Sometimes it’s easy to forget that The Punisher began life as a comic book villain. A more morally complex villain than the usual, admittedly, a veteran of the Vietnam War who has lost his family in a gang fight, seeking revenge through bloody murder, he was very much a product of the seventies that also brought us the Death Wish movies.
To the surprise of those at Marvel, he was a hit, spawned multiple monthly series and was reinvented as an angel of justice. At one point, literally that. Some writer have played it straight, some have played it for satire, often reflecting their own political beliefs. And the character’s chest Skull motif, where Superman’s S would be, has been picked up by graffiti artists, designers and hip hop performers amongst others.
He’s also been a popular emblem for soldiers. Even, it seems, in Norway.
Since the death of soldier Claes Joachim Olsson – known by his nickname ‘Jokke’ – in January 2010, some members of the Telemark Battalion, an elite mechanised infantry unit of the Norwegian Army, took to wearing patches featuring the Punisher logo and the words ‘Jokke – we will never forget’.
The Telemark Battalion attracted headlines in 2010 when reports emerged some of its soldiers were spray-painting the Punisher symbol on houses and property belonging to Afghans suspected of being members of the Taliban.
And now they are headed to Iraq to tackle ISIS.
They’re certainly not alone using Punisher imagery, Chris Kyle, now famed as “the American Sniper” after the movie, also used imagery from The Punisher.
But it does make for an uncomfortable situation in which real life affects fiction which then seems to affect real life in return…