With the release of season two of “The Punisher” just days away, I thought I would get a bit ahead of the power curve given the inevitable deluge of rival op-eds inbound—articles from major news outlets that will no doubt repeat the hoary old scare tactics that have long surrounded comic books, video games, and even tabletop role-playing games. When season one debuted on Netflix, we even got treated to a rousing round of articles about how The Punisher was some kind of alt-right neo-Nazi icon.

For what it’s worth, Jon Bernthal, starring as Frank Castle in the series, isn’t a fan of the alt-right, and The Punisher’s creator, Gerry Conway, rightly pointed out that, if anything, Castle would be gunning for white supremacist hate groups as he has in the comic series. Personally, I found the first season of the show fairly mundane, melodramatic, and slow-paced. I fell asleep watching it, as I did with “Sicario” and “John Wick 2.” That said, I am a long-time fan of the comic book series and wanted to take a moment to flesh out what “The Punisher” is and isn’t before the media takes a bite out of this subject.

The Atlantic almost got it right when they proclaimed, “The Punisher is rooted in American trauma,” although the author, who we can forgive for not being a huge comics nerd like yours truly, only picked up on the contemporary themes in the Netflix show.

Much of the consternation about The Punisher stems from his use of firearms to exact vigilante justice, but as implied above, much of it likely also derives from the fact that Frank Castle is a white male combat veteran, one who ostensibly fights a one-man war against gangs, mobs, and cartels, which often consist of minorities. Some of this had to be cleaned up and made more politically correct for the Netflix series, which spins a plot of evil government conspiracies.

But to understand what The Punisher is, you have to travel a bit further back in time. You see, before there was The Punisher, there was The Executioner. This character is rooted in American trauma, but to be more specific, he is rooted in the trauma of the Vietnam War.

The Punisher was quite obviously directly lifted from the highly successful book series created by Don Pendleton called “The Executioner.” Pendleton, himself a World War 2 and Korea veteran, kicked the series off in 1969 with “War Against the Mafia,” in which Mack Bolan returns home from Vietnam to find nearly his entire family killed—victims of the mob. Pendleton’s writing was something I grew up with, writing that blasted right off the page in the style of Robert E. Howard or H.P. Lovecraft. “War Against the Mafia” was written as a statement about the Vietnam War and as Pendleton himself said, it was an effort to re-dignify the soldier after America suffered through such an unpopular war.

The book was a huge hit and sparked Pendleton’s “The Executioner” series, in which he authored 38 titles. Mack Bolan had struck a chord. Americans wanted heroic fiction in the aftermath of Vietnam; they wanted to read about a good guy with a gun squaring up against impossible odds. Sure, there are clichés aplenty packed into this premise, but every culture has its heroes. In China and Japan, they have samurai or kung fu masters. In Europe they have knights in shining armor.  In America we got Batman and Superman. After Vietnam, we got Mack Bolan, a darker type of anti-hero who addressed a grittier reality that existed after the American dream fell apart.

As for the violent aspects of Mack Bolan’s crusade against evil, Pendleton said: