Long before we discovered it was a serious project involving college graduates, one of our TFO contributors agreed to participate in the Pillock-curated Panel Madness project. Here's the background information, all of which is firm, true and intelligent.
Monday was David Allison, with a little taste of Criminal.
Wednesday was Derik Badman, with some Rubber Blanket.
Thursday was Sean Witzke, with a little Paul Pope.
Friday is here, under the cut: be warned, it's mean. (To look at.)
This is how it works: rape them to break them.
This is what they have to do: fuck all night.
This is what happens if they don't: killed.
This is what happens when they're done with them: throw them away.
You can't make comics out of that, right? You can, obviously: you can make a comic about anything. But how do you make a story out of something like this? How do you make a story about something that few people care about, that some people are more than willing to lay portions of blame for on the backs of the victims?
How do you play out a revenge fantasy comic, a gritty, aggressive, justice trope when you're going to have to show stuff that's impossible to look at?
And what do you do if one of your characters--one of your bad guys--is a skinny white woman?
How do you publish a comic where a big, mean psychopath beats a skinny white woman to death with his bare hands?
This is from Punisher: Slavers, the best of the rather good run on the Punisher MAX title by writer Garth Ennis. The art here is from Leandro Fernandez and Scott Koblish, with color by Dan Brown.
You just show it.
He's talking to her, and if you're thinking that's anger in his face, it's not. It's contempt. It's a cruel trick Frank Castle, the Punisher, is playing here--using what is probably this woman's words to make her feel small and helpless. She already knows at this point what's going to happen to her: death, and a bad one.
That's not enough though. Frank has to make her understand why she's dying, and why she's dying like this. She's dying like this because she isn't strong enough to stop him from hurting her until she dies. She's dying like this because no one will respond to her cries for help. She's dying like this because she is alone, and no one cares about her enough to come to her aid. She's dying like this because she's guilty--because in a way that probably disgusts Frank more than the others--she's the worst of them all.
"Christu was the businessman. The old man's a soldier. But you're the one that makes it work."
She's scared because she knows she's going to die, and because she can see that Frank is going to do it to her with his bare hands. And she's scared because of the words he uses. Because when he says that to her--when he tells her that he knows who she is--not a soldier, not a businessman, but a sick, horrible woman who created the psychological terror that built a small empire of rape, kidnapping, torture and prostitution...that's when it hits home for her.
He's not here just to kill her.
He's here to teach her that when you live a life that's based on violent, horrible exploitation, when you live a life that's ruled by power, and power alone, eventually you will find somebody who is far worse than you, and whomever that person is, you will have to become whatever they want.
The portion of this comic depicted here isn't near the official climax of the story, but closer to the middle. But it stands for everything that's in Slavers, and to a far lesser extent, everything that's in Punisher MAX. It's about how Frank--with no emotional component, a face that expresses nothing more than contempt--will figure out how he effectively can mete out what he has determined to call "punishment" in a way that's almost childlike. See, most of what you'll read the character do--what you'll see him do--is little more than trash-clearing. Shooting people in the head, like he does early in the issue, with no warning. The consequences of their actions are death, nothing more, and it's a death that doesn't come as a surprise to them--it just comes before they know it happens.
Here, when faced with something that actually, to the character's own surprise, disturbs him, he decides that it will be necessary to actually do something more. Something worse.
See, in this sequence--he does need something from this woman's office. But he doesn't need her alive to get it. He doesn't need to be here at all for any length of time, in fact, due to external circumstances regarding the police, it's in his best interest to kill her in the same concise fashion in which he's killed thousands before. Instead, he not only stays, but in a stark juxtaposition to what is normal to the other stories in these comics, he speaks at length to a person he's going to kill.
He chooses to do this thing, this horrible thing, to this horrible person. Not because it will meet any emotional need--as is made abundantly clear throughout the stories written by Garth Ennis, the Punisher isn't a character who has emotional needs to be met--and not because he believes that what he is doing will change anything at all.
He just does it, because he's decided that in this one particular case--with no one around to watch, no one around to learn anything, no gain in mind--that this woman, this woman who made the claim mentioned above, who came up with the in-story philosophy "Rape them to break them" must be hurt.
Because this woman brought him the closest to being a human being since the day his son's brains fell into his hand.
-Tucker Stone, 2009