Friday, May 29, 2009

1986 - Punisher: Circle of Blood

Punisher: Circle of Blood (5 issue miniseries)
January 1986 - May 1986
Writer(s): Steve Grant, Jo Duffy (script issue 5)
Penciler(s): Mike Zeck (1-4), Mike Vosburg (5)
Inker: John Beatty.

Created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Ross Andru, the Punisher made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 and generated enough fan interest for several other appearances. However, it wasn't until 1986 that the Punisher would help set the comic book world on a course that would spawn several Punisher titles and increase the popularity of vigilantes.

Writer Steve Grant and art team of Mike Zeck and John Beatty were given the go-ahead for a miniseries starring the Punisher.

The first issue stands out for two reasons. One, that Grant tries his best at damage control and tries to bring some consistency to the Punisher's character, as he had been used by several writer for their own purposes. And two, that Grant created some depth in Punisher's one-dimensional characterization and his personality actually evolved through the series.

Zeck's horizontal panel style is very effective in enhancing the story by giving it a strong flow. The only complaint about the first issue was the colour mixup (blues came out as greens).

Issue #2 starts a solid gang war premise that shapes the rest of the series. A vigilante organization uses the Punisher to provoke a gang war that sets the New York underworld at each other's throats. Unfortunately, the execution of the story falls apart in issue #4 as the art seems rushed and choppy.

I was curious about the sudden change in scripter and penciler for issue #5 and emailed Steven Grant and asked him what had happened. This is what he had to say:

"Before we started the series, Mike [Zeck] and I made a pact that if one of us got dumped from the series the other would walk, because Marvel was doing things like that these days. When we began the series, we were assured we would have plenty of time to work on it and get most of it done before Marvel put it on the schedule, in order for us to do it the way we wanted.

"Of course, we had barely turned in the first issue when Marvel's marketing dept. decided they were short product for the summer and went through the list, found The Punisher, and put it on schedule. They worked their schedule backwards from the target release date, meaning before we even started the second issue we went from no deadline to six weeks late on it. We spent the next several months trying to play catch up while the book slipped further and further behind the schedule.

"One day Mike got a phone call that they were taking him off the book. I called and protested, but was told the decision was made and could not be unmade. So I left as well. Probably wasn't the best career move I ever made but I ended up with a new best friend..."

The success of this miniseries would prompt a regular ongoing series by Mike Baron and Klaus Jansen.
And as to the mix-up in terms of the covers denoting a 4 issue miniseries on the cover of issues #1,3, and 4 and a 5-issue miniseries on the cover of issues #2 and 5, check out: Comic Book Legends Revealed #196.

This miniseries has recently been reprinted in Marvel's Premiere format.

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