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.
The Many Faces of the Skull
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.
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)
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The Fall Guy –
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
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:
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:
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.
Hahaha… I love the part you pointed out about the guy re-humping camels.
I mean, it would probably only be racist if it implied that all arabs “re-hump” camels but it is pretty hilarious to see how different things were.
Arch – I bow before your superior humor writing skills, and I hope you’re making a living doing this kind of thing. You’re funnier than SeanBaby, and I KNOW he’s getting paid!
I wish. Seanbaby destroyed it on the Hostess pages, I’m still trying to figure out how he worked multiple characters back into a commentary on a single page of comics, that was ridiculously well done, and criminally under appreciated. Thank you for the comment and comparison, I got a bit to go yet. I’m working on Frank’s etiquette skills now…
Well done for this article/analysis and all of the others on this page. As a long-time fan of The Punisher, I appreciate your work and effort and skill.