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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. Do The Job

    August 22, 2014 by Arch Stanton

    Life Lesson With Frank: “Do the job. Like a 9 to 5 stockbroker working in the pit on Wall Street… ‘cept my job may be less bloody at times.”  Whether you’re one-handing an M-16 in the jungles of Vietnam, or cleaning up the trash from someone else’s party, there’s two kinds of people out there, Those Who Do The Job, and Those Who Bitch.  When you’re the hardest worker on the block, you don’t call out “lazy people”, they’re just called “everyone else”.

    From "Punisher Invades The 'Nam" with Don Lomax (W), Alberto Saichann (A), Steve Dutro (L), and John Kalisz (C)

    From “Punisher Invades The ‘Nam” with Don Lomax (W), Alberto Saichann (A), Steve Dutro (L), and John Kalisz (C)

  3. 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”.

  4. Have Gun, Frank Castle

    May 26, 2014 by Arch Stanton

    The only thing that can make Mike Zeck’s Punisher Limited Series covers any better is if they could talk to you.  Now, thanks to John Dehner and the Have Gun Will Travel Radio Show, they can.  Enjoy!

    Circle of Blood #1:

    Back to the War #2:

    Slaughterday #3:

    Final Solution #4:

    Final Solution Part 2 #5:

  5. 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…”

  6. Punishing Mails – The Man of Action

    November 28, 2013 by Arch Stanton

    “Punishing Mails”, the letters column from the late 80’s Punisher series, is widely recognized as the greatest comic book letter page of all time. Here, Marvelites struggled to find their voice as the letters column conversations shifted from trivial fantasy like whether Hulk or Thing would win in a nuts punching contest into a new, grittier world of Frank Castle with copious gun violence, murder, and general lawlessness straight from the headlines. Over in Captain America’s letter page, it’s patriotic to hang posters of Cap in your high school English classroom. Here in Punisher, a poster of Frank in schoolroom makes a bolder statement (true letter). Some fans struggled in this new writing medium, some failed, some succeeded, and through it all a whole lot of info on weapons calibers and proper knife serration for maximum jugular shredding was shared for wide-eyed kids to file away under ‘Important Street Corner Knowledge’. There were many all-stars of Punishing Mails, but one man stands tall above them all. That man is Clifford Mineau, the Man of Action, and this is his story.


    [FSD Note: I’ve included some commentary in the text in italics and brackets]

    Dear Editors, 

    My name is Clifford M.O.A. Mineau. M.O.A. stands for Man of Action – that’s what my friends call me after beating the c**p out of two drug dealers about three years ago. [FSD: And because a goddamned bold lead like this one can only be written by a true MOA] They were giving dope to two 17 year-olds. I’m very Anti-Drug. It was happening in a cemetary in my town. They said, “What the blank do you want?’ I said “Your blanken heads you lousy stinken son of blanked dope dealers.” I beat the living c**p out of them. I used Karate and other special skills, and said “get the bleepin’ h**l out of this town – if you come back, you’re dead! As long as I’m living here you’re not going to poison any more kids with your drugs”. [FSD: Special Skills including Killer One Liners and Dynamic Narrative!] I also stopped a dope deal in one of your parking lots. [FSD: Marvel parking lot? Was it Jim Lee?] You could call me a vigilante but I would just call me someone who cares. [FSD: Unless you prefer to call him vigilante since he brought it up. Or The Ware Street Sweeper.] 

    I’ve been reading the PUNISHER for about eight years, and I love him. He’s Action Violence, but I wish the writer, Mike Baron, would put more Drug stories in the book.  [FSD: I wish Mike Baron would put more Drugs in me] That’s the biggest problem in the U.S.A. but it seems like no one cares anymore. If all our towns would join together to fight we could push out the drug dealers. I’m 23 and never touched drugs. My family is all anti-drug and we live in a drug infested town (in Massachussetts) for 17 years. [FSD: Not anymore. I looked up Ware, MA it seems about as white bread as a Wonder Loaf. MOA must have cleaned house in the 90s] I don’t smoke or drink. I collect action-filled comics – Punisher is #1! He’s similar to my favorite action paperback hero the Executioner but you need a little more action. PUNISHER #3 has a car chase – alright – but why did you make those hoods blow up the police? They’re good guys. [FSD: Remember, this was before Rodney King] If you’re going to make a cover, put that part in the book, please. [FSD: Yeah, I hate it when they do that shit. Or if you’re going to have a closing sentence, put that part in the paragraph, please.]

    I’m a sucker for a good explosion. I wrote a book about 3 times three years ago and it still hasn’t been published.[FSD: That’s a crime we should vigilantize some publisher for right there] It’s called Knife Huntress, Destroyer of Dope Dealers. It’s about five women vigilantes that take on 80,000 dope dealers. [FSD: Sold. A book with more casualties than words is a Man Action Book] All gore and action – I’ve got a copy on tape. If you want to hear it let me know and I’ll send it to you so you can let me know if you want to use it. [FSD: Wait, what? Audio book before publishing? Multi-Channel Marketing is another sign of a true MOA] 

    I heard the PUNISHER might become an action show on TV. I’ve got the perfect actor – Sam Jones, from the HIGHWAYMAN TV series, now cancelled. [FSD: Fuck Yes] We need more shows about vigilantes, action heroes, etc. to show people how to fight back against drugs and crime. [FSD: I learned everything I need to know in life from The Equalizer] Make the Punisher fight dope dealers for two, maybe three issues and have him shooting the c**p out of a copter and have it crashing into a trailer full of crack sending them both into a deep canyon, turning the drugs into ashes along with the dope dealers and have him saving the kids of that town. [FSD: Don’t give this gold away, man, make ’em pay you first] You’d be surprised at how many issues you’d sell. [FSD: X-Men #1 sold like 7 million. Based on that info, this concept would sell at least 30.]  Well, thanks for reading my letter.

    Clifford M.O.A. Mineau
    Ware, MA 

    And that, my friends, is how a Punisher fan takes care of a letters column. Like a church social that turns into a key party, fast, loud,  and everyone’s going home a little sticky and scared, but safe in the knowledge that there’s at least one more c**p-whipping anti-drug dealer on the streets.  And he’s got the balls to whip out his tape deck and record all about it in his next audio book. Which may or may not be about a Knife Huntress lady, and every drug dealer in the entire population of Baltimore. Punisher making the world a better place, one person at a time.

  7. Forty Years of Mayhem!!!!!

    August 17, 2013 by Arch Stanton

    Forty years ago today was the origin of the greatest character to ever grace paper!


    Artwork by Marco Checchetto, news clipping from the Top Secret Files Punisher Source Book by Carl Potts from 1990.


  8. War Journal: November 1988 – April 1989

    July 8, 2012 by Arch Stanton

    Punisher War Journal #1-5.  A three parter followed by a two parter.  If you take nothing else from this post, check the Notes N’ Quotes section at the bottom, you will not be disappointed.

    El Calavera
    The Many Faces of the Skull

    The Murder Kite still haunts every Central Park Mob Execution to this day.

    Here we learn the first of many, many, many origins of the skull.  Out of the gate with a grisly bang we learn that during the Castle family park massacre, the family’s kite landed on the bodies of the dead children, and their bloodstains on the paper made a skull face.  Honestly, once you invoke the blood of dead children, there really seems to be no point in trying to go back and reassess the reasons for Frank’s fashion sensibility.  But that doesn’t stop every writer who ever picked up the character from trying.


    Who’s he fighting this round?

    In our breakdown of the first 5 issues of “Punisher”, Frank invaded two different countries in South America.  War Journal is a bit more focused than the main series, he tends to stick to one or two targets an issue.  However, Frank’s not done with South America yet; we find out that the contras of Santa Angelo and their drug dealin’ ways were indirectly responsible for the botched execution that ended the Castle Clan.  Either the Peruvian kid supplying the blow for the Marvel Bullpen in ’87 burned them with some baby powder, or  Carl Potts had some bad empanadas, but the message is clear, South America is the source of pretty much all crime in New York City, and Frank ain’t afraid to go the source.

    Gomez takes a Ballistic Knife to the Nuts. Even the street punks can’t stop victimizing our friends from down south.

    More importantly, this issue we finally get to see some Street Punks.  They have mohawks, they have facepaint, anarchy jackets, and nazi tattoos.  Its obvious they found Frank while cruising around clinking bottles together looking for the Warriors.  They are hopelessly incompetent, Frank beats the shit out of them in #2 but doesn’t kill them so they can come back in #3 and bumble their way into unloading a full clip in Frank’s chest from his own gun.

    Medal of Survival Recipients –
    Characters who lasted more than one story arc (a select group)

    Solid Snake uses his Electric Glove to get Sniper’s attention long enough for Sniper to stab him in the chest and leave him to bleed out.

    Microchip, Costa Family, Daredevil, and Sniper.  Sniper was one of Frank’s old squadmates from Vietnam, and works for the D.E.A.  Just to obfuscate the shit out of everything for no reason, issue 5 clarifies that the D.E.A. is NOT the Drug Enforcement Agency. It is actually the Defense Espionage Agency, a government agency dealing with Drug Enforcement.


    Modus Locomotus
    It is better to travel well than to arrive

    Look closely for the Murder Kite hovering ominously in the distance over the Super Merc.

    Carl Potts heard someone say that Punisher didn’t have enough  Battlevan, so he marched right over to Jim Lee’s house, punched him in the kidney, and told him he wanted to see the Battlevan popping off its whole payload like a San Diego Fireworks show.   Jim gave him a spread in issue 4 featuring more gadgets in two pages than all of the first 6 Bond movies combined.  We have the targeting helmet from Firefox, a minigun, a remote controlled car, grenade launcher, built in jackstands, solid rubber tires, a stereo panel with Apple FaceTime, long range mics, motion detectors, and a remote control system that lets Frank turn the headlights on and off when he’s not even in the van!  But none of this would really matter unless we had something interesting to put Frank’s personal Bolo Mk II up against, and this time we’ve got Sniper’s Super Mercedes.

    The Super Merc has bullet proofing, rear oil spray, rear mounted machine guns, hubcap mines, and surface to air heat seeking missiles.  It also ends its first appearance by blowing the holy shit out of the Battlevan, proving a point that absolutely no one needed to be convinced of: 80’s German Engineering is, was, and always will be vastly superior to the Ford Aerostar platform, no matter how much crap Microchip packs in the back.


    Weapons Tech
    Guns you can find in Jane’s

    There’s a Barrett .50 that keeps showing up here and there, most impressively Sniper uses it to take out a dude from the top of the Chrysler Building (for those of you like myself who aren’t from New York, the Chrysler Building is the image that pops in your head when someone says Empire State Building), and the gun gets its own playmate pinup at the end of issue 5.

    But the real star of the show is Frank and Micro’s strange obsession with the Goncz 9mm pistol.  Micro gives it to him as a little Happy at the beginning of Issue 1, right after Frank has Micro shoot him in the chest with it to test his new Kevlar.  Which is a good thing, because he gets shot in the chest with it again by the Warriors a couple of issues later before they steal it.  Daredevil tracks it down, crushes it,  and gives it back as a friendly reminder that Daredevil is not Frank’s personal gun-finder, and if Frank can’t keep up with his shit he needs to leave it at home.  Frank says “Fuck That” and buys another one out of spite, and to impress Sniper at the end of issue 5.

    So as a final score, Frank gets two Gonczs as presents, gets shot in the chest twice by Gonczs, and finally gets a compliment on his Goncz.

    Dumbass Weapons Tech
    Guns you can’t find in Jane’s

    I just got offa the night shift down at tha mill, I’m takin’ a bath, and alla sudden this crazy bastad comes bustin’ in yellin’ about his Gonk and askin’ me about child support an tennis rackets while he’s wavin’ this little box with no batteries in my face!”

    One time Microchip gave Frank an electric guitar tuner and told him it was a “Lie Detector”.  Frank just needed to have a suspect speak into the box, and if the needle didn’t move then “Science” would know that he was lying.  Which constantly confirmed to Frank everything he ever needed to know about criminal psychology: they’re all lying all the time.

    Bowed but Unbroken –
    Obligatory Frank capture

    “Fuck you, Frank… FUCK!! MY HALOGEN ALLERGY!!!!””

    This one almost went to Frank getting poisoned and then watching from the ground while the Warriors took themselves out with his toys, but the best has to be Sniper again playing to Frank’s weakness of “walking up behind him with a gun”.  Sniper’s a little more crafty so he gasses Frank first, has plenty of time to slap him around, explain all of the backstory for the benefit of us readers, and set up for what would most likely be the world’s first .50 shot to the face from 6 inches.   I don’t think Mythbusters is doing episodes about guns anymore so we may never know, but I gotta say, as much as I like Frank and all, I’d kind of like to see what would happen.  Luckily for Frank, he was using his Battlevan remote control to change the tire(?!), so he was able to use the automatic headlight button to blind Sniper long enough to get to safety.  $500,000 worth of weapons couldn’t scratch Sniper, but every Battlevan from now on will be guaranteed to have remote headlights.

    The Ladies
    Yes they are

    Helen Shaw is a TV reporter.  Like TV reporters do, Helen likes the ya-yo.  She likes it enough that she’ll offer it to random people she’s interviewing, including one of Frank’s war buddies, who refuses, explains why drugs=dangerous, then immediately gets shot in the for’hed.  I’m not sure what they were going for here, but Helen is wearing a black miniskirt at the time, and the same skirt and legs are seen in the background during the murders of both Red and Doc earlier in the issue.

    You want this, Lady? You’ll never escape my minefield… of Love Bombs, baby.

    Frank’s idea of ‘dating’ is to invite Helen and her news crew to come to Sniper’s booby-trapped house to watch Frank kick his ass and prove his manhood.  This ends about as expected: the cameraman jumps out of the news chopper and immediately gets stabbed in the face.   When Sniper takes the news chopper pilot hostage and forces him to take off, Frank chucks a grenade at the helicopter trying to kill them both just to prove how pissed off he is that Helen would bring other men along on their date.  Then, because Micro Jr. once told Frank that all women drop panties for assholes, he takes the only car and leaves her stranded, telling her to watch out for booby-traps.


    That’s what I like about these punks these days: I get older, they stay the same age.

    Dress up Frank

    War Journal Frank tends to be a little more direct in his approach, but when he needs to he can whip out a pretty convincing McConaughey.





    Postcards from the Edge
    Letter column all-stars

    Skip Kirkpatrick, you’re the true star of issue 4.  I mean, what would we do if we didn’t know how many grains of powder were in a 9mm vs. a .45?  I also noticed that same problem where the collapsing stock Daewoo was OBVIOUSLY firing 5.56 rounds instead of 5.66.  And of course that AK was not an ‘HK’, how could anyone possibly think an HK could fire armor piercing rounds?  I feel you on the whole ‘magazine’ thing, too, nothing takes me out of a good firefight like someone calling it a ‘clip’.  You’re right Skip, these mistakes are so simple and basic they had to have been made on purpose as private jokes just to make sure the readers were paying attention.  It didn’t have anything to do with the ATF asking Marvel to put them in there to help sort you loonies onto their watchlist.


    You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, dude. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3:00 this afternoon.

    The Fall Guy
    Greatest Stunts

    As always, quite a few, but the top of the class this time around is Frank’s reaction to blowing his own toe off.  Honorable mention for accidentally tazering a dog, hip checking a ballistic knife back into working order, and pinning an arrow through his and Sniper’s forearms so they can dance-fight Sharks n’ Jets style.






    Notes n’ Quotes
    Quotes, ads, and random junk

    In some magazines, ‘pinup’ means bikini models. In others, it means mashed fruit on a bulletin board.

    I’m going to start this with a disclaimer:  Here at Frank’s Salad Days we appreciate Punisher fans from all walks of life, religious, cultural, ethnic, or otherwise.  We do not condone racism or disparaging remarks to cultural and religious groups.  If you try to add anything stupid in the comments section you will be summarily blocked and potentially mercilessly ridiculed.  Though acceptable standards of entertainment change over time, I don’t believe Marvel or the regular staff from the Punisher books have ever truly intended to exclude or insult anyone based on their personal beliefs, unless those beliefs involved drugs, crime, or being in a freaky cult.  

    The reason you pay an extra quarter per issue for PWJ vs. the main series is you get better paper, and pinup pages in the backs of the book.  Before they were collected and printed in the first Punisher Armory, there were several of these pinups detailing the weapons found in the series.  The strangest of these appeared in the back of issue #4, where Frank makes an impromptu testing target for ballistic knives out of his bulletin board with a bag of grapefruits hanging from it.  Not that interesting, other than the fact that he treats his house like a freshman dormroom and shoots a knife through his roommate’s printer.

    What IS interesting, however, is the clippings hanging on his board.   There’s an article titled “Arson on the Rise”, the actual text of which discusses steroids use including someone buying a car for $25 while on steroids and doing something stupid with it while being filmed, and the effects of steroids on menstruation.  He also has pictures of Khomeini and Quadafi, neither of which he ever managed to add to his “done” list.  But then in the middle, on the page of instructions, we find this Easter Egg:

    First just hold this baby in your good right (illegible), making sure to aim between the eyes of the commie rat and depress firing stud. 10 inches of cold rolled steel will guarantee that Ivan won’t sip any more vodka. You can bet that turban wearer won’t face Mecca today or tomorrow.

    I’m not sure if Florida Knife Corp was or is a real company, but I’d be willing to guess that this isn’t the instruction sheet that comes with their knives.  Granted, ‘Ivan’ wasn’t real popular in this day and age just after Rambo III, but that last statement dips a foot into the kind of poo-poo that ends up with Danish cartoonists on Jihad lists.

    But wait, there’s more in the FBI wanted sheet.  Here we find information on  Dippy the Moll Lopez, the Meanest Scissors in the East, who can also eat broken glass.  And Fishead of Veruna, killer in 3 boats, who can eat babies for lunch.  And finally:

    Raf Abdul Towel Head Wanted for Re-hump(ing?) Camels

    The early Armory pinup page dabbled in a little racism, like that one time in college when your girlfriend got really drunk at a party and disappeared into the back bathroom for two hours with that burly girl from the swimteam. You cryed and banged on the door until they let you in and they were… telling jokes about arabs.  It was a different time back then, but I don’t think there’s any way Marvel would have let this one sneak by if they had actually been paying attention.  The same page is reprinted in Punisher Armory #1.

    Next up: Punisher Issues #6-10. See you in a couple weeks.


  9. One Man’s Work is another MansLaughter

    July 5, 2012 by Arch Stanton

    Establishing some structure here for a moment: There will be plenty more War Journal and Punisher issue breakdowns forthcoming (found a bombshell in a couple War Journals that slipped by the editors, stay tuned), and I’ll alternate some additional commentary on what makes Frank Frank.

    In the strangest twist in comicdom, Frank is Most Hated #1 by Marvel characters, yet killin’ aside, lives the model Puritanical lifestyle. I can think of few other characters whose fans will light the internet on fire over a writer who shows Frank sipping a beer, then an issue later flame up with the same zeal if his bodycount/page ratio drops under 1 in 5. He’s a family man, a patriot, war-hero, a teetotaler, abstinent, former seminary student, and is required to be the most carefully protective of innocents of any hero. If Spider-Man misses a shot, Mary Jane gets some web in her face (if you either don’t know what “double entendre” means or don’t understand how it currently applies then come back when you hit puberty, you’re too young to be reading this). If Frank misses a shot, some bystander loses a face. In the circus of earth 616, is it more exciting to watch clown Daredevil twirling batons over the masses, or Frank wandering the crowd juggling his shotguns, chainsaws, and hatchets? Which one requires the most care, and who bears the greater responsibility to those around them?

    Work Week Begins: Monday Morning, June 20, 1988. Thirty seconds prior to the invention of “Pistol Shaving.”

    In short, Frank Castle has a Code, it is literally the only thing that defines his actions as a profession rather than a butcher’s bill. Every writer from Grant to Ennis thinks they have Frank dialed in, but really, all they’re doing is tweaking the boundaries of that code. In order for readers to go along with Frank, to allow these books to exist and to allow him his extremes, he has to be penitent, always has. He must be self-aware, decisive, sober, confident, enduring, and above all, he must constantly suffer. He cannot enjoy what he is doing, or we won’t accept it. That’s how guilty pleasures work. You put Peter Parker or Tony Stark’s personality on Frank and you have a lunatic psychopath;  he either becomes a lampooning jester like Deadpool, or just another non-powered flavor of the week Joker carbon-copy.

    So for this week the first of Frank’s Manly Virtues: Motherfuckin’ Work Ethic. The James Brown of the superheros, he doesn’t take a break. He doesn’t love his work, he is his work. He has 10 whole issues of Punisher Armory just dedicated to what he does fartin’ around the house. Has any comic character EVER had an entire series devoted to what they do in their garage? And all of it involves guns, cleaning guns, building guns, or shit he found at the Sharper Image that you can hide a gun in. Morning, day, night, he’s killin’ it. You know why Punisher writers love Holiday Issues? So you can be sure to understand that no, he doesn’t take holiday breaks, but he will kill your ass in a Santa hat. His super power is that he works harder and longer than anyone else. It is the forgotten virtue of our fathers that we all want to believe we have, but then go ahead and sneak a double lunch break every Wednesday to head down to the comic book store. Do you think Frank stops killing early on New Books Day? Frank doesn’t give a shit when its New Books Day. Frank is Old School, he is Goddamn Man, he has a Job, he has Shit To Do. Frank Castle is a Worker.

    Come back in a couple days for a breakdown of War Journal #1-5.

  10. After Action Report: July 1987 – January 1988

    June 22, 2012 by Arch Stanton

    First up we take a deep dive on  Punisher Vol.2 #1-5.  Two short story arcs bookending a one-shot, this is the origin of the origin of the many layered onion known as the Punisher.

    Its like a cute little white baby alien.

    El Calavera
    The Many Faces of the Skull

    The trademark skull changed many times over the years.  In the beginning here we had the Klaus Janson version, in keeping with previous iterations it still had the big round eyes.  Best use of it would be Frank stopping for Arts and Crafts during his decimation of a Jungle Drug Complex and painting the white skully bullseye on a found bulletproof vest, thus proving to the DEA agent he just rescued that yes, Frank is fucking nuts, and no, you’re not going to get out of this alive.

    Who’s he fighting this round?

    Crackheads, drug dealers, South American narcotics manufacturers, a Vietnamese colonel, white supremacist revolutionary bank robbers, and a suicidal atheistic socialist cult led by siblings with touch healing and psychic precognition powers.  And a raccoon.  They decided to take it easy and keep things grounded by not breaking out any of the wacky shit for the first five issues.

    Medal of Survival Recipients –
    Characters who lasted more than one story arc (a select group)

    Panel Left is Micro Junior. Panel Right is Robert Smith of The Cure. Not Pictured is How This Happened.

    Two important characters are introduced here in the 4th issue: Microchip AKA ‘Lowell Bartholomew Ori’ (bet you thought his name was Linus Lieberman, didn’t you?) and his son, Microchip Junior, a young angsty computer punk with definitive choices in hair.  Microchip’s association with Frank Castle makes you question his fundamental concepts of parenting, and subsequently involving his son in vigilante murder hijinks pretty much answers that.

    Modus Locomotus
    It is better to travel well than to arrive

    First appearance of Battle Van, so point Battle Van.  It’s a twinturbo Ford V6 (no V8 at this trim level) with a police radio, infrared cameras, bulletproof windows, an escape motorcycle, self-destruct mechanism, and just to remind you this is the 80s, Frank also drops the astonishing tidbit that it can switch into 4WD without having to get out and lock the hubs. And it costs $500,000 in 1987 dollars (to put this in perspective, this is $1,012,698 in today money, or the cost of a Bugatti Veyron).

    In 1986, Ford debuted the Aerostar Minivan. In 1987, Frank debuted the Aerostar Battlevan.

    If you price out all of the individual features of the van except super 4WD, that works out to about $80,000.  Which means Frank spent ~$420,000 on the ability to not have to stop the van before he goes muddin’. This is a man with priorities.  As an honorable mention, in the 2nd issue there’s an Apache attack helicopter with some creative license taken with the seating arrangements.  The pilots sit side-by-side, a design choice which makes it easier for Frank to line them up to kill their asses after he jumps onto the chopper from a rooftop.

    Weapons Tech
    Guns you can find in Jane’s

    80s Punisher loves to sprinkle real weapons throughout their issues; it brought a broad gun-nut demographic of readers to the book, and more importantly, made the Punisher letters column the most disturbing collection of writing extant prior to the invention of  In issue 2, Frank is delighted by a Striker Automatic Shotgun, widely considered to be a total piece of shit by most of the poor South Africans who actually had to use it.  You know why Frank boners over it?  Because Frank fucking loves it when his guns jam, so we can move on to the more “non-traditional” weaponry in the next column…

    “Frank thinks its cute. Its cute.”

    Dumbass Weapons Tech
    Guns you can’t find in Jane’s

    Diamond tipped fake fingernails.  In the very first issue he proves his security in his manliness by choosing the most womanly of combat fashion accessories.  They show up several times over the next couple of issues ripping out a throat, opening a cardboard box really fast, and helping an old war buddy shuffle off this mortal coil by cutting his wrists (then throwing him out of a helicopter).

    Bowed but Unbroken –
    Obligatory Frank capture

    In the early days, before Ennis turned him into a bullet-absorbing universal force of unkillableness, Frank was dangerously easy to get the drop on.  In issue 1 he’s captured and tied to a chair for the very first time in what would go on to be a long and lucrative career of getting captured and tied to chairs.  His buddy the DEA agent is captured twice in issue 2.  Frank is temporarily captured in #3 when he’s outwitted by the old master bush tactic of ‘walking up behind him with a pistol’, and he’s nearly killed in issue 4 getting shot in the back the very same way.


    In issue 5 this works on him twice, first a girl splashes acid in his face, and then later the same issue she walks up behind him and smacks him in the head with a frying pan Tom and Jerry style.  These were truly exciting times, no one knew how long this book would actually last, and though he led the Marvel pantheon in murderistic enthusiasm, he was woefully short in situational awareness.  This dude could literally go at any minute.

    The Ladies
    Yes they are

    Plenty has been posted about Frank’s legendary kill counts, but there’s a far more interesting statistic we’re all missing here.  There are a grand total of 6 females in these first five issues.  And when I say 6, I’m including two who only appeared in a single panel, one in the background.  I’m not even going to begin to open the can of worms, implications, and innuendo about the characters, readers, or authors of this book.  I’m just sayin’, 80’s Punisher has been nothing but honest from the start: if you buy that Punisher t-shirt from Spencer’s, you WILL be walking around with 2 feet of white grinnin’ pussy repellent on your chest.  Of these few brave females who dare these pages, two of them try to sleep with Frank (neither while he’s wearing the skull).  He disturbingly chooses not to tarnish the chastity of the evil cult leader chick, but has no problem banging the brainwashed wife of the police officer who helped him infiltrate the cult in the first place.

    Dear Ann Landers: I’m interested in one of my husband’s friends; tall, dark, handsome, fashion forward, and a penchant for psycho-killery. Should I leave my family and children to end this marriage of lies?

    Clearly, this man is deeply confused when it comes to relations with the opposite sex, though I’m not sure if its in ways the author intended.

    Dress up Frank

    Several: Bill Messina-suave drug dealer; Arnold Groetsch-Fordem Industries Armored Cars; Agent Peterson-FBI; Frank Loomis-cuckolded husband; and Joe Rainey-homeless vet from Detroit.  All without any real effort other than wearing clothes without a giant skull on them.  He had identity skills like that old NBC show, ‘The Pretender’, with the added bonus of not being bullshit.

    Postcards from the Edge
    Letter column all-stars

    Issue #4 is where the letters column reveals the first appearance of a darker segment of the punisher audience that I don’t think the Marvel editors were truly prepared for, the Gun-Nerd.  These are the guys that considered the Punisher Magazine to be the Sunday Comics section of Soldier of Fortune.  I grew up around guns, family probably owned 25 or so, got my first BB for my 3rd birthday, and had several guns of my own by the time I was 10.  When I was a kid, I used to see these dudes at gun shows all the time, and even back then I instinctively ID’d the stench of “lose”.

    Before the age of google, in issue 4’s letters column ‘Craig’ is able to give a multi-paragraph lesson on the forestock configurations of the AK-47, the proper methods of clearing gun jams, and some mostly incorrect information on the details of the Striker assault shotgun.  What’s truly fascinating here is probably the earliest written foreshadowing of the internet, as four issues later he’s ruthlessly flamed by a green beret and some other random dude happy to explain how: Craig’s information?  Thats bullshit information.  And so the flame cycle begins, stoked, fired, and printed by the Marvel editorial staff.  Look forward to this section, readers, it only gets better over time.

    The Fall Guy
    Greatest Stunts

    Triple Lindy, Stick the Landing.

    Stunts = Many, including taking out foot soldiers with a handful of rattlesnakes, training brainwashed cultists and children how to use an M16, and being woefully incompetent at camping for someone who stalked the jungles of Vietnam (he was afraid of rattlesnakes crawling into his sleeping bag in the wilds of Missouri, and damn near shot a raccoon sneaking up on his camp).  By far the most impressive was identifying an incoming missile while piloting a helicopter, then quickly diving out to land safely on his feet in the jungle below.  Luckily, he remembers to do a couple of flips on the way down to break his fall.

    Notes n’ Quotes
    Quotes, ads, and random junk

    All the cool ninjas wear their shit upside their head.

    Few memorable early Frankisms: “I have no particular beef with the Rev.  But he smells like a stinker.”  One issue of note to English historians has the last recorded written use of the adage “A cobbler should stick to his last.”  And finally, I thought this book had cracked he Comics Code Authority when I saw “This shit is dangerously overloaded” at the beginning of issue #5, but closer investigation shows that the letterer was just messing with us with his ‘p’s and ‘t’s from way back when letterers actually lettered by hand and weren’t required to list the name of whatever lameass computer graphics company they work for in the book credits.  Two ads for honorable mention attached.

    Meat giving it to Special Olympians so hard he’s shedding tears of Giving It.

    Next up: Punisher War Journal Issues #1-5. See you in a couple weeks.