The Punisher is one of those strange characters - his logo is instantly recognisable and he has a lot of name value, but he's never really had the popularity of a Batman or a Spider-Man. Sure, he's a cult anti-hero, but that's normally where it ends.
A lot of that could be down to the three poorly received films released so far: 1989's The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren, 2004's Garth Ennis influenced version starring Thomas Jane and the more recent ultraviolent (albeit straight to DVD) Punisher: War Zone with Ray Stevenson perfectly cast as Frank Castle. Or maybe it's because his ultraviolent and uncompromising nature makes it near on impossible for him to be mass marketed.
With his iconic black and white skull-shirt and gruff Dirty Harry demeanour, the story of Frank Castle - a former Marine who engages in a one-man war on crime after his family is viciously gunned down in front of him - is one that strikes a chord with people due to its simplicity and grounded emotions, and since his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 in 1974, the Punisher has laid claim to some of the most compelling and vicious stories in the medium of comics.
Often times the character has been shackled by the constraints of the genre - it's hard to be ultraviolent when the company he is printed under is known for its tameness - and for this reason The Punisher has pretty much become the flag bearer of Marvel's MAX imprint since its inception in 2004.
Now is the perfect time to revisit his essential comic arcs...