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  1. The Skull Under the Dented Helmet: How The Punisher Became Boba Fett

    March 28, 2015 by Arch Stanton



    Marvel Star Wars #1 – April 1977

    You may be surprised to learn that the first recurring Bounty Hunter to appear in the Star Wars universe was not Boba Fett, but a character in the Marvel Star Wars comic called “The Hunter”. Created by Archie Goodwin, “The Hunter” mirrors Goodwin’s earlier Punisher work.  Goodwin’s “The Hunter”, along with some of his other Star Wars comics, appear to have been directly adapted into the character debut of the iconic Boba Fett.

    Merchandising visionary from the outset, George Lucas was pursuing a comic to coincide with the release of Star Wars even while still filming. After being turned down by Warren Publications, DC Comics, and initially by Stan Lee at Marvel, the Star Wars team was finally able to convince Marvel that the concept wasn’t a financial disaster in waiting. The first Star Wars Comic was released a month before the film’s release in May of 1977, and sales of the series rocketed along on the coat-tails of Star Wars’s wild overnight success. Marvel Comics had a golden goose with their new ongoing Star Wars title, which quickly moved on beyond the plot of the original movie after the first 6 issues. To continue the title, Marvel was allowed to create their own original Star Wars stories. Legendary Marvel writer and editor Archie Goodwin took over writing towards the end of 1977 with issue #11.


    Marvel Super Action #1 – January 1976

    A little history on Goodwin, back in 1976 Archie Goodwin penned the second feature appearance of a minor Spider-Man villain known as The Punisher in Marvel Super Action #1, drawn in black and white by Tony Dezuniga (color cover by Bob Larkin). The Punisher is a solider who’s wounded and loses his family in a mob attack, and becomes obsessed with taking vengeance on criminals.


    Star Wars #16 – July 1978

    By late 1977 Goodwin was the writer for the Star Wars comic, and Tony DeZuniga also made the jump from Punisher, inking several of the early Star Wars books. Goodwin’s new bounty hunter character named “Valance the Hunter” debuted in issue 16, drawn by Walt Simonson on pencils and Bob Wiacek on inks. Valance is a soldier who’s wounded and loses his face in a rebel attack, and becomes obsessed with taking vengeance on droids.

    Beyond the obvious similarities in character origin stories and the covers, there were strong cues in the appearance of the character as well. Like The Punisher, “The Hunter” also wore a skull on his chest, it was almost identical to the small skull previously used in the title logo of the earlier Punisher book.
    When contacted about the similarities in the character for this article, Walt Simonson responded: “I certainly had no intention of doing any Punisher related visuals… I don’t normally do character design sheets; I develop the character design as I draw the comic.” Bob Wiacek also confirms “I used the facial features that Walter gave me and worked in shadows and rendering. The Punisher was the furthest thing from my mind“.  Nevertheless, the widow’s peak, arched eyebrows, and broad facial features of the characters are strikingly similar. Though Simonson and Wiack may not have been intentionally referencing their fellow Star Wars artist Tony Dezuniga’s earlier Punisher art, the two characters were written so correspondingly that Goodwin and DeZuniga’s Punisher comes through strongly in the final Hunter character design.

    Jaxxon the Green Rabbit was Marvel’s first major original Star Wars character, and was mercifully eliminated from the title early after being ridiculed by almost everyone, including Lucas. Though Greedo was the first bounty hunter with a brief appearance in “A New Hope”, “The Hunter” was the first bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe to make a return appearance, and was the first Marvel created Star Wars character popular enough with fans to return as a recurring character. Boba Fett followed, appearing later that year.

    Archie Goodwin

    Archie Goodwin

    When Goodwin was interviewed on writing Star Wars, he stated that the Lucas team was content to let him create his own content, as long as Goodwin would submit a synopsis of the storylines to the Lucas team prior to book production for approval. After submitting “The Hunter” story, he mentioned that the droid prejudice storyline of “The Hunter” caused the Lucas team some pause, but they allowed Marvel to go ahead with it anyway. The title shipped in June for a July release.  Simonson’s cover art is dated April 1978, so the story would have likely have gone to Lucasfilm for approval in January or February of 1978, if not sooner.

    The infamous Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978 was the international introduction of Boba Fett in an animated short created for the Special by Nelvana Studios titled “The Faithful Wookie.” Either under Lucasfilm’s direction or their own intiative, Nelvana appears to have adopted several concepts and characters from Goodwin’s Marvel Star Wars comics #11-16, including a crash landing of the Millenium Falcon on a liquid planet, ocean dragon riders using forked prod rifles, and Goodwin’s bounty hunter character of “The Hunter”, now re-named Boba Fett and sporting a new suit of armor.

    The Boba Fett name came from the April 1978 script draft of “The Empire Strikes Back” (the bounty hunters and Boba Fett did not appear in Leigh Brackett’s February 1978 first draft of the “Empire” script, but they were added by the third draft in April 1978, after Goodwin’s “The Hunter” book had been approved and begun production).  The armor came from character design work already underway by Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie, and in June of 1978 an all-white “Super Trooper” character model was re-purposed as Fett’s costume.  This Boba Fett costume and name, along with many of Goodwin’s comic book characters and scenes from Star Wars #11-16, went to Nelvana to develop into the final animated short for the Holiday Special, released to the world in November 1978.

    Even the shoulder patch skull for Boba Fett’s body armor bares the same characteristic jaw-less long-toothed half grin and stark oversized eyes as the characteristic Punisher death’s head.

    Soon after the Holiday Special, Boba Fett action figures appeared, and he became one of the breakout characters of the Star Wars universe on release of “The Empire Strikes Back”.  Over the years his legend continued to grow into one of the most popular scifi characters in pop culture history. But back at the very start, in the earliest history of Star Wars in the midst of all the comics and cartoons, was that skull badge on Boba Fett’s shoulder intially the mark of The Punisher? Was the most famous gritty bounty hunter of the Star Wars universe originally the most famous gritty street vigilante of the Marvel Universe?


    Ninja Skills Combined Designs on Facebook

    Thank you to Walt Simonson, Bob Wiacek, Dan at Ninja Skills, The Dented Helmet Forums, Carl Potts, Lilith Wood, and Dane&Jake at Punisher Body Count.

    Source Material Links

    Marvel Super Action #1
    Star Wars The Original Years Omnibus
    Overstreet Fan Magazine #5
    Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays
    Archie Goodwin Interview:
    Boba Fett:
    Boba Fett Early Designs:
    Boba Fett Test video:
    Nelvana Cartoon Studio Info:
    Star Wars The Hunter Info:
    Joe Johnson Info:
    Ralph McQuarrie Info:

  2. Joe Kubert’s Vietnam Punisher Art

    August 21, 2014 by Arch Stanton

    Joe Kubert was the undisputed master of War Comics; he defined the visual style of the genre. Unfortunately there are very few Kubert pages of Frank Castle, but undoubtedly the best was the Marvel Graphic Novel “The Punisher Invades The ‘Nam”. Written by Don Lomax, a Vietnam Vet and author of the comic “Vietnam Journal” and later “The ‘Nam”, the book was intended to wrap up “The ‘Nam” ongoing series as issues #84-86.  They never made print in that series,  the title was cancelled prior to their publication. To make up for it, Marvel published the issues in an excellent stand alone graphic novel, including Joe Kubert’s interpretation of Frank Castle’s soldier days on the cover and on each of the three chapter title pages.  All four are included below:

    Punisher Invades 'Nam Cover by Joe Kubert

    Punisher Invades The ‘Nam Cover by Joe Kubert


    Joe Kubert's Chapter 1 Title Page from "Punisher Invades the 'Nam".

    Joe Kubert’s Chapter 1 Title Page from “Punisher Invades the ‘Nam”.


    Joe Kubert's Chapter 2 Title Page from "Punisher Invades the 'Nam".

    Joe Kubert’s Chapter 2 Title Page from “Punisher Invades the ‘Nam”.


    Joe Kubert's Chapter 3 Title Page from "Punisher Invades the 'Nam".

    Joe Kubert’s Chapter 3 Title Page from “Punisher Invades the ‘Nam”.

  3. Did Steven Grant and Dark Horse Comics Create Assassin’s Creed in 1994?

    February 11, 2014 by Arch Stanton

    If you’re a true blue Punisher fan, you know Steven Grant. Back in the 80s alongside Mike Baron and Carl Potts he fleshed out the modern era of the antihero we know today, but there’s another multi-million dollar franchise Steve might have had an uncredited hand in…

    There are few gaming juggernauts like the Assassin’s Creed series. With 10 games released since 2007 and upwards of 50 million games sold, its one of the most lucrative franchises in modern gaming history. The story centers on a struggle between Assassins and Templars, spanning 100s of years of history, bouncing back and forth between historical recreations and modern intrigue. One of the hallmarks of the series is borrowing actual historical figures, places, and events and recreating them for the modern gamer, but did it also take some of the core concepts from a Dark Horse comic series back in 1994?

    Assassin's Creed 2007

    Assassin’s Creed 2007

    X was part of the Comics’ Greatest World revival of Dark Horse comics in the early 90s. CGW was world building on a large scale; several new heroes and books were created in a shared universe that would hopefully propel Dark Horse into the mainstream along the mega-continuities of Marvel and DC. X was a one eyed vigilante with a padlocked mask that stalked the streets of Arcadia, enforcing the rule of X: criminals got one facial slash for a warning, two and they were dead. Steven Grant was at the helm, a writer who revived the Punisher in the mid-80s into an early 90’s tentpole of the Marvel U.  Steven brought a literary bent to the series, with frequent references to classics and characters that regularly quoted Shakespeare.

    X - Dark Horse

    X – Dark Horse (Saltares)


    Starting with issue #6 of X from July 1994, Grant began a 2 issue arc featuring an army of brainwashed assassin warriors led by Lord Alamout, the modern disguise for historical figure Hassan-ibn Sabbah, credited by Grant as the “Old Man of the Mountain” and the undying leader of the Persian Hashashin since the time of the crusades. The arc was based on a legend of Hassan propagated through several books and stories: that he used drugs and a fake garden of paradise to trick his disciples into believing he had special religious powers, thus acquiring their undying loyalty.

    In the 1936 French book, The Master of the Assassins, Betty Bouthoul tells the story of Hassan and may originate the legend. Bouthoul was heavily championed by famous beat writer William S Burroughs, who frequently mentioned Bouthoul’s descriptions of Hassan, the assassins, and elements of their legend in interviews and his books. Burroughs often refers to “Alamout”, an alternative spelling for the name of the Assassin’s home base. According to Steven Grant, “I did crib the Lord Alamout name from Burroughs, but I’d been reading Hassan ibn Sabbah lore since I was little, which drew me to Burroughs rather than vice versa.  Ibn Sabbah is in fact the villain (one of them) of the Black Knight in the Crusades mini-series I did for Marvel c. 1979 that finally saw print some decade plus later in Marvel Feature #52-54. Burroughs does the most jagged version of the legend, though, and the most entertaining.”

    X #6 - Devils Cover - Dark Horse 1994

    X #6 – Devils Cover – Dark Horse 1994

    The ‘Hassan as Master Manipulator’ legend also appeared in Alamut, a 1938 Slovinian novel by Vladimir Bartol that shares some similarities with Bouthoul’s book from two years earlier. Alamut was finally released in English in 2004, and the Assassin’s Creed franchise, especially the first game, directly credits the novel for story inspiration.


    Although sometimes attributed to Hassan ibn-Sabbah, the assassins left no written records, and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883) is the first published reference that reads “Nothing is true, all is permitted” in German.  The phrase next appears in French in Bouthoul’s The Master of the Assassins (1936), in its more common form “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”, as the last words of Hassan ibn-Sabbah.  It is unclear whether Bouthoul adapted the line from Nietzsche, or they are both referencing an earlier source. 1938’s Alamut also includes a version of the maxim in Slovinian, possibly influenced by Bouthoul’s recent publishing. William S Burroughs finally translated the phrase to English in the form we recognize after he was introduced to Bouthoul’s book in 1959, and frequently used this phrase in interviews and his books.

    In X #6, Steven Grant finally brings it all back together and is the first to recombine elements of  modern sci-fi, the legends of Hassan, character traits of The Master of the Assassins and Alamut, and Burroughs’s translation of the famous motto: “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted”.  

    X #6 - Dark Horse 1994

    X #6 – ‘Devils’ Intro – Dark Horse 1994 (Russell, Wagner, Palmiotti, Rambo, and Rosas)

    Assassin's Creed - Nothing is True...

    Assassin’s Creed – Nothing is True…

    Grant’s mashup of sinister technology and ancient Hashashin later became a massive success when Assassin’s Creed took this concept and ran with it in 2007;  the phrase “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted” famously became the “Creed” referenced in the title of the franchise, and some of Grant’s new sci-fi plot devices became pillars of the series.

    The Assassin’s Creed franchise features “Apples of Eden” or “Pieces of Eden”; devices of great power left over from a previous civilization.  The idea of the Apple is fundamental to the story of the Garden of Eden, this symbolism also featured in the work of Grant and team in X:

    The Apple

    X #6 – ‘Devils’ Intro – Dark Horse 1994 (Russell, Wagner, Palmiotti, Rambo, and Rosas)


    Assassin's Creed - Al Mualim's Apple

    Assassin’s Creed – Al Mualim’s Apple



    Where wildly departed from its influences was in the introduction of the Anima, a device that Lord Alamout and his technicians used to insert his assassins into a virtual reality world representing paradise.  This device was a full body connection harness that transfers the user’s mind into a simulated world. It is referred to as “the Anima” in X #7, when X is captured and placed in the device in order to brainwash him to Alamout’s wishes.

    X #7 - The Anima - Dark Horse 1994

    X #7 – The Anima – Dark Horse 1994 (Wagner, Fosco, Palmiotti, and Rosas)


    X #7 - The Anima - Dark Horse 1994

    X #7 – The Anima – Dark Horse 1994 (Wagner, Fosco, Paliotti, and Rosas)

    Assassin’s Creed also features a device that inserts the user in a virtual reality world created from the memories of the assassin ancestors of the user. This device is called “the Animus”.

    Assassin's Creed - The Animus

    Assassin’s Creed – The Animus

    Aside from the nearly identical name and function, the Anima/Animus shows up in the stories with similar plot points as well. The X story arc begins with a young assassin’s journey into the Anima, where he is surrounded by angelic “damsels and young girls” in a paradise garden. Assassin’s Creed also opens with its character in the Animus, surrounded by a throng of beautiful women in a garden.

    Also in symmetry: just as X’s first visit into the Anima ends with his body rejecting the device and panicking technicians working to quickly revive him, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed also has to be quickly revived from the garden during his first trip into the Animus as his body rejects the machine.


    X finishes the arc as he overcomes his brainwashing and turns on and defeats Lord Alamout, while in Assassin’s Creed Al Mualim is defeated as well. In each tale the hero emerges triumphant, and Lord Alamout made another appearance before X concluded in the 1996, while over in Assassin’s Creed the construct of the Animus has gone on to feature in each of the games released since.

    The Assassin’s Creed Franchise shows no signs of slowing, and continues to dominate the fall video game sales charts. Recently, Dark Horse also revived the X character under a new writer, Duane Swierczynski, in a monthly series. Steven Grant was the author of the comic book 2 Guns which was adapted into a motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington released in 2013, and is currently releasing the sequel comic 3 Guns as well as Deceivers at BOOM! Studios.

    UPDATE: The story of the Assassins and The Old Man of the Mountain can be found in the unabridged “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas in 1844. Grant wrote an illustrated edition of “Monte Cristo” that was published in 1990, a few years before his Dark Horse Comics run on ‘X’. According to Grant, “It made so little impact on me that even now I can’t remember them even being mentioned in Count, & in fact it may not have been in any version I ever read. (Never read the French original.) I wouldn’t make the claim it had any influence on X at all. Readings about secret societies, cults, etc. in my youth were the influences on that X story, particularly Louis Pauwels & Jacques Bergier’s Morning Of The Magicians & some Colin Wilson work whose name I don’t recall of the top of my head…”