Bootleg merchandise combining the Punisher and Donald Trump into “Punisher Trump” has recently become a very popular item on sale on a number of conservative websites. One such site, Flag and Cross, is offering a “Punisher Trump” baseball cap, with the sales description being:
The Clinton Crime Family. Croneyism. Taxes. Unemployment. Democrat Collusion with Russia. Fake News. Voter Fraud. What do all of these have in common? They are all being exposed, punished and eliminated by President Trump and his administration.
Punisher Trump is not afraid of confrontation and he takes no prisoners. Punisher Trump is taking on all of these villains in his quest to Make America Great Again.
Will you join him?
The mixed image of Trump’s hair on the Punisher skull has become a popular logo for sale on many other conservative websites. A simple Internet search shows the logo popping up on everything from hats and shirts to stickers and buttons.
The Punisher skull logo has long been a popular symbol for police officers around the country and it seems as though that might be extending to conservatives in general.
Many people can think of Trump in many ways, but Punisher Trump is not one of those ways. Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway spoke about this increase in popularity earlier this year, saying he finds it upsetting.
To me, it’s disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He’s supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.
The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
It goes without saying. In a way, it’s as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he’s also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal’s symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.
While these “Punisher Trump” items are clearly being sold without a license from Marvel and would therefore likely be seen as infringing on Marvel’s intellectual property rights, there is a theoretical argument that the “Punisher Trump” image would be protected as a parody. Such an argument would hinge on whether the addition of Trump’s hair to the iconic skull would be determined to be transformative, though that would be a difficult stance to prove in a court of law.