Gerry Conway has been writing for both Marvel and DC for decades. You probably wouldn’t know him by name… but you WOULD know him by a logo he designed that’s become synonymous with law enforcement and the military.
We’re talking about the skull logo associated with the comic book The Punisher.
Conway isn’t happy that it’s being associated with those who took an oath. In fact, he takes it as an insult.
In a recent interview with SyFy.com, he said that seeing police and military wearing the logo is disconcerting and disturbing.
“I’ve talked about this in other interviews. To me, it’s disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He’s supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.”
He says that the character exists in the comic books entirely because of bad police officers and a failed system, and his supporters argue that if this were real life, Castle – the character – would march against police brutality and killings and wouldn’t be on the side of cops.
In the SyFy interview, Conway says that any police officer displaying the logo is embracing criminality and corruption.
“The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
It goes without saying. In a way, it’s as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he’s also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal’s symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.”
He’s gained support from the actor of the Netflix series The Punisher. Jon Bernthal told Collider.com:
“As far as I’m concerned, I think for so long now we’ve really gone through this thing in this country where a certain element has a stronghold and a monopoly on what it means to be strong or tough or masculine or patriotic, for that matter. For me, the great joy that I have in playing this role and other roles is where I got to pick soldiers and combat vets, and the guys that share their stories with me. To me, the mark of somebody who is strong, patriotic, tough is someone who has an open mind. Someone who is open to listening to all sides and not be steadfast and not be completely clinging to their own sense of, ‘This is what is right and this is what is wrong.’”
Ok, great. We now have the opinion of a guy who draws pictures for a living and a guy who is a pretty face for a living. As far as I’m concerned, if they’ve never put on a uniform, they can shut their privileged mouths.
What matters more is what those who actually fight for law and order with more than a comic book believe.
And it’s ironic, that’s for sure.
It’s ironic that a man seemingly created a logo as a mockery of law enforcement, and we’ve embraced it as a symbol of the war against those who hate law enforcement.
It’s humorous that a guy would rail against men and women who hold the thin blue line by drawing pictures, and we’d use those same pictures as a symbol of the fight every single day AGAINST the villains.
The Punisher symbol has a special meaning to us. It’s how we show that we hold the line between good and evil.
And we’re not alone.
The entire police department in Solvay, New York had the logo put on their patrol cars and refused to remove it when citizens requested it be taken off.
“The Punisher symbol on the patrol vehicles of the Solvay Police Department, while similar to the symbol featured in Marvel comics, is our way of showing our citizens that we will stand between good and evil,” said a statement from Chief Allen Wood and Lt. Derek Osbeck in 2017.
Luckily we have overpaid sociologists like Matthew Hughey to set us straight. He’s the “expert” who weighed in on the controversy to Salon.
“The Punisher employs such tactics as threats, extortion, coercion, blackmail, kidnapping, torture and murder to achieve his ends. Over the last few decades, American police forces are increasingly being caught (even more so on camera) using these very same vigilante tactics and are criticized for acting as though they are the law (rather than being servants of the law).
The use of the Punisher as an avatar by local police departments and other law enforcement agencies may also worsen the well-documented psychological phenomenon where police are faster to shoot African-Americans than they are whites. It is reasonable to suggest, therefore, that the adoption of a vigilante killer’s logo (who murders with impunity and without consequence) could worsen and entrench this already extant pattern.”
Shocker. Another guy who has never been shot at.
Another “thought leader” who has probably never saved a life… or lost one.
Another “expert” who has never said goodbye to a brother or sister in blue gunned down by the very evil they fight against.
And so, Gerry Conway, today I simply say “thank you”. Thank you for creating both a logo AND a controversy that capture the divide we have in society today.
We will continue to look at the image as a symbol of the war on evil. You continue to view your “art” as a symbol of us being evil. But when the bad guys show up at your house one day… don’t call us. Call your local comic book store.
Then draw us a picture about how it all ends.