The Punisher debuts on the Retro Cover Of The Week from 1974

The Amazing Spider-Man #129, 1974, Marvel Comics, Cover by Gil Kane & John Romita, Sr.

The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1960s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Seventies, the decade when disillusionment with government along with social anxieties were contributing factors toward the birth of the anti-hero movement in comics.

Before Batman became the Dark Knight, and before Wolverine became the biggest anti-hero of them all, there was The Punisher. Like Batman, his family was killed by criminals, inspiring him to begin life as a crimefighter. Unlike Batman, he had no problem using every weapon he could get his hands on to deliver the ultimate punishment.

The Punisher originally appeared as an assassin, hired under false pretenses by the Jackal, in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #129. Even in his first appearance, he was written as more than a one-dimensional killer, with a personal code of ethics, a sense of justice, and a mission: “I’m just a warrior…fighting a lonely war.”

Legendary cover artist Gil Kane faced a design dilemma: how to showcase a new character who punished his victims from a distance, while also giving the title character decent cover real estate. His brilliant solution: a head-to-toe Punisher aiming his high-tech rifle, overlapping a HUGE view through his telescopic gunsight of a desperately dodging Spider-Man.

One could argue that The Punisher isn’t a very good shot, since the cover freezeframe shows at least three misses impacting on a building…or that even the world’s best marksman would have a difficult time scoring a hit on a super-elusive target like Spider-Man.

Arrange the illustration on an angle to heighten visual tension, add inks by the equally legendary John Romita Sr. (who also designed the Punisher costume), put it all on a bright yellow background, and a POP Retro Cover Of The Week doesn’t get more iconic than this. Now if only they hadn't junked up with THREE screaming headlines.

Next week: A cover from the Bronze ‘80s!

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