First Published: March 2004
Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February 1974), #134 (July 1974), #135 (August 1974), #161 (October 1976), #162 (November 1976), #174 (November 1977), #175 (December 1977), #201 (February 1980), and #202 (March 1980); Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 (1981); Giant-Size Spider-Man #4 (April 1975); Marvel Preview #2 (July 1975); Marvel Super Action #1 (January 1976); Captain America #241 (January 1980); Daredevil #182 (May 1982) to #184 (July 1982); Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #81 (August 1983) to #83 (October 1983); and Punisher #1 (January 1986) to #5 (May 1986)
Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Frank Miller, Steven Grant, Ross Andru, Mike Zeck, Bill Mantlo
Key First Appearances: Frank Castle/Punisher, Jackal, Moses Magnum, Tarantula, Jigsaw, the Trust, Bruno Costa, Huntress
Story Continues In: Essential Punisher Vol. 2
Overview: After watching his family slain by mobsters, war veteran Frank Castle starts a one-man war against crime by any means necessary, including murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture.
One of the Punisher’s early targets was Spider-Man, based on the fair and balanced reporting from the Daily Bugle. The Punisher tangles multiple times with Spidey before working out an uneasy alliance – they both realize they are working towards the same goals, but their individual methods go against each other’s principles. The Punisher’s vendetta also crosses paths along with way with Captain America and Daredevil.
The Punisher, being of questionable mind and judgment, reasons that the majority of the criminals he needs to target are already in prison. He surrenders himself to authorities and ends up being sentenced to prison, much to his delight and the sheer panic of the other prisoners.
What makes this Essential?: I will admit, I have a strong dislike of this character. Comics have always been an escape for me, into worlds with Kryptonian aliens or a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider. At the end of the day, I know characters like Superman and Spider-Man are not real. However, the Punisher can be real. We see too many instances in reality where someone becomes their own version of the Punisher, wanting to deliver judgment on those that did them wrong. By my thinking, heroes should bring the villains to justice, but not administer justice.
So, trying my best to be objective and only think of Frank Castle as a truly fictional character, the Punisher does play a prominent role in the Marvel Universe. He is arguably the second most important or influential character created by Marvel in the 1970s, behind Wolverine. He’s been the subject of numerous comic series and multiple movies. A lot of the comics in this collection are hard to come by, so this is a great way to read about the first decade of the character. If you are a fan of the Punisher, you should own this Essential if you do not own the issues.
Footnotes: Early editions of this Essential misspelled Frank Miller’s name on the cover as “Millar”.
Amazing Spider-Man #129, #134, and #135 were also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 6.
Giant-Size Spider-Man #4 was also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 7.
Amazing Spider-Man #161, #162, #174, and #175 were also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8.
Amazing Spider-Man #201 and #202 were also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 was also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 10.
Captain America #241 was also reprinted in Essential Captain America Vol. 7.
Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #81, #82, and #83 were also reprinted in Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4.
If you like this volume, try: the one Punisher comic I wholeheartedly endorse is The Punisher Meets Archie from 1994. In a joint venture between Marvel Comics and Archie Comics, the comic was released by both companies. Each company had a separate cover, but the inside contents were identical. John Buscema drew the Marvel characters, and Stan Goldberg drew the Archie characters. The Punisher is contracted by the government to bring in a drug lord by the name of Red, who is hiding in the small community of Riverdale. Castle infiltrates the school as a P.E. teacher and targets Archie Andrews who bears an uncanny resemblance to Red. The Punisher eventually finds his target, and takes him alive, much to his chagrin. Sadly, this book has never been reprinted, so you will need to dive into some back issue bins to track down this title.