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Monday, November 21, 2016

The Punisher Key Comics Part 7

Welcome back to Part 7 and more Punisher key comics. I think I am going to make this the last part to this series for now. When you get into the more recent stuff and the reboots, things just seem to rehash itself.

So without beating around the bush, here's a few more Punisher keys.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7

1st appearance of Rawlins

The character of Rawlins has been cast for the upcoming Punisher Netflix series, and he is a corrupt CIA agent and foe of both Punisher and Kathyrn O'Brien. He is the ex-husband of O'Brien and would work with baddies like Nicky Cavella and General Nikolai Zakharov.

Punisher would end him in issue #42 of this series. Paul Schulze has been cast to play this baddie. Estimated print run for this comic is around 42,086, and the cover date for Punisher #13 from the Marvel MAX series is January, 2005.

1st appearance of General Nikolai Zakharov
1st appearance of The Mongolian

Known among his comrades as "The Man of Stone", General Nikolai Zakharov is a sadistic general for the Russian army. Ruthless and cold, the Russian government see him as a necessary evil to win the Afghan War, where he committed countless acts of brutality. Even they are scared of the guy.

Destroying countless villages and slaughtering thousands of Afghan civilians earned him his nickname. So the Punisher is given a mission by Col. Nick Fury to go to Russia and steal a deadly virus, and this act would eventually bring him into conflict with the "The Man of Stone".

The two do not meet in this issue nor in the six-part Mother Russia story line, but Frank does slaughter a Russian unit in this comic. Bill Rawlins would team up with this Russian general and help to set up a trap for the Punisher in later comics.

The Mongolian is an agent of Nikolai Zakharov and is suppose to have a pretty bad reputation as well, but he's a small dude. If this guy was supposed to be scary, it's pretty ridiculous what the Punisher does to him in the issue #17 where he basically uses him as a ragdoll.

Estimated print run for this comic is around 40,359. February, 2005 is the cover date to The Punisher #15 from the 2004 Marvel MAX comic series.

1st appearance of Cristu Bulat 
1st appearance of Vera Konstantin
1st appearance of Viorica 

Part of the female slave trade, Cristu Bulat is a Romanian ex-mercenary that turned human trafficker and set up prostitution rings on the Punisher's turf. Big mistake.

The character of Cristu Bulat was a character in the Punisher War Zone movie. He was depicted as a Russian gangster who was trying to move biological weapons into New York City to sell to Muslim terrorists. Cristu's depiction in the "Slavers" story line is much better, and I do hope Netflix picks up on this story line eventually.

Like most stories involving the Punisher, this kind of stuff is actually going on. Punisher comics have been known for addressing things that are relevant in what was actually happening in the U.S. and abroad, and with Netflix's Luke Cage doing the same, I expect the Punisher show to also be very relevant.

Cristu's partner and lover is Vera Konstantin, and when the Bosnian war came to an end, the two hatched the forced prostitution ring idea together. They would later involve Cristu's father. She is a special kind of human trash, who told Cristu that raping and beating their kidnapped victims would make them more controllable. 

Viorica is what I like to call the empathy character, the victim whose job in a Punisher story is to make Frank Castle look less like a villain and nudge him more towards the hero realm. Punisher does walk a fine line, and without characters like Viorica, most would likely just write off Punisher as a sick, madman or terrorist. 

So Viorica is one of these kidnapped girls and forced into sexual slavery. She is from Moldova, was kidnapped and then forced into prostitution.

Cristu's father Tiberiu came across the gal and bought her. When she arrived to New York, she came with child, in which Cristu's organization took from her and only allowed Viorica to see her child once a week.

This character would debut in this issue and meet the Punisher, and his war would eventually turn on Cristu and the rest of his slavers.

Estimated print run is around 37,145, and The Punisher #25 Marvel MAX issue has the cover date of November, 2005.

1st appearance of Tiberiu Bulat

Well, welcome back Jenny Cooke. As mentioned before in an earlier part of this key issue series, Jenny Cooke made her debut in the Marvel Knights series. Cooke is still a social worker in the Marvel MAX series, and her and the Punisher have met and do know of each other.

Jenny Cooke has information on the slavery and prostitution ring, and as Viorica tells her story to Frank, Cooke is shown in cameo and in a flashback. She tried to help Viorica but ended up getting her baby killed.

Cooke shows up more in the comics after this one during the six-part Slavers story line. Tiberiu Bulat, Cristu's father and partner in the prostitution ring also makes his debut in this comic.

The artwork by Leandro Fernandez on pencils, inks by Scott Koblish, and colorist Dan Brown are great in these issues. Was impressed when reading them recently.

Estimated print run is around 36,427. The Punisher #26 has the cover date of December, 2005.

1st cameo of Barracuda
1st full appearance of Barracuda

Another fan-favorite villain of the Punisher Marvel MAX series is the Barracuda. For a Punisher villain that actually debuted in his comic series, Barracuda does last pretty long and has quite a few appearances.

Barracuda is a former elite soldier in the U.S. Army and was a Green Berret. During his time in the military, he ends up becoming corrupt and committed various war crimes. Barracuda eventually gets involved in drug trafficking.

After he is expelled from the Army and evades custody, Barracuda becomes a killer for hire and is tasked with taking out the Punisher, of course. He is hired by corrupt CEO Harry Ebbing who plans to shut down major parts of the U.S. power grid in order to profit off the chaos it would cause.

Barracuda is definitely a villain that the Punisher should go up against in the Netflix series. Maybe not season one, but he should be considered by the creatives over there. He would be an easy character to throw into the mix. Actually, Bullseye would be easy as well.

Scene from issue #32 of Punisher Marvel MAX

Elite hired killers employed to take out the Punisher and test his mettle? Sounds good to me. 

So issue #31 has Barracuda only in four panels but not really seen. One has his thumb, one he's under the blankets, third one he is in shadow, and then the next one is what's written on his teeth in gold.

He is named in issue #31, but in issue #32 he is definitely fully shown and is in the story a lot more in that issue. Punisher and Barracuda do not meet in either issue #31 or #32.

The two meet in issue #33 and have a go. Punisher does take out Barracuda's right eye in issue #33.

I thought I had a pretty foul-mouth, but this cat wins hands down. Definitely one of the more bad ass of Punisher villains, and he even got his own limited series in Punisher Presents: Barracuda which ran five issues. 

Estimated print run is around 34,500 for Punisher #31, and Punisher #32 has an estimated print run of 34,076. The cover dates for The Punisher #31 and The Punisher #32 of the Marvel MAX series is May, 2006 and June, 2006.

1st issue to volume 2 Punisher War Journal series
Extended telling of Punisher's involvement in Civil War 
Death of Stilt-Man

While the Marvel MAX series was still being published and before another Punisher regular titled series was put into play, the 2nd series to the Punisher War Journal was released and issues #1-4 were Civil War tie in issues.

Issues #1-4 are almost extended versions of the Punisher joining Cap's Secret Avengers in issue #5 of Civil War, and issue #5 of Civil War came out before or around this issue. Punisher War Journal volume 2 would last for 25 issues.

The Civil War event would bring Frank Castle back into Marvel mainstream continuity, and this comic series is considered canon. Fans have had mixed reactions to this series as the Punisher goes up against super powered foes instead of his traditional non-powered targets. 

As for key issues, there really isn't much to talk about in the series. I debated about whether to even include this series in here, but the original Stilt-Man gets offed by Castle.

Estimated print run is around 102,720, and I am not sure if the B&W variant is part of that number or not.

1st appearance of Jenny Cesare
1st appearance of The Five Wives

Frank killed their husbands, put them down like dogs, and now these mob wives want their revenge on him. Lorraine Zucca, Bonnie De Angelo, Barbara Barucci, Shauna Toomey, and Annabella Gorrini are The Five Wives.

Though they plan on getting revenge on the Punisher, there is someone who is planning to get revenge on them. Enter Jenny Cesare and she is the sister of Annabella Gorrini.

Annabella introduced her sister Jenny to Tim and persuaded her to marry him. However, Tim was a sadistic ass and beat and tortured Jenny, often raping her and often letting others he barely even knew use her sexually. 

The Five Wives knew what was being done to her in the past, but still kept her trapped in the marriage and did nothing to help. This even included her sister Annabella.

Although Jenny was born into the Cesare Crime Family, she intends on going to the feds after her husband is killed by the Punisher. Her sister Annabella would attempt to have Jenny whacked after finding this out. 

They think they killed her but it was not so. Jenny would learn how to handle weapons and return to claim her revenge on those who hurt her.

Jenny would don a shirt with the Punisher's skull and exact her own brand of punishment. She would commit suicide in issue #49, ending the Widow Maker story line.

Estimated print run for this issue is around 33,022, and the cover date to Punisher #43 Marvel MAX series is March, 2007.

1st appearance of Punisher as Captain America

Say what? Punisher as Captain America?

Uh, yep. It did happen and it happened in actual mainstream continuity. Although the Punisher MAX series still ran at the same time as The Punisher War Journal volume 2 was being released, this comic series here is in actual mainstream continuity.

It also began while the Civil War event was happening. Punisher made his return to mainstream continuity in the Civil War comic series. Punisher would join Capt's Secret Avengers briefly, and I mean very briefly in issue #5 of that Civil War comic series only because Iron Man's side started enlisting villains like Bullseye.

So, this comic series - Punisher War Journal volume 2 - furthers the adventures of the Punisher in Marvel mainstream continuity while the Marvel MAX series continues in another reality.

So 1st appearance of Punisher taking the code name of Captain America and in some kind of weird hybrid costume. Before the mantle was passed onto Winter Soldier, the Punisher mourned the iconic American hero, and even though the two rarely saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things, Frank believed someone should wear the costume after Cap's supposed death in the Civil War event.

This strange hybrid is regarded as Captain Punisher by fans. Estimated print run is around 72,848, but the issue had a variant with a 50/50 split with the regular cover. July, 2007 is the cover date for Punisher War Journal #7 volume 2.

1st cameo appearance of Sarah O'Brien
1st full Sarah O'Brien (#51)
Death of Yorkie Mitchell (#50)

In the Punisher MAX world, Sarah O'Brien is the last surviving child of Frank Castle. Kathryn O'Brien is the mother and was killed in the series.

Sarah was given to Kathryn's sister, but when Barracuda finds out about Sarah and kidnaps her, the Punisher's stake in taking him down gets even higher. Sarah shows up on the last page of this issue and definitely shows up fully in Punisher #51.

I think Frank learns that he is Sarah's father in this issue #50 though. Sarah O'Brien would also show up in the Punisher Max comic series after this one, but not all that often.

Highly doubt Sarah O'Brien would end up live-action, but one never knows about that down the road. I could see a character named Sarah O'Brien used live-action but not the daughter of Frank Castle.

Yorkie Mitchell dies in this issue at the hands of Barracuda. Estimated print run is around 36,455, and the cover date for Punisher #50 Marvel MAX is October, 2007.

Estimated print run for Punisher #51 is around 33,735, and the cover date is December, 2007.

1st appearance of George Howe

Digging further into Castle's military service in the MAX series introduces us to the character of George Howe. When he and his men were captured by the Viet-Cong, they were taken back to their base only to be tortured and mutilated one by one.

Before it was Howe's turn, a special forces unit led by Frank Castle attacked the base and saved him. In the present, Howe is now a Colonial tasked by the Generals in apprehending the Punisher.

However, during the climatic conclusion of the story line, Valley Forge, Valley Forge, Howe learns of the truth and the corruption behind Operation Barbarossa from the taped confessions of Rawlins. In the end, he lets Frank get his revenge on the Generals behind it and destroys the incriminating evidence that would harm the U.S. military.

As most know that Frank Castle and his service in the military is an important part to the character, many speculate that this story line will play out in the Netflix series. The Valley Forge story just might be in there though twisted to make sense for what they're doing with it.

Estimated print run is around 31,267 for this comic. I will not feature the very last and the cover date to Punisher #55 is May, 2008.

1st appearance of Henry Russo

Billy Russo has a kid? Uh, yep, he apparently does and in mainstream continuity.

The "Punisher" regular titled series finally goes back into Marvel mainstream continuity, and the first issue to it has the debut of Billy Russo's son, Henry Russo.

Yikes! Unfortunately, Henry was abused by Jigsaw as a child. Despite his upbringing, Henry Russo would actually be an ally to the Punisher in this comic series as well as a few others.

Like Microchip, he is a talented computer hacker and is a technical assistant for Frank. Definitely not like father like son concerning this character.

Henry Russo was created by Rick Remender and Jerome Opena. Estimated print run for this comic is around 43,863. There is a variant of this cover, but could not find any print run info. The Punisher #1 2009 series has the cover date of March, 2009.

Last issue to 1st MAX series

This last issue was not written by Ennis, and I usually don't feature last issues of a comic series. They're not very major key notations, but this Punisher titled series is the 3rd longest running comic series for the character so far.

The 2nd was the 1st Punisher War Journal. The title of this series did change to Frank Castle The Punisher by issue #66. However, it is regarded as Punisher: Frank Castle MAX.

So the last issue to this series has an estimate print run of around 22,197. Cover date for Punisher: Frank Castle MAX #75 is December, 2009.

THE PUNISHER #11 & #12 2009 SERIES
 1st appearance as Franken-Castle
2nd appearance as Franken-Castle
1st appearance of Robert Hellsgaard

In Dark Reign The List: Punisher one-shot, it seems that they kill Frank Castle or the Punisher yet again. However, like the 1st Punisher Marvel Knights limited series that did the same, the Punisher comes back.

Not as an Angel of Death, but as Franken-Castle. Yes, it's the Punisher back into the more supernatural/horror realm of comics once again.

So Dakken, Wolverine's son, dismembers Frank Castle in Dark Reign The List: Punisher and the Legion of Monsters team members such as Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, and the Living Mummy reconstruct Castle.

Being hunted down by the Hunter of Monster Special Force, the Legion of Monsters hope that Castle's military training would help them battle this Special Force. Robert Hellsgaard would show up in issue #12 and be the genius behind their tech.

All of this happened in mainstream continuity, and although it sounds highly ridiculous to me, some fans actually like Franken-Castle. The title would actually even change it's name to Franken-Castle by issue #17 and continue until issue #21 before being cancelled.

There is a 2nd printing variant for this issue #11. This variant cover is by Dave Wilkins and not sure what the print run on that is. Don't think there is one for issue #12 though.

Estimated print run for regular covers of issue #11 is only around 24,978, and issue #12 is also a low print run of around 24,985.

Punisher #11 & #12 have the cover dates of January and February 2010.

1st issue to volume 2 titled series

Continuing from the world that Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion created from the 1st Punisher series under the MAX imprint, creators Steve Dillon and Jason Aaron team up to continue the saga of the most brutal vigilante on Marvel's Earth-200111.

This comic series would also be published during the time the regular Punisher titled series was published as well, in which was in the Franken-Castle stage by this time. This Punisher Max series would last 22 issues and bring Kingpin and Bullseye as major villains.

Estimated print run for this issue is around 29,106. Cover date for Punisher MAX #1 is January, 2010.

1st appearance of Rachel Cole-Alves
1st appearance of The Exchange

In the 2011 Punisher titled series, Rachel Cole-Alves is a major supporting character. Her husband and some of their wedding guests are gunned down by The Exchange in this series.

Rachel Cole survives, and much like Frank Castle, would heal up and seek revenge. Her war on The Exchange would eventually bring her and the Punisher to team up.

Cole is another character who would wear the iconic skull logo on her chest as well. Lady Punisher? Sort of, though I don't think she was ever referred to as such.

She would also play a role in the 3rd Punisher War Zone series and the 2014 Punisher titled series. So could Rachel Cole or Lynn Michaels be Frank's lady allies in a possible Netflix season?

We shall have to see, but Rachel Cole does have a military background. However, we all know that creatives can change things. They did for Billy Russo.

Racheal Cole in Punisher armor

So we'll have to see when it comes to some of Punisher's lady warriors. This one is fan-favorite and was created by Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto. Rucka writes this entire 16 issue Punisher series.

See gals dressed in Punisher garb with red hair, and you know who they're cosplayin'

Estimated print run is around 44,725. Variants? Yep, this comic does have variants. Quite a few actually. 

So there is the 1:25 cover by Neal Adams which is around 1,800 to 2,000, and the 1:15 by Sal Buscema that is around 3,000. The Dynamic Forces signed cover by Ken Haeser is limited to 50 copies.

1:25 Neal Adams cover | 1:15 Sal Buscema cover | DF Ken Haeser cover
August, 2011 is the cover date for Punisher #1 2011 series.

Well, since most of the last two parts were in the Marvel MAX alternate reality, I might as well bring this one up since Ace recently mentioned it in a comment. I did like the What If? volume 2 series as well and collected it as lad back in the day.

So, there's some pretty great Punisher stories in that 2nd What If? series. Here are just a few of them.

What If? #10 or What If The Punisher's Family Had Not Been Killed in Central Park? I did like the story even though the title on the cover, "What If...The Punisher's Family Hadn't Been Killed? was misleading. Then, in the actual story, his family still does die, but like the story title says, it's just not in Central Park.

They do get gunned down, but in their home instead in this issue. Frank and his family do not witness the Costa execution in Central Park and are fortunate to turn down a different path that day. Frank becomes a cop and decides he wants to put an end to the police and judicial corruption that he witnesses.

He gathers enough evidence and then hands it over to his precinct Captain, who just happens to be corrupt without Frank's knowledge. This seals his families fate. They do die in a hail of bullets and Frank still becomes Punisher.

In What If? #26 volume 2, it's a story of What If...Punisher Had Killed Daredevil? This is another grim reality told by the Watcher and is an alternate story based on the battle between Daredevil and Punisher in Daredevil #183 story.

So in mainstream continuity, this is how the battle plays out in Daredevil 183, which is the Punisher and Daredevil's 1st meet n greet and battle in actual mainstream continuity as Frank Miller wrote.

Here's how it plays out in What If? #26.

No fooling around in this issue and no misleading either. Daredevil does die and so do quite a few others. I remember enjoying this story immensely. 

Sometimes the What If? comic stories were better than the ones that happened in actual cannon. If not anything, they were fun reads as Ace has pointed out and reminded me of that from his comment in Part 6.

I think I liked this one because it was so grim. Not that I rooted for Punisher to finally off Daredevil, but it just seemed a bit more realistic. 

I mean, two pretty strong and skilled fighters going at it full contact with no refs or rules? More chance of someone dying than walking away.

And as Ace pointed out, this is what happens when you get two vicious anti-heroes and combine them into a Punisher Venom. This What If? story played out in issue #44 from the 2nd series.

Yes, the Punisher and the Venom symbiote do merge in this story, but it doesn't really do all that much. Just Venom with guns basically. Still definitely a fun read and a pretty crazy moment for both the characters of Venom and Punisher.

Of course, like the regular Venom, Punisher Venom would go up against Spider-Man, and Castle would have to learn how to control the alien symbiote. Daredevil would also guest star in this issue as well.

Here's a What If? story that actually happened in mainstream continuity. In issue #51, Punisher becomes Captain America.

Well, this comic is definitely misleading. Punisher doesn't become Cap until the very end, and he actually dons Cap's costume and mighty shield. No hybrid costume like in the later comics during the Civil War event, but the idea or concept was out there before it actually happened in mainstream reality. Punisher no more, and Frank Castle as Captain America.

Of course, you have to go to the beginning if you're gonna do a What If? Punisher story, right? Well, What If? #58 did just that, and presented us with a story about Punisher and Spidey's first meeting and what if Frank really did kill our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man?

Not misleading in this What If? story, but not really the best either. Fun reads and some are more fun than others.

I just dug up some of my What If? issues from back in the day, and they were definitely read quite a bit. 

If you're into all the reboots, there is the Punisher #1 Marvel Now series, and like most Punisher titled series of recent times, they are pretty short-lived.

Punisher's Marvel Now #1 does debut a new Howling Commandos and two supporting characters. This Howliing Commandos are a black ops unit assigned to take down Punisher when his war on crime brings him to Los Angeles.

Tuggs is Frank's new ally and Microchip-like character. He would only be a player in this series so far.

Limited variants to this issue #1 that I could find any print run info or at least estimate is the 1:50 retailer incentive cover by Salvador Larroca. This variant should be limited to 1,000 or 1,100 copies. 

New supporting characters of Agent Ortiz and Agent Henderson would debut in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Punisher #1 2016 series.

The most recent Punisher titled series would have a batch of variants. There's are two 1:25 variants around 4,500 copies and a 1:50 at around 2,200. 

Reg cover | 1:50 cover | 1: 25 cover | 1:25 cover

The other variants for that issue I have no ballpark figure of their print runs whatsoever. Alright, even though I said I was going to do another part to this series, I am going to stop at this one for the meantime.

Most likely and somewhere down the line, I'll probably add to it here and there.  

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7


  1. Thanx for the honorable mention! Enough Punisher for me. I plan on selling all his 2nd, 3d, first ongoing titles etc. I have to reinvest in the real thing: Amazing Spidermum 129. You see, that' s my new strategy. I plan the same thing with Harley Quinn. I got a busload of Harley Quinn minis, 2nd appearances and so on. Gotta get rid of em for BA 12. That' s where my collection will go baby.


    1. You and me both Ace. Didn't think I'd be burnt out on Punisher, but I guess I stopped reading his comics for a reason. Same basic stories, different supporting cast, and most baddies die. Oi!

  2. Hey there, i think this is one of the best blog/websites on the WWW, but, it appears that poor old SPIDEY has drawn a short straw. Although Punisher is one of my favourites how does he get so much love from a key issues list.....So, please can you post a far more comprehensive key issues list.


    1. Heya Val, believe me, I've been pondering on doing an extended Spider-Man key issues list for a long time, but have been boggled out of my mind on how to format it so it isn't 30 parts. Lots of Spider-Man titled comics, spin-offs and volumes. I've been tinkering with it behind the scenes but I think you can understand that it will take a while when it concerns Spidey and the massive amount of keys and comics the character has.

      I am working on it though.

    2. Waiting with anticipation...cant wait!


  3. Actually Mr. M, old buddy, old pal, 30 parts, no less....I dare ya?