US police officers have adopted The Punisher’s iconic skull logo as their own. It’s certainly troubling to think about officers who are sworn to uphold the law and protect citizens draw inspiration from a homicidal vigilante who operates outside the confines of the law. This has become even more problematic in the face of the current situation around #BlackLivesMatter:
Marvel recently came out again to say that it is “taking seriously” the unauthorized use of the emblem, and pointed to their May 31 tweet, which reads, “We stand against racism. We stand for inclusion. We stand with our fellow Black employees, storytellers, creators and the entire Black community. We must unite and speak out,” and noted Marvel also noted its organizational parent The Walt Disney Compahy has pledged $2 million to the NAACP, part of a $5 million commitment “to support nonprofit organizations that advance social justice.”
A spokesperson for Marvel then referenced The Punisher #13, published in July 2019, to explain the company’s stance on police officers using the symbol. In that issue, Frank Castle was about to be arrested by two NYPD officers before they realized who he was. When they recognize him, they lower their weapons and ask to take selfies. The Punisher is confused, so the officers explain that they are part of a group of police personnel who are fans of the Punisher’s approach. They then reveal to him that they have a decal of his iconic skull logo. At this point, The Punisher angrily responds to the two officers, saying, ”I’ll say this once. We’re not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave all that up a long time ago. You don’t do what I do. Nobody does,” Castle says. “You boys need a role model? His name is Captain America, and he’d be happy to have you.”
Even Gerry Conway, the co-creator of the Punisher has been vocal about this, having previously said,
“To me, it’s disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He’s supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.
The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
It goes without saying. In a way, it’s as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he’s also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal’s symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.”Gerry Conway, Punisher co-creator, SyFyWire
It’s a clear message – but will police officers who have embraced the Punisher’s icon understand what’s being said? Well, we’re crossing our fingers on that one.