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Six Weeks of Punishment (Week 4) — The Punisher in Marvel Super Action #1

Longbox Graveyard #157

It’s time for a special guest blog, as friend-of-the-Longbox and Punisher super-fan Dean Compton flashes us back to the bad old days of Marvel black & white comics magazine exploitation tales! Take it away, Dean! — LBG

Hey, Folks!

Once more, Paul was kind enough to allow an 90’s loving interloper to waltz into your lava lamp and blacklight poster adorned lounge and set up shop!  Seriously, it’s always a pleasure to get a chance to present some 70’s goodness here at Longbox Graveyard, and as well everyone knows, nothing from the 70’s brings me more goodness than The Punisher.

Over at The Unspoken Decade, the World Wide Web’s only habitat for 90’s comics, we’re building up to Season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil (featuring The Punisher!) with SIX WEEKS OF PUNISHMENT as we look at Frank Castle’s past.  One could never deny that Castle’s past is rooted in the 70’s, and so Week Four brings us here to the Longbox Graveyard, where it’s perpetually 1978, and the attitude toward a certain skull-chested vigilante was much more guarded.

By the 90’s, the idea that a man would murder criminals wantonly with a huge arsenal was much more accepted, but the 70’s, despite violence in the streets and violence in culture (I reference this in my first Punisher article here at LBG, Punishment is Black and White), just isn’t ready to embrace a cold-blooded killer like Frank Castle.  This would relegate both the stories in which Punisher was the featured character to the 70’s Black & White magazine scene, where they could cut loose a bit more.  Cutting loose is exactly what they did, starting with this sick cover.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 1

if you take The Punisher off of this, it could be a panel in a Chick Tract about the end days

Even in the black and white magazines, though, The Punisher was highly controversial and the fans of the 70’s just weren’t sure that The Punisher was the sort of character they desired to see due to his excessive violence and penchant for murder.  I don’t disagree with them.  Frank Castle is a reprehensible person who engages in mass murder.  The character fascinates me, but if we don’t have some apprehension about Punisher’s tactics in his war on crime, then we don’t have any moral standing in which to critique the criminals we know we despise.  Writer Archie Goodwin and some letter writers discuss this in the issue, and it gives the story and the character richer context.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 2006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 4

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 5

I miss letters columns so much.  I understand why we don’t have them any more, but seeing these well-thought-out and well-written letters makes me miss the prose we’d get in comic books after the story.  There’s plenty of places to exchange ideas now, and one certainly gets the exchange faster via message boards, Facebook groups, and the like, but I miss feeling like I got something extra with the comic book, which is how letters columns always made me feel.  Alas, we’ll just have to make due, won’t we?

Writer Archie Goodwin, Penciller Tony DeZuniga, and Inker Rico Rival bring us an important tale in Frank Castle’s history, for this is when Frank Castle found and killed the men who killed his family.

When people find out how much I love The Punisher (mostly due to the fact that I pretty much only wear Punisher and Kansas City Royals stuff), they always talk about his origin and if he killed the men who killed his family.  Most of them seem quizzical about why Frank Castle would continue to kill criminals after dispatching the men who brought his family down.  I think that’s because we see a lot of action movies with that trope.  After he gets his vengeance, people expect him to move on to a quiet life as a soundtrack plays and the credits roll.  Sadly, Frank Castle can’t have that, which is one of the things that separates him from other characters that we see who go after retribution for the death of their families.  Either Castle can’t get over it, or as has become a popular assertion, Castle has always had something in him that made him need to kill.  Whichever is true, the criminal underworld pays either way.  In my last article here on Punisher, I mentioned that Marvel in the 70’s was able to extract the permanent essence from something designed to be temporary, and I think by having Frank Castle continue to punish the guilty long after having terminated those who killed his family enabled them to find said essence, although it would take them awhile to perfect it.

I’m also the first to admit that The Punisher is a reprehensible human being who does reprehensible things.  There’s certainly a modicum of a code of honor within him, as he does save innocent lives, but for the most part, Punisher hungers to murder.  He justifies this as being needed as to prevent anything like what happened to his family from happening again, but that’s just not good enough to let mass murder slide.  Punisher fascinates me, for reasons I stated in my other Punisher article here at LBG, but there’s great reason to also revile the man.

Once you hear his story, however, somehow, you find pity for Frank Castle within that revulsion.  Within Castle, however, there is no pity…

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 6

I’ve never had veal marsala; what is it?

Joey Charisma is a great name for a mobster, but how thankless and awful must it be to be Punisher’s informant.  You definitely know that your fellow mobsters will kill you the second they find out you’ve been singing, while at the same time, you also just know Punisher is going to murder you the very second you stop being useful to him.  I’d say that’s between a rock and a hard place, but that simply wouldn’t do it justice.

This scene is how we start, but it actually has little to do with the tale we will see, which starts off with Frank Castle recording an entry in his War Journal while also inviting in what appears to be a lady of the night into an apartment that he apparently nabbed via 70’s AirBNB, as he only rented it for the week.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 7

also, the amount of time for which you rent something has very little to do with whether you now how well it is decorated it is or not

Audrey implores Punisher to tell her all about his past while she freshens up, which seems odd.  If I have learned anything from having to watch countless hours of Two and a Half Men at my job, it’s that hookers show up freshened up and ready to go.  This gives us time for Punisher to tell us a little backstory and a sweet splash page that gives us a title!

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 9

If there’s any body of fresh water a drowning man would especially not wanna buy, I’m guessing it is Lake Erie

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 10

Pa-Thum is the sound of dying

After shooting up the numbers drop, we see what becomes a very standard element of Punisher’s narrative, in that he takes the cash from the drug runners, mobsters, and murderers that he kills and uses it in his war on crime, and Punisher even does so with a quip anyone could appreciate.

taxpayer

A joke about taxes!  Never mind about that mass murderer and reprehensible stuff.  He’s one of us, folks.

All of Punisher’s activities aren’t going unnoticed, of course.  The Mob is personally affected by this, so the Bruno Costa are making their own preparations in regard to this, as well one would expect.

Obviously, another element of the war on crime is taking notice, and of course, I am speaking of New York’s finest.  At this point in Castle’s “career” he hasn’t garnered the worldwide infamy in the eyes of law enforcement that he will eventually gain.  Right now, though, a couple of detectives (and presumably a few MPs) are seeing what Castle is doing, and even more frighteningly…what Castle may be capable of…

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 12

The Inspector is sort of heartless to be this concerned with Punisher’s career.  “Your family was murdered in front of you, but don’t lose your career. Focus, lad.”

One of my favorite relationships to dwell upon when it comes to The Punisher is the relationship he has with the police.  I would imagine that many cops would just look the other way, especially in the Marvel Universe, where it seems like there is a machine like in the game Gauntlet, only instead of producing ghosts, this one produces an unending supply of mooks for guys like The Punisher to shoot.  However, it seems like the cops of the 616 would have to deal with these guys more often than Punisher, so they’d welcome his presence.

You’d also have cops that really attempted to stop Punisher (much like in the recent Greg Rucka series that was really, really good) because he’s a blight on their profession.  Here, we see Laviano more or less bemused by the entire thing, (and this gets explored further in Punisher:  Year One, which I will be looking at on The Unspoken Decade for SIX WEEKS OF PUNISHMENT!) which is what I suspect the reaction of most cops would be.  They may not actively help Frank Castle, but they also certainly don’t stand against him, and hey, if he makes their jobs a little easier, then he can just keep up his good work.

The more eagle-eyed of you probably noticed the  lower right panel of what seems to be a country club.  This is a country club that likes to attract high rollers and gamblers, which attract enforcers should these guys not pay.  Two of those enforcers happen to be tied up in the Bruno Costa-and they happen to be two of the men who killed Frank’s family.  One has an ulcer, which is appropriate; he’ll be worried the rest of his life.  Punisher kills both of these guys, leaving one alive just long enough to tell the Bruno Costa Syndicate that he’s coming for the rest of the family.

Believe it or not, this doesn’t make the head of the Syndicate, Frank Costa, very happy, and he takes it out on his brother.  If you recall, his brother was one of the guys who killed Punisher’s family.  In fact, he’s lucky Frank Costa doesn’t kill him right here.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 14

So he just off and nailed his brother with a trowel.  I bet Christmas is very fun at their house.

After hitting his brother in a manner that almost assuredly disfigured his brother for life, Frank Costa sends him and the other mooks on the hit squad down to a Florida retreat.  This retreat is almost impenetrable, which means it is perfect for  the Mob to send a few mooks to lay low until the heat dies down.  What they don’t know yet, is that the heat will never die down from one Frank Castle.

The Mob retreat was built in a fort in a dying Florida town.  The locals once had a oil boom, but that was apparently some time ago.  The only thing happening here now is that the Mob has refitted an old fort to be their stronghold.  Punisher makes his way down to the town, but he isn’t alone.

The Mechanic has the unfortunate distinction of being the first comrade in Frank Castle’s war on crime, but he also has the ignominious fate of being the first of many of Punisher’s friends to not get out of Castle’s war on crime alive.  He literally died in Punisher’s first appearance, Amazing Spider-Man #129.  The action here takes place before that issue of Spidey, and so we see The Mechanic’s motivation for helping Castle, as he says one of the most poignant things you’ll not just hear in a Punisher comic, but possibly ever.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 17

Listen to those mooks talk.  Bruno is describing their place like it’s Fort Titanic.

“But I do have a war”… The Mechanic points a sad truth, which is that we here trumpet our dedication to the fighting men and women of the United States armed forces.  Politicians climb over one another to tout their support of the troops.  We fly the flags and the ribbons.  We buy the shirts and the Desert Storm trading cards .  When the men and women come home, though, they are often cast aside.  Many of them find help, sometimes through the official channels and sometimes not, but sadly, many slip through the cracks.  For all the support that is often voiced, there always seems to be too little of actual substance in the form of programs and funding for said programs to help veterans ease their way back into civilian society.  You read interviews with them about feeling listless and purposeless. Some drift into homelessness and drug abuse.  There’s certainly no panacea for this problem, but we should do better.  So much better.  You have to give kudos to Archie Goodwin for pointing out this issue very naturally in his text.

For Punisher, he has found a purpose, and for the rest of The Mechanic’s life, he has a purpose as well.  The war on crime beckons, and these two have an impenetrable fort to break into.  The mooks within react in different ways.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 18

Ah yes, the good old days when the cure for alcoholism was nothing more than a little jaunt in a sanitarium.

Skinner and Bruno are of the mindset that nothing is wrong, while the last panel there proves that Kolsky is right.  Punisher is dead set on killing them, which means they are already dead.  The only real question is how amusing it will be to see Punisher kill them.

The answer is very amusing.

Earlier, Castle noted that this town had once had a boom due an oil discovery.  While this boom lasted a father finite period of time, it did leave behind much of its trappings, like say a giant oil well.  Now if one were to, say, blow up this oil well, one would have a helluva trap set, right?

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 19

Whoever made the decision to have that salt-water pool is getting chewed out royally now.  You can just hear it.  “WELL YOU JUST HAD TO HAVE THAT POOL, DIDN’T YOU?  WELL LOOK NOW.  EVERYONE’S DEAD.”

 The oil well explosion is a delightful distraction, and it also lets us see Marvel putting “goddamned” into a comic book, which was a big deal then, even in a B&W magazine.  Now it would be fairly run of the mill.  Also, as a side note, it’s much cooler to say “goddamned” than “goddamn.”  At least in print.

The reaction inside is to be terrified.  I mean, a giant oil well just exploded outside.  There isn’t much of a different way to act, now is there?  Terror, though, can cause men and women to react in different ways.  For instance, take the dichotomous approaches of Bruno Costa and Skinner.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 20

Famous last words of a fool.

As you see, Costa wants to stay and fight, while Skinner desires to leave.  I can’t say that I blame him, what with him having been in a tenement fire as a child.  Fire seems like an awful way to go.  Of course, leaving won’t do him any favors either, as he pulls the old Greek Tragedy bit of attempting to run away from his destiny while running smack dab into it.

punhead

Brutal.  This is what you want from a 70’s B&W mag!

Punisher has now eliminated all but two men from the group of mooks that murdered his family.  One is Bruno, who seems to have the idea of holing up and waiting for Punisher.  The other is Kolsky.  The entire book, Kolsky is presented as the only guy in this cadre that really has any shot at killing The Punisher, and since this book has a logo for “The Punisher:  America’s #1 Crime Destroyer” and not “Kolsky:  The Mob’s #1 Family Killer” on the cover, one has to figure that even with his dum-dum bullets and fatalistic pessimism, Kolsky’s chances are slim.

While he does manage to get the drop on Frank Castle, Kolsky isn’t prepared for that sea-water aquarium the mob had installed.  Castle manages to use the fact that Kolsky’s gun has a silencer on it to lure Kolsky into the ultimate trap; he kills him with a damn shark.

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 23

Hopefully we get this shark’s story in the upcoming Punisher reboot.  What happened to his family?  Is this the true first appearance of The Punfisher?

That just leaves Bruno Costa for Frank to kill, and there has to be some sweet revenge here, right?  This isn’t just the guy who iced Frank’s family, but it’s also the guy who had the super deep connections to ensure that he and his cohorts wouldn’t have to pay for massacring Frank’s family.

Alas, by the time he catches up to Bruno, he’s already dead, having been murdered by someone wielding an ice pick.  Bruno’s own brother ordered the hit.  The mob was still grasping at the idea that if the men who destroyed Frank Castle’s life were gone, then perhaps, he would stop eradicating them.  Fat chance, guys.  Who did Bruno in, you ask?  Why, none other than the prostitute visiting Frank Castle in this very issue!

006 Marvel Super Action #1 - Page 25

BADOW is the sound I want every gun to make from now on.

The last panel really sums up  Punisher.  There’s the drive.  There’s the determination.  There’s the nihilism.  One sort of has to wonder whether or not Frank Castle would have given up his war on criminals had he been able to have the satisfaction of revenge rather than a mob prostitute assassin being the one to ultimately dispose of Bruno Costa.

Something tells me no.  There’s just something in Frank Castle that changed him from something even remotely resembling a human being into a force of nature that only “lives” in order to dispense as much punishment against the guilty as is humanly possible before he burns himself out.  The need to punish is much more than Frank Castle ever was.  Perhaps this part of him would have seeped out around the edges even if his family had not been brutally slain right in front of him.

But just as I strongly believe that Punisher has something in him that forces him to solider on even after those who killed his family are dead, I also believe that there was something about his family that was holding this in check.  Had Maria and the children not been terminated, Castle lives a quiet and perhaps even boring life.

Much to the chagrin of the criminal underworld, that life will never come to pass.  Of course, that’s also much to the chagrin of Frank Castle …

Thanks, Dean, for another terrific Punisher article … I think this is his best yet! For more of Dean’s work, be sure to drop by The Unspoken Decade, or give him a listen over at Voc Nation! — LBG

NEXT MONTH: #158 The Treehouse

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4 Seconds Is On The Air!

Frequent Longbox Graveyard contributor Dean Compton and co-host Emily Scott were kind enough to have me on Her Dork World/His Dork World to discuss my new digital comic, 4 Seconds!

4 Seconds

4 Seconds is still FREE to read online at Thrillbent.com!

The show was broadcast LIVE on Voc Nation last week … but if you missed the show, you can stream it right here.

Dean, Emily, and I discussed the creation of 4 Seconds, Marvel’s recent re-launch, the future of comic books, and more!

Voc Nation

Thanks to Dean and Emily for having me on the show … and be sure to check back here next week, when Dean Compton returns to Longbox Graveyard with another appreciation of his favorite comics character, the Punisher!

Unspeakable!

This week I was a guest on The Unspoken Decade podcast!

The Unspoken Decade

Longbox Graveyard fans will remember that the Unspoken Decade is the blogging home of Dean Compton, a frequent Longbox Graveyard contributor. Over at the Unspoken Decade, Dean talks all things nineties in the world of comics.

so very 90s

so very 90s!

Our podcast was a good-natured point/counterpoint of the relative merits of 1990s vs. 1970s comics.

Give it a listen!

Thanks, Dean, for having this Bronze Age relic on your show! Kinda grim to be the “old guy” in a conversation where the newest ideas on offer are already a quarter-century old … but that comes with the kit, given that I permanently reside in the year of 1978!

(And remember that you can listen to all my various podcast appearances on the Longbox Graveyard Podcast page!)

Punishment Is Black And White

Longbox Graveyard #130

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.”

boom goes the 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!!

Amazing Spider-Man #129

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!

Marvel Preview #2

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.

Marvel Preview #2

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.

Marvel Preview #2

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.)

Marvel Preview #2

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!

Marvel Preview #2

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.”

Marvel Preview #2

Marvel Preview #2

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.

Marvel Preview #2

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!!

Marvel Preview #2

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.

Marvel Preview #2

Marvel Preview #2

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.

Marvel Preview #2

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.

Bustin Loose,
Dean Compton

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

Podcasting Miracle!

You may remember that live podcast I plugged here several days ago.

For technical reasons beyond anyone’s control, the “live” part didn’t happen … and it also appeared that the podcast itself had been lost to the great digital beyond.

But, Lo and Behold … my episode of Compton After Dark has popped up on iTunes!

Mister Miracle!

it’s a miracle!

Give it a listen … we discuss The New Gods, among many, many other things.

And thanks to frequent Longbox Graveyard contributor Dean Compton for having me on the show!

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