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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 

Gerry Conway dislikes American Sniper

Conway's given strong hints he doesn't like the new American Sniper movie, even though there's some tributes to his famous vigilante creation, The Punisher, in the movie:


Man, now we really have to wonder if he regrets creating Frank Castle. We may have to wonder someday if he even regrets creating Power Girl, and Ms. Marvel with Carol Danvers. (Note that he didn't create Danvers, since she'd originally debuted in 1967 as a creation of Roy Thomas. Conway just helped lay the groundswork for turning an existing character into a superheroine.)

While we're on the subject, NY's Vulture section wrote about the movie's homages to the Punisher, but even they can't avoid slipping some kind of bias into the mix:
Thematically, there's not much of import in the dialogue (well, other than the fact that Biggles is totally wrong — a short individual issue of an ongoing comics series is a "comic"; a self-contained story published as a longer volume is a "graphic novel"). But the choice of comic is interesting, revealing, and upsetting.

The comic is never named, but if you look closely, you can see that it's issue No. 1 of the sixth volume of Punisher, released in January of 2004 (making it very believable as something Biggles could be reading during the platoon's 2004 deployment). The titular Punisher debuted in 1974's The Amazing Spider-Man No. 129, but he went on to have many series of his own. His core concept is simple: He hates criminals and he murders them with guns. His name is Frank Castle, he became a skilled and haunted soldier in Vietnam. He came back; his family was killed in the crossfire of a mob shooting; and he subsequently dedicated himself to killing the mobsters — and anyone else who he thought deserved to die for his or her actions. His only distinctive trademark is the giant skull logo he wears on his chest.

Although Punisher has often been popular (especially during the late '80s and early '90s, when the comics industry thrived on grim and gritty antihero action), he's never been an admirable role model. However, his black-and-white view of who deserves to live and who needs to die fits right in with the moral universe of American Sniper. Kyle's platoon goes on to call themselves the Punishers and spray-paint the skull logo on their gear, carrying it during their missions to find and execute insurgents. We never get much in the way of explanation about what the Punisher means to the soldiers, but Kyle's real-life autobiography has a long passage about why he admired the lethal vigilante. [...]
Maybe the Punisher's not such an admirable role model, but what sabotages their review is their insistence on calling Frank a "murderer", yet when they get around to talking about how his family was wiped out by mob enforcers, they don't call them that, nor their savage actions against his wife, children, and the man they were in the process of executing in the park. This is very telling of what's wrong with any detractors of the Punisher's premise, ditto American Sniper's. One irony - and possible flaw - in the movie's scenes with the star reading a Punisher issue is that it comes from Garth Ennis's time writing the MAX series, which was a study in left-wing mishmash:
This is, to put it lightly, a very problematic reading of the character. To get a sense of the Punisher's upsetting worldview, we can turn to the issue that Biggles is reading in the movie. It was written by Northern Irishman Garth Ennis, who is inarguably one of the greatest Punisher writers of all time — and someone with deep ambivalence about the character's morality and popularity. He's tended to write Castle as a man who was mentally destroyed during his service in Vietnam (not unlike the version of Chris Kyle we see in American Sniper), and who has become a dangerous psychopath. A stoic psychopath with something resembling a moral compass, but a psychopath nonetheless. He's way past pursuing justice for what was done to his family — now he just kills people and tells himself he's doing it for a good reason.

The story in Punisher volume 6, No. 1 is characteristically ultraviolent. Frank makes his way to a mansion where a bunch of mobsters are about to have a party, and on the way, he muses on the warped state of his personal war on evil. He recalls that his family was killed while on a picnic, and that they weren't even the intended targets — it was some old mobster. "The old man from the park is long since dead; so are his soldiers, so's the shooter," Frank thinks to himself. "So are the people who called in the hit, and hundreds, maybe thousands more. But the war goes on." The overall "why" question doesn't occur to him.
It's certainly odd that the movie's take on Kyle reads a corruption of the original visions for Frank, turning him into more of a flat-out lunatic than a man whose goals may be questionable but does maintain a sense of honor in his one-man-army career against crime. Yet they call Ennis the greatest writer for Frank, otherwise approving his anti-war themes in the process.

But that does not appear to be Conway's reason for detesting the film. Nope, for him, it stems far more from his ultra-leftist viewpoint, and gives another hint he may not be proud of his past career in comics writing.

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"American Sniper" is Chris Kyle's memoir, told from his specific viewpoint. (Just as "Platoon" was Oliver Stone's fictionalized autobiographical account of his Vietnam experience.) It is not obligated to present a balanced or "nuanced" view of "the big picture."

And the Punisher is a blatant and obvious swipe of the "Executioner" paperback book character. I'm surprised that Pinnacle Books (or writer Don Pendleton) never sued Marvel Comics.

Now the idiot is pretending that political correctness doesn't exist via Vox.

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