Like Ghost Rider before him, the Punisher is one of those breakout characters from early ’70s that seemed dark and edgy in his time, only to be surpassed by any given action movie hero on any given weekend of any given summer. Vengeful murder became a novelty in American comic books after the Moral Panic of the mid-1950s sanitized everything. The 60s and 70s were sad times, and they produced some sad sack characters, but at least the wave began to roll back towards a grim, more gruesomely violent place. That’s something, right? Sure as hell makes things more marketable.
But since I don’t do what so many do and confuse marketable levels of violence for “realism” I’ve never been able to take the Punisher all that seriously. He would’ve been yet another one-off Spider-Man villain in an age that already overflowed with them, were it not for the fact he shared Parker’s tendency to monologue like a Spalding Gray robot and constantly question the merit of his own actions…even as he murders bad guys by the mansion-full. The contrast can be hilarious, depending on how overwrought the prose turns out, and so obvious even Marvel’s realized it on occasion. Continue reading The Punisher (1989)