Punisher's Entire Love Story is Based On A Lie

Contains spoilers for Punisher #5!

Marvel's Punisher famously lost his wife and children in a mob hit gone terribly wrong, but recent events have revealed the relationship between Frank Castle and Maria was based on a lie. The Punisher is a man defined by sadness and violence - and unlike virtually every other superhero in the Marvel Universe, Frank Castle kills all of his enemies. Punisher #5 doesn't shy away from Castle's vengeance-filled war on crime, but it does shine a light onto Frank's mysterious past involving Maria, one of his best friends from school, and a series of love letters for which said friend paid dearly.


In current comics continuity, Frank Castle is no longer the classic Punisher fans know, even giving up his iconic skull logo. Instead, he is the High Slayer, in a position of power within the criminal organization The Hand and selected by the High Priestess of the organization. Under her thumb, Frank kills the enemies of the Hand (who are usually the same sort of hardened criminals whom Frank kills himself anyway) and as a reward, has Maria back in his life - thanks to the secret magic of the Hand that has brought her back to the land of the living. But Frank and Maria's relationship began under false pretenses.

Related: Punisher's Skull Logo Has Been Stolen By A Former Avenger

In Punisher #5, written by Jason Aaron with art by Jesus Saiza and Paul Azaceta, Frank Castle saves Steadman Sternberger from a gang of school bullies, and Steadman in return becomes Castle's friend. Seeing that Castle has violent and antisocial tendencies, he asks Frank to try out for the school hockey team as an alternative outlet for his violence. Frank accepts, and sees a woman - Maria - watching him. Castle is too introverted to say anything - so Steadman does instead. "He likes you, you know...he tells me all the time. He sees you coming to his games. He's just...shy," Steadman says, before handing the Punisher's future wife a note purportedly written by Frank. In actuality, it was written by Steadman on Frank's behalf.

The Punisher and Maria

While ostensibly written as a favor to a friend, Steadman's notes would eventually bring nothing but trouble. Because Frank was occupied with Maria, Steadman would die in a car accident, the victim of a drunk friend at the wheel. Years later, Maria and her children would also be killed in the origin story that changed Frank into the Punisher, all because of Steadman's note.

The new 2022 Punisher series has drawn flack from online fans for having the Punisher join the Hand and for portraying Frank Caslte as a violent man to begin with, but the latter events cement his personality. The fact that Frank was too shy to approach Maria - and the fact that Steadman brought the two together - only serves to prove that the relationship would never have happened if Frank didn't attack Steadman's bullies in the first place. The Punisher's life with his wife was indeed built on a lie crafted by Steadman - but he was only trying to help a man who desperately needed help, but found it far too late in his life.