Punisher Co-Creator Seeks to Reclaim the Skull

Books

Gerry Conway helped create the Punisher in 1974, on his way to becoming one of the all time legends of superhero comics. Now, he’s trying to reclaim his character’s main symbol from police who really don’t get what it meant in the first place.

Conway just launched Skulls 4 Justice on Custom Ink. He’s selling shirts, each with a different design for the Punisher’s signature skull insignia, reworked by an artist to boost Black Lives Matter. Money raised from these sales goes to Black Lives Matter.

“For too long, symbols associated with a character I co-created have been co-opted by forces of oppression and to intimidate black Americans,” said Conway on the fundraising page. “This character and symbol was never intended as a symbol of oppression. This is a symbol of a systematic failure of equal justice. It’s time to claim this symbol for the cause of equal justice and Black Lives Matter.”

As of writing, there are four shirts available. The first is by Wess Hancock, a biracial, handicapped artist. It’s a simple, clean design – the Punisher skull, colored to show light shining on the top corner, with what looks like a bloody tear running down the cheekbone. 

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The second is by artist Demonte Price. It’s a slightly stylized Punisher skull with some bloody highlights, and “Black Lives Matter” stenciled under. “I aspire to be a dual comic book writer/artist myself one day and hope to inspire a creative drive in others as Gerry Conway contributed in doing for me,” said Price.

The third is a sharp looking Punisher skull/Black power fist combo by Don Nguyen. “I added “BLM” as red knuckles because the movement is against police brutality and, to me, a bloodied fist signifies that struggle,” says Nguyen.

The fourth is from Sam Ines, a Punisher overlaid skull with the trans pride flag and flowers. This is to honor Marsha P. Johnson during Pride Month, celebrating the movement she helped launch. “Without her, there would be no LGBTQA+ Pride,” said Ines. “In this way I might subvert the current view of the skull, from one of violence and oppression to once again speak as a voice for the marginalized.”

Marvel is owned by Disney, who typically carefully guards its trademarks. However, for some reason, Disney has been lax in enforcing the Punisher logo’s trademark against police and police-affiliated groups. The skull has been spotted on more than one police officer caught on film beating people protesting the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many, many other Black Americans. For more on how comic creators are fighting back against bigotry, and more on how you can help, stick with Den of Geek!

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