In the world of Marvel comics, two of the most popular and iconic characters are Ghost Rider and the Punisher. While both are known for their unique abilities and methods of dispensing justice, they also have starkly different moral codes. Ghost Rider is imbued with supernatural powers and seeks to punish those who have committed evil deeds. At the same time, the Punisher is a human vigilante who uses lethal force to eliminate those he deems as criminals. One of the most notable powers in Marvel Comics, in general, is Penance Stare, and on one occasion, The Punisher was immune to it. Due to this, we’ve decided to analyze this in a bit more detail. Let’s see whether Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare would work on The Punisher.
Generally, Ghost Rider’s Penance does Work on Punisher. The only instance where it failed was in Thunderbolts Vol. 2 #29. In this issue, Ghost Rider fixes his penance gaze on The Punisher, and it fails because Frank never felt guilty for his action. However, later in The Punisher 12 #16, Ghost Rider attacks The Punisher with his penance gaze again, and this time he doubles down in pain and starts vomiting, so yes, Penance Stare does work on Punisher.
Now that we’ve covered that Ghost Rider is able to hurt the Punisher with his trademark ability, it’s time to analyze how he managed to avoid it the first time and how it generally works. If you’re interested in more, stay with us and keep reading!
Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare is an incredibly powerful ability that comes with a fine a print
Ghost Rider is among the most powerful characters in Marvel Comics. He has superhuman strength, speed, invulnerability, and Penance Stare, among many other supernatural abilities.
Penance Stare is truly special, as it’s one power that makes him basically overpowered when compared to other characters of supernatural and divine origin. But what exactly is Penance Stare? Penance Stare allows Ghost Rider / Spirit of Vengeance to reflect the pain of the sins that a person has committed back to them. If the person or entity in question has committed great atrocities against innocents, that same pain and suffering will be reflected back to them, causing physical and emotional symptoms. Penance Stare burns the souls of the wicked much in the same way that Hellfier is able to melt through their physical bodies.
Now as you can see, since there are basically no characters, persons, superheroes, or villains without sins, this ability has the potential to take down almost anybody in a fight. This is why certain limitations were imposed on the Penance Stare, and those are the following:
- Penance Stare does not work on creatures/characters that are known to be without souls. Penance Stare wouldn’t work against Ultron, for example. It also doesn’t work against symbiotes.
- Penance Stare does not work on entities that are considered to have “Absolute Souls.” One example of an entity that would be immune to Penance Stare is Eternity.
- Penance Stare likewise does not work on amoral creatures that are above our morality system. One such character from Marvel Comics is Galactus. His actions cannot be deemed either right or wrong because he is necessary for balance to exist and is part of the natural order.
- Penance Stare won’t work if the targets don’t feel guilty for their actions.
- Penance Stare also doesn’t have an effect if the character in question is innocent. One such way of this happening is when the Punisher and Ghost Rider travel back in time to kill Thanos before he destroys the Universe. Penance Stare didn’t work on his because he was, at the time, innocent of any crime.
- Penance Stare requires eye contact to be successful, although recently, this has been somewhat questionable.
As you can see, this list alone narrows down who can be affected by the Penance Stare, and whatever you make of it, Penance Stare must have certain limitations; otherwise, Ghost Rider would be able to steamroll just about anyone who has harmed people be it intentional or accidental. It would also affect people suffering from guilty even if they are not factually guilty of anything.
But how does Penance Stare affects vigilantes like the Punisher?
Penance Stare once failed to work on Punisher due to him not feeling any guilt for his actions
In Thunderbolts Vol. 2 #29, Ghost Rider faced Frank Castle. He fixed his Penance Stare on him, but Frank managed to resist it completely.
Ghost Rider is shocked and asks him how he managed to stay unharmed by it since he killed so many, both innocent and guilty of various crimes. The Punisher answers him that he doesn’t feel guilty for the things he’s done.
It’s simple, really; Frank Castle feels justified in his actions. This is borderline sociopathic, but still, at the time, it was a good enough strategy to avoid having your soul burned. Fans generally regard this particular storyline as bad, and the reasoning for The Punisher being immune to Penance Stare is “thin” at best.
If you’re asking yourself why Punisher was truly immune to Penance Stare, the most plausible explanation we have for you is “writer’s inconsistency.” It happened before, and it will happen again. In fact, it happened again, specifically with the Punisher, since a couple of comics later, we see him being affected by Penance Stare.
The Punisher is not immune to Penance Stare
In Punisher Vol 12 #16, released in 2019, we see Ghost Rider attempting to affect Frank Castle with his Penance Stare once again. This time the Punisher is severely affected. He doubles down in pain and starts vomiting. Ghost Rider comments that Frank now knows what he truly is now and feels all the pain he has inflicted.
Frank answers that he does feel guilty about his actions and that he is aware of the pain he has caused, still suffering great pain.
And there you have it. The events of Punisher #16 completely negate what took place during the Thunderbolts storyline, and since this issue is younger, we’re going to take it for a confirmation that Penance Stare is capable of affecting the Punisher.