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Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, comic book collectors, fans of 1990s culture, and fans of both Marvel Comics and Archie Comics! Today, I have a retro review of one of the most wild ideas for a comic book crossover that actually got published in 1994. Back then I was still in college and ramping up my comic book collection. Then one day, I saw a print ad for the Marvel-Archie special project about the iconic Archie Andrews crossing over with the Punisher!
That’s right! The unthinkable concept pushed through and way back in 1994, I ordered in advance a copy of the comic book (note: this was actually one comic book published respectively by Marvel Comics and Archie Comics but with their own packaging and slight adjustments to the title) and eventually got to read it.
Behind the scenes, the management of Archie Comics wanted to take part in the wildly popular trend of intercompany crossover comic book publishing not just to boost their sales but also establish a stronger presence in comic book specialty stores. Back then, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco and Archie Comics editor Victor Gorelick were good friends (note: DeFalco entered comic book publishing while working for Archie Comics) and sometimes they would joke with each other about potential crossover concepts between their companies. Gorelick eventually had lunch with independent comic creator Batton Lash and talked about Archie wanting to get involved with crossovers. The Archie editor told Lash about he and DeFalco joking about Archie encountering the Punisher, and in response the independent creator stated that they should really push through with it.
Lash went on to make a pitch for the series and Gorelick sent it to DeFalco. Marvel’s editor-in-chief loved it and eventually the concept was approved complete with strategic involvement in the production by key talents from both Archie and Marvel. For the artwork, Archie’s Stan Goldberg and Marvel’s John Buscema worked together to maintain different tones by means of drawing settings and characters that are specific with their respective companies. The inkwork was done by Tom Palmer.
Now you must be wondering…was the crazy crossover any good? We can find out in this look back at The Punisher Meets Archie #1, published by Marvel Comics in 1994 with a story written by Batton Lash and drawn by Punisher artist John Buscema and Archie artist Stan Goldberg.
The story begins in a city where a man (in a trench coat and a cap) is seen running away from someone chasing him. As he hurriedly climbs over a wall, he hears the chaser’s gun click and responds by firing some bullets at him. The chaser climbs over the wall and he turns out to be Frank Castle, the Punisher. The Punisher notices that his target left his cap on the floor, and look at the nearby station full of people.
Inside the said station, the man who got away from the Punisher has red hair and a sinister looking face. He buys a ticket going to Riverdale.
The next day in the town of Riverdale, Archie Andrews rings the bell of the front door at the luxurious residence of the Lodge family. A little boy named Leroy (cousin of Veronica Lodge) surprises him and makes him wet using a water-filled plastic gun. In response, Archie grabs the hose nearby and unleashes water. He accidentally hits Veronica who got so angry, she decided to cancel her date with him.
Still wet, Archie walks down the sidewalk being followed by a car…
I’ll start with the story written by Batton Lash. To be clear, this comic book has a dominant Archie Comics tone meaning it is wholesome and fun, and at the same time never childish. The Punisher-focused scenes showed lots of signs of restraint meaning in order to connect well with the overall wholesome tone of the comic book, adulterated stuff and violent concepts related to the Punisher are absent. For me, having an overall wholesome tone works given the fact that most of the story is set in Riverdale and there are tremendously more Archie characters than there are Marvel characters.
More on the story, the concept by Batton Lash is wonderful and the way the plot was structured not only ensured a fun story but also made sense. The plot itself is pretty believable and the story is full of nice and interesting moments to read. There certainly were no boring scenes at all!
To have Punisher encounter Archie without ever using the now overuses versus-battle-type approach here was believable, sensible and even impressive. For the most part, as reflected in portrayals and dialogue, Lash captured the essence of the Archie characters and anyone who loves stories about Archie and the gang (plus Josie and the Pussycats and Katy Keene) will have a lot to enjoy here. Even the disruption in Riverdale caused by the gang of crooks and the Punisher has that strong Archie-tone and never went overboard.
With regards to Lash presenting Marvel’s vigilante, the Punisher here is subdued in terms of seriousness. While he is not portrayed to be gritty (note: he’s also less violent), he is still rugged and you will still see him firing guns during the right moments. With the reduction of violent action, Punisher does a lot more detective work and has his companion Microchip with him. While rugged, the Punisher is not as snobbish as one might think here. In fact, there are a few pleasant surprise moments in the story with regards to his encountering certain supporting characters of Archie. These moments, although they make Punished look like he’s out of character, I still find pretty delightful.
More on the characters, there is a whole bunch of them here! As the story is set in Riverdale, it comes to no surprise that supporting characters of Archie Comics are present and for the most part they were presented to delight those who love Archie and the gang. Mr. Weatherbee, Mr. Lodge, Reggie Mantle, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, Pop Tate, Svenson, Ms. Grundy, Professor Flutesnoot and others are here and they don’t just make mere appearances.
As this is a special project between Marvel Comics and Archie Comics, there is a lot of fan service here and there leaning towards the interests of Archie fans. For the most part, these fan service elements (note: there are some from Marvel Comics) were actually fun to look at and I personally did not find them distracting.
While it is essentially an Archie comic book in terms of storytelling and visuals and lacks the kind of adulterated stuff that Punisher fans love, The Punisher Meets Archie #1 (1994) is still a very enjoyable crossover to read, and it sure is fun from start to finish. For one thing, the concept about Archie meeting with Punisher with Riverdale as the main setting works wonderfully even by today’s standards. What was an unbelievable concept got executed nicely into a believable and fun product. I should state that this kind of intercompany crossover comic book is still one-of-a-kind and its literary value (as opposed to financial value) is undeniably high. No doubt about, this crossover is a comic book classic!
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of The Punisher Meets Archie #1 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $53 while the near-mint copies of the deluxe newsstand edition and the direct edition cost $105 and $70 respectively.
If you prefer the Archie Comics-published version – Archie Meets The Punisher #1 (1994) – be aware that the near-mint copy of the comic book costs $70 according to Mile High Comics as of this writing.
Overall, The Punisher Meets Archie #1 (1994) is highly recommended!
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