Monday, October 31, 2011

Wish Fulfillment Personified -- The Punisher

Marvel's character, the Punisher, is about as basic a character you can get.  Overtly based on Mack Bolan in The Executioner series written by Don Pendleton, the Punisher, in the most basic of terms, is a man whose family is killed by bad guys and because of that he decides to kill all bad guys.

End of story.

The Punisher is a lone wolf.  He listens to no authority, lets no one stand in his way.  He rights the wrongs and does it with finality.  If you are engaged in a crime, he will kill you.  This is teenage male wish fulfillment at its finest.

The idea of doing harm to all the people who have done you wrong ... and then taking it further to make sure no wrong is ever done again is appealing.  The notion that authority, be it law enforcement, your parents or school, cannot contain you is a fantasy second only to sex in a teenage boy's mind.  When the Punisher steps into the fray he becomes symbolic of what every wronged teen boy has imagined at one time or another ... guilt-free, rampant vengeance.  It's part of why he's so popular, and since teen boys grow up to be teen men, he remains popular.

If revenge were all the character had to offer, though, he would be soon relegated to second tier status, and that's being generous.  Through the hands of various writers, however, Punisher has taken on something that goes beyond mere violent masturbation material.  (Excluding, of course, those ill-conceived detours into the realm of angels and pseudo-Frankenstein monsters.)  He has become an almost tragic figure.  A twisted Christ.  He wipes evil from the Earth, but is destined to do so alone (or with the help of a few select friends) and be alone.  He has been resurrected (again, in those horrible storylines).  He has attracted the ire of self-appointed protectors who find his methods too extreme and have punished him for it.  Is he to be worshipped?  Only by the psychotic, but there are plenty of readers who can understand and even sympathize with is actions.

There is something cathartic about ridding your world of evil.  Not just locking it away with the hopes that he or she will be reformed.  Sometimes your problems can only be solved by defenestration or massive explosions.  Were you do to those things in real life, you would be hunted and most likely caught.  You would have to hope a jury of your "peers" would understand that sometimes rapists have to be shot in the face.  And you would hope they have pity on you.  The Punisher has these concerns, but they don't matter much in the grand scheme of things.  His titles sell well enough that readers know he will never truly be reformed or cancelled.  He will live to kill another day ... once again brought back from the dead to show the world the error of its ways.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cover Review: Bachelor Father

Nothing screams fun to a young lad or lassy like a comic cover featuring John Forsythe.  If that poor misguided child remained unconvinced, this second issue of Bachelor Father, which is reminiscent of those Mother Boy dances on Arrested Development, worked in a little more sugar to lure young readers in.

First thing you may notice is the daring use of dynamic colors.  If that didn't make it jump of the rack, nothing would.  But let's say the child was color blind and not a huge fan of Forsythe, what could publisher Dell possibly put on the cover to pull this wayward reader in?  How about a creepy singing Asian man named Sammee Tong complete in some servant-type outfit?  What about the world's most exciting musical instrument, especially when on the cover of a comic book?  Done and done!  Toss in Noreen Corcoran tickling those ivories, and you have yourself a winner.  Combined, these images cause this cover to scream "fun!"

Or not ...

Photo covers using celebs is a risky gamble.  On one hand, you have a built-in sale if any reader happens to be a fan of the celeb.  On the other hand, anyone who isn't a fan isn't likely to buy the issue.  Fans of Bachelor Father, a comedy that ended up running on all three of the major networks, may have been thrilled there was a comic of their show, but I have serious doubts anyone else cared ... despite Sammee Tong (whose very name seems racist).

I've never seen the television show, and have never read the comic.  Covers like this don't make me want to experience them, either.  One thing does have me perplexed, however.  Is Tong singing ... or is he screaming for escape?  If it's the former, I'll definitely pass, but if it's the latter ... it could be an interesting issue.