The Joker never gets rattled. When his plans are inevitably foiled by a series of BAMs, BIFFs and KAPOWs, Joker doesn't curse aloud and shake his fist. He just laughs. That's kind of his thing. He's the immovable object (or is it the unstoppable force?), and Batman has rarely managed to make the Joker flinch. Their tango continues, year after year, and the Joker keeps laughing because he knows that Batman will never do what it takes to cut the music and end the dance for good.
But the Punisher isn't Batman. Joker learned this the hard way in the 1990s crossover issue Deadly Knights.
Not many things can wipe the Joker's shitty grin off of his face, but Frank Castle has a .45 caliber trick up his sleeve. The Punisher isn't known for doling out second chances, especially for a homicidal maniac that has probably killed hundreds and will go on to kill thousands more. Joker recognizes the conviction in the eyes of the man holding the gun, and for once realizes the finality of his situation. He's thinking: This man might actually close the loop. This isn't funny.
Then Batman comes along, right on time.
Usually when the Joker gets away, it's because the Batmobile lost its wheel, or the blimp that's shaped like his own face has an impossibly high top speed -- and no matter how he escapes, the Joker is always laughing. But when he gets the chance to scamper away from the Punisher, there's no trail of "HA HA HA"s; the Joker just feels lucky to get out of there alive. Frank, on the other hand, is of the belief that Batman is indirectly killing people by letting psychopaths walk free.
You might want to check under your shirt, because it's pretty likely that image just put hair on your chest.
We're talking about comic books here, so when I say "Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe," I have to specify which time. A couple years ago Jonathan Mayberry and Goran Parlov came up with The Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher (above), in which Frank Castle battles hordes of superheroes infected with a totally-not-zombie virus.
But years before that, Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe was a short but sweet tale set in a world where all the familiar heroes existed without The Punisher. That is, until one of the superheroes' trademark brawls spilled over into the park and Frank Castle's family got caught in the crossfire. Cue Cyclops going full dickmode while trying to avoid the blame for killing innocents.
The Punisher's origin story is not too far off from how Spider-Man got started. When Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, he got spider powers. When Frank Castle's family was murdered by mobsters, he gained an uncanny ability to murder mobsters. But in a world where superheroes were responsible for killing his family, Punisher dedicates his life to killing superheroes.
First on the chopping block: Look out, here comes the Spider-Man! Seriously Spider-Man, look out, he's right behi--
Resources for Frank's crusade are supplied by a cabal of disfigured and lonely survivors whose lives were destroyed by careless superheroes. Bit by bit, Punisher chips away at the world's heroes and villains. A Hulk here, a Wolverine there. He even manages to get all the mutants in the same area of the moon before nuking it to hell.
Spontaneous immolation isn't a bad way to go in the grand scheme of things. Doctor Doom didn't have it so easy.
Punisher leaves Daredevil for last. Historically, the two have always been at odds, mostly because they see so much of themselves in each other. Which makes it tougher on Frank when he unmasks his fallen foe to find his friend and lawyer, Matt Murdock. Then it dawns on him: The Marvel Universe isn't quite dead. Not yet.
This is what's great about The Punisher. While he dedicates his life to doling out justice, he also knows that he is part of that machine. Frank kills himself at the end of this comic for the same reason the T-800 drops into the molten metal at the end of Terminator 2: it's the only way to end the cycle of violence. All this comic was missing was a thumbs up sinking into a pit of lava.