Characters Appearing: Microchip, Microchip Jr., Punisher
Punisher: The Origin of Microchip #1-2
Issue(s): Punisher: The Origin of Microchip #1, Punisher: The Origin of Microchip #2
For what it's worth, the indicia for this series says that the title is "The Punisher: Origin Micro Chip", which is unusually Cro-Magnon and so i've gone with what's printed on the cover. The story is written by two veteran Punisher writers, Mike Baron and Carl Potts. For the first issue, Baron gets top billing on plot, and Potts on script (although both are co-credited for each category). For the second issue, the plot and script credits aren't broken out; both are credited for "Story", with Baron getting top billing.
With two former Punisher writers, and with Baron having introduced the character of Micro in Punisher #4 (and Potts was editor at that time), you'd think that this origin would fit neatly into the Punisher's history and maybe answer some questions about why we never heard about Micro for the first 13 years of the Punisher's existence and then he was suddenly heavily involved on every mission. This story does answer some basic questions, like why a super-talented computer whiz like Micro would wind up living in warehouses, but it neglects more than it answers.
The story begins "Some years ago" and "A while back" while Frank Castle is in Marine boot camp and Micro is at "State University". Castle is training alongside a Roger Wong, who the drill sergeant thinks is "rotten to the core". Micro, meanwhile, has a friend named Mark who is pressuring him to hack into the university computer system to change his grades. Micro has already invented a "black box to beat the phone company", and Linus suggests that if he's willing to do that, he shouldn't care about changing some grades. Micro also has problems with an over-the-top Marxist professor.
Micro does change Mark's grades, but Professor Halliday notices and uses that to blackmail Micro into helping him hack into a bank to transfer funds. Micro has gotten his girlfriend Janice O'Reilly pregnant, so he agrees to do the job. Micro brings the money to Janice, thinking that she'll get an abortion, but she's Catholic and doesn't want an abortion.
At this point Frank is also dealing with Evil Commies, more directly.
But it's Roger Wong that tries to sell the Vietnamese villagers weapons so that they can protect themselves when the US troops leave. Roger eventually gets arrested for running a black market arms operation. Roger claims that he didn't actually sell to Communists, just non-partisans.
Micro winds up dropping out of school, and that ends his college deferment, so he's drafted. At this point Frank has been taken out of active service for a while to keep him away while Roger is being court-martialed, and he winds up working in the recruiting office that Micro reports to. So this is their first run-in (and note that it is happening in Milwaukee).
And a page later, their second meeting.
Micro and Professor Halliday continue to electronically rob banks, but their target is a mob-run bank. They are discovered and Halliday is killed. Micro goes on the run. One thing about Micro in his later appearances is that he's actually, surprisingly, a master of disguise. That might have its origins here.
But nothing comes of that. The next time we see Micro he looks like his old self (he does have a goatee in a later scene, which i guess is a disguise).
While Micro is performing criminal operations for lowlifes, Frank Castle becomes the Punisher (all the details of the Punisher's origin are skipped over). Punisher is getting weapons from Roger Wong.
Micro keeps tabs on Janice and his son for a while, but later the son tracks him down (electronically). The son has the same problem with this apparent plague of Marxist college professors that Micro had.
Roger Wong is eventually killed by the suppliers that he's crossing, and Micro later is contacted by the Punisher.
So that is the "origin", so to speak, of how the Punisher and Micro get connected. It's kind of anti-climatic except for the fact that the Punisher is going after the mob-run bank that Micro originally crossed. (Also note that the Punisher seems to say that he rejected Micro in Albany, not Milwaukee. I have complaints about how this story fits into the larger Punisher continuity, but in truth the creators can't even seem to keep their own story straight.)
We do see Micro in one of his disguises as they infiltrate the bank.
Punisher kills all the mobsters, and then they go back to Micro's warehouse, where Micro Jr. has tracked down his father in person this time.
And that's the full so-called origin.
This story is not very illustrative in terms of Micro's character. The story shows that he basically fell into his life because of some bad - and in fact criminal - decisions early on. Micro's realtime appearances will show that he's almost as dedicated to fighting crime as the Punisher - maybe not quite so dedicated and maybe with more moral ambiguity than the Punisher. But there's no defining moments here that show why Micro would hate crime the way the Punisher does. He's basically doing what he's doing because he's been on the run from mobsters that he's crossed, which makes it seem like he should want to get out of the life he got trapped in as soon as it's feasible. With the possible exception of his ability to disguise himself, nothing here serves as a basis for anything we see about Micro in later stories. Just as an example, Micro will be shown to be very supportive of Israel, and there's been hints that he keeps Kosher, all of which suggests that his Jewish heritage is important to him. But there's no indication of that here. In general, there's nothing here character-wise that feels like it ties into anything about Micro's later appearances. And what we do see about Micro's character - the knee-jerk reaction to college liberalism - doesn't resonate, either.
I'm following the MCP in terms of placement (see below) but the placement feels arbitrary, and that's a fault of the story. The Punisher's first published appearances were 1974, and it's in that era that the MCP place this series. But Microchip's first published appearance was in late 1987. It's said in that 1987 story that Micro (and Microchip Jr.) had been working with the Punisher for at least two years already, but it still feels like there's a long period between the Punisher's first appearance and the introduction of Micro that could have been explained better, either by saying that he was behind the scenes or that they hadn't met yet. Ideally it could have shown that Micro worked with the Punisher but maybe to a lesser extent, and a reason could have been provided for why Micro suddenly is involved a lot more after his first published appearance.
This story also seems to shows the Punisher getting weapons from Roger Wong, and then switching to Micro after Roger Wong was killed. There's no mention of Reiss, aka the Mechanic, who appeared in Marvel Super Action #1 (flashback) and Amazing Spider-Man #129 (where he was killed by the Jackal). It would have been nice if he was worked into this origin story since the Mechanic seemed to be a kind of prototype for Micro. But in general it doesn't feel like Baron or Potts looked at Punisher's early history when writing this, hence the addition of yet another Vietnam squadmate that goes into criminal activity after the war.
Some other incongruities: this story ends with the Punisher and Microchip arriving at one of Micro's warehouses to find Micro's son waiting for him. But Punisher #4 (first appearance of Microchip and Microchip Jr.) has Punisher meeting Jr. seemingly for the first time. And in that story, Jr. says that he went to CalTech, but in this story he went to "Upstate College". We can come up with explanations for these sorts of discrepancies, but it makes for a less satisfying "origin". If you're going to do a continuity insert, do your research.
The art is terribly sloppy and it's even hard to keep track of secondary characters like Roger Wong. In terms of both writing and art, this feels like something that was quickly thrown together, not a carefully thought out origin or even a decent story.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This spans a period of time beginning with Frank Castle as a marine, and with one sequence in the middle of issue #2 taking place "10 years ago". But i'm placing it based on where it ends, after Frank is established as the Punisher. The MCP place the final scene after Punisher's Amazing Spider-Man #135 appearance.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
"hence the addition of yet another Vietnam squadmate that goes into criminal activity after the war"
Posted by: clyde | June 23, 2016 1:12 PM
This story is... wow.
Posted by: Cullen | June 23, 2016 1:38 PM
Who did select and train Punisher's Vietnam Squad again? Maggia? HYDRA? :)
Come to think of it, both the Punisher and Maggia have Italian origins... hmm...
Posted by: Luis Dantas | June 23, 2016 8:04 PM
Also, how much older is Frank supposed to be than Micro? He calls him "son" in this story at one point but the age difference between them is usually depicted as less than 10 years.
Posted by: Michael | June 23, 2016 9:37 PM
A few observations, itemized by category of analysis:
1) One-to-one association: The mention of "Ogg Hall" indicates the "Upstate College" in question is likely the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Google ["Ogg Hall" -Wisconsin] without the brackets, and you'll find UW-Madison is the only tertiary school with an Ogg Hall.)
2) Logical error: It's funny how Microchip flawlessly cuts his own hair. Even when using a fixed-length trimmer instead of scissors, it is difficult to get a uniform hair length on the back of your head. Microchip could have been a barber, if not for his lack of vocational schooling necessary to apply for a barber's license. (Vo-tech and trade school or bust!)
3) Historicity: It's funny that Microchip meets Punisher in Milwaukee after the former attends (and drops out of) a "State University," because about the only ways most new UW-Milwaukee graduates can get a "real job" (not counting part-time food service or the like) are to enlist in the military or to work some unskilled "peon job" that doesn't even require anything more than a high school diploma and pays barely more than the minimum wage.
(UWM is welcome to try and prove me wrong on this point with aggregate data, not upon cherry-picked, best-of-the-best work outcomes from amongst recent grads. I would say that at least those who never went to college had time to work full-time, which tends to position them better than the 4-year graduate who has to "start at the bottom," i.e. -below- those who worked full-time continuously after high school and "don't have a stinkin' degree.")
With this being the real-life basis for the school-to-work zeitgeist in this comic, they (Microchip and other hard-to-hire "scholars") ought to have enrolled in the ROTC program before their first freshman class so that the military pays for their schooling -- or at least not gone to some lower-mid-tier place like "premier urban university" UW-Milwaukee.
Harkening back to Point 1, UW-Madison is farther away for many Metro Milwaukeeans and has a much bigger campus than UW-Milwaukee, which tends to scare away potential applicants.
It might not matter too much for one's doom-and-gloom career forecast, as without job outcomes data -- as opposed to career intentions data, i.e. exiting-senior surveys -- neither school is provably better in job outcomes, per the lack of actual, one-year-after-degree employment data.
The above observations have held for at least a few decades (if not as far back as the Vietnam War), so that is conceivably the context into which Baron and Potts placed Microchip during his university years.
Posted by: SenatorJPO | July 22, 2016 12:51 AM
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