Tag Archives: Chuck Dixon

Six Weeks of Punishment: Punisher 2099 by Emily Scott

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken, and welcome to Week Three of Six Weeks of Punishment, leading up to the premiere of the Punisher on Netflix’s Daredevil! (You’d think with how much shilling we’re doing for Netflix that they were paying us. Or at least giving me a free subscription. But honestly, my subscription is the $8 a month I mind parting with the least because of how much use I get out of it. And no, Netflix didn’t ask me to say that either.)

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Pepsi and Punisher 2099: It’s the Choice of a New Generation.

No, the fact of the matter is that we’re just stoked for the possibility of the Punisher being done really well on the screen, and if you knew, even slightly, this very site’s fine proprietor, Dean Compton, you’d know he needs no excuse to talk about his favorite scourge to mooks everywhere, Mr. Frank Castle. We’ve had a great time so far looking at Punisher vs. Nick Fury and Punisher vs. Batman, but today I will be looking at Punisher vs. not just any ol’ crime and corruption, but future crime and corruption in Punisher 2099.

Beginning in February of 1993, the title ran for 34 issues, which were mostly written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, with later issues penned by Chuck Dixon. Though it’s an American comic, the British influence of its authors and their work on comics like Judge Dredd is evident in its particular tone of satire and brand of dystopia. Many elements of this world, like the influence and power of the sinister corporation Alchemax, which owns the Public Eye Police Force, will nonetheless be familiar to anyone who has glimpsed into the sci-fi future. Or at the news. (I almost said “at a newspaper” until I remembered we’re enough into the future to not really have those anymore.)

Punisher 2099 was one of four initial titles in the Marvel 2099 imprint, which later expanded to include titles like  the X-Men and the Hulk. (This very site was christened with an article on the only new character of those initial four, Ravage 2099.) I will let five seconds on Wikipedia explain, if you’re really interested, which continuity is what and which world’s future the world of Marvel 2099 is because it’s convoluted and not especially pertinent to our topic at the moment. What is pertinent, what is most pertinent, is that Punisher 2099 is AWESOME.

Seriously, of all the comics I have read for this site, this is the one I had the hardest time picking a stopping point so that I could actually, you know, write the article. From the first cover, I was sold:

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 00
One-third of the Legion of Doom, Road Warrior Punisher! *entrance music*

Is it over the top? Yes. Is this comic full of ludicrous and head-shaking things? Of course. Does it sometimes teeter on the edge of self-satire? It had better. Does its greatness lie in no small part in its extremeness? Well I certainly think so. This comic is ridiculously fun and cool, and there’s no point in trying to justify it or gussy it in with any kind of analytic or pseudo-intellectual nonsense. That’s not to say it doesn’t have depth or that you can’t take some of the same messages about authority or society away that you can with, say, a movie like Dark City (we use 90s references here, people), but that’s just not where my mind focuses when reading this. The fact that there are frequent examples of legitimate social commentary is icing on the cake. A very large and flamboyant cake with, like, sparklers and moving parts and a megaphone announcing it’s time for cake.

The particular trappings of this particular vision of the future are just so great that I had to make myself start taking notes that were more than just, “That’s awesome,” over and over again. I know I’m gushing, but I don’t have anything in particular to criticize about this comic. I’m sure if you felt like rolling your eyes at some of it, you could, but if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when you look at that cover, that’s really on you because it’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get scenario in an incredibly unsubtle way.

I also had to stop myself from including just about every page because the art (penciled by Tom Morgan, inked by Jim Palmiotti, and colored by Ian Laughlin), is no less top notch. I read the entire thing from page one with a huge grin. Seriously, from page one:

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 01
Need some ice for that burn, Mr. Sanchez? We’ll send it….this Friday.

Already, what’s not to like? If that weren’t great enough, this is page two:

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 02
There is nothing I could say in this caption that is possibly greater than “‘Mean Mule’ Turbo Kick-Boots.”

The Street Surgeons, despite being sort of horrifying for most people who aren’t the Punisher, put up about as much of a fight as you’d expect, and we quickly learn a couple things about our future crime fighter. First, despite his high tech arsenal of Plasto-Armor and ‘Mean Mule’ Turbo Kick-Boots (any excuse to say it), he still uses regular bullets to put holes in people. Second, no matter the incarnation, the Punisher doesn’t have that name for nothing.

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 05
I know I can’t be the only one who would love that manual, complete with helpful Ikea-style illustrations, to be supplemental material to this comic.

The Public Eye Police Force is peeved at the Punisher, not because he is, you know, murdering people or anything, but because he is giving away freebies, and “Special Operations” Agent Jake Gallows is called in to investigate the menace. As you might be able to guess from that incredibly subtle name or the fact that a cop being brought in to investigate himself feels like a common trope (even though I can’t think of an example off the top of my head), Jake Gallows won’t have any harder a time investigating the Punisher than Peter Parker would getting a picture of Spider-Man.

The Punisher may no longer be Frank Castle, but if there is one thing these two men have in common, other than a hatred of criminals and disturbingly large pectorals, it’s their need to display a skull somewhere on their person as much as humanly possible.

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 08
Road Warrior Punisher’s greatest opponent, Future Goldust.

The skull comes courtesy of a face scrambler, and as amazing as it is, it still manages to be the second coolest bit of technology on this page, after the geri-toxin Future Goldust receives as a sentence, apparently without trial, for straight up murdering 15 people. Or maybe it’s for being a techno-shaman, which sounds like everything awful about ravers and hippies all rolled into one person. Regardless, this isn’t the only way crime is sentenced differently in the world of Marvel 2099 than in our own. For instance, Kron Stone, the guy who kills this Punisher’s family, is charged 2.2 mega dollars for the crime, an amount he claims is less than the cost of his suit. I mean, where do these writers come up with this stuff? What a ludicrous idea, a world where rich criminals don’t really get punished! Good thing it’s just a comic book. *uncomfortable laughter*

Stone, the son of a bigwig at Alchemax, isn’t just any old rich criminal daddy’s boy, though. That would be far too mundane for Punisher 2099. No, Stone, is certifiable, killing happy families, believing them to be liars, because there can be no such thing as a happy family. After taking out Gallows’ mother, brother, and sister-in-law with what appears to be an insta-cancer gun, Stone refuses to kill Gallows himself because he is no longer a family and therefore of no consequence to him. (You’d think you maybe wouldn’t save for last the only member of this family who already looks like a criminal killing vigilante, but I might be looking for logical decisions in the wrong place.)

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 17
We get it; you’re a psychology major. You have it all figured out. *eye roll*

After the sentencing, Gallows returns home to the massive arsenal he has assembled, the most important item of which, even more than that sweet jet pack, is the diary of Frank Castle. It charges whoever finds it to carry on his work, so lucky for him it ended up in the hands of someone else who also just happened to have his entire family murdered in front of him, amirite? Actually, what I find most interesting about Gallows’s connection to Castle is that Castle’s “work” seemingly spoke to him before his family was murdered, with that event acting as the final catalyst to turn him into another incarnation of the Punisher. Castle and Gallows are very similar, one might argue too similar, but their biggest similarity appears to be that their great personal tragedies only unlocked a dormant black and white sense of justice within them both rather than causing it.

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 22
At least Castle died doing what he loved.

After saying goodbye to his family with a Viking funeral officiated by a pretty good Thor cosplayer at the coolest looking church ever…

Pun2099-02-02
ComicCon in 2099 must be insane.

…Gallows tracks down Stone at an amusement park, where the latter is attempting to kill a ride’s worth of children because in his mind, it’s better for them than sending them home to their parents. The children are floating in a No-Grav Ring, and a fight over the controls leaves one child outside of the ring’s safety. Of course, this chain of circumstances leads to the classic hero conundrum whether to save the innocent or go after the bad guy, but Stone and Gallows discuss whether he has time to save him for so long it seems like the kid would have splatted to the ground already no matter how much gravity there is. In the end Gallows makes the catch, of course, but Stone makes his getaway in the most obnoxious manner possible.

Pun2099-02-10
It’s guys like this who kinda make you get where a guy like the Punisher is coming from.

Gallows is even more resolved to take down Stone and everyone else who believes they are above punishment, a couple of whom we are briefly introduced to. Their names, along with the names of some of their crimes, are enough to make me excited for future issues. We meet the Fearmaster of Alchemax, who tells Under-Capo Multi Fractor of the Cyber Nostra that they will have to increase revenue by 20%, which means they will have to expand into total reality drugs and holo-porn clubs. (Does any part of that sentence not make you want to read more?) This comes directly after the Fearmaster telling Police Commissioner Bennelli that he expects a 20% decrease in crime in return for their sponsorship. Seems like the Punisher will have no trouble keeping himself busy, but the upside is it will constantly sound badass as hell to explain.

Of course, now that his family is gone, there isn’t anyone to explain much of anything to, except his Microchip analog, Matt Axel, who helps Gallows fill his empty home by building him a huge, terrifying torture prison. I suppose this is a good sort of friend to have if you plan on being an unstoppable vigilante and a bad sort of friend to have if you are literally anyone else. Even the unstoppable vigilante might think twice about angering the guy who gifts invisible, armed 800 mph motorcycles.

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You’re not happy about it? “Listen, I’ll make you an unstoppable killing machine and build you your own black site, but even I have limits.”

Now that he’s fully tricked out, Gallows is ready to take on Stone, who, when cornered, gives us a sob story that I think is best heard from the source:

Pun2099-02-22

That story encapsulates everything that is great about this comic. On the one hand, it’s not outlandish to think that we will one day, not long in the future, live in a world where children do get abused by their robot nannies, and it says plenty of things about society and people that are worth reflecting on. On the other – yo, that story is HILARIOUS. It’s so over the top in the best way that I’m all the more on board with the Punisher doing something I wouldn’t especially be ok with if it were really happening. Oftentimes art set in a dytopian future, no matter how entertaining, can be depressing, not because it warns us about what’s to come but because it reminds us of the way things already are. While reading Punisher 2099, it was more, “Well, yeah, corporations control everything and police are corrupt and, sure, the rich can basically do whatever they want, but damn, if I could do some total reality drugs and go on the No-Grav Ring, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much! Everything and everyone is amazing!”

I can’t tell if that means I’m taking the comic too seriously or not seriously enough, but it’s irrelevant. I loved it, and I hope you do too because I fully intend to look at more of this insanity in the future! To entice you further, I’ll leave you with the cover of the third issue, which previews what I can only imagine is the equipment so scary even Matt Axel sort of put his foot down. I also hope you haven’t had enough punishment because we still have three weeks to go, continuing later this week with Dean Compton taking a look at Marvel Super Action #1 over at the fabulous Longbox Graveyard!

The Punisher 2099 #003 - 00
Wow, the dad from Modern Family has really beefed up.

 

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Six Weeks of Punishment: Deadly Knights

 

 

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!

I sure hope you enjoyed the first installment in our Six Weeks of Punishment leading up to Daredevil Season 2!  Emily and I had a ton of fun doing the podcast, and speaking of a ton of fun, the 90’s were saturated in the form of fun that only arrives in the form of an inter-company crossover!

Speaking of crossovers, you’re well aware that we’re heading quickly toward the Daredevil crossover with Punisher, but let’s also keep in mind that we are rapidly approaching the Batman/Superman movie as well!  We have’t seen this many crossovers since…well…the 90’s!

There were possibly too many crossovers at the time, but you couldn’t convince me so then, and you’d still have difficulty convincing me so now.  While there were some real stinkers and some cash grab crossovers, I was still entranced by the idea of characters meeting that rarely met.  I wanted to see the outcomes of these fights!  I wanted the supporting characters to interact. There’s something magical about these stories to me, and sadly, the first Batman/Punisher crossover, Lake of Fire, just didn’t capture that for me.  I’m not a big Denny O’Neil guy, and he wrote that one in a way that sort of embodied what naysayers say about crossovers.  The book did look good, and redemption was possible because Punisher/Batman:  Deadly Knights would emerge next.

Deadly Knights washed the bad taste of Lake of Fire out of my mouth with the ferocity of a fire hose.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the creative team of Chuck Dixon, John Romita, Jr., and Klaus Janson did what i feel is still the best Punisher story of all time, and Chuck Dixon certainly knew his way around the Batfamily as well, with long runs in that area of comics, including his excellent treatment of both Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake).

Dixon knows how to craft an action story.  I probably read more of his stuff in the 90’s than anyone else’s.  Every month, I could expect MULTIPLE solid action tales from his pen alone than some writers could do in a year.  JRJR and Janson also certainly make his tale come to light.  They waste no time. From the moment the cover is opened, we see Punisher raining fire upon the savage mooks of Gotham City in his quest to find Jigsaw.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 5
People from NYC  in comic books talk about Gotham City the way people in real life talk about NYC.  (I kid, I kid!)

The place is surrounded by Gotham’s finest, but Commissioner Gordon doesn’t think any of this apocalyptic gunfire is worth risking any of Gotham’s finest over.  He’s probably right, as you can tell from the picture above, Punisher and these goons are in a gunfight, and as much as I love Punisher, he’s definitely not worth risking any cop lives over.

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Gordon is the most hands-on police commissioner in history.  He’s at every firefight.  How does he get any paperwork done?

After Punisher manages to plant a few rounds in some paint vats, he blows up the place BECAUSE PUNISHER.  He moves in to question the surviving mook (being the last guy to survive a firefight with the Punisher is like winning a lottery where the prize is being slow-cooked in a vat of creamed corn like on that one Halloween episode of Roseanne.  What did you really get?) when everyone’s favorite flying rodent-styled-vigilante arrives on the scene, as he is wont to do when people are shooting paint vats in Gotham City.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 9
Not gonna lie-Commissioner Gordon has a rather Cavalier attitude about his public responsibility.  If anyone is alive in there, shouldn’t public servants try and save them, even if they are criminals?  Also, note the capitalization of Cavalier; that’s a Batman joke for both of you who’ll get it.

Of course, Punisher has his own ideas, despite Batman’s presence.  What’s especially interesting about this crossover is that the last time Frank Castle met Batman, it wasn’t really Batman (Bruce Wayne).  It was Jean-Paul Valley, better known as Azrael, also known as THE CLAWED TANK WHO WOULD BE BATMAN.

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No matter what he may say or think about Batman, I bet Punisher could get behind claws that fire rockets.

One of the first things Castle figures out here is that this Batman isn’t the same as the Batman he already fought with and beside.  For all of the stuff we love about Punisher, I feel like his detective skills are one of the things that we don’t discuss enough.  It takes him maybe 14 seconds to figure out what it took Gordon weeks to figure out; it’s also something I do not believe Superman ever figured out. (I’m possibly wrong about this.  Correct me in the comments if so!)

Punisher manages to question the lone surviving mook, but Batman shows up, Punisher figures out who he is, and Batman proceeds to engage Frank in a fistfight.  Normally it’d be a huge mistake to take on a gun-wielding Punisher with just your fists, but this is Batman.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 11
Almost is underlined so you know just how almost Batman feels.

The mook Punisher was trying to question gets away and makes his way back to his boss, Jigsaw.  Jigsaw came to Gotham City in the last Batman/Punisher crossover, as he wants to move on the mobs here to get away from the heat of NYC.  It seems like he would have opened up shop somewhere not famous for having the world’s most prominent vigilante in it.  Maybe somewhere like Dos Rios, Texas?

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Wait, this guy is in Dos Rios.  There’s no safe place for a crime lord, Jigsaw.

The mook promised Jigsaw that he said nothing about him to Punisher, but Jigsaw’s partner, The Joker, doesn’t believe him and shoots him.  Or maybe Joker did believe him and shot him anyway.  There’s no telling, y’all.  IT’S THE JOKER.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 15
We get it, Joker. We get it.

Of course, everything isn’t Joker’s-lips rosy between these two.  Jigsaw is mad about not having made more headway into the Gotham City gang scene, and he lets Joker know this in a very diplomatic fashion.  He tears the place apart.  Of course, Joker is an insane and evil clown, so he isn’t impressed and reiterates to Jigsaw that Joker’s plan is the best. Once they get in, Jigsaw will be entrenched.  Also, as a bonus, Joker has gotten Jigsaw’s face fixed.  I’d wonder why Joker doesn’t get his own face fixed, but then I’d be wondering about The Joker, and I am quite sure that doing so for too long will just render one mad.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is how both Batman and Punisher find the other one to be crazy.  They each claim that they are the proper response to the criminal element and that the other is nuts.  It’s like watching Ed Gein and Jeffery Dahmer call each other cannibals.  You listen because it’s interesting while knowing that the pot is calling the kettle black, or in this case Bat.  Of course, in their worlds, the other is the one that is off his rocker.  Punisher doesn’t get it when it comes to Batman because he isn’t a wanton murderer, while Batman doesn’t get Punisher because Punisher IS a wanton murderer.  If this wasn’t about wanton murder, I reckon they could agree to disagree, but that seems like too an intense a topic to let drop easily.

Batman can’t let Jigsaw’s presence in Gotham City drop easily.  Of course, neither can Punisher, who’s brought Microchip with him to help gather information.  Both Microchip and Batman are asking and answering the most important question in this scenario…

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 17
Yeah, Micro, Batman’s the crazy one.
Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 18
Gang Wars that play it a little closer to the vest are ok, though.

Of course, the information that one can glean from a computer is limited, or at least it was in 1994, what with having to use an AOL floppy disc to get going.  Think about that; despite how impressive that Batcomputer looks above, it was still using dial-up.  You hearing the modem noise?  GOOD.

Since one can only learn so much, both Punisher and Batman take to the streets in their own ways to get more intelligence.  Of course, with Batman, this means we get to see the awesome and infamous MATCHES MALONE.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 22
Does Batman always drive with his pinkie or is that just something he does to throw folks off from thinking he is Matches Malone?

Frank Castle’s cell phone looks about 10 years ahead of its time, so perhaps the Batputer from earlier at least has DSL.  Matches is driving around a gangster, Jimmy Navarone.  Jimmy just happens to be the next target of Jigsaw and Joker in their bid to move up the Gotham Mob Ladder. (That should be either the name of a story of some sort of awesome Batman accessory.)

 A key point above is Frank asking Microchip to nose around in Navarone’s computer business, which it leads us to some Hackers-style…well…er…um…hacking between Robin (Tim Drake) and Microchip.  This is a neat little bit here, and it’s so cool to see Batman’s supporting cast in this crossover.  It’d have been much easier to just have Punisher and Batman punch each other in the shadows of the Bat-Signal, which has somehow been changed into a skull for most of the comic, but instead, by getting to see Batman’s supporting cast, even if it’s just seeing Alfred being delightfully snooty for just a second, Dixon has deftly given anyone who picked this up that didn’t already follow Batman a sense of Batman’s world that may entice them into pickling up another issue.  We also see all of Punisher’s supporting cast, which really just  means Microchip, once again, BECAUSE PUNISHER.

I suppose Jigsaw could sort of count, as he’s been around Punisher for quite some time.  I honestly think he has the superpower of being the only guy throughout all of history and time that Punisher is unable to kill.

Back to the story, Navarone is living it up at the clubs, and Punisher has grown tired of waiting.  He walks by Matches, but he doesn’t make him.  Also, let the hack-duel begin!

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 23
I don’t know if what Robin is saying is really computer talk or not, and I don’t care.  That sounds cool as hell!

Despite seemingly having an open invitation to the depraved (I’m basing this on the crazy look that duck is giving us in the lower right panel), The Toy Box actually is very selective in regard to its clientele, as Frank Castle learns very quickly upon entering the establishment.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 24

Punisher has a scar but Jigsaw doesn’t.  Nice.

Yep, that’s Jigsaw, and he is looking good!  Jigsaw just can’t resist messing with Frank Castle before he offs him, and I just had to show you the best possibly glimpse at Jigsaw’s new face as he does it.

As you see above as well, Batman is on his way to The Toy Box, where you just know that this “conversation” between Jigsaw and Frank Castle isn’t going especially well.  Of course, we can’t forget that the reason that Jigsaw and Joker are even there is because they are chasing Navarone in order to remove him from the Gotham City Mob power structure.  First, though, let’s get Punisher some guns.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 26
Somehow Joker peering between the piano and its cover is one of the creepiest Joker panels I have ever seen.

While all this is going on, the Hack-Joust between Microchip and Robin comes to a close, and you see just why he’s the Boy Wonder!

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 27
If your name is Microchip, you’ve sort of got to win your computer battles; it’s all you have got.

Robin seems to think that Batman is missing all of the action, which is sort of like thinking that someone on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean could miss all the water.  Dude, the action is all around him.  Batman being Batman, he jumps right in, with Bat-Bombs flying.

Batman doesn’t recognize Jigsaw based purely on his voice, but he does recognize someone else’s voice despite the cacophony that must be reverberating in this building, what with all the gunfire, explosions, Bat-Bombs, and ninja kicking going on.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 29
Wouldn’t it be more mysterious if he left his logo off of everything?  On the other hand, I’m totally in for the Bat-Bomb Batman action figure variant.

The world catches fire as Punisher and Batman join forces to get out of this maelstrom, although neither of them seem to be especially happy about it.  Of course, how happy is Punisher supposed to be?  It’s barely 18 seconds into this fight and he has already gotten shot.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 30
Only The Punisher would call Batman a Boy Scout.

In the midst of all the fighting, Punisher gets Batman some breathing room by, you know, blowing folks away.  This distracts Punisher enough to enable Jigsaw to sneak up on our beloved vigilante, but it also costs Jigsaw dearly…

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 33
Yep, horseshoes and buckshot grenades.  Just like they say, close counts there.

I think there are three moments in this book that everyone was waiting for, and we’re about to hit all three of then in rapid order.  The first one happens right now, as the shit has hit the fan, there are mooks everywhere, and the only thing that can save the day is Batman and Punisher, side-by-side, taking out or taking down every Gotham mobster in sight.

Of course, what fun would this be if our two vigilantes didn’t toss a barb or two at one another, and how could this guy be Batman if he didn’t tell Castle to leave town when his immediate killing is over.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 34
Um, that’s why he has Robin, Frank.

The fight breaks down, and Batman winds up taking on Jigsaw while Punisher chases down The Joker.  The Batman vs. Jigsaw fight is as uninteresting as it sounds like, and I don’t find this to be the fault of the creators.  The fracas looks and sounds as good as it could, but at the end of the day, it’s Batman vs. Jigsaw.  Even with Jigsaw’s facial road map, I am sure that dealing with Two-Face the second of every month has Batman finely attuned to the nuances of dealing with those afflicted with severe facial scarring.  He shows it by making short work of Jigsaw.

What’s much more interesting is Frank Castle vs. The Joker.  Of all of Batman’s opponents, The Joker is the one that you routinely hear come up in the constant “should Batman kill?” debates.  There’s a very strong argument that he is a deadly force that should be eradicated.  To Batman, the stronger argument is that he is a person and so he’s entitled not to be murdered.  This is sort of what makes Batman Batman at his core.  Despite his brutality, there’s a core of decency that enables Batman to provide even The Joker with respect for him as a human being.

Punisher, of course, is bereft of all of that, and thinks the best thing he could do for The Joker is put a bullet right in his brain.

Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 41
I am pretty sure the joke is that they’re both nuts.
Punisher & Batman - Deadly Knights #446 - Page 42
IT’S BATMAN, PUNISHER

Castle was this close to killing The Joker, but Batman stepped in to stop him.  Of course, Punisher isn’t going to take that lying down, which leads to our final of the big three moments, which is Punisher hitting Batman with a punch; you gotta buy the book to see that one!

As much as I love The Punisher, I’d be the first to admit that Batman could take him in hand-to-hand combat.  I think it’d be a little harder than most folks that I know, but that may be because of my love of the character.  I honestly wish we had seen a bit more of the two of them fighting in this book, but the story moves along well without it.  I don’t miss it as I read it, but afterwards, I notice it in reflection.

In the last of their encounter, Batman takes Punisher down again, saying that while Punisher may have been entitled to one punch, it’s just going to be the one.  Batman takes advantage of one last opportunity to call Frank Castle crazy.  So he responds by calling Batman crazy.

punishercraycray
I’m not sure who wins the scowl-off here.  Both competitors are quite impressive.

The books ends with Punisher leaving Gotham City and heading back to a New York City that he knows and understands, which is the only ending the book really could have had.

All in all, this was a quite satisfying read.  Some of it moves a bit fast for my tastes, but there was a lot to squeeze in here, especially when considering that there’d be no opportunity for a follow-up issue.  Fans of both Batman and Punisher will be happy, and a fan just looking for an event would get those three big moments.

I have to give credit to Richard Starking and Comicraft for the lettering job as well.  The captions for Punisher and Batman really stand out and add a level of depth to this story.  I love it when I get to see creators take advantage of the little things that only comic books can do to add depth to a story.

That’s it for Round 2 of your Six Weeks of Punishment, Legions! Thanks for coming to Gotham City with Frank and I! Be here this weekend when Emily Scott shows us how Punishment will work in the future world of Marvel 2099!!!!

Super-Blog Team Up Presents-GODKILLERS: Doomsday & Bane!

 OTIwToNO

 

Hey there!  Welcome to a very special installment of The Unspoken Decade, as this is our first foray into the AMAZING Super-Blog Team-Up!  After you’re done enjoying our article here, check out the other great blogs participating in this go-round of the Super-Blog Team-Up!  Aw, who the hell am I kidding?  Those blogs are so great, you’re probably going to go read them first.  Reckon I can’t blame you, so go ahead and scope them out!  I will wait.

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You’re back?  Fantastic!  Hope you had a most excellent time, and I just want to say how honored we are here at The Unspoken Decade to be a part of the Super-Blog Team-Up, even if it has meant one of the busiest weeks of my life!  Regular readers of the best 90’s comics blog in the universe know that our usual post date is Monday, and I know that all of you enjoyed that kickass X-Force article. A few of you even enjoyed the Mike Mignola X-Force surprise post yesterday, but this is now our third straight day with a post, a first here, and between this and the two LIVE radio shows I know all y’all listen to every week (Compton After Dark and Her Dork World/His Dork World), and working 6 days a week at my regular job, I have been working my fingers to the bone!

But no matter how bad I have had it this week, two of the greatest heroes of all time had it much worse in the early 90’s.  There’s no way anyone, superhero fan or not, who was alive and cognizant in the early 90’s could forget the furor and hoopla over the death of Superman and the breaking of Batman’s back.  The latter did not create the firestorm that the former did, most likely because it came after Superman’s demise and at the same time as his rebirth, but it still caused ripples in the mainstream media, a place that comics were rarely able to venture into in the early 90’s, although that notion seems silly now, as we are in an era where super hero movies routinely dominate the box office.  But as usual, I digress.

From what I understand, it was Jerry Ordway’s idea to kill Superman.  Superman had four monthly titles then, and the creative teams worked closely together so that the four titles (Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Superman:  The Man of Steel) basically meshed together to make what was essentially a weekly series.  Not being a giant Superman fan, that seems like more than a bit much.  I’m sure the Superman fans were ecstatic, but I didn’t know either of them.  None of my pals were into Superman.  He was seen as a relic, and the four titles were ignored by us and the world; they were to be seen as a stepping stone to license underoos and usually shitty video games.

Then they decided to kill him.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 11
Doomsday’s suit makes him look like one of the villains from the Sega CD game Night Trap, especially if one of them had been apprehended by Dr. Octopus

 

Don’t let the snark in my statement fool you; I fucking love Doomsday in this suit.  He looks creepy to me, and somehow even deadlier than when he loses the suit and has BONES THAT STICK OUT OF HIS KNEES.  I like his look and all, but I think it is hilarious that the guy who iced the Big Red S has such a feature.  It just seems silly and too “comic booky,” but then again, not only is this guy’s name Doomsday, but this also is a comic book, so I guess I can let knee-bones go.

One thing Doomsday and I have in common is an intense hatred of birds.  DC decided a great way to get me to hate Doomsday would be to have him kill a bird with his hand, and while I am not the kind of person who is cruel to animals, if Doomsday wants to kill a wild bird, power to him.  I fucking hate birds.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 17
I guess the laughing afterwards makes it creepy, but the real question is, why the hell did that bird come to Doomsday in the first place? Did he think he was the world’s scariest and least ergonomic birdbath or something?

 

Seriously, why would that bird leave the flock just to fly over to Doomsday and meet its demise?  Perhaps it was sad and ostracized by the others.  We will never know now.  What we do know is that if we are to take Doomsday seriously as a villain, he must beat some enemy greater than a lonely bird who had no flock friends.

ENTER THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA!

I guess technically they were not the Justice League OF America, as their title was just “Justice League America,” and they also had a counterpart in Europe, cleverly titled “Justice League Europe”.   When I was in 7th grade, I “made up” a team called The Protection Agency, and then placed them all over the globe.   “Protection Agency Asia” and “Protection Agency Australia” were two of the teams, and if you don’t get the pattern from those two, I am not sure you should be allowed to read this or any blog.

I was accused, rightfully so, by my pals of just copying Justice League.  Of course, I could not admit this, so I clung as hard as I could to the fact that I put a Protection Agency on every continent and not just two, thus making my idea much different than JLA or JLE.  Yeah, they didn’t buy it either.  What we all bought, or at least tried to buy, was this:

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 32
Does Oberon just listen to every police band in the world and wait for something that sounds worth of JLA attention? That’s both the best and worst job ever.

 

The JLA had little identity in this time.  They were past the Maguire/Giffen/Dematteis humorous BWAHAHAHAHA era (which should be checked out by those who haven’t ever seen those JL comics.  They are as good as you have been told.), but they haven’t really established themselves as anything but a generic super-hero team.  They are a group of B-Listers and The Man of Tomorrow.  I’m not knocking these guys; I am a fan of all of them, and I especially love Guy Gardner and Blue Beetle.  My sister, Angel Hayes (who does work here at The Unspoken Decade too), is a giant Booster Gold fan.  But there’s something about this team that just doesn’t work for me.  Maybe it is Maxima, a former Superman villain, being on the team, or maybe it is a lack of Martian Manhunter at this time, but it just doesn’t always feel like the JLA.  I do like them, though, because as I have said in other entries, this is MY era, so this was MY JLA in a certain sense.  Even the JLA with Nuklon and Blue Devil holds a near and dear place to my heart, although Morrison’s JLA did eventually supplant this group as MY JLA later.

I wonder if that powerhouse line-up in Morrison’s JLA could have done better against Doomsday than this Justice League did.  One thing is for sure:  They could not have done much worse.

This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.
This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.

As bad as Guy Gardner got it, he didn’t lose out nearly as badly as Blue Beetle, who was literally beaten into a coma.  I’m not one of those folks who misuses literally, so you can stop cringing now.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 48

Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.
Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.

As Blue Beetle lay dying, his best friend was hurtling through the sky, having been punched by Doomsday.  REALLY HARD.  Thankfully, Booster Gold literally has friends in high places.  Now you can cringe.

Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.
Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.

The books do a fantastic job of very quickly getting Doomsday over as a force to be reckoned with.  What made him even more palatable to readers, especially readers my age when this came out, is the fact that Doomsday was shrouded in mystery.  I don’t mean that he was wearing that awesome Night Trap villain suit; I mean that no one knew who he was.  I think nearly every character that got hot in the early 90’s had a past that was at least cloudy, if not as outright murky as The Everglades at midnight on an overcast night.  Ghost Rider, Cable, and Wolverine all immediately spring to mind as examples of this phenomenon.

Sacrificing the JLA, even if it wasn’t your Daddy’s JLA or even Grant Morrison’s JLA, made Doomsday seem formidable, but the next question had to be how they’d make Superman seem just as formidable.  The answer is an old-school wrestling tactic:  THE NO-SELL!

Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.
Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.

Then they beat on each other.  A LOT!  This had to be one of the most savage fights in the history of Superman, and it had to happen against the most savage opponent he ever faced.  You would think that whoever killed Superman should have been well-known, but I think having the character that killed Superman (and the character that broke the Batman) comes out of nowhere really showed the inherent danger of being a superhero.  Since we know that these stories are fictional, we can forget how serious these adventures can be.  Having a new guy come out of the woodwork and destroy an established character reminds the audience of that danger, thus inspiring new interest.

Doomsday is also one of those characters, much like Punisher and Hulk, who is more of a force of nature than they are people or people-like entities.  Doomsday seems to exist just to destroy whatever gets in his path, and he had no direction.  That is, until he found pro wrestling.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 109
(I think that Doomsday destroyed this Lex-Mart because he hates the encroachment of Corporate America against small business.)

Once again, wrestling is to blame for destroying everything.  Of course, being the huge wrestling fan that I am, I would actually be interested in WarBash.  This card spelled doom for the citizens of Metropolis, though, as this is the moment that Doomsday became aware that he no longer had to use the Disney secret of calling birds to himself so he could subsequently kill them.  No longer would he have to wait for a cadre of costumed heroes to attack him.  He knew there was a battle waiting for him in Metropolis in the form of Major Mayhem!

Despite looking more like the lead singer of The Village People than a legitimate World Heavyweight Champion, Major Mayhem was able to teach the DC Universe’s most formidable force of nature the geography lesson that led to the death of Earth’s Greatest Hero.  He now knew of Metropolis.  One smashed road sign later, and somewhere in the distance Death of The Endless put on her blackest makeup and coolest ankh and headed for Metropolis as well.  (Spoiler Alert:  She isn’t in any of these comics.)

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 123
He smashed The Cadmus Project and Guardian too, but I can’t show you everything here.  This article is too long as it is!

Superman, the world’s mightiest hero, seems to be very out of his league here.  In a single swoop, Doomsday would eviscerate Superman, and punch the 90’s Supergirl (who will one day get a write-up here!)into goop.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 138
Supergirl appears to be made out of Nickelodeon Gak.

 

Fearsome.  I think this was the first time I ever saw Superman bleed.  This was also from the first issue of the storyline I was able to pick up.  Every time I hit the LCS then, the Doomsday stuff was sold out.  My mom managed to snag this one for me.  I remember trying to keep it in near-mint condition as I watched the Wizard articles tell me that its price was climbing higher and higher, but I also was completely overwhelmed by the comic and just had to read it over and over.  This meant an early demise for what I thought was going to be worth a fortune forever, but in hindsight, there were very few comics I loved more than the one where Supergirl fell to Doomsday.

Despite the setbacks and despite Doomsday’s rampant brutality, Superman remains valiant and steadfast in his belief that he will stop this creature, no matter what takes.  The determination shines through, and you believe that a Superman will die.

I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.
I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.

 

Dan Jurgens does an amazing job with Superman #75.  Every page is a single panel; every panel is a story, culminating in an epic showdown where Superman’s Double-Axehandle is pitted against a big haymaker from Doomsday. Jurgens shows us not just how Superman appeared to the world, but also to those closest to him.  This makes his imminent death personal, and not just the death of an icon that we have all been familiar with since before we could read.  Before we see The Man of Tomorrow die, we must see him live.

 

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 154 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 158 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 166 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 168 The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 172

 

The entire saga is amazing, as we see a World Without a Superman, and the Return of Superman was really clever, with four men claiming to be Superman.  Doomsday was the perfect entity to destroy Superman.  He’s a monster from his opening panel until his demise alongside The Man of Steel.  His relentless onslaught was more than even Superman can handle, and even though it cost Doomsday his life, he can say what few villains can; he not only defeated, but he killed Superman.  Such a feat alone makes him worthy of inclusion in the villains entry for this go-round of Super-Blog Team Up.

However, Superman was not the only iconic superhero to fall prey to a villain.  He wasn’t even the only iconic hero to fall to a brand new villain.  In the case of the Caped Crusader,  Bane was able to do something adversaries like The Joker, The Riddler, or even KGBeast had been unable to do, and that is break Batman.

Bane first appeared in the Chuck Dixon/Graham Bolan special, Batman:  Vengeance of Bane.  I actually bought this off the shelf when it first came out.  I loved the cover, and I loved one-shots.  Due to my status as poor white trash, I was sometimes unable to get all the parts of a multi-part story, and so one-shots appealed to me, and how could a cover like this not appeal to anyone?

With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.
With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.

I said on my entry here on Punisher:  War Zone #1 that Chuck Dixon probably only wrote one masterpiece, but after reading VoB, I have to reconsider my stance.  This is amazing.  By the time you are finished with it, you both feel sorry for and repulsed by Bane.  He got a rather raw deal in life, but he somehow turns it all to his advantage.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 4 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 6

I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.
I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.

 

You start out feeling badly for Bane, as he has been “trapped in a world he never made!” in a much more harsh way than we ever saw happen to Howard the Duck.  Many folks, myself included, sometimes complain about the cards life handed us, but this story reminds us that there are many, especially in the third world, that have it so much worse than us.    Bane was screwed before he ever tasted oxygen.

Bane could have allowed that to damn him, but he instead rises to the challenge and makes himself king of the prison.   First, though, he has an accident that bashes his head and renders him comatose.  He has a vision of his future self while unconscious that inspires him to rise to the occasion by becoming stronger than all those around him.  Bane starts quickly after emerging from the coma, as the inmate who offered Bane what seemed to be unsavory employment gets his quickly…

It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.
It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.

Bane gets sent back to solitary for this, and when he emerges this time, he is a man on a mission.  He picks up a few henchmen in the prison, and begins his takeover.  He also learns to read, which I like to think was inspired by pirated broadcasts of Reading Rainbow starring LeVar Burton, but that probably isn’t true.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 22
The henchman dumping the books out of the bag, Trogg, is holding that bag of books like it is a trick or treat bag full of candy.

Soon, ruling the prison just isn’t enough for Bane, who has become the pinnacle of prowess via sheer will, concentration, and determination.  His thirst for knowledge in these books means he soon learns of a great world outside of these walls, and he finds himself wanting to know all about it.  He is intrigued when his henchman Bird (who can seemingly talk to Birds, so it isn’t just a clever name) tells him of Gotham City and Batman.  Bane decides he is to rule Gotham.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 24

That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.
That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.

Bane is then placed into an experiment in the prison using the drug Venom, which had been featured in the Batman comics prior to this.  Bruce Wayne even got addicted to it.  Bane survives experiment after experiment in the prison, and eventually, engineers a way off the island.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 28 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 32

That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.
That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.

 

Now that he has escaped the prison, Bane is in Gotham City, learning the ropes, and discovering television, in the early 90’s, I would have had to recommend USA Up All Night to him.  Being the savvy guy that he is, I am sure that he found Rhonda Sheer and Gilbert Gottfried all on his own.

He was also able to start carving a piece of the Gotham City underworld out for himself with the help of his henchmen.  That was just the start of what would eventually culminate in this…

Batman_497BBatman - Knightfall #232 - Page 42 Batman - Knightfall #232 - Page 44 Batman - Knightfall #232 - Page 46

Batman was broken.  Superman was dead.  The 90’s brought you the villains who fulfilled the promises of all the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age villains that preceded them.  They destroyed the icons of good, maybe not forever, but more thoroughly than any who came before them.  These two characters also became firmly entrenched in the lore of Batman and Superman, showing up in cartoons, movies, and one of the most underrated beat ‘em up games of all time.

979269-snes_death_and_return_of_superman_the_box_front
(I played this for hours and never beat it, no matter how many late fees I racked up at the video store by keeping it too long. Thanks to emulators and GameFAQ, I will soon though.)

 

These villains had to be larger than life, bigger than Gods and a 90’s kind of extreme in order to triumph over the greatest superheroes of all time, but they did so with aplomb, and remember, it all happened in The Unspoken  Decade…

Now head on over to the articles listed below and enjoy Super –Blog Team-Up!!!  Thanks for stopping in with The Unspoken Decade!  Special post tomorrow, and then next Monday, take a look at Starman!!!!  Also, check me out LIVE on internet radio Thursday nights at midnight for Her Dork World, His Dork World, and on Sunday nights at 11:30 Eastern for Compton After Dark!!!

Bronze Age Babies show us The Frightful Four!

Fantastiverse brings you The Green Goblin!

Check out an edible Boba Fett and Darth Vader at Between the Pages!

Longbox Graveyard brings us the best cosmic villain ever, Thanos!

SuperHero Satellite shows us The Legion in The Great Darkness Saga!

Chasing Amazing gets 90’s like we do here as the monster called Carnage arrives!

Superior Spider-Talk goes old school with The Chameleon!

Silver Age Sensations is bringing us the best Armored Soviet not named Rocket Red!

The Daily Rios brings you JLA vs. Beasts!

Flodo’s Page features Green Lantern villain The Lamplighter!

The Retroist gives you the one villain who rises above all others…DOOM!