Valerie D'Orazio: Punisher's Vengeance is Taken to the Max

A comics interview article by: Charles Webb
Recently, Charles Webb had the chance to catch up with Valerie D’Orazio to delve into her latest writing venture, Marvel’s Punisher: Butterfly.

Check out Charles’ review of Punisher: Butterfly by clicking here.


-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews

Charles Webb: So The Punisher? Why a Frank Castle story?

Valerie D’Orazio: I was asked if I'd be interested in writing a Punisher story, and I had been a fan of the character since I was really young. I had even pitched a Punisher story to Marvel as a teenager. So it was a perfect fit!

CW: There are a lot of facets to the Punisher each writer brings out -- Ennis explored him as sort of a dead-hearted natural born killer, while Remender saw the character as someone who’s not quite having fun but getting a sort of satisfaction out of killing criminals. What defines your version of the character?

VD: I guess that depends on the version of the Punisher I've worked on. I see the MAX version of the Punisher as iconic, a terrible/powerful force of nature. Kind of like an avenging angel of death. In the Marvel Universe, where my short story in Girl Comics #1 takes place, I think Frank Castle is just a touch more "human." The Marvel Universe Punisher can chat with Spider-Man, turn into a Frankenstein-type monster, even hang out with Power Pack. That doesn't mean that the MU Punisher isn't a bad-ass. It's just a different set of possibilities and sensibilities.

CW: You’ve talked before about what the character meant to you when you were younger -- what does he mean to you now as an adult?

VD: I studied a lot of mythology and Carl Jung/Joseph Campbell in college, and as an adult I can see where the Punisher fits in as an enduring archetype. The fact that he means so much to so many people -- it's more than just being a comic book character, it is something about his persona that reaches people on a deep level. And so I feel very honored to add my 2-cents to his continuing story.

CW: Your character Butterfly -- who is she and how will she interact with Frank?

VD: To Butterfly, Frank is like the bat that flew through Bruce Wayne's window.

CW: The story follows a trail of bodies after the release of a tell-all book. Would it be fair to say this parallels some of your concerns about an industry reaction to your own Goodbye to Comics?

VD: I think “Butterfly” is a story that can be seen as a parallel to many things that happen in this world -- the idea of telling truths that powerful people don't want out there. The question is: is telling these truths worth it? And there is no black or white answer. I've had several occasions where potential whistle-blowers of one stripe or another have sought my advice as to whether to write something like Goodbye To Comics. And I tell them: there is no easy answer.

CW: In terms of bringing your own life into the work, are you identifying with Frank, Butterfly, or the tell-all writer?

VD: There is one method of dream interpretation in which you see every character in the dream as parts of yourself. [Spoilers] One of my favorite movies is David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, in which literally every character is a part of one person's dream. I'm not saying that "Butterfly" is like that specifically, but your question made me think of that.

CW: Your candor about your interactions inside the industry has made you one of the most fascinating people to follow over the last couple of years. How has being open and honest about some of the things you’ve been through helped your personally and professionally? Has it been an obstacle at all?

VD: Sure, there have been a few obstacles for me created because of my openness. But the amount of doors that have opened for me as the result of that same openness has made it all worth it. Some people are so tired of hearing spin, spin, spin in the media that they appreciate any attempt at frankness. But also, I feel like a healthier person having written about my life and my issues rather than just holding it all in.

CW: What was your process working with Laurence Campbell?

VD: Laurence has really been like a gift from God, this one-in-a-million pairing on a book. We never met each other or talked before, but when he started turning around pages it's like he knew exactly what I visualized and "meant." And so it was just a very intuitive process. It's an absolutely gorgeous book. Even if people don't know who I am or what to expect from my writing, I'd buy it for the art alone. Laurence is one of those artists you're going to hear about everywhere.

CW: You’re also working with Nikki Cook on a short for the Girl Comics anthology for another Punisher story. First, what was that process like?

VD: I knew I wanted to work with Nikki before I pitched the story, so I tailored the story to fit Nikki's style. I mean, literally sat down with a bunch of her comics and studied them, and then went to work on the script. And so it was a very collaborative effort, and I'm so pleased with the result. The result is organic, it blends really well -- and I hope me and her can work together on more projects in the future!

CW: Second, in your time working in the comic industry has your interaction with artists changed? (i.e. are you more collaborative or hands-off, etc.)

VD: Some artists work better with a very tight collaboration, and some you submit scripts and trust them to interpret it. Every artist is different. That's really what I learned from my time as a comic book editor -- every artist has a different method of working. But there has to be some level of collaboration there, some organic blending. Because comics are, in my opinion, ultimately a collaborative medium. It's the writer/artist/colorist/letterer/editor, all working together. We are all on the same team.

CW: What sort of projects can we expect from you in the future?

VD: I have X-Men Origins: Emma Frost coming out in May, and will announce more stuff as they get solicited.

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