It’s not enviable to be a villain and to envy. I’m not referring to ethics or the complicated psychology of being a villain. That complicated psychology is a whole other story, about which I’ll only say that, when one is at a formative age, one’s own mother should not pretend to be at a loss about how one’s prized snapping turtle escaped from its pen. But, at that formative age, I was at least respectably known as Billy—Billy Russoti. Formative age, formidable name. And, in fact, I did grow up to be a formidable mob boss, known for exacting revenge by unleashing ravenous snapping turtles on welshers smeared with puréed crayfish, which is to snapping turtles what salmon roe is to the American bald eagle.
Frank Castle was brutally assaulted and left for dead, and was reborn as the Punisher. Billy Russoti was brutally assaulted and left for dead, and was reborn as … Jigsaw.
Let us spend a moment or two considering the fate of Jim Croce. Some people were big Jim Croce fans. Some people still are big Jim Croce fans. Occasionally, I’ll be on my way to a midnight paintball tournament with the formidable army I’ve assembled after I was left for dead and reborn—there’s that word again, "formidable"—and one of the lesser forms of life given the duty of driving the van will pop in a Jim Croce CD. And, before I sedately defenestrate that lower form of life, I will sometimes place myself in a zone of contemplation for a whole 3 minutes and 46 seconds so that I can reflect upon the lyrics of a chartbuster like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Just because I’m a formidable, if horribly disfigured, crime boss does not mean I’m incapable of reflecting with discernment upon the lyrics of a former Billboard No. 1 single.
Who named me Jigsaw? Let us step outside the frame for a moment and consider the fate of Ernest Hemingway. There are serious, discerning people who believe that what brought down Ernest Hemingway’s small private aircraft on multiple occasions was the vengeance-seeking souls of the big game he had murdered for sport. Similarly, there are serious, discerning people who believe that what brought down Jim Croce’s Beech E18S was karma avenging the offense against lyrical integrity committed by Jim Croce in hits like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Ten to one you think it’s completely beyond the pale to make such an outrageous and disrespectful speculation. But you’re not an overeager crime boss marginalized by society, disfigured beyond recognition, and hunted down by someone with a solid and respectable nom de guerre, like the Punisher. When you’re outside the law, there is no beyond the pale.
By the way, when I say “solid and respectable,” I mean no more than solid and respectable. If it were me being billed as a superhero, I would want a name that sounds a little less like a WWE jobber. In a strange way—and I don’t want to get all sentimental now—this is a bond between my adversary and me. My adversary has the name of a professional wrestler relegated to the undercard, while I have a name that apparently was inspired by the lyrics of a Jim Croce song.
What drives any of us—the Kingpin, Jack O’Lantern, the Plunderer, Goldbug—any of us who have at one time or another wanted to disembowel the Punisher? What drives, for that matter, Rafael Nadal or Damien Hirst? What drives each of us is a little furnace inside burning with rage at the inequities of the world. I knock myself out at 2 o’clock each morning with a strong dose of chloroform. Yet two hours later I am wide awake, raging at a world that could mock me by giving me a name inspired by a song with lyrics so insipid that they alone could be the excuse for taking to a life of crime. And this is me, Jigsaw! Not just a formidable if horribly disfigured crime boss but a discerning human being who in earlier, happier times lay awake pondering enigmas such as the strangeness of ballet: graceful and athletic beautiful young men and women moving about the stage without uttering a word, not one word.
And now my only gratification as I lie awake is that there are others worse off than me. Like Stradivarius, who, as the archenemy of my archenemy, should be my friend. Yet I find it pleasingly ridiculous that the world has mocked her even more viciously than it has mocked me. Her voice may shatter the strongest of titanium alloys, but her name was inspired by the nickname of the vocalist who sang the inane lyrics to the theme songs from not one but two infamous disaster movies, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.
There you have the tragic arc of Jigsaw: from ballet to schadenfreude.
I’m not asking for your sympathy. All I ask is that when we are once again inside the frame, and you are leaving the theater after having observed my inevitable defeat at the hands of the Punisher, please resist the impulse to absent-mindedly hum “Time in a Bottle.” Otherwise, you’ll be siding with the forces of mockery, man’s inhumanity to man, and boxes for wishes and dreams that never come true.