Ted White

Comic Corner, Issue #2: “The Punisher” (2004)

(Before I begin the post proper, let me say that it’s unfortunate, if not entirely unexpected, that people who suck at life have grossly misunderstood the character of The Punisher, and subsequently co-opted his – admittedly badass – skull insignia for their own dipshit reasons.[1] Despite that, I still thoroughly enjoy the character, and doubt that will ever change. More to the point, I refuse to allow people who suck to ruin the fun – especially when considering that Frank Castle, if real, would hate these people even more than I do. In short, illegitimi non carborundum.[2] If you like the character and hate that it’s being corrupted by fucking assholes, co-creator Gerry Conway has launched Skulls for Justice– a t-shirt campaign designed to “[re]claim this symbol,” with 100% of money raised going to Black Lives Matter. – Ted)

(One last note: I try to avoid spoilers below, at least for specific events. Some general moments are covered, but these are things you would expect to happen in a Punisher comic and so I don’t really consider them spoilers. In places where I do mention explicit spoilers, I mark them. – Ted.)

The Punisher

  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Published: Beginning 2004
  • Writers (Issues 1-60):
    • Garth Ennis
  • Illustrators (Volume One):
    • Leandro Fernandez
    • Lewis Larosa
    • Darick Robertson

Garth Ennis didn’t create Frank Castle, otherwise known as The Punisher.[3] Nor did he attempt to recreate him.[4] However, he did seem to understand the character, cutting away layers of unnecessary chaff in order to get to Frank’s core, and only making additions that made sense and fit. 

Ennis understood that the character was simple: Marine makes it home from war only to have his family brutally murdered in Central Park, decides that all criminals must die.[5] In the first five or so pages of the first issue Ennis did on the MAX[6] imprint, we get an understanding of the character, his backstory, and his motivations: “The world went crazy on a summer’s day in Central Park… And now every night I go out and make the world sane.” Quick, to the point, simple. This isn’t Watchmen, but then again it isn’t trying to be. And, as I’ve said before, “simple” is not synonymous with “bad.”

That said, Ennis’ run isn’t entirely “simple,” regardless of what definition you use. He packs in passably complicated characters, generally speaking, although I can admit a few are as flat as the paper they’re printed on. He weaves together story threads over time. Characters reappear, but never in a way that screams “Hey, look, remember this person?” Ennis is astute enough to have each reappearance make sense, and never feel too cute or convenient. He inserts our reality where needed, whether to satirize or examine ours,[7] or just give a little more believability and depth to the world he created.

Ennis generally succeeds in these attempts, going so far as to exclude all superheroes from his stories. Other recognizable faces do appear from time to time, like I said, so it isn’t just the Frank Castle show.[8] All said, though, the world that Frank and company inhabit, though believable, is not realistic.[9]It is still very recognizable as a comic book world.[10] Then again, that is probably for the best. Frank Castle in the real world is a monster, a bona fide war criminal, and deserving of a tribunal at the Hague and the gallows – in that order. Frank Castle, comic book character? Praise God and pass the ammunition.

So, like I said, maybe it’s for the best Frank only inhabits the stark black and white, good and evil world of comic books. Since there are no stakes, it doesn’t matter that the characters commit such gruesome actions. (A specific spoiler is coming up.) And gruesome the actions are. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of why I liked it. For example, when Frank burns an Eastern European sex trafficker alive, recording the inferno as a warning to any of the dying man’s old-world compatriots with a “don’t come back here?” Yes, it turns out I am very pro that happening.[11]

I have recommended this series for years, to mixed receptions. If you’re a fan of the character, I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy these. If you’re not a fan, it could go either way. As I said before these were published under the MAX imprint, so it’s not unlike reading an R-rated comic. A very graphic R. Aside from the extreme violence, there is profanity and some less than savory dialogue, and some other heavy themes and topics. Is it for everyone? No, not at all. Is it worth reading? I think so.[12]

I am going out on a limb and assuming that everyone who reads this is capable of making their own decisions regarding the art and media they partake in, so don’t take my word for it based on a blog post I wrote over a weekend. Research it for yourself; read some other posts about it. If you read it, cool. If you enjoy it, even better. If you don’t do either, that’s OK. The cool thing about comics, and the greater “nerd culture” macrocosm, is that there is something for everybody.[13]

If you’re interested, the entire MAX series of The Punisher was re-released with the omnibus treatment. This is pretty cool, as a lot of the books had become pretty difficult to find. As always, check out your local shops first. Even if they don’t have it in stock, they may work with you to order it. They probably also have the knowledge to recommend other things you may (or may not) like also. Some other information can be found at goodreads, including where you can order it online if you don’t have, don’t know of, or are unable to visit a local comic shop. 


[1]Exhibit A: Gross and wrong.

[2]Dog Latin (read as: nonsense) meaning “don’t let the bastards bring/grind you down.”

[3]No, that credit goes to writer Gerry Conway, and artists John Romita, Sr., and Ross Andru.

[4]I am referring here to the now infamous and oft-ridiculed 1998 series Purgatory, wherein the Punisher becomes a (literal) avenging angel. The blame for this is placed firmly at the feet of not only the authors – Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski, who I am sure are not terrible so much as misguided – but everyone who allowed it to happen. Shame.

[5]There have been some retcons to the character for various reasons, such as to keep him in line with the floating Marvel timeline. Some of these changes have worked better and made more sense than others. I tend to agree with former Punisher author Chuck Dixon that some characters – particularly their origins – don’t need to be muddled with. Anyway, for the purposes of this post, I will be focusing on the timeline and characterization used by Ennis. 

[6]A hit-and-miss sub-section of Marvel used for, essentially, R-rated comics. Ennis’ run on The Punisher, the first sixty issues, to me stands as the pinnacle of what MAX offered and is in fact among my favorite runs in comics ever.

[7]Like art is, you know, supposed to do. I grant you, this isn’t high art, but I’m counting it.

[8]Most notably Nick Fury, in his original, grizzled WWII vet form – albeit with a little added Ennis flair. While I do take a ton of enjoyment from the updated Ultimate turned canon iteration of Fury, modeled after and later played by Samuel L. Jackson, the cigar-chomping commando will always have a soft spot in my heart. 

[9]I wish I could recall who to attribute this idea to; I believe I read it in a Wizard magazine years ago. Anyway, it was something like: Comics can be believable, but never realistic. A believable Batman story is that he uses high-tech gear and martial arts to beat up street criminals. A realistic Batman story is that he slips off of a roof on a rainy night and falls 30 stories to his death. Paraphrasing, but that gets the point across.

[10]Maybe this is a problem to me, having read a lot of comics. I wonder if others have a similar outlook, or if this one is on me. Would love to hear some other takes. 

[11]I refuse to apologize for that, too.

[12]Obviously.

[13]For better or worse. 

Horror Movies: Reconsidered

It is October: the month of Halloween, horror movies, and bad decisions about eating just one more piece of possibly poisoned candy. We at the Geek Garage like to celebrate all of those annual horror traditions, and we know many of you do, too. However… Something has been bothering us.1 While we definitely love horror movies2 we also noticed some, well, let’s say logical inconsistencies.3 Hence, I4 decided to write this post reconsidering some of everyone’s favorite horror icons.

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Memento Movies

Movies are art. Even movies that I hate, from genres that I find useless – I can admit it, and include them. Art is subjective, after all, and you should not dismiss things outright.[1]We all have our tastes and preferences when it comes to everything, and art is of course no exception. There are films and genres for everyone.

You like flying people in tights who punch other people in tights? Covered. Maybe you prefer quiet romantic films that express a deeper yearning, and question why humans are weighted down with the ability to feel these things? It’s out there. Maybe you just like to watch Keanu Reeves be the greatest human being alive.[2]I am one of those people. Luckily, we have that, too.

The act of liking a specific genre of films isn’t bad, in and of itself.[3] It only becomes a problem when you limit yourself to watching only that particular sort of film. If box office numbers, streaming algorithms, and the Twitter are to be believed, a lot of people limit themselves. Here’s the thing with that, too much of a good thing is, actually[4], not good.[5]

If you limit yourself to one genre or one type of movie, you also limit yourself to experiencing other things and branching out. You set yourself up to only be able to connect to and participate in that experience to which you have limited yourself.

Art is designed with the purpose to make you feel, to make you think, and to provoke – limiting yourself defeats all that. Be daring with your choices. Watch something out of your comfort zone, within reason. I would advise against seeking out something you think/know will seriously upset you. There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself – it’s encouraged! – but don’t feel like you should harm yourself by watching something traumatizing.[6]

Make no mistake, though – you also don’t have to feel obligated to like everything you watch.[7]I have watched a number of the MCU movies, for example. I could not tell you which ones because they all sort of ran together, but I’ll focus on Avengers: Endgame.[8]This movie was popular, and well liked.[9]Comparatively speaking, I didn’t really have a desire to see it; at least, not in the way I have a desire to watch, say, every movie John Woo has ever or will ever be even tangentially involved in.[10]

But, in some ways, I felt obligated to watch it. I’m a nerd. I’m on a podcast called “Geek Garage… Goes to the Movies.” It’s the largest property ever in geek and/or film media. I need to see it, if only because of those reasons. Parts of it I enjoyed.[11] Parts of it made me want to roll my eyes so hard they fell out of my head.[12] Overall, it was… fine. Not great, not terrible. I could see why it was so popular: it was easily digestible and played the hits. It’s fine to like movies like that, and the MCU films are decidedly not the only examples I could have used. The issue is, again, if that is all you seek out it’s all you engage with.[13] Challenge yourself. Watch something out of your comfort zone. Be daring. Listen to your records backwards and try to summon a lesser demon.[14] In short, live a little.

And of course, as always, watch more movies. Because movies make life better.


[1]There are certain exceptions to this rule that prove worthy of derision. Examples of things you can fairly, safely, and understandably dismiss include, but are not limited to: Suicide Squad (D. Ayer, 2016), a solid 70% of movies starring The Rock, and the oeuvre of Joss Whedon. 

[2]I am talking, of course, about Point Break. However, you really can’t go wrong with his filmography. He is a saint that we do not deserve. He also may be immortal. Jury’s still out.

[3] There are exceptions to this, too. For example, liking the movies I named above is bad and you should feel bad for doing it. But also, if you are watching actual propaganda, you probably suck.

[4]https://i.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/021/665/DpQ9YJl.png

[5]With all respect to Mr. Barry White, who tried to argue against this theory by proposing that he could not get enough of his lover’s, well, love. That may be one of those notable, “proving the rule” exceptions. Hard to say. 

[6]Like Suicide Squad

[7]Although if you watch Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) or Chung-King Express (1994) and say you don’t like either of them, you are wrong.

[8] Episode #31 of Geek Garage covers this, but we don’t talk about that episode. It’s basically the Titanic disaster of the podcast medium. It is our The Room, but without the charm or accidental comedy.  

[9]Shockingly, almost offensively understated I know. 

[10]Listen to Geek Garage… Goes to the Movies episode “John Woo-mp There It Is” for my takes on The Killer (1989) and Hard-Boiled(1992). Spoiler alert: I like them a whole lot. 

[11] Scarlet Witch finally getting a moment to show that, canonically, she is one of the strongest characters. Like, look, in House of M she literally rewrites the human genome so that mutants don’t exist. That is hard AF.

[12] No Adam Warlock, no care. There are no real stakes. Forcing in dumb, unfunny quips every thirty seconds – I’m looking at you in particular “America’s Ass.” I could go on, but you get it.

[13] It’s also makes you boring and safe, which are both just dreadful things to be.

[14]Don’t actually do this, duh. The real action is with the Great Old Ones; everybody knows that.