Friday, July 10, 2015

To Punish or not to Punish That is the Question

Marvel Comics created and published the first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 way back in February of 1974.  Writer Gerry Conway and artists Ross Andru and John Romita, Sr. created the character, to be an anti-hero, and a hit man who would potentially shoot and kill Spider-man, as an enemy.  However, the character grew in the consideration of the creative team, as well as the publisher when the sales numbers came in, and the readers who bought many copies of the book.

For the fans of comics in the 1980s to the present, the Punisher is a commonly seen character.  He is going to be present in the upcoming second Netflix season of Daredevil.  I haven't any opinion upon that upcoming series. This is because the previous screen incarnations were, uneven, I guess I'd say.  Dolph Lundgren's version was horrible (1989), Thomas Jane is a fine actor but the Punisher movie he was in was awful, (2004), and lastly, the movie Punisher War Zone (2008) was true to the comics, and I liked the actor's portrayal, other viewers might well disagree, no, almost certainly, not PROBABLY, disagree.  And that is perfectly fine.  We all disagree on some things.   So, for the people who don't read comics but really like the series Daredevil, and you want to catch up on the back story on all the players in the play.  All of the books shown below should be available on ebay or Amazon.  The hunt will be worth your time.

There are many artists who are worthy of following for their work on the character,  but the writer is the person who captures the essence of the character, visuals are obviously important, but getting into the mind of the character, and getting the dialogue right, along with his motives and raison d'etre, is primarily the writer's duty to accomplish.  So, here are the writers who I believe "get" the Punisher more than any of the others.  And yes, there are obviously shitloads of other writers and creative talents who get it, but for me, these are the best, the elite.

Garth Ennis is the name most current readers of Punisher would name as being the master of the character and his past, present and future.  Garth Ennis has a long history of writing dark works at Vertigo and DC Comics.  His work at Marvel was equally dark and every damn bit as worth reading.  On the Punisher, he seems to have been like a miscreant given an aluminum baseball bat, a room full of fragile items, and the supervisor leaves him for a moment, to have a cigarette and will be "right back."  Punisher in the hands of Ennis is dark, darkly funny, and unforgiving.

Punisher: Born was published with the explicit label of MAX which is recognized as a higher violence, adult language and situations work.  In this work a young Frank Castle is faced with the lessons of war that will follow him in his life, and haunt him, in his life, until his family is killed and he takes on the mantle of Punisher full time.

Mike Baron:  In an ongoing series, along with graphic novels, Mike Baron's Punisher was a fully wrought character.  I think more well done than by others prior to his version Baron's Punisher was a military expert, able to carry out long distance hits, with elite ability.  I liked Baron's version a lot.  (I didn't "like" Garth Ennis's version, but I liked reading that version's stories).

Don Lomax and Chuck Dixon took the very popular character into another comic that was a real life historical comic about Vietnam.  This five issue story was well worth reading, worth being collected, and it set the stage for Punisher: Born.

CHUCK DIXON in his numerous works involving the Punisher demonstrated an ability to write violent action, redemptive and restorative personal sacrifice, and the cost to the individual of such a task.  Some might suggest that the Punisher is insane, but, whether he was/is or not, we are able to like this version, because he embodies values that we would consider heroic, even with the rest of his actions being dark, and not heroic at all.

FRANK MILLER has received a great deal of negative criticism for his work in the last 15 years, but, his take on the dichotomy between the anti hero who believed in violence to accomplish punishment of a criminal versus the true hero who used force only to achieve honorably achieved justice.  This work is beautiful, cinematic, and powerful in every regard.

Steven Grant when working with artist Mike Zeck seem to achieve a creative gestalt, a match up of talent that together creates works that are better than the sum of their individual parts.  They are fine talents, able and intriguing in ability.  But when on crime books, and anti-hero books, they shine together.

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