The character that haunts Frank Castle.
Netflix’s The Punisher: Season 1 wrapped up with the badly disfigured Billy Russo — ex-friend of Frank Castle — clinging to life in a hospital bed and silently vowing revenge against Castle, locking him in as the villain Jigsaw in Season 2.
And now with Season 2 of the Netflix show debuting, here’s everything you need to know about Jigsaw and why he’s managed to stay the one recurring thorn in the Punisher’s side all these years.
Jigsaw Explained: The Basics
Given that the Punisher’s entire modus operandi is killing criminals in brutal and spectacular fashion, it makes sense that his rogues gallery is pretty small compared to the likes of Spider-Man or Iron Man. Yet somehow, Billy Russo has managed to survive one encounter after another with Frank Castle, repeatedly cheating death and returning to exact vengeance on his most hated enemy once again.
Russo’s origin story is fairly different in the original comics compared to the MCU. There, he’s portrayed as a mafia hitman from a broken home who prided himself on his handsome appearance right up until the day Frank Castle threw him face-first through a plate glass window. Russo survived and managed to rise up the criminal ranks despite (or perhaps because of) his horribly disfigured face and deranged personality. He’s now one of the most powerful members of New York’s criminal underworld, but his only true joy in life is tormenting the Punisher.
Jigsaw’s Powers and Abilities
Jigsaw has no true metahuman powers, though like the Joker, he has an almost superhuman ability to cheat death and survive what should be fatal run-ins with the Punisher.
Jigsaw is at least a highly accomplished killer trained in a number of weapons. Over the years, he’s trained himself to be Frank Castle’s physical equal (sometimes going so far as to wear distorted versions of the Punisher costume). He’s also a brilliant tactician whose off-kilter personality and deranged mind often allow him to outsmart Frank.
Jigsaw: Origin and Background
Jigsaw made his Marvel debut not long after the Punisher himself, debuting in a time before Frank Castle had a solo comic to call his own. Jigsaw was created by writer Len Wein and artist Ross Andru and debuted in 1976’s The Amazing Spider-Man #162. However, it wasn’t until the 1994 miniseries Punisher: Year One that Billy Russo’s origin story was fully established. As in the Netflix series, Russo was tasked with covering up loose ends relating to the massacre that wiped out Frank’s family, and he was hideously disfigured by Frank as a result.
Jigsaw has remained a recurring player in the Punisher franchise ever since. He’s also frequently clashed with Spider-Man, even breaking the wallcrawler’s arm during one particularly nasty prison break. Jigsaw has actually been killed by the Punisher multiple times, but each time Marvel’s writers find a way (supernatural or otherwise) of bringing the character back into play.
Jigsaw played a significant role in writer Matt Fraction’s Punisher: War Journal series, where the character donned an inverted version of the Punisher costume and brainwashed an idealistic NYPD cop to become a twisted reflection of Frank Castle. Jigsaw seemingly met his end in that series, but cheated death again and joined up with supernatural crime boss the Hood.
Writer Rick Remender later introduced Billy’s son, Henry, a character who sought to aid Frank Castle and became drawn into the never-ending feud between Jigsaw and Punisher. Jigsaw even partnered with Stuart Clarke (another villain who briefly fought alongside the Punisher) to form a tag-team duo called the Jigsaw Brothers.
Jigsaw: Beyond the Comics
While the Punisher himself has a fairly lengthy resume outside Marvel’s comics, Billy Russo hasn’t appeared much outside of the Netflix series. Given his violent, sadistic personality and hideous personality, he’s not exactly a prime candidate for Marvel’s various animated series.
Jigsaw was originally slated to appear as the main villain in the sequel to 2004’s Punisher movie before that project was canceled. The 2005 Punisher video game (which draws heavily from the movie as well as the comics) offers some idea of how that might have played out. The game’s version of Jigsaw (voiced by Darryl Kurylo) is re-imagined as John Saint, the son of John Travolta’s villain Howard Saint.
Jigsaw did get his chance on the big screen with 2008’s Punisher: War Zone, where he was played by Dominic West. The film pits the character and his brother, “Looney Bin Jim” (Doug Hutchison) against Ray Stevenson’s Frank Castle.
Apart from War Zone, most of Jigsaw’s non-comic book appearances have come in various video games. Aside from the aforementioned 2005 game, he’s appeared in the 1990 NES game The Punisher, the 1991 Game Boy game The Punisher: The Ultimate Payback, the 1993 arcade game The Punisher, and the 2009 Playstation 3 game The Punisher: No Mercy.