When it comes to my love of comic books and comic book characters, nobody comes close to The Punisher. I love the artists that have done work drawing him(Joe Jusko, Steve Dillon, Goran Parlov) and some of his best comics are written by one of my favorite writers, Garth Ennis. So it’s a point of frustration to see the above image used the way it is. In case you are unaware, this is a popular image used by some groups in support of the Blue Lives Matter counter-movement. I see the decals on the backs of people’s cars, I’ve seen patches sporting the logo, and of course t-shirts. Nothing makes me cringe harder than getting a nod from one of these guys when they see me wearing my regular black and white Punisher shirt. I just wear the shirt because I like the goddamn comics and the character, and you’re bringing some off-brand political reality I don’t affiliate with into this. I’m not here to argue against anyone’s belief systems or question why you believe what you believe, but I am here because this altered logo represents a fundamental misunderstanding of Frank Castle and the overall message that almost all of his comics send. The Punisher is not interested in justice, peace, or a better world. The Punisher is and always has always been chasing a war that will never end. That is the end all be all of his wants and desires: a means to quiet the deafening misery of his own existence. The character behind this symbol and the symbol itself represent a system of ideas that is inappropriate when applied to the real-world context of the altered symbol's use.
In 2011, Steve Wacker gave the Frank an official kill count of 45,802 people. An absolutely insane amount of people for one human being, and every single one of them was a character who deserved it in the narratives being told. And you know what he has to show for it? Nothing. The only impact the Punisher has had on the criminal universe is that people are scared of The Punisher. There is no universal justice or dignity in what he does, and his actions undercut the very idea of creating a better society. His process is "treating" the symptoms of criminality, but never the cause. Frank is absolutely reviled in the superhero community for this very reason. His mere appearance in other comics is enough to throw heroes into fits of rage, and there are plenty of stories that revolve around trying to bring him down. Why? Because he is no hero. He barely qualifies as an anti-hero, because the people he does help are only a by-product of his wanton cruelty. He is the catalyst responsible for the creation of more cruelty, more criminality, and a growing resentment towards the idea of reformation.
Personally, I think the true function of a justice system is the reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of criminals back into society. This process starts by punishing offenders for what they have done, but the takeaway here is Frank Castle stops at step one. He is uninterested in the preservation of human life if he deems a life irredeemable. And this is reflected in almost every character he interacts with to a significant degree. They end up dead, psychologically damaged, or more vicious and irredeemable than they were before. The criminal underworld doesn’t go away when he murders every part of the criminal element in a city, a new criminal underworld is created…often one worse than the one the one he wiped from the earth. He defies the deeply flawed system of criminal justice by creating a brand new system of injustice that breeds suffering. And this is why I love the literary idea of The Punisher and the symbolism of his stories so much: they take that idea of vigilante justice and they see it all the way through. What you’re left with is an infinite chain of empty conflicts, with no discernible end in sight. And THAT is the heart of Frank Castle’s very personal, never-ending war.
If you’re someone that rocks this Blue Lives Matter bastardization and you’re thinking “Well yeah, that’s the whole point of his character” then why the hell do you think this an appropriate symbol for a real life counter-movement? Kill em all is not an intelligent, ethical, or even pragmatic approach to criminality. It does not lead me to believe you have the social awareness to be a mouthpiece in support of officers of the law. In the comics, seeing the Punisher logo means one thing and one thing only: You are about to die. It definitely fires up that “hell yeah” part of my brain that kicks off when I see fictional vigilante justice, but this symbol has no place representing any group interested in justice in the real world.