Comics on the Can
The Amazing Spider-Man #129
First appearance of The Punisher!
By Michael Colbert
“Why do I wear this ‘Comics on the Can’ muscle shirt that I got at Walmart along with a muscle shirt emblazoned with a tattered Confederate flag and a Punisher skull logo muscle shirt with a blue line across it all for the low price of $9.99 plus the federal government’s illegal tax?
“Well, I’m glad you asked, my friend. Let me refer you to several websites and YouTube channels explaining my personal philosophy!
“Well, OK, I’ll explain it myself, I mean, jeeze, it’s not like I don’t understand the complex web that the liberal media elite has spin around us, good, God fearing white, christian men! Trying to cancel us for being superior! Look, here’s some pages I printed out from a website about the very real Gay Agenda of the entire Disney+ line-up! I mean, it’s obvious the 3rd Sister in Obi-Wan is positioned as a homosexual mater… um, martyr opposing a mainsteam, petronormative worldview! Yeah that’s exactly what is in the print out! Yeah, the print out is from a website controlled by a known right wing organization listed by the criminal organization “The F.B.I.” as a hate group, how’d you guess?
“What do you mean I don’t talk like that normally?
“What do you mean my vocabulary and speech patterns are usually at a fifth grade level? If that’s good enough for the Jesus anointed God Emperor Trump, it’s good enough for me! What, you think you’re smarter than me? I speak good, don’t make me exercise my free speech rights by punching you in the face!
“I’m tryin’ to wake you up to the woke agenda that I’ve heard about in all these YouTube channels and Fox News!
Oh GOOOOD!!! WHY DID THEY MAKE THE BROWN AND GREEN M&M’S LESS SEXY!?!?!? SWEET MERCIFUL JESUS CHRIST!!!! Green M&M’s losing her gogo boots are a threat to the white race! I’m telling you, you’ll be sorry when the lizard men, controlled by the Illuminati, come from the center of the earth and force us all to be queer and do gay things like have sex with women in cowgirl position! You’ll beg Jesus to forgive you but it’ll be too late! You’ll burn with the rest of the Jews, intellectual elite and Democrats!
“But to answer your original question; I like Comics on the Can because I like comic books that aren’t ruined by SJWs having people that don’t look like me doing heroic things and this guy’s only covered a few of those types of comics, probably because he HAD to! Also, He poops, which I can relate to. Also, The Kool-Aid man one was pretty funny. Also, the muscle shirts show off my guns, my arms, I mean. I have gun racks in my living room, kitchen, hallway closet and half bath to show off my REAL, second amendment and Jesus guaranteed, guns.”
“BTW, I can’t wait to use my automatic weapons to kill queer lizard men disguised as federal agents or on those Antifa commies during the upcoming Civil War 2 folks ‘r gettin hyped about!!”
So this is the debut of The Punisher!
That Iconic cover, emulated and parodied countless times, caught me as I was looking for something Spider-Man connected to celebrate the theatrical release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home!”
Just shows how long I’ve been away from this column, right. But, hey, there was a Labor Day theatrical re-release of the movie sooooo…. Nailed it?
Not that the Punisher is in “No Way Home”, unless you count that one easter egg of the license plate that read “ASM-129” on the ‘78 Buick I imagined was somewhere in the Doc Ock bridge scene.
Anyway, It’s weird to think that this sweaty, myopic, deeply traumatized, gun nut has proven to be one of Marvel’s most popular characters. (Except for that run where he was dead and became a hit man for an angel). Amazing writers like Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Jason Aaron and many more have brought their considerable talents to bear on the character. Same with actors: Jon Bernthal, Thomas Jane and Dolph Lundgren! But it all started with this comic!
The book opens with The Punisher shooting a plaster statue of Spider-Man, in case the iconic cover with Spider-Man in the Punisher’s cross-hairs didn’t get the point across. This scene is classic structure because it shows how the Punisher is the world’s most formidable statue killer! They actually talked about this scene in “Save the cat”.
He’s cheered on by a dude in green body armor and a totally sus mask who calls himself “The Jackal”. Now I don’t know the lead up to this, were there hints of Big Pun in earlier issues? What about this Jackal character? Did issue #127 have the Jackal at Greenblatt’s Deli going over his plan to take over NYC while noshing a lox and bagel?
More to the point, how exactly does The Jackal plan to take over the city? In what way? Does the Jackal have an organized plan to quell civil unrest when he announces that he rules the Big Apple? Will he keep the current bureaucracy in place or swap city hall workers out with killer robots? I mean, killer robots probably would be an interesting negotiation tactic with the sanitation union but certainly NOT a good faith one. Maybe The Jackal is just winging it or wants Spider-Man dead and the whole “Take over the city” bit is just a weak excuse for terminal psychosis, delusions of grandeur and not being hugged enough as a child. I don’t know. What I do know is that the Jackal thinks Spider-Man needs to go. Somehow the guy who has named himself after a fox/wolf scavenger and/or the world’s most notorious terrorist at that time has convinced The Punisher that Spider-Man is the bad guy!
Not to sound like an intellectual casting disdain on others (much) but The Punisher really should properly vet the people he teams up with. Who knows, the Jackal could be lying, exploiting Frankie boy’s good (?) intentions to murder all the murderers in the city. Thus stopping all the murders, I guess.
Wait, I see why The Jackal chose Castle. The guy doesn’t really think things through.
Of course the Jackal is lying, he’s The Jackal for chrissake! No “good” traits have ever been assigned to this animal. He not only thinks he’s tricked the Punisher into killing the Webhead but has made plans to frame Castle for another murder to get him out of the picture! Why? Cause that’s what Jackals do!
Frank needs the Jackal’s betrayal spelled out for him after Spidey whoops his ass and they part ways, not as friends, but at least in a “We won’t kill each other, for now.” understanding.
Meanwhile, The Jackal escapes, continuing his nefarious plans to “Rule the city” through… I don’t know, maybe an aggressive letter writing campaign, cold calling everyone on Manhattan Island and telling them he rules them, now? Maybe he’ll convince Stiltman to block traffic around Wall Street! He’s still got a hard-on for Spidey for some reason, thinking the Webhead is the only thing standing in the way of his plans… not a lack of a cohesive administrative strategy, unavoidable problems with labor relations, public works management, payroll, a city full of superheroes that can punch the moon and the sheer logistical nightmare that one guy with only electric claws and a Green Goblin knock-off mask would face ruling a major metropolitan city.
But this column is about The Punisher and not The Jackal’s poorly thought out schemes.
It’s hard, in today’s political and social lense, to look at the Punisher and not see misinterpretation, controversy and problems, deep, problematic problems. I’d be hard pressed, as a social commentator and columnist, to not see the Punisher of this story as a metaphor for what’s going on today. Well, I could, but that would go against what I’m genetically predisposed to doing!
Castle is a brutish, shoot first… fuck the “ask questions part”… and go right back to shooting later, black and white morals type of guy with a head full of bad wiring, PTSD on top of DEEEP trauma and a need to dole out payback on an epic scale. I’m not saying The Punisher is a proxy for an entitled, reactionary white america that supports Christofascism as a reasonable direction for our country, scared of brown people because they’re all “criminals” and backing corrupt, violent, and increasingly militant police forces “No matter what!”
But I am.
Then along comes “The Jackal”: a pathological liar fueled by endless schemes, a bottomless hunger for power and toxic levels of narcissism. He ain’t that smart but he’s smarter than The Punisher, who he can manipulate into taking violent action against an enemy that opposes his (the Jackal’s that is) plans. The Jackal sets up The Punisher to take the fall for his schemes and is willing to rob, murder, destroy and decieve to achieve them. Now, I’m not saying that “The Jackal” is a thinly veiled analogy to the GOP in general and the treasonous, human shaped cancer known as Donald Trump because there is no way a comic written in 1974 could have ever anticipated such a thing as the whole run of Cheeto Hitler’s time in office, not to mention Jan 6th 2021. But from my view from the hill of September 2022. I am saying it.
The use of Punisher iconography by far right groups, militant, rogue police tribes and run of the mill white trash is more commonplace that that idiotic “Let’s go Brandon” slogan. It’s a slap in the face to all those great writers, both comics and TV, who have worked so hard to add nuance, character development, dark wit and a soul to an edge lord, ex-marine with a monstrous proficiency in firearms. But that’s the way things go here in the darkest timeline; none of the sane people can have nice, or even stupid but fun things, anymore.
THINGS TANGENTIAL TO THE COLUMN THAT I COULDN”T FIT IN NATURALLY
Yeah, it’s been awhile. Been busy and kinda uninspired about the columns after years of toiling in obscurity. Lord knows how many times I planned on tackling this particular book. Resisting the rancorous shape I knew it was gonna take. I’ll be nicer next time, maybe.
This comic was obviously a reprint, because I got it for a dollar. That and all the ads were hyping the movie “Punisher War Journal”.
I ain’t hating on Walmart, they have many fine products for reasonable prices. I’ll just never be interested in a DVD copy (no digital included) of “Striking Distance” starring Bruce Willis even with a price of $3.99.
And seriously, have you seen some of the Florida insane asylum escapees there?!?!?
I mean FLORIDA INSANE ASYLUM! That’s like, insane asylum with an extra dose of meth and gators!
Dolph Lundgren was in a hidden gem of a movie called “I Come In Peace” about drug dealers from space! Somehow it’s even more fun and pulpy than that logline promises.
Dolph was Frank Castle in the 1989 version of “The Punisher” from New World Pictures. It was doing Marvel characters ten years before Blade made it cool.
Superheroes were cool in 1989 when Tim Burton’s “Batman” dominated the box office.
Carlos “The Jackal” was a notorious terrorist before it was cool. He was trained by Palestine extremists, funded by the KGB, attacked the headquarters of OPEC, killed plenty of French guys and has gotten three life sentences. You just don’t see this kind of overachieving nowadays in terrorist circles.
Most of Carlos’ hijinxs happened before the appearance of “The Jackal” in the pages of Spider-Man, so I’m pretty sure his name isn’t an accident.
For all the iconic-ness of the cover and the first appearance of The Punisher, the story is pretty SOP for bronze age comics; functional, if paper thin plot, story thread maintenance, the hero explaining his powers in the opening scene, a villain with zero grasp on reality bent on grand, unattainable schemes, some self doubting, secondary bad guy that’ll flip eventually, but brilliant, dynamic art.
The Punisher might’ve been something new simply because he didn’t go full white knight. He was still pretty committed to ruthlessly killing all the bad guys, but just bad guys. That idea makes an interesting foil for typical “Heroes”.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe he’s popular simply for the fact that he uses guns and kills undesirables without compunction. Which is a sad interpretation but holds water, considering who flies the skull logo nowadays.
Next: Not sure there will even be a next here.
Later: see above.