This is hopefully going to be one of those light-on-text, heavy-on-images posts. Let's see how I do this time, shall we?
Sometime circa 1973, Marvel Comics writer Gerry Conway decided to base a comic character on Mack Bolan, the Executioner, who was the star of a series of paperback novels by Don Pendleton. In his earliest stories, the Executioner, a Vietnam vet, was fighting a one-man war on organized crime.
At first, Conway et al. weren't sure what to name this new character, which explains the names written on this concept sketch by artist John Romita, Sr.
(Did you notice that cartridge belt -- or technically, bandolier -- the one that forms the "teeth" of the character's chest logo? Remember that, please. It'll be mentioned again later, I promise!)
One name they considered was the "Assassin." Stan Lee didn't think that the readers would warm up to a hero (even an anti-hero) called the Assassin, so he suggested the Punisher, a name previously used for a half-robot alien who first appeared in 1966's Fantastic Four #49.
Writer Gerry Conway, artist John Romita Sr., and artist Ross Andru are credited with creating the new Punisher, a/k/a Frank Castle (né Castiglione), who first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #129, cover-dated February, 1974. The Punisher, although ostensibly on the side of the good guys, actually killed people. Bad people, yes, but going so far to actually kill villains and criminals just wasn't done then. Hell, even Wolverine hadn't been introduced yet!
Above is the first look comic readers got of the Punisher, as drawn by penciller Gil Kane and inked by John Romita Sr. Notice, if you will, that Kane has drawn the cartridge belt so it holds two rows of bullets, and the double row of white cartridge holders again serves as the chest logo's "teeth." This look became indelibly etched in my mind as the "proper" look for the Punisher.
In fact, so impressed was I by that double row of cartridge holders, I didn't even notice that the story's interior art by Ross Andru featured the one-row version that Romita had drawn in his original design sketch.
Andru drew the Punisher the same way -- one row of bullets or "teeth" --when the Punisher and Spider-Man met for the second time, in The Amazing Spider-Man #134-135.
Over the next few years, the Punisher appeared more and more often as the black-clad homicidal maniac gained in popularity. Sometimes his cartridge belt consisted of one row, sometimes two. Yours Truly probably was and is the only one who gives a damn. Can't help it. People have two rows of teeth. (Well, most people.) The Punisher should have two freakin' rows of bullets!
June, 1975. Two rows of teeth in this cover illustration by Gray Morrow!
Eventually, Captain America #241 (cover-dated January, 1980) arrived on the shelves. The cover was penciled by a relative newcomer to comics, Frank Miller, and inked by Bob McLeod. Please note, Miller drew the Punisher's costume in the style I narrow-mindedly and stubbornly call the "correct" style.
This "correct" version also appeared inside the book, drawn by Frank Springer (breakdowns) and Pablo Marcos (finished art, and inks).
In 1981, Frank Miller again drew the Punisher for both the cover and the interior of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15. Miller was inked by Klaus Janson.
But check out that suit! Did the Punisher's skull logo suddenly develop buck teeth?
And the interior art? Same way!
Why, oh why, did Frank Miller make this odd adjustment in the Punisher's costume?
By the way, fellow babies, Greg Laroque and Frank Giacoia, who did that very same issue's feature, "A Gallery of Spider-Man's Most Famous Foes!" got the outfit right.
But Frank Miller? Not so much. In 1982's Daredevil #183 and 184, Frank Miller once again got to try his hand at drawing Frank Castle, and he gave the Punisher those new, screwy duds. Hence today's title, "How Frank [Miller] ALMOST Ruined Frank [Castle]."
And here's a later page from the same two-parter:
The damage was done.
When Marvel Comics released The Punisher #1, a 1986 mini-series, Frank Castle was decked out in the "goofy suit." Actually, this version -- what I ended up calling the "stovepipe suit" -- was even worse!
How the hell does he bend over, or sit?!?
Oh, by the way... The Punisher mini-series was originally planned to be a five-issue series, but the cover of issue #1 said it was a four-part series. The cover of #2 said it was a five-part series, #3 followed up with a cover proclaiming it as a four-parter, and #4 said it was a four-parter as well! "Well, which is it?!?" wondered most of us in comics fandom. Our question was answered when #5 came out, and of course, this time it said "#5 in a Five-Issue Limited Series!"
But don'tcha think it would have been a lot funnier if they'd called that final issue "#5 in a Four-Issue Limited Series"?
In record time, the Punisher became one of Marvel's most popular characters, spinning off, like, forty-seven freakin' titles featuring Frank Castle! There was The Punisher (an ongoing series which debuted a year after the mini-series), Punisher War Journal, Punisher War Zone... By the early 1990s, he was as popular as Wolverine and the 1990s version of the Ghost Rider. In fact, Marvel released two one-shots in the '90s that featured the Punisher, Ghost Rider, AND Wolverine!
It got worse. In 1994, Archie Comics released Archie Meets the Punisher #1-and-only...
And Marvel released The Punisher Meets Archie #1-and-only!
As it turned out, both titles were actually the same damned book, published simultaneously by Archie Comics and Marvel Comics, only with different covers, covers that featured each company's own character's name first.
But you want to know something surprising? The story really wasn't bad!
Over the years, the Punisher has gone through all sorts of craziness, much of which I'm unaware of... at least since the '90s.
At one point, Frank acted as his own version of Captain America...
And there was even a time when the Punisher actually died (But this is comics, so he got better later!) and was resurrected as (I swear!) Franken-Castle!!!
There have been three Punisher movies, with different actors as Frank: The Punisher (1989), The Punisher (2004), and Punisher: War Zone (2008).
And if you're wondering why Dolph Lundgren's version of the Punisher didn't have the skull logo at all, I've read that the producers of the film didn't want the character to look like something out of a comic book!
Well, duhhh, where did you get the freakin' idea in the first place, geniuses?!?
"Hey, let's make a Batman movie, but without that silly Bat-suit, and a Superman movie, but without that stupid blue outfit and red cape, and..."
Oh, never mind.
The latest version of The Punisher is the series on Netflix, featuring Jon Bernthal. I've seen several episodes (as well as his introductory appearances on Netflix' Daredevil series), and it's pretty good, in my not-so-humble opinion.
Not long ago, I was watching The Wolf of Wall Street for the second time, and one of the actors looked very familiar. I finally figured it out! It was Jon Bernthal, but the facial hair his character sported threw me off for a few minutes.
By the way, here's yet another comic book connection, after which I'll end this overlong post, I promise! The hot babe... errr... I mean, the attractive young lady in the above photo is actress Margot Robbie, who played Harley Quinn in DC's 2016 Suicide Squad movie.
Thanks for your time.