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The Punisher's Logo Controversy Explained

Since he first debuted in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #129 in 1974 (per Marvel), the Punisher, AKA Frank Castle, has always worn the icon of a skull so that he can strike fear into the criminals he wages a bloody crusade against. Over the years the design has varied, but more recent incarnations of the Marvel vigilante, including the Netflix series, feature a costume where the skull is extremely prominent. 

However, Marvel has decided recently to change the Punisher's logo after nearly five decades. In the upcoming prestige comic "Punisher," after joining the martial artist assassins the Hand, Frank is shown wearing the symbol of an animal skull, complete with horns and teeth (via Yahoo News).

This change signals Frank's transformation after becoming part of the Hand, but the new design is also because of the real-life controversy over the skull logo. Here's why the Punisher's skull symbol has become a problem for Marvel.

The skull symbol has been adopted by questionable groups

In the past decade the Punisher's skull symbol has been co-opted by the police and the military, as well as by right-wing protesters. Punisher skulls were even seen during the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as well as on neo-Nazis in the Charlottesville protests (via Inverse).

Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway has been vocal in his outrage over the use of the skull. He told Syfy in 2019 that "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 siding with an enemy of the system." According to Comics Beat, after the death of George Floyd, Conway even created an online fundraiser called Skulls for Justice to benefit Black Lives Matter.

Similarly, actor Jon Bernthal who played Frank Castle in "The Punisher" Netflix series, called the rioters who wore Punisher skulls "misguided, lost and afraid" in a tweet. At this point, it simply made sense for Marvel to disassociate themselves from the symbol and change Frank's logo for good, after the skull had been used in such a horrible fashion.