Sunday, 29 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #129. The Punisher makes his debut

Amazing Spider-Man #129, first appearance of the Punisher and the Jackal
(Cover from February 1974.)

"The Punisher Strikes Twice!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Giacoia and Hunt.
Lettering by J Costanza.
Colours by Dave Hunt.

Clint Eastwood’s got a lot to answer for. In Britain, he inspired the comics world to give us Judge Dredd and, in America, he inspired it to give us the Punisher. I have to say, things may have been bad in the UK in the 1970s but, on this occasion, the Brits came out smiling, having got a character of wit, satire and imagination where the poor old US had to settle for a man in black just out to shoot anyone he took a disliking to. Still, at least we didn’t get Spider-Man coming up against a comedy orang utan. Even the power of Clint wasn’t up to that.

And so it is, that in this tale, we get not one but two new characters; the Jackal and the Punisher. The Jackal’s an odd cove. He seems to be fairly clearly modelled on the Green Goblin, having the same mentality and, apparently, motivations; leading you to assume at first that he must be Harry Osborn.

But then we see Harry back at the apartment he shares with Peter Parker, ranting on to himself about being the Goblin. As Conway was clearly determined, even at this stage, to bring the Goblin back, it does make you wonder why he didn’t just make Gobby the antagonist of the next few tales. Perhaps he felt it was too soon. Or perhaps he wanted to prove he too could successfully create such a character. Whatever it was, bearing in mind the outcome of the whole Jackal storyline, it would’ve made more sense and not done as much damage to the strip’s believability if it had been Harry.

As for Frank Castle, the Punisher, what a loop-fruit he is – not to mention being mind-bogglingly stupid. If he can’t work out that a character who calls himself the Jackal might not be a man to trust, you hold out little hope for him. In retrospect, you do have to wonder why a man who’s so clearly wrong on so many occasions managed to end up with a comic of his own. Still, its a strange world out there and perhaps, in complex times, people want a simple (or even a simple-minded) character to root for.

On the art front, I can’t deny that Ross Andru’s my favourite Spider-Man artist of them all and, to my mind, this is the issue where he hits his peak period, capturing both Peter Parker’s everyday tribulations and Spidey’s action scenes perfectly. The simple truth is I could look at his artwork all day long when it’s like this.

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