The Punisher's Nathan Edmondson on Frank Castle and Maple Glazed Bacon Doughnuts

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Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 8:22 AM
  • The Punisher by Mitch Gerads (Marvel)
When writer Nathan Edmondson first started working on his new Punisher series for Marvel, he knew that he wanted to move his title character - the glowering, torture-happy antihero Frank Castle - from New York to Los Angeles. He also started polling friends for suggestions about a base of operations that might be a good fit for a hard-boiled former solider turned vigilante looking for a cup of hot black coffee, some eggs and a low-key vibe. "A "breakfast home" is how Edmondson referred to it. Which is how the Skid Row - adjacent Nickel Diner, as well as perhaps its most beloved menu item - the maple-glazed bacon doughnut - became a backdrop in the pages of a comic book.

In honor of that, Edmondson will be at Nickel Diner on Tuesday, March 11, at 6 p.m., where he will sign copies of The Punisher. (Issue #3 of his take on the series debuted last Wednesday.) Nickel owners Monica May and Kristen Trattner (who are name-checked in the book) will be passing out free maple bacon doughnut holes.

Recently, we caught up with Edmondson to talk about everything from moving Frank to Los Angeles to where to eat in Macon, Ga., to his sharing of a wild culinary anecdote about the French and their passion for baguettes.

  • The Punisher by Mitch Gerads (Marvel)
Squid Ink: The Punisher typically fights his battles on the streets of New York. What made you decide to move him out here?

Nathan Edmondson: When we were offered the opportunity to restart The Punisher, we wanted to offer something new to the series that gave fresh energy to the character and to us as storytellers. He has for so long been associated with New York that it felt like well-tread ground. There are also a lot of other superheroes playing around in New York in the pages of different comics. For those reasons, it made sense to bring Frank out west.

I'm also much more familiar with Los Angeles than New York and I enjoy it more. Then, finally, there's a narrative within the story, there's something that drives the Punisher from the East Coast to the West Coast. He is pursuing criminals and that pursuit has led him out West and he finds himself up against more than he bargained for.

SI: How did you come up with the idea of using Nickel Diner as Frank's go-to breakfast spot?

NE: We needed a place where we get to know his character, and that needed to be a place that was unique to Los Angeles and exhibited the spirit of both the trendy and the classic side of L.A. - it had the right balance of being iconic yet not too nice. The beginning of the story starts downtown.

SI: Before you started the project, did you do a lot of L.A. research?

NE: I think I started mostly with things I was familiar with. Then once you're there, you, along with the character, explore. You know, "Where would it make sense for there to be criminals?" "Where is an interesting industrial district where the Punisher can have a fight?" It's a mix: There's constant research, to be sure. But I'll be taking him to some of my favorite spots as well.

SI: For example?

NE: Hugo's in the Valley. That's where I spend most of my breakfasts when I'm here. It's on the corner of Riverside and Coldwater. I like the eggs Benedict and I'm kind of a sucker for the almond pancakes. As a side note, one of my favorite accomplishments in L.A. was when I tweeted that I was back in L.A. and Hugo's tweeted back, "Welcome home."

SI: What put Hugo's on your radar?

NE: Somebody brought me there because they thought I looked like Ryan Gosling and wanted me to meet him. They said he ate breakfast there. In the dozens of times I've ever been there, I don't think I've ever seen him. But I fell in love with the food and the atmosphere, and I can go there and do work and not be distracted.

SI: When it comes to picking a restaurant, what's more important to the Punisher - the food, the service or the price point?

NE: There are places that you wouldn't find the Punisher going to eat. He's not a white-tablecloth guy. But a place where you have enough tourists mixing in and out and an occasional celebrity? That's a place where he wouldn't really stand out. He's a face that other people in the world know. His face has been on the news. People have asked us, "How is it that he sits there and the cop sitting next to him doesn't know who he is?" Well, in L.A., when you see familiar faces, you assume it's a character actor that you can't place.

SI: According to legend, the Punisher eats and trains like an Olympic athlete. How does a restaurant famous for steak, fried catfish and maple bacon doughnuts fit into the Punisher's view of his body as a temple?

NE: What happens in the book is that we replace Monica and Kristen with a cook named Lou who says they're both on vacation. And he offers a maple bacon doughnut to Frank, and Frank replies something like, "What are you trying to do? Kill me?" And Lou says, "You're doing a plenty good enough job of that on your own - I was just trying to give you something to live for."

SI: So even Frank has trouble resisting the maple bacon doughnut?

See also: Dude Desserts: 5 Great Manly Sweets From L.A. Restaurants

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