Marvel Super Action #1
Issue(s): Marvel Super Action #1
John Warner - Associate Editor
I won't be covering Weirdworld (since it's not part of the Marvel universe) or Dominic Fortune (since it takes place in the 1930s, before the scope of my project). But the Punisher story has some good early developments for the character, and Huntress is actually a transitional phase for SHIELD agent Bobbi Morse before she becomes Mockingbird, so it's an interesting issue.
The Punisher as a protagonist continues to be something that people struggle with. Archie Goodwin writes that the character is "fascinating, yet at the same time, repelling", and several of the letters say things along similar lines, like "what do you say about the excellent execution of those principles which are anathematic to you?". I have a similar issue with the Punisher myself, but i find it interesting that people have that reaction to the Preview story. My concern with the Punisher is that his stories sometimes perpetuate preconceptions about common criminals and of course advocate a lethal zero-tolerance solution. But in Preview #2, the Punisher was going up against a cabal of international industrialists that were trying to take over the world. In that context, shooting the bad guys doesn't seem different than, say, a James Bond or any other movie action hero. If the problem is that he's not an authorized agent of a government, you could make that same argument about Spider-Man's vigilantism. But regardless of the specifics of the last story, the Punisher is clearly intended to be in the line of characters like Don Pendleton's Executioner; both this issue and Marvel Preview #2 includes text features on that series.
In any event, this Punisher story is more focused on mobsters, specifically the group that actually killed his family. The majority of the story is a flashback as the Punisher recounts his origin and the follow-up to a call girl.
After his family is murdered, the police tell Frank that they're probably not going to be able to do anything about the killers.
Notice the detective calling Punisher "Captain". That will continue throughout this issue since the name "Frank Castle" had not been given yet and the flashback portion of the story takes place before Frank formally becomes the Punisher. We also learn in the above scene that the "Bruno" from the Marvel Preview origin is Bruno Costa, whose brother Frank is the head of a large "Syndicate" family. Going forward for this entry, when i write "Frank" i'm referring to Costa, not Castle.
The Punisher then starts making hits on mob operations, and Frank tells his brother Bruno that the mob is now gunning for him and the other two guys responsible for the slaying of Frank's family, with the idea that if they kill Bruno and his cohorts, the Punisher will stop attacking them. So after smacking him around a bit, Frank sends Bruno down to a secure location in Florida, where the mob and/or the Punisher will have a hard time getting at them.
That said, we see Frank making arrangements on the phone that suggests he's not as interested in his brother's welfare as it seems.
The Punisher reaches out to a Vietnam Vet colleague of his, called the Mechanic like the Punisher is called Captain.
If you squint it looks like the Mechanic has two hands, but another shot shows him with a hook.
The character does feel like a prototype for the Punisher's eventual partner, Microchip. As Michael notes in the comments, the Mechanic was originally seen in Amazing Spider-Man #129.
With the help of the Mechanic, the Punisher causes an explosion that distracts the guards at the mansion and allows the Punisher to infiltrate. And he manages to kill the first two of the mobsters.
"Death by shark" is not an uncommon way to go in a Punisher comic.
When the Punisher makes it to Bruno, however, he finds that someone else got to him first.
This is an important development, because Archie Goodwin uses it to create the idea that the Punisher's quest for vengeance will never be satisfied.
The final twist, though, is that the call girl is the one who killed Bruno, and the Punisher knows it.
I really loved Tony DeZuniga's art in the Marvel Preview issue. There's some good moments here, but overall it's not quite at the same level and there are some wonky bits.
Bruno Costa will later resurface as a demon during the weird period where the Punisher was working for angels.
Now the Huntress story. In black & white, at least, Bobbi Morse's costume looks pretty similar to the Mockingbird version, minus the big sleeves. And she must have found this costume to be kind of cold, since the Mockingbird version doesn't have huge open V lines on both the front and back.
In this story, she's taking down SHIELD agents. She knocks most of them out but follows one back to her apartment, where he turns out to be an agent that she knows, named Scott.
The story does acknowlege that in previous appearances with Ka-Zar, Bobbi was shown to be a biologist, not a field agent.
Since then she's been asked to use her security training instead of her science background, as a bodyguard for a witness that was going to testify regarding SHIELD oversight. However, a bomb kills him and knocks Bobbi briefly into OBLIVION.
A Congressman Kirk tells Bobbi that he suspects the bombing was an inside job, and asks her to look into it. So she's operating solo for this story, without SHIELD authority. There's talk of the fact that SHIELD operates with a blank check and no restraint, in secret, and that Nick Fury himself may be a good guy, but he "places action ahead of administration" and "someone could be taking advantage of that".
Huntress' investigations have led her to Rico Santana, a SHIELD contact in Mexico city. Scott gives her some more info on Rico, and agrees to help. At a party, Scott starts asking Rico too many questions, so Rico kidnaps Scott and takes him away. Huntress follows.
It comes out that Rico was indeed behind the murder of the witness that Bobbi was guarding, and that was just to cover up the fact that he's been funneling money from SHIELD to a private army that he intends to use to take over the oil fields of the Middle East.
Huntress takes out Rico's bodyguard...
...and Rico himself, with some help from Scott.
They then have to contend with Santana's conniving wife, who shoots Santana and then shoots and kills Scott.
Rico Santana survives long enough to shoot his wife back, and then dies.
Back at Scott's apartment, Huntress discovers that Scott had received a note from Nick Fury telling him not to get involved with her. I guess it could also be implied that Fury knew what Rico was up to, but the SHIELD corruption issue will be addressed in Bobbi's next appearance (and first as Mockingbird) in Marvel Team-Up #95. The Huntress name is abandoned because DC rekindled their claim on it by introducing a new version of the Golden Age character before Bobbi's MTU appearance.
I love that Marvel took an existing female character and upgraded her into an action hero (despite the fact that her earliest appearances don't fit so well with the idea that she's had security training and fighting experience all along), but i can't get over the huge opening in her shirt. It looks ridiculous; certainly not practical and not at all sexy. The art is generally kind of rough. George Evans was an artist from the 1950s; his cover for Crime SuspenStories #23 was apparently a posterboy for delinquency during the Wertham era. This is one of just a few things he did for Marvel (the others being mainly fill-in work on Super-Villain Team-Up and Morbius' Fear).
The story addresses a potentially troubling aspect of SHIELD that gets explored on and off throughout the years, and it's a decent first take.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Isn't the dude the Jackal kills in Amazing Spider-Man 129 also called the Mechanic? I think it's supposed to be the same guy. If it is, then the Punisher story should take place before Amazing Spider-Man 129.
Posted by: Michael | February 19, 2015 8:39 PM
Punisher's armorer? Good memory. It seems that you are right, and it does fit nicely with this tale.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 19, 2015 10:23 PM
Thanks for that catch, Michael. I've put link to that entry here and added a few relevant scans. But the majority of this story, including the portion showing the Mechanic, is part of the flashback. I don't think it should affect placement of the scene with the call girl, which i think was meant to take place in the present.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 19, 2015 10:47 PM
If that was indeed the Mechanic in ASM#129, he seems to have built some extremely accurate prosthetics and given himself entirely different hair.
George Evans' EC work was also noted for its anatomical accuracy in torture and death scenes, to nauseating effect.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 20, 2015 11:55 AM
Plus: you have to wonder if Chris Claremont knew about this story when he put Ruffio Costa in Daredevil Annual #4.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 20, 2015 11:57 AM
Wow, the Punisher's fun has quite a kick--the recoil apparently blew his robe off! He was dressed in a robe in the panels before he shot Audrey, and its back again two panels later--but in the panel where he shoots her, he's suddenly naked except for the bedsheets.
Posted by: Dermie | February 20, 2015 6:51 PM
My post should say the Punisher's "gun", not his "fun"...whoops!
Posted by: Dermie | February 21, 2015 1:24 AM
I liked it as "fun". ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | February 21, 2015 11:44 AM
When this book was announced in FOOM #11(9/75), the Punisher's art team was called The Tribe.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 28, 2015 3:54 PM
@Mark: The same illustrator/s from Marvel Premiere #27:)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | March 1, 2015 6:50 AM
I was able to find this some years ago. Bought it for Mockingbird's appearance as the Huntress. Same thing with MARVEL TEAM-UP #95, which picked up from this story. I've liked Mockingbird ever since. I especially enjoy her new series, which I reviewed at my new website. https://comicheroreviews.blogspot.com/2016/09/here-be-mockingbird-1-5.html
Never liked the Punisher. He's just plain boring. Fights the same kind of bad guys. The only time I liked him was in Remender's PUNISHER book because of all the various super-villains that showed up. Plus, I liked the Frankencastle story as well. It was just nice to read the stories, as he took a break from fighting street crime and terrorists to fight actual super-baddies.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | September 19, 2016 4:31 PM
I know in Bobbi's first appearance she was a "psychic" but by the end of that story she wasn't ... I'm wondering if a writer can or has reconciled that psychic act as a cover story to get into Kevin Plunder's home ...especially since the story now firmly establishes she's been a spy for a while.
Posted by: Jeff | April 26, 2017 3:48 PM
They acknowledged and soft-retconned her psychic powers in the Mockingbird SHIELD special a year and a half ago. I mentioned it in the comments to her first appearance http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/astonishing_tales_68.shtml#comments
Posted by: cullen | April 26, 2017 9:08 PM
Understandably, Bobbi Morse's time as the Huntress would have a short shelf life, considering DC would use the name three times: The Golden Age Paula Brooks, the villainous,catsuit-clad Wildcat foe and wife of the Golden Age Green Lantern foe the Sportsman (later known as the Tigress), the Bronze Age's Helena Wayne, daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman, and the Modern Age's Helena Bertinelli, erstwhile Batman Family member, also briefly in Grant Morrison's JLA and later part of the Birds of Prey. As an aside, the name Marvel Super Action sounds so like a '70's Saturday morning cartoon show!
Posted by: Brian Coffey | October 28, 2017 12:34 AM
Reading these reviews of the early Punisher stories has piqued my interest; he’s one character whose history has mostly passed me by. The conclusion to this story seems to have been inspired by “I, the Jury” by Mickey Spillane: the first Mike Hammer novel. There too, the hard-boiled protagonist (who narrates his own tales) kills the novel’s supposed love interest—he puts a bullet in her belly—when he discovers she’s the murderer he’s been hunting. “How c-could you?” gasps the dying girl, to which Hammer coldly replies, “It was easy.” Goodwin might be faintly echoing that line with the Punisher’s last words: “It still isn’t enough.”
On reflection, Mike Hammer is a plausible progenitor for the Punisher: both introduced a new level of violence into their respective genres. And Punisher wouldn’t be Hammer’s only “offspring”: Ian Fleming used elements of Spillane’s character in the first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale”—among them an ending where the hero shows cold-blooded indifference to the death of the lover who betrayed him.
Posted by: Chris Z | April 3, 2018 11:14 PM
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