Issue(s): Punisher #60, Punisher #61, Punisher #62
He is almost immediately therefore beaten by the police.
And of course, since he's black now, he's going to run into other black superheroes, so Luke Cage shows up to rescue him.
These issues are pretty much the last ones written by Mike Baron, who'd been writing the book since issue #1. And he seems to have already been out the door. Marc McLaurin, the writer for Cage, gets a "script assist" credit for issue #60 and he fully scripts #61-62.
After the opening scene with the police, these issues aren't really about the Punisher having to experience life as a black man. The book Black Like Me is cited as a justification for this story in a later lettercol, but that's more from the scientific perspective (i.e., proof that skin color can be changed). Storywise, once the Punisher is rescued from the police, he's basically back to fighting drug dealers. The difference is that as long as Cage is around, he's not allowed to use guns.
The Punisher, without revealing who he really is, hires Cage to help him get to a safehouse in the basement of a Chicago tenement building (guarded by drug dealers). But when they get there, they find it's been robbed, and the Punisher was planning to pay Cage out of the money in the safehouse. So Punisher has to hang around with Cage for a number of weeks to pay off his debt. That means accompanying Cage on a job to clear out an apartment building that is overrun by more drug dealers, run by a Mr. Rudy (in the scene below, Punisher is trying to infiltrate their group, but it doesn't work out).
Working with Cage has the Punisher briefly thinking that maybe his lethal methods aren't necessary...
...but you know, not all the time.
Meanwhile, George Tam Wong, the guy that was orchestrating the Kingpin's attack on the Punisher from the previous arc, approaches the head of Chicago's crime organization, a character that isn't named in these issues but that the MCP identify as Elio Angelopoulus III, aka Angel, from the Cage series.
George identifies the man that is helping Cage disrupt Angelopoulus' drug organization as the Punisher.
As the Punisher continues to spend time with Cage, his skin starts to fade.
The Punisher wonder if Cage's nonlethal's methods have merit, and he even contemplates retiring from his "war", but that changes when he's attacked by some of Angelopoulus's men. Then he decides that he's "gotten soft" and it's "Tet all over again".
After Punisher is captured, he finds that George and Angelopoulus have also captured Dr. Brewer, the drug-addicted doctor that gave him the melanin treatment, to get her to confirm that he's the Punisher.
Cage shows up to rescue the Punisher. George is shot dead, and the Punisher stabs Angelopoulus.
When the fighting is over and it's out in the open that Frank is the Punisher, he and Cage part ways. Punisher arrogantly tells Cage that since he rides the edge of the law, Punisher will be watching him. But he does sort-of acknowledge that he owes Cage another debt, and we'll see him pay that off in Cage #3-4.
Despite the obvious weirdness of the premise, there's nothing all that out there about the story, and in fact the Punisher's melanin implants have very little impact on the story. The focus is really the fact that after the Kingpin's tearing down of the Punisher and the fact that the Punisher now has a new identity, he seriously considers giving up his lethal vigilantism, but ultimately can't avoid the war (or finds an excuse to not avoid it). It's not as terrible as it could have been, and in a weird way that's kind of disappointing.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 211,467. Single issue closest to filing date = 205,500.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Punisher spends two weeks with Cage between issues #61 and #62. Issue #62 is the first issue to reference Cage's solo series. As i mentioned in the entry for Cage #1, it's possible that Punisher #60-61 may take place prior to Cage #1 and issue #62 takes place afterwards, but it seems just as possible that all three issues take place afterwards.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
How is it possible to NOT post the "It's hammer time!" panel!
Posted by: AF | January 13, 2016 5:57 PM
First Tyrone King, now Frank Rook- Luke is really bad at noticing synonym aliases, isn't he?
Posted by: Michael | January 13, 2016 8:12 PM
How bad/offensive did Black Punisher seem when it came out? I remember these issues in real time and I was probably more offended by the lack of a stable art team on Punisher than I was by Frank Castle becoming black. I just didn't really understand how exploitative it was - kind of like reading Black Like Me and not really grasping how problematic that was.
Posted by: Mark Black | February 16, 2016 2:25 PM
Mark Black, at the time that "Black Punisher" came out it didn't seem offensive to me, just pointless and poorly thought out. The Punisher turns black for three issues, and then suddenly he's white again... why even bother?
It just seemed symptomatic of the overall problem the Punisher had at this time, namely he was in three ongoing series, plus various miniseries and specials. With that amount of overexposure, you very quickly you run out of really interesting stuff to do with the character, especially when his entire shtick is going around shooting criminals. So you fall back on really silly gimmicks like turning him black for a few months before hitting the reset button.
Of course, back in 1992 I was a teenager in high school. With the benefit of hindsight and maturity, I can see that not only was it silly, but there were problematic aspects to it. And I can certainly understand if there were African Americans who did get offended.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 16, 2016 7:39 PM
I like that people just want art to be inoffensive these days. People seemingly look at art and ask themselves, "whom might this offend"? In defense of the artists, I think it's pertinent to look back at the time this was created. The drug trade in inner cities had caused a historic rise in murder and violence. To give you some idea... Last year NYC had 352 murders. In 1990 and 1991 it had 2245 and 2154 murders, respectively. I just think at times, art needs to offend in order to shed light on issues. Although, I'm not even sure how offensive these issues actually are. I just wanted to put the context of the times out there.
Posted by: Yogi deadhead | February 17, 2016 5:30 AM
Er, I don't think the depiction of drug trade violence is what people find offensive about these issues...
Posted by: Tuomas | February 17, 2016 10:19 AM
Right. But it's offensive now. At the time, people were attuned to the trouble in the inner cities. Pretty much any art shining light on what was happening in the inner cities, at the time, sounds offensive now. Listen to music pertaining to these issues from the day. The violence, misogyny, homophobia, and racist terms are a bit more shocking and offensive now. Creating art about an abhorrent problem doesn't tend to be pretty, especially decades removed. My point is that there was a lot of art created back then that focused on this issue. Most of said art is viewed as offensive through our modern prism.
Posted by: Yogi deadhead | February 17, 2016 11:40 AM
@Yogi deadhead - I can see how "cinematic art" like Taxi Driver or Superfly can be viewed as offensive through a modern prism, but still shed light on problems and/or have an important commentary, but I find it harder to see how something like the Punisher getting his skin pigment changed and briefly living as a black man sheds light on anything. The writing is bad, racism is barely tackled (and when it is it's in a very surface cursory way), and it just doesn't add anything new to the discussion of racial politics of that time. I was 13 when this came out and lived on an island. There wasn't a local comic book store, the internet wasn't in wide use, and my experience with racism was very limited. I think there had to be discussion about how this was offensive in 1992. I don't want things to be inoffensive, but I would like if things were interesting. I don't think I'm in the minority in thinking that the Punisher's days as Rook were uninteresting and that the writer's/writers' take on that wasn't very nuanced.
Posted by: Mark Black | February 17, 2016 12:34 PM
Mark is right. Personally, I think that fnord is being too critical of the "superpredators" scenes, which WERE a reflection of concerns about inner city crime. But the "superpredators" scenes reflect real occurences, even if exaggerated for dramatic effect. There were no real white men being turned into black men in the early '90s. If the writers wanted to depict racism by police, for example, they could have used actual black characters, instead of turning Frank black.
Posted by: Michael | February 17, 2016 9:34 PM
Comics Should Be Good recently did a Legends Revealed feature involving these issues. It turns out that it was editorially imposed by Don Daley and Marc McLaurin was chosen as the scripter because he was black and could write "black dialogue":
Posted by: Michael | March 21, 2016 8:37 PM
And Frank's first act as a black man is diminishing and lecturing Luke Cage on how he should do his job instead of learning anything of the experience.
Posted by: adriano | December 12, 2017 4:55 AM
It is not "offensive now".
Posted by: adriano | December 12, 2017 4:58 AM
Comments are now closed.
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