More recently, in the last couple of years, Greg Rucka's run with the character shows Frank as a tortured, self destructive guy, and that what he is doing isn't good, even if he ends up doing generally positive things, from a certain point of view.
The Punisher War Zone limited series by Rucka, showing the Avengers attempting to bring Punisher in, was an interesting take on the character, contrasting him with the members of the team, at the time. Unfortunately, Rucka ended up leaving the book when Marvel decided to put Punisher on a new team of Thunderbolts which was comprised of "hey, violence is awesome, let's kill some bad guys" characters, which seemed regressive compared to what Rucka was trying to do.
Essentially, Rucka's take on Punisher is that he has a really strong drive to keep going, to keep living, but he's got nothing to live for, so in a lot of ways, his survival instinct is just pushing him to kill as a means to having something to do. If he stops to contemplate why, the weight of everything that has happened just kind of falls on him, and threatens to suffocate his self-preservation instincts.
I think the version of Punisher that shows up in Daredevil Season 2 is much closer to both his original appearances in Spider-Man, where he is a tragic villain, and Rucka's run, and I think its worth watching.
I think even in the real world, Batman had a pretty clear progression from anti-hero originally, to street level hero (when he adopted Robin), to full blow super-hero, when he joins the Justice League, and I think we see that same progression in the animated series, minus a lot of the pre-Robin anti-hero stuff.
Unfortunately in the comics, people seem to like to highlight the anti-hero or street vigilante side of Batman, even when he's clearly moved on to "higher" heroics, and it feels at odds with his appearances with the Justice League, where he as literally moved into a new phase of his life, that is more focused on supporting others and doing large scale good, instead of just cleaning up Gotham, for some value of "clean."
One of the first campaigns I ever ran, however, I decided I wanted to end in a big, epic fashion. There was a mysterious bad guy that was creating a plague that would kill all of the magic creatures in the world.
The bad guy ended up being a cambion (half-demon in those days). After running around the continent looking trying to get to various ingredients and items before the cambion's agents, the players finally ran into a drow mercenary that was working for him, who revealed that he already had everything he needed, and that the drow knew what the plague would do, so he gave them the location of the cambion's fortress.
When they finally went there, the big fight ended up being with his father, a full demon, and the half-demon revealed that he had already released the plague. He told them that he was content to have his little "evil" kingdom, but he was contracted by an entity from Beyond that determined that the time of magic for this world was over, and this was how it would all end.
The cambion had assumed he could just relocate to the Abyss until he found new stomping grounds, but was now trapped. So he then worked with the PCs to find portals to other, magical worlds, where elves, dwarves, wizards, etc. would be safe from the plague, and they could evacuate as many friends as they could find.
Of course, he then decided that everyone going through the portal owed him their souls, which he could present to a Demon Lord to bargain more power for himself, so with friends and family dying in the portal, they fought the cambion to gain access to the other worlds they found (as the plague just didn't function on any other world other than where it was made).
At the time, I was big into cosmic Marvel as well as just getting into Fafhrd and Mouser stories, so there was a layer of entities beyond the gods that represented concepts like Balance and Fate, and Necessity was the entity that decreed when magic was "over" and sent an avatar to hire the Cambion.
Lest that all sound way too functional for a first campaign, I was in junior high, and there were also casual conversations with Thor, Planetars with modern names like Phil and Bob, and really goofy, stupid stuff. But I wanted the ending to have some serious impact. It's still a bit cliche heavy looking back on it, but I liked the swerves I put in place at the time.
On a smaller scale, I was on a kick where I wanted my fantastic monsters to be more restrained for a while, so for one campaign, while the PCs were lower level, wolves were attacking in organized patterns, and there were rumors that the wolf's alpha was some kind of monster.
Essentially, he was just a worg, but since worgs are intelligent enough to understand languages, I decided this one could actually speak common, so he managed to show up on the edge of a few of the wolf attacks and mock the PCs. I do love a villain that can actually monologue during a fight.
Eventually the PCs ran into a Mist Wolf (good aligned intelligent wolf thingie, for anyone that didn't run into the reference before) that wanted the local wolves to be spared, so it asked the PCs to subdue the worg so that the mist wolf could ritually defeat it in front of the other wolves and take over the massive local pack.
So they hunted him down, beat him up until he was unmoving, and took him to a forest clearing. The mist wolf had the cleric heal him, and then challenged him, and killed him to take over the pack.
Scripture: Exodus 31:1-6, Colossians 3:23-24
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