What an era of geek plenty we live in, my brothers and sisters, where there are not one but TWO seasons of Daredevil for us to stream at will!
I thoroughly enjoyed the first season, and now, before you knew it, the second season is here!
Of course, Daredevil has long been a favorite here at Longbox Graveyard. To get you in the mood for Hornhead’s latest TV outing, check out these features!
Just before the first season dropped on Netflix, I looked at Daredevil’s origins with a review of Daredevil #1 …
Here’s a brief review of Daredevil’s Silver Age adventures in this Longbox Shortbox …
I was conflicted at the time, but I’ve seen come around on Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil run …
Not sure what to make of this provocative comics creator quote that Daredevil was Marvel’s only “true” crime fighter?
Chasing Amazing’s Mark Ginocchio provided insight on two of the key characters in Daredevil’s life — reporter Ben Urich, and the Kingpin, an enemy so arch that he’s in the Top Ten villains list for two different superheroes …
Happy binging … both on Netflix, and here at Longbox Graveyard!
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
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 …
NEXT MONTH: #158 The Treehouse
Longbox Graveyard goes to the dogs with this Top 10 List of the greatest comic book super-dogs of all time!
It’s Super-Blog Team-Up time again! Super-Blog Team-Up is a loose collection of comic book blogs and podcasts that come together several times a year to opine on a common topic. In the past, we’ve tackled superheroes calling it quits, ret-cons, bad guys, team-ups, and alternative time lines. This time, we’re offering Top 10 Lists — a subject near and dear to my heart!
My past Top 10 lists have been (mostly) serious … or as serious as things get in funnybooks. I’ve listed my Top 10 Captain America Villains, Top 10 DC Comics Characters, Top 10 Marvel Comics Characters, Top 10 Superhero Lairs, and many more. With the Longbox Graveyard Super-Animal Showdown recently drawn to a close, this Super-Blog Team-Up seemed the ideal opportunity to add the Top 10 Super-Dogs to my roll of honor!
Before we get to the list, a few ground rules.
First, I am interested only in characters that appeared first or primarily in comic books. Animation is a whole ‘nother business … so you won’t find characters like Underdog or Dynomutt here. While some of these characters would also appear in animation, they are first and foremost comic-book dogs. Get it? Got it? Good!
Second, this list is heavily biased by the Bronze and Silver Age superhero sensibilities of Longbox Graveyard. Most (but not all) of these mutts are traditional comic book canines that have been around for decades, and all but one of my pooches hails from the comic book “Big Two” publishers. My apologies to all the contemporary, hip, indie comics hounds that I have unfairly consigned to the dog house!
Third, there is no third rule … aside from the restriction that David Letterman used to offer when introducing his nightly Top Ten — “Please, no wagering!”
Without further ado, and in reverse order (to help preserve the suspense, natch), here’s the Longbox Graveyard Top 10 Super-Dogs!
The list leads with an honorable mention for DC’s Space Canine Patrol Agents!
A product of DC’s wonderfully unhinged Silver Age, the Space Canine Patrol Agents (SCPA) were a kind of all-dog counterpart to the Legion of Super-Heroes. First appearing in Superboy #131, the group included a dog you know — Krypto — and a whole bunch of C-list canines, like Tusky Husky, Prophetic Pup, and Chameleon Collie. Close your eyes and you can imagine this lot opening their meetings with their sacred oath — “Big dog, big dog, bow wow wow! We’ll stop evil, now now now!”
I can’t begin to parse through the SCPA membership for this list, so they all get in with an honorable mention (and one member of the crew will shortly get much more than that). For more on the too-weird-not-to-be-true SCPA, head on over to the indispensable Dial B For Blog, which has enough vintage SCPA art to get your tail wagging!
Wilson was an alternate-universe mutt experimented upon for cosmetics testing. With the experiment deemed a failure, poor Wilson was thrown away … only to rise as Dogpool!
Animal testing for the cosmetics industry? On dogs? Now, there’s some true villainy!
Dogpool appeared in an astonishing 29 issues of various Deadpool comics (if Comic Vine is to believed), which either says something about the staying power of this character, or the vacuous nature of Deadpool books! Fingers are crossed that Dogpool gets some spotlight time when Deadpool comes to the silver screen in his 2016 movie debut!
Did you know that the Punisher had a dog? And did you know that this dog was so tough, even the Punisher couldn’t kill him? Meet Max!
Max was totally off my radar until Dean Compton — frequent Longbox Graveyard guest columnist, host of The Unspoken Decade, and the world’s biggest Punisher fan — convinced me that Max deserved a place in the Round of 32 in last month’s Super-Animal Showdown.
Max is a savage Rottweiler who guards the Punisher’s safe house. He was wounded in the line of duty — so badly wounded that the Punisher put him down with a knife. But wait! So outraged was fan reaction to Max’s death that a retcon later established that hard-hearted Punisher actually performed some kind of surgery on Max and saved his life!
And so there you have it … Max, the dog even the Punisher couldn’t kill!
(And let’s not be exploiting any more poor Rottweilers to guard our safe houses, OK?)
As near as I can tell, Destructo only appeared once — in 1961’s Superboy #92 — but if you’re Lex Luthor’s dog, and you wear a Jolly Roger cape, you’ve got to make the list …
Gaining super powers by a run-in with young Lex Luthor’s time machine, Destructo went on a rampage, impersonating Krypto and ruining the Dog of Steel’s good name! This adventure alone was enough to earn Destructo the title of Krypto’s arch-enemy … this is one super-dog overdue for a comeback!
The honor of being the sole non-DC or Marvel comics dog in my top ten goes to Archie’s loyal dog, Vegas!
If we were just talking about the classic, canonical, Riverdale version of Archie’s pet, he likely wouldn’t make this list … but Vegas’ stand-out appearance in the zombie-infested Afterlife With Archie was emotional and unforgettable. I reviewed that surprisingly impactful series here — and I don’t want to give too much away about Vegas, in case you haven’t yet read Archie’s excellent undead adventure — but this image should give you an idea of why Vegas rates the seventh spot on my list!
Now, this is pure cool. A Soviet space dog that drifted off course, mutated into a super-intelligent psychic that projects his thoughts with a stereotypical Russian accent, still wears his CCCP space suit, and serves as security chief on the space station the Guardians of the Galaxy calls home? Damn, it’s all I can do not to make Cosmo #1 on my list!
I just about leapt out of my seat when Cosmo made a cameo appearance in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, as one of the many captors of the dread Collector. When the Collector’s headquarters went boom, I turned to my son and said, “If Cosmo bought it, I’m walking out!” Fortunately, a quick shot showed Cosmo trotting to safety, and so the dream is alive that we will see Cosmo facing down his frenemy, Rocket Raccoon, in the inevitable Guardians of the Galaxy sequel!
#5 Pizza Dog
Also known as Lucky, Pizza Dog is the lovable mutt that Hawkeye rescues from the Russian mob in his recent breakout series by Matt Fraction and David Aja.
Lucky becomes a memorable supporting character in the series, and even stars in the brilliant issue #11 of the run, a book that told the kind of story that comics do better than any other dramatic form — a story related from Lucky’s point of view, using only the senses and sensibilities of a single and extraordinary dog. A great story about a great character, from a team at the top of their form (and good enough to snag an Eisner, too!)
#4 Rex The Wonder-Dog
We need to fire up the Wayback Machine for the #4 hound on our list …
Debuting in 1952’s The Adventures of Rex The Wonder Dog, and appearing in DC adventures right up into the 21st century, Rex would have a serious pedigree even if his early adventures hadn’t been created by comics legends Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth! Rex’s forty-six issue run through the 1950s benefitted from some terrific Gil Kane covers, too.
A kind of canine Captain America, Rex was a German Shepherd in the U.S. Army’s K-9 Corps who received a super-soldier serum injection, serving in World War II and Korea before becoming a crime-fighter, battling aliens and dinosaurs, and fighting alongside the future Justice League of America. A wonder dog, indeed!
#3 Ace the Bat-Hound
Ace hasn’t the resume of Rex the Wonder-Dog, but he gets on the podium of our Super-Dog Top 10 because … Batman!
Because nothing that works in comics isn’t worth over-doing, Ace’s appearance was a foregone conclusion when Krypto took the comics world by storm in 1955. A scant four month’s later, Superboy’s dog was joined by Batman’s hound, Ace, in the DC universe of super-animal stars!
Ace never caught on like Krypto, but c’mon. He wears a Batman mask, and he hangs around the Batcave. Ace is awesome just walking into the room …
The surprise winner of the Longbox Graveyard Super-Animal Showdown rates the penultimate position on our list!
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and making his first appearance in 1965’s Fantastic Four #45, Lockjaw is the unforgettable teleporting super-dog of the weird and wonderful Inhumans. That alone would ensure that Lockjaw made this list, but the four-footed Inhuman has had a long and surprisingly successful second act to his career, first headlining his own book in Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, and then playing a supporting role in the new fan favorite Ms. Marvel series.
Fifty years after he was born, it seems that Lockjaw is still a pup. Respect!
And respect is what it’s all about for the #1 entry on the Super-Dog Top 10.
It’s Krypto, of course!
C’mon, who else could it be? Krypto is the sine qua non of dogs in capes!
First appearing in Adventure Comics #210 in 1955, Krypto was an instant hit as Superboy’s pet. The pilot of Jor-El’s prototype rocket that would eventually bring baby Superman to Earth, Krypto was knocked off course and reached our planet later than baby Kal-El, but still in plenty of time to partner with Superboy in many of his Silver Age Adventures, and even becoming leader of the Legion of Super-Pets!
Lockjaw may have (narrowly) defeated Krypto in their recent showdown, but in the long view of history, there’s only one possible Top Dog when it comes to super-pets. All hail Krypto, the greatest Super-Dog of them all!
That will do it for my Top 10 Super-Dogs. Please share your thoughts in the comments section, below! And also take a look at the many other fine Top 10 Lists on offer from my fellow Super-Blog Team-Up colleagues:
- Super-Hero Satellite: Top 10 DC Comics Titles That Ended Before Their Time
- Idol Head of Diablou: Top 10 Most Important Martian Manhunter Villains
- Marvel Superheroes Podcast: Top 10 Avengers (An Age Of Ultron Tie-In)
- Too Dangerous For A Girl: Top 10 Worst Super-Heroic Hairstyles
- Chasing Amazing: Top 10 Favorite Moments Of The “Chase”
- Fantastiverse: Top 10 Avengers Greatest Super Battles
- Mystery V-Log: Top 10 Avengers Covers
- In My Not So Humble Opinion: Top 10 Avengers Sketches
- The Unspoken Decade: Top 10 Avengers Moments
- Flodos Page: Top 10 Green Lantern Ring-Slings … That Don’t Appear In Modern Continuity
- Between The Pages: Top 10 Wackiest DC Comics Covers
- BronzeAge Babies: The Top 10 Bronze Age Characters (x2!)
- Legion of Super-Bloggers: Legion Who’s Who Top 10
- Vic Sage via The Retroist: Top 10 Comic Character Deaths
- I’m The Gun: The 10 Best All-Star Squadron Covers
Thanks for reading! And if you are ready to make room for a super-dog in your own home and heart, remember that there are thousands of awesome shelter dogs looking for a good home! Please visit my friends at Adopt-A-Pet.com to find your new best friend!
NEXT MONTH: #148 Longbox Soapbox