“One Batch, Two Batch. Penny and Dime, you

“One
Batch, Two Batch. Penny and Dime, you know. It was her favorite book.” (Castle) As a parent, you never imagine
losing your child. You never imagine having to bury them first. Most
importantly, you never imagine seeing them dying in your arms. This eerie and
cold reality became Frank Castle’s after his entire family was slaughtered
during a horrific mob shoot out in the middle of Central Park. Confusion, anger
and violence are all he can seem to summon from within and through his despair
the Punisher is born. A murderous vigilante hell bent on tracking down and
terminating everyone who had anything to do with that gruesome day in which
pain became his only companion. The hardest burden in life is falling to
protect the ones we love, but what we choose to do after this determines the
strength of our character.

Frank
Castle was a decorated US Marine. “Two years ago, Lieutenant Frank Castle was
awarded the Navy Cross for his service in Afghanistan, right? That’s second
only to the Medal of Honor. This guy is a war hero.” (Karen Page) Castle was only 18 when he enlisted in the Marine
Corps and was placed under the command of Major Ray Schoonover- the man that
one day would have a hand in the murder of Castle’s family. Castle took part in
the Battle of Fallujah and many other historic combat operations that earned
him the title of Scout Sniper. He was welcomed into the ranks of the elite
Marine Corps Force Recon undertaking classified missions. Because of Castle’s
decorated career and expertise, he was assigned to a specialized CIA task force
called Operation Cerberus which was under the supervision of Major Schoonover
and Agent Orange- another man who would also have a hand in the murder of
Castle’s family. Operation Cerberus was not sanctioned by the US Congress but
instead was a pet project organized by Agent Orange to move drug money into the
United States inside the bodies of fallen soldiers. An Afghan ally of the US
names Ahmad Zubair caught wind of Agent Orange’s undercover drug movement. An
ally Frank Castle was forced to assassinate under Agent Orange’s instructions. After
the botched raid of Kandahar ordered by Agent Orange; that ultimately ended up
killing many US soldiers and injuring Major Schoonover, Castle assaulted Agent
Orange, leaving him blind from one eye. It was this assault that prompted
Orange to have Castle assassinated, but in turn it was his family that paid the
price of eternal night.

The
operation and a leaked video of the assassination of Zubair impelled Castle to return
to the states. Frank wanted to be happy about seeing his family again but what
happened back in the raid in Kandahar and Afghanistan was still piercing his
mind. The day after his return he took his family to Central Park, where they
ended up in the middle of a mob fight. Unbeknownst to Castle for a very long
time after, he would find out that Agent Orange was the mastermind behind the
shootout. His wife, son, and daughter were killed. “For her, there was never
going to be any tomorrow, see. The last time I’d see her, I’d be holding her
lifeless body in my arms. Meat was spilling out of her, Red.” (Castle) Frank Castle was shot in the
head, but survived and this would change everything.

The
eternal struggle of Frank Castle is a bit more dynamic than the clichéd Good
versus Evil situation. He battles the regret and guilt of feeling
responsibility for his fallen family all the while being traumatically haunted
by the visions of the event. He also struggles with his violent desire to
“right” the situation by executing all those responsible and trying to keep up
his mental health and sanity simultaneously. To go unnoticed in everyday life
he must maintain a sense of civilian like disguise so that he may plan his
nights stalking and hunting his targets. He is plagued however with extreme
episodes of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from both his time in war and
the death of his family, constantly flashing back and forth between the bits of
altered and segmented reality. He may be caught in a crucial moment of survival
in which a second’s late reaction could mean death and his focus will drift
afar to thoughts elsewhere.

The
perception of Castle by the public also seems to deeply affect his character
structure. Yes, he is essentially a murdering psychopath who leaves a trail of blood
and death in his wake, but he has a deeply imbedded code of integrity and
ethics. He would never lay arm to any innocent bystander and merely seeks to
kill those responsible for the murder of his family. To some who fear the
Cartels, Gangs and Mobs he takes down he is revered to as a hero. He is also
considered a sort of Anti-Hero to those who understand just who exactly he is
targeting and why. However, the clear majority of citizens and law enforcement
consider him to be a villain, only seeing it in terms of black and white. Frank
has even had influence over various other individuals including vigilantes such
as Daredevil and Karen Page, an esteemed reporter for the New York Bulletin. He
has also painted a symbolic “Target” on the back of his head being caught on
the radars of the NYPD, FBI, Homeland Security and even the secretive CIA. “So, if he does not
get anything out of it, why does Frank Castle kill people, even after getting
his revenge? He is as much a hero as a victim; a man with morals and skills
parallel to Captain America, and the emotional baggage of a disillusioned
Afghan veteran and a widower. To that effect, when he sees a world full of
victims created by psychotic monsters, he has no choice but to cleanse them
from the earth.” (CT McMillian)

The single biggest regret
that seems to haunt Frank is that the night before the ill-fated tragedy, he
was asked by his daughter Lisa to read to her. One Batch, Two Batch, Penny and
Dime, her favorite book and something she wanted to treasure with her father,
but Frank claimed to be too tired and promised her would read it for her the
following night. Of course, for Lisa, nor her mother and brother would the
following night ever come. Frank confesses his guilt and explains to Daredevil
exactly why he recites “One Batch, Two Batch, Penny and Dime” right before he
kills someone involved in the murder of his family. It has become a sort of
mantra for him, a constant reminder of what he has lost and a nightmarish last
quote for those who also hear it that have wronged him. His family was robbed
of their lives, Frank was robbed of his hopes and dreams. His future has been
almost all but etched in stone to lead a road of sorrow and blood. “She looks
up and sees me. I see her. By God, that’s real. In an instant, she’s across
that classroom floor, she’s in my arms. She’s squeezing me so tight I swear I
was gonna bust a rib, you know? We just stayed there like that, we’re holding
each other.” (Castle)

Why is
it that Frank is canned like an anti-hero? Fiction characters are usually hard
to write about, but Frank Castle is the kind of character that requires
intimate understanding of who he is in on a mental level. He is no way shape or
form an average vigilante. War is awful thing that can either create heroes and
victims. Frank was a victim. He was one of the many soldiers disturbed by war.
Underneath his tolerant appearance was man hurting and absolutely distressed.
He came home to leave the war life behind only to have the only thing keeping
him alive taken away him. Between the horrors of war and the slaying of his
family, the only thing left in Frank was the need for retribution. “You know
those, uh… those people? The ones I put down, the people I killed? I want you
to know I’d do it all again.” (Castle)

There
are two types of pain in this world; pain that hurts you and pain that changes
you. For Frank Castle, it was both. He was a man who prided himself on his
military accomplishments. Obtaining both recognition and skill as he progressed
in his career. It gained the attention of cynical entities though and would
ultimately cost him despair. Opportunity presented itself disguised as an elite
death squad taking out high value targets projected as threats to the U.S,
Operation Cerberus indeed had farther darker intentions. Drug smuggling in the
interest of the squad’s commanders and private executions to keep the origins
and intent of the operations secret. His unknowing and unwilling involvement in
an unsanctioned drug funded CIA death squad cost him his soul. From the
darkness of his actions and the paranoia of the entities involved with his
previous arrangement, his family paid the price with their life. And through
the sorrow, regret and anger he was reborn into a personification of death and
vengeance hell bent on rewarding all those who murdered his family with eternal
night. The law is black and white, yet right and wrong are matters of
perspective, and one would night want to be caught on Frank Castle’s
perspective of wrong. Or the final words you hear may be his last words of hope
and your last memory of despair.

One Batch, Two Batch, Penny and Dime. Gunshot echoes.