The Punisher’s Most Ridiculous Moments Ever
Remember when Wolverine’s son Daken ripped Punisher to shreds a little while back? Well, the first part of Marvel’s “Frankencastle” storyline, out this week, unveils Punisher’s grisly new look.
And while it is sure to alienate fans who like their Punisher straight up, we have to admit to being intrigued. Besides the pairing of Rick Remender and with his “Fear Agent” partner Tony Moore, the idea of Punisher being rebuilt as some sort of gun-toting Frankenstein monster is more than a little awesome.
“Frankencastle” is also catnip for those of us who get a kick out of seeing Punisher in ridiculous situations. There’s just something about the character’s steadfast seriousness that makes his detours into the absurd all the more ridiculous. And be it comics, toys, or video games, Punisher has had more than his share of wacky moments.
Mike Baron’s early ’90s “Punisher” run occasionally leaned towards the extremely preachy (there’s a “Punisher Vs. a flag-burner” issue that’s particularly heavy-handed), and his swan song was the storyline that teamed Luke Cage with, uh, black Punisher. See, Jigsaw messed up Punisher’s face really bad during the “Final Days” arc, so he’s forced to seek the assistance of a former plastic surgeon turned junkie prostitute, as one does in these types of situations. So he wakes up after going under the knife…and he’s a black guy. (It has something to do with the junkie doc using melanin to repair his skin or some such nonsense.)
So Punisher teams with Luke Cage–who had segued out of his ’70s jive-talking days into a short-lived New Jack Swing phase–to fight drug dealers because that was very important during the early ’90s and what else were they going to do? The three-issue arc (the final part of which is unfortunately titled “Fade to White”) was cowritten by Marc McLaurin, who penned the ’90s Luke Cage book and, uh, not much else. And, yes, Punisher gets pulled over by the cops within a day of being black.
While Punisher is clearly enjoying that melting ice cream cone, it’s important to note that his machine gun is mere inches away, indicating that at any moment, s!&t could get very, very real.
Marvel’s “Year in Review” specials featured often hilarious parody ads, like this gem with Punisher playing judge, jury and executioner for gin-soaked barflies. One can only imagine the look on the poor boozehound’s face when he looks up from his tequila to see Punisher’s AK staring back at him. (I’m assuming Punisher murdered the usual bartender for watering down the drinks.) Also, that “Two Cokes for a Buck” designated driver special is a pretty great deal, even by recession-plagued early ’90s standards.
That Time Punisher Met Archie (“Archie Meets Punisher,” 1994)
1994’s “Punisher Meets Archie” is that rare company crossover that appeals to fans of both teen romance and casual murder. Legendary Marvel artist John Buscema handled the Punisher, while “Archie” regular Stan Golberg drew the Riverdale gang. The special (a co-production between Marvel and Archie, and an early example of the variant cover fad) finds Punisher mistaking Archie for a drug dealer named “Red” (an honest mistake considering the vast amount of drug dealers he’s dispatched over the years), getting in a fight with Moose, and, naturally, teaming up with the Riverdale gang to save the day. Honestly one of the best crossovers of all time.
The “Amazing Spider-Man” newspaper strip has gotten increasingly desperate in recent years, forcing Wolverine to show up sporting a full beard (the colorist just couldn’t get their head around the concept of mutton chops) and bringing in Punisher, only to have him shoot out a couple tires and growl a lot. Apparently giving criminals what they deserve entails property damage and a lecture from Spider-Man.
Punisher was at a low point when the Marvel Knights line kicked off in ’98, which allowed Tom Sniegoski and “Hellboy” author Christopher Golden to bring him back from the dead as a sort of John Constantine meets The Spectre angel of death. Even horror legend Bernie Wrightson’s artwork couldn’t make Angel Punisher and his weird spiky guns not look completely silly and dated. This incarnation showed up in one more mini (the Pat Lee-drawn “Wolverine/Punisher: Revelation”) before Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon made it safe to be a Punisher fan again with “Welcome Back, Frank.”
1993’s “Punisher The Arcade Game”–which featured Punisher and Nick Fury beating up bad guys “Double Dragon” style–is arguably the best Punisher game of all time. But 1991’s “Punisher: Ultimate Payback” for Game Boy is not his finest moment. First off, it’s a “Hogan’s Alley” style light gun game without a light gun. Secondly, Punisher basically takes orders from Spider-Man (who swoops in and rescues the hostages after you kill the bad guys) the entire game.
For Peter David and Lea Hernandez’s “Marvel Mangaverse: Punisher,” everyone’s favorite gun-toting vigilante was transformed into a whip-wielding geisha with a penchant for using tickle torture on Tokyo crime bosses. Sosumi Brown spends her days as a girl’s school principal and her nights spanking criminals as “Toyko’s kinkiest superhero” and — dear God, could this comic be any more riddled with manga cliches?
What’s that? You don’t remember the time Punisher teamed up with Robocop and Terminator and blew your fragile little mind? Sadly, this is just an amazing Mike Zeck cover from a 1992 issue of “Action Figure News and Toy Review,” and not a lost issue of the greatest comic book ever produced. One can only imagine the body count this trio would amass. And also the awesome fight that would ensue when they inevitably turn on each other.