A Punishing Read

Having finished Nathan Edmondson run on the Punisher coupled with the news that there will be a new Punisher series with Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon feels like the perfect time to talk about The Punisher. Despite having no powers, any form of empathy or a sense of humor, the Punisher remains one of the most successful character creations of all time, having had three movies made about the character already, as well as the upcoming appearance on the second season of Daredevil as well. But the real mystery is why? He’s a rather one trick pony, an ex-marine who does nothing but kills bad guys, and depending on the writer in increasing elaborate and gruesome ways. The latest Marvel series has the Punisher murdering a person in the middle of the street in broad daylight as people watch and record it on their phones as a message to let people know that a murderous thug is back in their city.

The new series offers more of the same, with the same murky morally righteous murder machine we’ve come to expect from a character like Punisher to the point where he’s been describe as “Jason Vorhees”, by Ms Cloonan. Even though I’ll probably pick it up, albeit in trade form, that doesn’t really interest me at all. Not because he’s not an interesting character, but because they’re basically telling the same story repeatedly.

The description of Jason Vorhees for the underworld by Ms Cloonan is rather apt, because the Punisher really is a slasher villain to the underworld. He is the urban legend, he is the one all gangsters and mafia types check under their bed before going to sleep at night. But just having a character running around murdering bad guys gets old fast, even if he is The Punisher and looks cool as ice doing it. We need a reason to care about him, to cheer for him. He’s a killer who doesn’t deny it, and if the best story you can come up with is Punisher kills mobsters because reasons then perhaps it’s time to rethink your story.

A while back I mentioned in Original Sin review I enjoyed the teaming of The Punisher and Dr Stephen Strange and how awesome it was seeing two heroes who normally wouldn’t cross paths teaming up and sowing disdain for each other despite that recently, both are the same side of the coin. My question is, why haven’t we got it yet? That is the type of comic I’d read, and it would re-invent a stale character that has been treading the same waters over the years.

When Frank Castle was part of the Thunderbolts with General Ross, that was interesting, because it was the Punisher in a team book with a bunch of other loners. When Castle was mentoring Rachel from Greg Rucka’s run that was interesting, because it was a female version fo Frank, and we’d be wondering how far into the dark would she travel. Frank Castle getting involved in politics from the street level isn’t all that interesting. It’s time to shake up the character, and since he’s already been likened to Jason Vorheess and because of some weird rule with horror, where all horror movie sequels must at some point go into space, why not send Punisher into space? I’m sure there are other criminal elements out there that need to be stopped, and since Bucky Barnes is no longer then man on the wall there is an opening for Frank to take over. It would just as entertaining has having the Punisher mow down a drug dealing gang for the 30th time.

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Howard the Duck, more then just a comic about a talking duck.

So ever since Howard the Duck had the cameo in the post credit sting of the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” the world went “Huh?” collectively at the talking duck. Me? I was with the dozens of other people who were gigglingly like a loon at how awesome it was. Marvel, sensing the start of a beautiful relationship with a fist full of dollars then put out a comic with Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones which lasted a full five issues before having been restarted. Because secret wars, that’s why.

All-New-All-Different-Marvel-Howard-The-Duck-1
I hear ya buddy

The comic itself is pretty great, with Chipz writing Howard as a sort of a cranky Rodney Dangerfield filled with some pretty rad sight gags and guest appearances, from Dr Strange and the Guardians to an all out war in issue 5 telegraphed by the awesome cover of Howard running away from the fight he just caused, which really does make sense. He has no real powers, so why would he stick around after filling in the heroes. One of my favourite gags involved Howard’s plan to recovering a stolen necklace which was stolen from him by a senior citizen was pretending to be a real duck at a duck park.

Howard bread

The thing about Howard the Duck is he is the marvel version of Rodney Dangerfield right down to the cheap suit and lack of respect. All he wants is to be taken seriously but he’s a 3 foot tall talking duck, which shouldn’t be a problem in a world were there is a new super hero every week showing up, but it is. It doesn’t help that he has no real powers apart from “quack-fu” and the uncannily ability to annoy everyone within a 500 yard radius of himself. This is despite the fact he is a legitimate hero. He stood with the Marvel heroes when they fought against the Skurll invasion, and has protected the then multi-verse from the threat of zombies.

Despite being in the Marvel Universe, all he wants to do is live a normal life, as much as being a 3 foot tall talking duck can bring you. He doesn’t want to be known as just the talking duck, he wants to be Howard the Private Eye, except no one really treats that seriously. He’s treated like a joke by people, instead of accepting him for the person he is.

And unlike Martain Manhunter or Superman, he isn’t the last of his kind, but rather trapped in the Marvel 616 universe, which would make you a little cranky wouldn’t it? Howard is the poster boy for depression, always angry and acting out because no one really takes the time to sit down and ask him. “Are you okay?”. Which brings me to my point about Howard being us.

Howard duck face cover

Through out life, are we not asking for respect, to be seen as more then what we are? Not as some sort of category, not the fat one, skinny one, gay straight etc. We’re asking everyone around us to treat us with respect and as a person rather then a thing. Which is perhaps the greatest lesson a 3 foot tall talking duck can teach us. Howard is often a joke character, which is a shame, because like squirrel girl, he can be a really fantastic character, one that shows that compassion, empathy aren’t just limited to humans, that despite being a talking duck, he is having a go at life and being all he can be. And isn’t that a lesson worth learning?

3 Things a G.I.Joe reboot needs to avoid.

There have been many different interpretations of G.I.Joe over the years, which makes sense considering the G.I.Joe I know and love has been around since 1982 in some form or another. We’ve had the classic, if dated cartoon, Valor Vs. Venom, Spy Force, G.I.Joe resolute and Sigma 6, as well as the various comic interpretations. With that in mind, if IDW, or any other comic company for that matter ever plan on creating another G.I.Joe comic, either set in their own universe which ended with the Karen Traviss ‘Fall of G.I.Joe” which contained hardly any G.I.Joe references, or rebooted again from scratch, here are 3 things I would like excised from the series.

3: Avoid the infighting of Cobra.

Drama as they say can happen from internal and external sources. Over the years, Cobra has been portrayed as fragmented on several occasions, where every one is trying to advance their own career. In the Devils Due book, we had 3 leadership changes in Cobra High Command during the book’s run of 42 issues, which asks the question, how did they get any thing done? The bickering, snide, snarky comments made by High Command undermines what a villain group should be. If they’re not on the same page, how are they even scaryor a force to be reckoned with?

2: No more Origins.

One of the best aspects about the G.I.Joe Franchise is that it’s all there ready to go. You have a hero group, a villain group and you can make up whatever you need to. But, the thing is, we don’t need any origins of these characters. Do we really need to know that the Baroness was an unhappy child of rich parents? Pulling back the curtain does ruin the appeal of some characters. Not knowing who Cobra Commander is helps the character. He’s a disenfranchised person who got tired and tried to change things for himself. That’s all the back ground you need. Still if you must include an origin in the story, then look no further than G.I.joe 26-27. Both issues told the tale of Snake Eyes while also moving the overall story along. The same thing with issues 94-96 of the Marvel run, back story within a larger context work wonders. If done right, they can be enjoyable, but for the most part, best to leave them alone. Hey speaking of Snake Eyes, that brings me to point number 1

1: No more Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow.

Picture if you will a bowl of ice cream. You eat it and find it nice and refreshing. Then you look down the table and see ten more bowls of said ice cream that you had to eat. The ice cream is Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fighting. I know what you’re thinking, it’s great when they throw down, but that’s the thing they have thrown down at least 10 times already in the various comics and cartoons that have been produced. What was once exciting is now dull as dish water though over exposure. If any thing I would love for Storm Shadow to appear on the side of the Joes from the start with no one questioning his loyalty and as far removed from Snake Eyes for as long as possible.

I highly doubt another G.I.joe comic is coming alone any time soon. But if you’re only going to be presenting the same vision of G.I.Joe without changing certain aspects of it, then it will fail time and again.

Advice for those who don’t like diverse books: Don’t read them.

There seems to me that a storm erupts if you try to change the status quo with comic books. If you have an established team book, like the Justice League or the Avengers, any change to the line up is some times met with pent up aggression that should be reserved to horrifying tragedies and grand finals of sports. I for one don’t quite understand this mindset. The All new Marvel line up’s flag ship Avengers book is amazing because there is only one white male on the team. The other team books, fair slightly less well, Uncanny Avengers 3/5 with the white males in the majority but New Avengers picks up the slack there.

Do I like all these line ups on the teams? No, but that’s okay. Marvel, DC and any other companies aren’t just hoping you’ll buy their book, they’re hoping that hundreds of others will, and that’s where the teams come from. A diverse range of books means a diverse range of readers.

If you’re not a fan of one or two of the characters, that’s cool, you’re not meant to like all of the characters in existence. I can not get excited about Jason Todd if I tried, much the same way about the Joker now. You can be unhappy that your favourite character isn’t being used in a line up but these books need to happen. Different characters in books mean more exposure, and a chance for them to become a fan favourite.

Comics aren’t just for guys any more, women, gays and I’m sure pets would read them if they could. We need a diverse line up to reflect society. How many times has the Avengers flagship title been top heavy with white dudes? Or even the Justice League? Or any other team book out there. I’m not talking about quotas either. The reason a person should be on a team is because it fits the dynamic the writer was going for and to tell interesting stories. Having the same people on teams means the same stories get told, and who wants that?

At the end of the day diverse books with the right writers can mean more interesting stories and in a business of telling stories, isn’t that what matters most? But if all you can do is sit back and rant about a particular book, then the solution to your problem is simple. Don’t buy it, and spend your money on some thing else.