Author Archives: Dean Compton
Welcome to an all-new installment of The Dollar Box, where Longbox Graveyard looks at single-issue stories or short runs of comics where the original cover price was a dollar, or less! This week is a special treat, as an ace guest columnist returns to tell us about a blood-spattered, black & white adventure of one of the most badass Marvel characters of all time!
Hey there guys! It’s me, Dean Compton, again, and Paul has once more graciously allowed me a chance to venture back into the Longbox Graveyard once more, and this time, I am doing so with a character that goes nicely with Graveyards … THE PUNISHER!
Punisher is not just my favorite character in comic books, but is arguably my favorite character in anything ever. Whenever I find myself watching any sort of genre fiction, I always wonder what a Punisher crossover would be like. One night, I even acted out a Punisher/Farscape crossover for my girlfriend in what may be the most romantically dorky moment in all of history, recorded, unrecorded, and cosmic.
When I was young, I admired Punisher because I thought he took care of problems and issues in the simplest way possible. He eradicated them. His solutions were final and due to various influences, I felt needed. If only Spider-Man would kill Doc Ock or if Batman would finally do in The Joker, wouldn’t the world be better?
Now that I am older, I am still just as obsessed with Punisher as ever, and I am sure my girlfriend and I do not go a day or two without discussing Punisher in some way, and I have shelves dedicated to Punisher toys and posters of Punisher up everywhere. Now though, I understand just what a fascist Frank Castle really is, and how he is actually the epitome of a psychopath. I understand he is trying to solve a problem, but as a famous anarchist pamphlet once said, “You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship.”
not that Punisher won’t keep trying to blow up ALL social relationships
Now I admire the character of Punisher for his edge, for his cunning, for his completely driven and simple outlook on life. To Castle, there is only right, wrong, and Punishment. I wish I had such a simple outlook and philosophy sometimes but, with you know, much less mass murder.
Punisher is a perfect candidate for Longbox Graveyard because he is truly born of and for the Bronze Age. The 70’s were a time of great crime in this country, and even greater than crime was the fear of crime. People were afraid of the violence that they believed was overtaking every nook and cranny of every urban area in America, and the culture began to reflect this. Death Wish, a movie about a vigilante who loses his family and then murders criminals in retaliation, was a big hit at the time, and as we know from this blog and other resources, 1970’s Marvel Comics tried never to miss a craze of any kind. So they gave us Amazing Spider-Man #129, the first appearance of Punisher!!
Different and Deadly also applies to the gun Punisher is firing, which seems to be the world’s smallest sniper rifle
Punisher showed up a few times as a Spider-Man villain/partner, including a good team up against Moses Magnum, the best named underused villain of all time, in an issue of Giant-Size Spider-Man. Marvel Preview #2 by Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway and Tony DeZuniga, is Frank Castle’s fifth appearance. He must have been received pretty decently, as he was given a tryout in Marvel Preview, one of those big Black and White numbers Marvel published several of during the 1970’s. They published a couple into the 90’s, but their numbers were vastly decreased by the time I started my collecting days. This one was a try-out mag, and while Punisher would get another solo appearance in the B&W Marvel Super Action #1, his solo career would not take off until the 1980’s.
I do recall seeing some of those Black and White magazines in a few convenience stores during the early 1980’s, and my Dad had a couple of old copies of Creepy and Eerie that could be found in various nooks and crannies in our house. One morning when I was about four, I woke up before everyone else and somehow stumbled across one and began reading it. I shrieked at something that would be decidedly unscary now, but must have seemed like Cthulhu him damn self walking in to do dentistry on someone to a 4-year-old awake before everyone else at 5:45 in the morning. Dad was cool and told me it was all just a story, but I had nightmares about it for weeks. Oh Comics!
That was a great experience for me though because it instilled in me a feeling about black and white comics from the 1970’s that persists to this day, which is that there is something inherently scary, edgy, risqué, and taboo about them, thus making them cool as hell to me then and now! In truth as well, these magazines were just that. Unburdened by the onerous and autocratic Comics Code, these stories are definitely aimed at a young adult (16-24) audience, and I am sure they succeeded fairly well on a critical level. These Punisher stories are great, and stand up to this day as definitive installments in the history of Castle, as Marvel Preview #2 has the first presentation of Punisher’s origin!
the Skull inside the logo is very creepy and he is also very happy about the fact that he is very creepy
As Paul has mentioned on occasion here, Marvel does a fantastic job with characters that are created to capitalize on fads. Power Man and Iron Fist are the primary examples, but I think due to how action movies and culture evolved, the fad of the urban vigilante that spawned Punisher became less of a fad and more just another trope upon which action films are bases, and so folks don’t realize that here is another character created by Marvel based on a fad that outlived the height of its fad. There is something insanely impressive about that. It’s almost like Marvel had the ability to take the permanent essence out of something meant to be temporary.
We start off with Punisher on a building, sniper-style, trying to stop a sniper from assassinating a politician. Punisher is Punisher though, so he manages to snipe the sniper first, which is the most meta moment I have ever seen associated with an assassination attempt.
Punisher talks about how the sniper found the perfect spot to assassinate the politician which means Punisher found the perfect spot to ASSASSINATE AN ASSASSIN. Most Badass Thing Ever.
I am unsure if it is because this is the 70’s or if this is just my take on this, but we are two pages in and this comic just feels more dangerous than most. The black and white is perfect for the world of Punisher, where things are darker. The black and white effect also has a sub-textual impact on the story. This is the way Punisher sees the world. Things are black and white. There is only right, wrong … and Punishment.
Punisher proceeds to do his best Batman impression and bounds across the rooftops in order to find the assassin before he can get away. Punisher is expecting a dead or highly wounded mook when he gets there, but he gets a little more than he expected as well.
if Punisher is a concerned citizen then the rest of us everywhere are basically slackers
MIKE! MIKE HAULEY! I am unsure why, but I always laugh at that line. Maybe it is Punisher’s widow peak in the panel to the left of that one. Who knows? I do know that my initial thought is that Punisher is lucky that he has developed that “Punisher Sense,” but then I realize that he developed that sense during the horror of the Vietnam War. That isn’t lucky at all.
Of course, none were as unlucky as Mike Hauley, who got shot by Punisher and was then napalmed to death from a helicopter.
From here Punisher heads for a town he apparently loves so much that he writes about it in his War Journal. (I wonder if anyone ever did the whole dolls/action figure thing with the War Journal and accused Punisher of just keeping a diary. I hope so.)
the Chicago Chamber of Commerce is probably incensed at Punisher’s endorsement of The Windy City
Punisher visits an informant of his named Grundy in Chicago, and I am sure that since Archie and Punisher exist in the same universe that this means Punisher’s informant is somehow related to Miss Grundy. Hey kids, continuity is king!
I am a fan of how Punisher describes Chicago. I have never had the pleasure to enjoy an extended stay there, but I hear it is wonderful, and anything that makes Punisher less morose for even half a second must be the epitome of heavenly.
Notice the War Journal entries that I mentioned earlier. This is one of the first appearances of that particular trope, and it is something that is decidedly Punisher’s within superheroes. All of our favorites have an internal monologue, but very few literally record their thoughts, and no other hero’s monologue gets such a cool paradigm with such a cool name.
Grundy gets shot almost immediately after talking to Punisher, which makes him like most people that ever meet Frank Castle. Punisher chases down the assassin, but this one is determined not to divulge details at any cost!
I am unsure which is more disconcerting: Punisher speaking jive or threatening to turn someone in to the cops
The self-destruct mechanism always sort of reinforces just how serious the bad guys are. As Punisher leaves the scene, he recalls the sequence of events that him to becoming “America’s Greatest Crime Destroyer.”
first time Punisher’s origin is ever told
The black and white panels somehow reinforce the tragedy that is Punisher’s origin. The lack of color makes the event seem almost real somehow, as though you were looking at grainy pictures of the event as it happened. All of Punisher’s decisions somehow become understandable after one views these panels. In fact, I dare say there is a part of everyone who views this story who wonders what other decision Punisher or anyone else could have possibly made in the face of such a torrent of torment.
After this happy trip down memory lane, Punisher meanders his way through his beloved Windy City and finds those the deceased Mike Hauley left behind. Of course, this is troublesome because Punisher, you know, shot Mike Hauley and all.
If she wasn’t recently widowed, she would have repaid that slap with a deep kiss, as was the tradition with male action stars who slapped sense into ladies at the time. Glad it has changed.
Despite dishing out a viscous slap that probably left a welt on her face, Punisher is not so upset with Hauley’s widow as to leave her to die when her husband’s assassin’s rather rudely arrive. That Frank Castle has a heart of gold!!
That fireball looks like one Mario would throw. The Fire Suit is cool, but the Goomba Shoe will rule forever.
Now Mrs. Hauley knows that not only is Punisher not crazy, but that her obstinacy nearly cost her and her children their lives. Perhaps she will simply do exactly as psychopaths in skull shirts say from this moment forth.
Punisher uses the information to track down what appears to be an ultra right-wing militia style group about 20 years before ultra right-wing would gain prominence in the mainstream with the Ruby Ridge/Waco/Oklahoma City incidents. Marvel was once again way ahead of societal trends, although this time they didn’t know it, and I certainly wish that things had gone differently at those incidents. What prescient social insight, though! And Punisher is the perfect character to have predicted such characters. What was this crazy right-wing militia up to and why? I think the best way for these groups to be represented is by speaking loudly from behind a podium to the group at a secret meeting while simultaneously revealing an interloper who had infiltrated their midst.
the leader of this militia appears to be a cross between Colonel Sanders, Uncle Sam, and some generic Nu-Metal rocker from the early 00’s
Punisher destroys the base and this militia by taking out their power supply. The comic ends with an explosion, which only seems right due to the ordinance Punisher constantly puts out. We are then treated to a federal officer named Dave Hamilton who says that Punisher blew this group up, and that Hamilton will never stop hunting until he finds Punisher, even if it takes the rest of his life.
This comic was sick! I hadn’t looked at it in some time, and when reading it again for this article, I was taken back to the first time that I read it. I had gone to my first ever comic book show, which was in Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock is about two hours from my hometown, and I didn’t know when I would get to go to another one. I brought three WIZARD TOP TEN hot comics to trade, Batman: Sword of Azrael #1 and 2 and Batman: Vengeance of Bane. This was August of the year that Azrael took over for Batman, so I decided this mini-treasure that had me the envy of all the other 7th-graders who couldn’t figure out how to get girls to talk to them was worth trading to a dealer for Marvel Preview #2. That move looked better and better in the long run until Bane got hot again after Dark Knight Rises. Still, I regret nothing!
That having been said, I appreciate this story much more as an adult than as a teenager, despite having the same level of passion for Punisher this entire time. I think the nuances of Black and White were just lost on me at the time. Imagine that, a teenager who can’t grasp the complexity of subtlety!
There was another Punisher appearance in a Black and White called Marvel Super Action, and based on this house ad touting the previous Punisher appearances (all in Spider-Man) from Marvel Preview #2, it seemed like Marvel had at least tentative plans to get behind Punisher for a series of some sort.
Alas, that was not to be. Also not to be is a write-up on that other black and white Punisher story in Marvel Super-Action #1. I had intended to write about both of them here, but this one was so good, I had to devote this entire article to it! The best laid plans are often destroyed by Punisher; ask any mook who survived an encounter with Frank Castle. BOTH OF THEM.
However, I am sure I will find a way to get Paul to let me play in the Longbox again sometime soon bringing you the tale of Punisher going after his family’s assassins. In the meantime, check out my 90’s comics blog — The Unspoken Decade. Check out my live radio programs, Her Dork World, His Dork World on Thursday nights at midnight on VOC Nation, on Twitter, and on Facebook. My other show, Compton After Dark, is on VOC Nation on Sundays at 11:30 PM Eastern. Find that show on Twitter and on Facebook.
Thanks for reading. I know Punisher is one of the more dichotomous characters in the Marvel Universe, but maybe after reading this all the haters will have a little more compassion and understanding for the most morally upstanding serial killer superhero comics has ever seen.
Thanks, Dean, for the in-depth work at a character who has been long-overlooked here at Longbox Graveyard! I will certainly look forward to your next Punisher blog, and readers should also return here later this summer, when Dean will share his memories of the All-Star Squadron! In the meantime, please visit Dean at his many links above, and keep an eye out for the return of Super-Blog Team-Up, when Dean joins the team for our next installment, in two weeks’ time!
IN TWO WEEKS: #131 Thanos: Love & Death
EDITOR’S NOTE: This week I welcome a new voice to Longbox Graveyard with guest blogger Dean Compton, who offers his personal experiences with one of the foundational heroes in comics. Take it away, Dean!
Welcome to my guest blog entry here at Longbox Graveyard! I’m Dean Compton, and Paul has been gracious enough to allow me to fill an egregious omission from The Longbox. Paul has done a rather splendid job of showing us the exploits of the Captain Marvel brought to us by the House of Ideas, but so far, there has been nary a mention of the Big Red Cheese, the World’s Mightiest Mortal, the ORIGINAL Captain Marvel!
That ends now!!!
Of course, it isn’t as though Paul is some kind of evil troll just dedicated to depriving you canny readers of the chances to learn more of the Bronze Age exploits of Captain Marvel so much as it seems that he just wasn’t a fan. While I find that to be the sort of superhero fan crime that should be punishable by repeated readings of Sleepwalker and NFL Superpro, Paul has instead given me the opportunity to correct this tiny slight on what is otherwise a tremendous blog.
let the punishment fit the crime: right before Superpro tackles said crime
Lest I get too carried away here, it’s an honor to try and convey just what the Billy Batson/Captain Marvel character means to me. I have loved superheroes my entire life, and I think part of that is the safety of the heroes. I loved how they used their massive power to help those who were helpless, and while that meant lots of fun for me, it also hit very close to home because I was an abused child who was looking for a safe place like the worlds these superheroes strived to create. I also wanted to believe that those who had power did not always abuse it, and superheroes showed that to me.
Of course, that makes Captain Marvel very near and dear to me, because, as I am sure those reading a comic book blog would be aware, Captain Marvel is a kid who says a magic word to become the World’s Mightiest Mortal! If you are looking at this comic book blog and you weren’t aware, wow! How did you get here? Seriously, I’d love to know!
Take a look here and see a quick origin of Captain Marvel from SHAZAM #1 (1973).
who could have caused that exile? Don’t worry, I will tell you after just a little more whining about my childhood
So obviously, once I learned of Captain Marvel, it held a special place in my heart. I wanted to say my own magic word and be able to overcome the evil in life. In times when I just felt like giving up, Billy Batson and Captain Marvel helped inspire me to keep going, and I guess I made it out. I have a steady job in television, great friends, and a girlfriend who somehow manages to tolerate stuff like my constant need to launch into long soliloquies about Billy Batson and other EARTH-SHATTERING comic book stuff. I am not going to go into great detail about my situation growing up, but I will say that lots of folks don’t come out as unscathed as I did, and part of the reason is the hope brought by Captain Marvel into my life.
I think the first time I ever saw Captain Marvel was in the early 80’s. I’m a 70’s baby by 3 months, so many things at Longbox Graveyard happened before I was born, but anything in the late Bronze Age I recall. One of my gifts in life has been to have a tremendous memory, and so I can recall seeing SHAZAM! Slurpee cups at a young age. I also recall a Captain Marvel cartoon on Saturday Mornings paired with Hero High. I didn’t learn about Captain Marvel though (and thought his name was SHAZAM!) until I was in 6th grade. I started collecting the DC and Marvel cards of the early 90’s, and I was captured by the idea instantly.
So, now that we have gotten all that gobbledygook out of the way, perhaps you’d like to actually read about some comics. Hell, even the people who love human interest stories at this point are probably taking to the streets with picket signs reading “GET TO THE COMICS!”, so without further adieu, I’d like to share with you guys SHAZAM #1 and #2 from 1973!!!!
To put things in perspective, there hadn’t been a Captain Marvel comic featuring the Billy Batson Cap in about 20 years at this point. DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics, the original publishers of Captain Marvel, over the fact that that they felt Captain Marvel infringed upon the copyright of Superman. The courts originally said that DC had let Superman’s copyright lapse, but an upper court then decided it wasn’t true and said the case had to be looked at again. At that point, Fawcett just settled out of court and stopped publishing Captain Marvel or any other comics. 1954 is the last year they published. (This had as much to do with declining sales after the war as anything else.) They licensed the Marvel Family to DC in the early 70’s and they eventually finished selling their properties to DC in 1991. Of course, thanks to the interim, if you are like Paul, you have been bamboozled into thinking that Mar-Vell is THE Captain Marvel at this point, when from the ashes of legality DC comics licensed Captain Marvel and his family, and gave us this!
it looks like Superman is some sort of magician here and he is taking credit for bringing Captain Marvel back
So twenty years after the courts decided that Captain Marvel infringed upon Superman’s copyright and Fawcett quit publishing the adventures of the Big Red Cheese, DC licensed the rights to the Marvel Family and brought them back in the above SHAZAM! #1. If you ask me, they really got off on the wrong foot right away. Putting Superman on the cover in this way (he does not appear in the comic book at all) just sort of cheapens the event! Instead of safely entrenching Cap in his own world in his own adventures, instead we get the instant Superman/Captain Marvel comparison. Not only is it a comparison we do not need to make, but the way Superman is drawn makes it seem like he is either taking credit for the book or that he is deigning to let it happen. Perhaps the pose is done on purpose as one final “WE WON” from DC, but who knows? That probably wasn’t the reason for it. I do like the “BOOM!” sound effect.
The creative team for this book is Denny O’Neil writing and art by CC Beck, and while CC Beck is THE Captain Marvel artist, O’Neil’s stories in SHAZAM! just are not very enjoyable. They just feel forced and, at the risk of offending the God of puns, cheesy. Even for 1973, they feel decidedly whitebread and almost insultingly inoffensive due to their simplicity. I figure either DC wanted these stories to be this way (much is made of the Marvels coming out of Suspended Animation); they are so far removed from what Denny O’Neil is good at as a writer (his “realistic” takes on Batman, or Green Lantern/Green Arrow, for instance); or a combination of the two. One thing is for sure though, after the origin story, CC’s art is about the only reason to keep reading the first issue.
I now know where James Cameron got the awful idea to call his mineral “Unobtainium” in Avatar
Yep, Dr. Sivana was behind the disappearance of Captain Marvel teased earlier in the origin panels, which to be fair, are done well. It’s when O’Neil does Sivana and his family as the most idiotic mad geniuses you will ever see or even the entire idea that Cap has been in suspended animation for the twenty years he was legally gone. It probably would have been best to have just started his adventures back up without addressing what was going on while he was gone. Of course, if they had done that, someone (PROBABLY ME) would complain about it because those years were not documented.
We have a saying for that here in the south: Can’t win for losing.
One thing that O’Neil loved to do in his SHAZAM! stories that gets old faster than baby crying on an airplane is the cheesy joke. Scope these two pages and try not to cringe at the pun toward the end. I do love the use of the “KA-RUNCH” sound effect though. I wish real world punches made that same noise.
UGH! Even in the 70’s, that suspended sentence joke had to be unacceptable and possibly a war crime
On the other hand, one of the great things about the 70’s SHAZAM! series was how it provided cool reprints of Golden Age adventures of Captain Marvel adventures, and the one we get in SHAZAM#1 is priceless to me, mostly because of how awesome this old dude is:
No one in history has ever loved string more, which makes me love this old man. Too bad for him, the people who actually own the string take string theft so seriously as to utilize a Spy vs. Spy bomb in order to stop this delightful string-loving old man.
the old guy is collecting the string TO SELL IT. Has string ever been worth anything? For real, I am really asking
There’s also a scientist in this story who believes that since they have string and vases in this other dimension, those people must be monstrous! Surprise, scientist! They look just like us!
that is truly the skulking walk of any scientist whose crazy theories have been disproven by a superhero
A quick comment on that house ad too: Do I really need Doll Man and the Atom in the same comic? I mean, I like both guys, but they both do the same thing. If Doll Man shrinking down doesn’t save the day, HOW WILL THE ATOM DOING THE SAME THING SAVE DAY?
But I digress. Let’s move along to SHAZAM #2, which starts off with a better cover, although those kids kind of scare me.
the meta cover idea always gets me. I love infinity!
The kid holding the comic seems ok, but the girl and the other little boy frighten me to Kingdom Come, and if you have read that, you know that isn’t a great place to be.
SHAZAM #2, on the other hand, is a great deal of fun. Denny O’Neil and CC Beck do the main story, and O’Neil does a better job here. It seems less silly for the sake of silly, and more of the embrace of silly. Of course, a talking tiger named Mr. Tawky Tawny and a worm bad guy named Mr. Mind will sort of do that for you.
Of course, so will an old arch enemy crocodile that attacks Captain Marvel for no reason and then is forgiven. For no reason I can discern other than Beck’s great art, these pages have such charm:
if you’re so happy with the circus and your life in crime is over, why did you attack Captain Marvel? Why is he just letting you go?
The highlight of the story though is when Mr. Mind makes a FOOTBALL OF DOOM!
Of course, our hero manages to catch Mr. Mind in a neat little tale, but the highlight of this issue, and if you ask me, the first 10 issues of SHAZAM! is this backup story by Elliott S! Maggin and the brilliant Beck!
Captain Marvel meets Sunny Sparkle, the nicest kid in the world. He is so nice that people just do things for him all the time, which is good, because he is easily the creepiest child in history. In fact, he is even creepier looking than the live action kids on the cover of issue #2.
Ye Booke Nooke is now filled with hipsters and a cup of black coffee is $8.99
You see, for Sunny Sparkles, being so great is just awful because people give him things! This is somehow a problem for him. For me, I can’t think of much better, but maybe what makes Sunny Sparkles so nice is his lack of materialistic concerns like the ones I have. Of course, this is a comic book, and if I lived in comic book world like Sunny, and I had this power, I would inexorably get involved in some sort of heist and misunderstanding that would lead the most gangster gangster of all time to come looking for me.
look at Sunny on the second page looking at Captain Marvel and tell me the reason people give him things isn’t that they are scared to death of him. I dare you.
I love how the boss goes from just a sort of meany behind a desk whose cigar is also angry because he is to the most gangster gangster ever merely by putting on his hat and having a gun under his coat. Despite his ability to change from a Flintstones bit villain into the crime lord of Earth-S, even he finds Sunny’s charms irresistible.
on Earth-S, waking someone up from a nap is apparently a bigger no-no than RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY
This gangster gangster gets more impressive every page! Now he tilts his hat up slightly, and he is A TRUSTWORTHY ADULT. I love it! Later on we see Sunny Sparkle again, but he is with his rotten cousin. I wonder what New 52 Sunny Sparkle would be like. Never mind. I don’t. Please don’t, DC!
All in all, these stories are fun. If you can find them cheaply, they are worth a read simply for the golden age backups, but the issues themselves are too pricey just for those, and I am sure you can find better reproductions of those golden age stories elsewhere. These 70’s stories, while at their best they are fun, they were just too behind the times to catch on then, I am sure. For instance, I decided it would be neat while writing this blog to listen to the top albums from 1973, the year these comics came out, and let me tell you, Dark Side of the Moon does not mesh as well with Sunny Sparkles as it does Wizard of Oz!
Hope you’ve enjoyed my guest blog here! I can be heard on VOC Nation on two, count ’em, TWO podcasts that air live prior to archiving! One is called Her Dork World, His Dork World (Twitter, Facebook), and it features my girlfriend and I discussing dork culture from a male and female perspective, and it debuts on March 20 at midnight! My other podcast there should be up by now, having debuted yesterday! It’s called Compton After Dark (Twitter, Facebook), and it focuses on wrestling, comics, politics, toys, video games, and more. Listen on Tuesday nights from 11:30PM to 1AM, EST!
Be on the lookout, and if you liked this, bug Paul and maybe he will let me come play in the Longbox again with some Punisher Bronze Age stuff or even more Captain Marvel! Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to talk to all of you again! Look at those exclamation marks. Am I Stan Lee or something?
Thanks for spreading the Captain Marvel gospel, Dean! I encourage all Longbox Graveyard readers to check out Dean’s podcasts (rumor has it a certain master of the Longbox Graveyard will be appearing on air with Dean in April …), and also keep an eye out in coming months as Dean writes about the Punisher and the All-Star Squadron for this very blog! Finally, be sure to mouse on over to Dean’s 1990s comics blog — The Unspoken Decade — where Dean attempts to shine light on the darkest age of comics! Keep the faith, Marvelites! (And I mean that in the ORIGINAL sense!)
IN THREE WEEKS: #127 Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker (Pt. 1)