Since his first appearance, the Punisher has always had a tenuous relationship with Spider-Man. Frank Castle and Peter Parker have rarely seen eye to eye, leading to some nearly fatal battles. In several different realities, the Punisher has actually succeeded in killing Spider-Man.
The first notable occasion where Castle murdered the web-slinger took place in 1994’s What If? #58, by Chuck Dixon and Gordon Purcell. This issue was a twist on the Punisher’s first appearance, in 1974’s Amazing Spider-Man #129, by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru. Just like on Earth-616, the Punisher was hired by Professor Miles Warren, aka the Jackal, to kill Spider-Man. Originally, Castle confronted Spider-Man directly, leading to his defeat.
Afterwards, Spider-Man talked to the Punisher, who realized he’d been tricked by the Jackal. In this alternate universe, however, the Punisher took a less direct approach, assessing the wall-crawler’s strengths and weaknesses. Chief among Spider-Man’s strengths was his spider-sense, which continually frustrated the Punisher. Eventually, Castle found a solution to his problems by tricking Spider-Man into entering an apartment full of explosives.
As soon as Spider-Man died, however, the Punisher realized he’d made a huge mistake, and Peter wasn’t the criminal he believed him to be. In fact, many of Marvel’s heroes came after the Punisher, seeking justice for their fallen comrade. Spider-Man’s villains also invited the Punisher to a party to celebrate the web-head’s death, where Castle killed them all. Ultimately, the Punisher hunted down the Jackal and killed him before he himself was presumably killed by police.
In this scenario, the Punisher made a huge mistake, killing an innocent Spider-Man. The ramifications of this murder echoed across the universe, spiraling into a cycle of death and violence. Things were a little different, however, in 2010’s Marvel Universe vs the Punisher, by Jonathan Maberry and Goran Parlov. In this universe, Spider-Man was Patient Zero for a chemical virus that turned people into predatory cannibals.
The Punisher accidentally released these chemicals onto New York, after developing an immunity to the virus. As one of Marvel’s last surviving vigilantes, the Punisher fought Patient Zero and other cannibalistic heroes and villains across Manhattan. Eventually, however, Wilson Fisk, the King of Death, kidnapped Spider-Man’s “mate,” Mary Jane.
Castle saved MJ and killed the King of Death, leading Spider-Man to release the survivors. Immediately afterward, however, the Punisher shot Spider-Man in the head. This universe made Spider-Man’s murder a little more understandable, considering his monstrous transformation. Even so, the Punisher was also depicted as a sort of monster, robbing MJ of her life with Spider-Man.
Of course, the previous two examples don’t include several other alternate universes where the Punisher killed Spider-Man. There’s also 1995’s Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe #1, by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite, in which the Punisher accomplishes his titular goal. In 2011’s Ultimate Avengers vs New Ultimates #3, by Mark Millar, Leinil Francis Yu and Stephen Segovia, the Punisher tries to shoot Captain America, but Spider-Man takes the bullet. This gunshot wound is one of several factors which lead to the death of Ultimate Peter Parker.
In the mainstream Marvel Universe, however, the Punisher has never managed to kill Spider-Man. In fact, in 2006’s Civil War #5, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, the Punisher saved Spider-Man’s life. At the time, Spider-Man was defecting from Iron Man’s pro-registration forces to Captain America’s anti-registration team.
Along the way, Peter was nearly killed by Jester and Jack O’Lantern, two supervillains working for pro-registration. The Punisher murdered both of these villains, rescuing Spider-Man and getting him medical attention from the anti-registration heroes.
This is one of the occasional moments where Spider-Man and the Punisher have actually found some common ground. The two vigilantes have often fought, but they’ve also worked together several times, proving that although they don’t always see eye to eye the Punisher generally regards Spider-Man as a hero.
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