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How The Cast Of The Punisher Films Should Really Look

If you plan on breaking the law in Marvel's Hell's Kitchen, you'd better be ready to accept the price — because the Punisher just might collect

The character, an alias of Frank Castle, debuted in 1973's "Amazing Spider-Man" #129 and has been targeting criminals ever since. The Marine had planned on a nice quiet life until his wife and kids were gunned down in cold blood. With everything taken from him, Castle put anything resembling a normal life behind him to wage a never-ending war against evil, all while following his own moral code

Punisher kicked around for a while, showing up in guest spots, but really took off in the late '80s and early '90s. At one point he was starring in three different ongoing series:  "Punisher," "Punisher: War Journal," and "Punisher: War Zone." The character then entered the cinematic spotlight in three standalone films (personified as Dolph Lundgren in 1989's "The Punisher," Thomas Jane in 2004's "The Punisher," and Ray Stevenson in 2008's "Punisher: War Zone"), as well as Jon Bernthal's 2017 – 2019 Netflix series. 

Although the one consistent across all these projects is Frank, many of his stories put memorable supporting characters in his orbit. Here's a look at which ones audiences have seen, what they've looked like, and how future adaptations could embrace (or avoid at their own peril) lessons learned.


While the three Punisher films do not exist as a chronological series, they do all focus on Castle, a brooding killing machine with his own bloody ethics. Casting such a role requires an actor who can anchor the whole film both emotionally and physically — while also somehow making endearing a man who is essentially a walking machine gun. This guy has to be broken, but still motivated. He also has to be able to take an obscene amount of bodily harm and keep on going. In short, casting Castle is no easy task.

Since the rest of the 1989 "Punisher" film revolves around newly-developed characters, props should be given to Lundgren, who starred as a sewer-dwelling Castle. Director Mark Goldblatt extracted an admirable performance from the actor, presenting a Punisher internally shattered, yet offering kindness to the children who get kidnapped during the film. While Lundgren — who never actually wore the iconic skull logo — was followed by the equally solid Jane, Stevenson and Bernthal, his might just be the best Castle captured on screen.


For the 2004 "Punisher" film, director/co-writer Jonathan Hensleigh decided to pull a number of characters and ideas from the ultra-violent 12-issue "Punisher" series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon that ran from 2000 into 2001. While John Travolta's mobster Howard Saint was a new creation, the people living in Castle's apartment building, and some of the other villains, came straight out of the comics. Most were right in line with their splash page counterparts ... but not Joan.

The comic version of the character is known as Joan the Mouse, because she's a small and timid. She feels safe knowing Castle is in the building, but really wants to get out of New York (because it's so violent and dangerous) and move to the country. 

Little of that would describe the character on screen, however, portrayed by model-turned-actress Rebecca Romijn. The film version made her into a character with an abusive ex boyfriend and a job at the diner, adding a significant "will they, won't they" element that feels very Hollywood. Romijn also played another comic book character, Mystique, in the "X-Men" films.

Spacker Dave

When comic book Castle moved into the building he shares with Joan, he told everyone his name was John Smith to avoid getting them mixed up in his crusade. While he may continue to be standoffish at times, he does converse with some residents, including a young man who prefers to be called Spacker Dave. 

Dave is most notable, perhaps, for having a lot of piercings on his visage, many of which have a tendency to get ripped out in various incarnations of the character; still, he'll never cough up Frank's whereabouts. He also insists on people calling him "Spacker Dave," though it's unclear why, especially because that appears to be British slang for "moron."

Ben Foster brought Dave to life in the 2004 film, and the talented Foster did his usual solid work with a small role. In addition to looking quite similar to the comic character (aside from the hair), he delivered an emotional depth. While there was  quite a bit going on with this Dave, he enjoyed the non-traditional family of the building — and of course, received a cruel piercing removal in a scene that had him standing up for Frank. Like Romijn, Foster would revisit the comic book realm as Angel in "X-Men: The Last Stand."

Mr. Bumpo

The third neighbor to make the jump from comics to film is Mr. Bumpo. Of the trio, he perhaps has the least complicated characterization, and is mostly referenced in regard to his size and weight — an old, easy joke (even his mustache is a likely reference to Oliver Hardy) that could be seen as problematic in a modern context.

John Pinette's version of Bumpo in the 2004 "Punisher" cast him as a kindhearted, meek man with an affection for singing opera and making tomato sauce while hanging out with friends Dave and Joan. In a move that echoes a memorable fight in the comics, Bumpo's food plays a major role in the Punisher narrowly defeating a vicious enemy. Pinette was an actor, singer, and comedian with specials like "John Pinette: Still Hungry." He passed away in 2014 at the age of 50.

Harry Heck

Early in the Ennis-Dillon run of "The Punisher" comics, a group of assassins was hired to kill him. What they didn't know, however, was that the Punisher was there when they got the information; he soon enough made short work of the killers before they could even spend their ill-gotten gains. One of those assassins was a man named Harry "Heck" Thornton, who supposedly dodged a bullet while taking on not one, but four state troopers. Aware of his reputation for being quick on the draw, Castle employed a sneak attack.

There was a character named Harry Heck in the 2004 "Punisher" film, played by Mark Collie, who shows up to take out Tom Jane's Punisher in the diner where Joan works. He introduces himself by playing a song he says he wrote for Castle, but tries to run him off the road later. Heck does more damage than his comic book counterpart, but Castle ultimately takes him down with a ballistic spring-loaded knife. 

That weapon came from the comics, but was used on other characters. Instead of the white-clad cowboy seen in the comics, Hensleigh and company dressed Collie in more of a Johnny Cash "man in black"-type outfit, likely because of the bad cowboy vibe they hoped to convey.

The Russian

When it came time for the Punisher to face a major threat in the aforementioned Ennis/Dillon comic run, they called in "The Russian."

Rather than Yakov Smirnoff, in this context it referred to a mountain of a man wearing a red and white striped shirt and bluejeans, identifiable (if all that wasn't enough)  by a prominent scar on his right cheek and a spider web tattoo on his neck. Delivering the ultimate invasion, the Russian once nearly beat the Punisher to death in Castle's own apartment.

Although not nearly as chatty as the comic book character, Kevin Nash captured the physicality of the Russian in 2004's "The Punisher." The wrestler-turned-actor showed up to toss Tom Jane's Castle not just around his apartment, but through a variety of walls. The knock-down, drag-out fight was a brutal highlight of the film, but what more would you expect from a guy who wrestled for the WWF, WWE, WCW, and TNA?


Given his nature as a killer, Punisher doesn't have a great deal of recurring enemies; find yourself on his hit list, and you likely aren't long for this world. One character who has somehow managed to sidestep the ultimate dive off this mortal coil time and again is Billy "the Beaut" Russo. 

Russo was hired in the comics to kill Castle soon after his family was murdered, but failed. Later, when the Punisher tore his way through a mob establishment, he tossed Russo out a window. Although horribly disfigured, the man survived and even embraced his stitched-together face, renaming himself Jigsaw. But when you permanently disfigure someone, it tends to establish an animosity, and they've been battling ever since.

Lexi Alexander and company went with Jigsaw as a "Punisher: War Zone" villain, reimagining Bill the Beaut (Dominic West) as part of a mafia family mostly wiped out by Castle. Bill avoided death, only to fall into a bottle recycling machine switched on by Castle. He survived, took on the nickname Jigsaw, and began his own campaign against the vigilante alongside a dreamed-up-for-the-film brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison). 

Overall, West did a nice job mixing Billy's original vanity with Jigsaw's evolving lunacy, all while wearing some effective facial prosthetics.


Newman may have been Jerry Seinfeld's arch-enemy, but in the 2008 "Punisher War Zone," Frank Castle's bestie sure did look a lot like him. 

The similarity came via veteran character actor Wayne Knight, who Lexi Alexander brought in to play Castle's longtime associate Microchip — referring to him only as Micro on screen. Knight's take on the character hit the same story beats as most comic adaptations, supporting Castle's mission by acquiring weapons and serving as his own personal "Q" — while also offering up the occasional pep talk. In "War Zone," the character lives with his elderly mother in the same apartment he stores his formidable cache of weaponry. 

The character debuted back in 1987's "Punisher" #4, sticking around for a solid chunk of the character's '90s heyday. Micro excels at using his computer skills to get information, weapons, and even managing the money Castle acquired from his targets. In addition to "Seinfeld," Knight made a name for himself portraying another computer savvy character, Nedry, in "Jurassic Park." Consider Micro — short for his original hacker handle Microchip — a way to make it up to the tech-savvy crowd for all of Nedry's evil ways.

Carlos Cruz

Things don't always go smoothly between Punisher and Microchip in the comics. When they split up for a while, the tech aficionado sought out former soldier and New York police officer Carlos "C.C." Cruz. After his recruitment he wore a Punisher uniform, but typically kept his head covered with a skull mask. His vigilante career ultimately would come to an end when he found himself on the receiving line of an assassin's bullet.

This Microchip-Cruz dynamic was reflected in the "Punisher: War Zone" film via the inclusion of Carlos Gonzalez-Vio's character Carlos, but with a different angle to it. 

This adapted version was presented as a former Latin King gang member who works with Micro to buy weapons off the street — which are in turn funneled into the hands of the Punisher. Gonzalez-Vio's version may have never donned a costume, but he nonetheless proved himself a hero.

Martin Soap

Detective Martin Soap debuted in the same run of comics as Castle's neighbors, but he didn't make it to the big screen until "Punisher: War Zone." As imagined by Ennis and Dillon, Soap is a sad sack, hard luck case placed on the Punisher Task Force because other cops think he's a joke. Eventually, he'll go on to become Castle's inside man on the force.

Dash Mihok's version of Soap in the "War Zone" movie was introduced as having already been on the Punisher Task Force for half a decade. He knows he's fighting against insurmountable corruption, so he projects the appearance of a doofus while secretly working with Castle. While Mihok visually echoed the comic version, his is a more likable version of Soap. Later, the actor went on to appear on "Gotham," maintaining his comic book bona fides.


In the 2008 film "Punisher: War Zone," Detective Soap's Punisher Task Force was joined by FBI agent Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon) when he found out his former partner was accidentally killed by the Punisher while the agent was undercover with the mob. 

The Budiansky character wants to do things by the book, but in "War Zone" he realizes that the system is so broken that only someone like the Punisher can do any good. Salmon brought effective intensity to the proceedings, and was also a large enough guy to convincingly throw down with Ray Stevenson's Punisher. Later, Salmon would bring the same talents to other comic-related roles on "Krypton" and "Arrow."

In the comics, Budiansky was a virtuous New York City police officer who became disillusioned after stopping a school shooting. At times, he has questioned whether his law-circumventing ways are too much like those of Castle; together, the two represent different sides of a morally grey, complex coin.

Cristu Bulat

Another crime boss featured prominently in "Punisher: War Zone" was David Vadim's Cristu Bulat. Early on, Billy the Beaut mentions that he is working out a deal with Bulat to bring what's believed to be a biological weapon into New York City. The audience sees him and his father Tiberiu in a mob family tree put together by Detective Soap; he shows up later a few times as well, playing it cool across from the unhinged Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim. The Bulats share names with characters who appeared in the comics, human traffickers hunted down by Punisher.

Apparently the draw of playing villains in Marvel's version of Hell's Kitchen was too strong to stay away; Vadim played Sergei in the "Daredevil" series that debuted on Netflix in 2015.