The Punisher's logo is now being used by terrorists,” Twitter user Aidan wrote. “Marvel needs to retire Frank. End of story.”

“Hey Marvel, I think it’s time to permanently retire Frank Castle aka the Punisher,” Andrew W Shields wrote on Twitter, tagging the comic book company. “His symbol has been used far too much in conjunction with violence and hate. Unless, of course, you like the free publicity?”

However, several people have pointed out that simply retiring the character does not mean far-right groups will stop using the character’s symbol.

“You can stop publishing the character, stop making merchandise,” Twitter user No Hostages wrote. “But you can’t remove the character / symbol from public consciousness. As we see the groups using the Punisher imagery are not using authorised merch.”

“I’ve been a lifelong Marvel fan. I’m an apologist for just about anything they do but Frank Castle has to go,” Twitter user Chuck McClunkey wrote, adding that when insurrectionists use the Punisher skull, “it’s over".

Created in 1974, the Punisher, whose real name in the comics is Frank Castle, is an ex-soldier who resorts to murder, torture and kidnapping in his bid to fight crime.

The character first appeared in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man before starring in his own comics as well as three films and, most recently, two Netflix shows. He is played by Jon Bernthal in the second season of Daredevil and in character spin-off, The Punisher.

The character's co-creator Gerry Conway has spoken against the logo's misuse, telling The Guardian in June 2020 that he was "appalled" to see it being used by white supremacist and far-right groups.

"He's a symbol of the failure of the justice system to treat everyone equally," Conway said. When he first saw police officers using the symbol, he was "really disturbed because it was such a fundamental misunderstanding of what the character was and was supposed to represent. In that sense, he's been completely defiled."