Pointless crossovers are nothing new. From the moment Dracula became a hit horror icon, he was almost destined to have to fight the Frankenstein monster and exchange blows with the Wolfman. Crossovers in comic books take that formula to almost ridiculous levels. I don't know if I'm comfortable living in a world where Spock fights Wolverine, Muhammad Ali punches Superman in the face who later punches both Bugs Bunny and He-man, and KISS (you know, the band dressed as hard rock mimes) battles it out with Doctor Doom. Those are all real crossovers, and they really shake my being to the core.
While digging through what people have told me are the worst of the worst, I found one particular colliding of fictional worlds that is the literary equivalent of a midget peeing directly into my face. While this article is meant to expose the uninitiated to the horror that I hold in my hands (the comic, you pervert...though that's a great name for one's taint, I must admit), this is going to eventually turn into me simply rambling on about how much I can't remember my parents due to the mental trauma I've had to not only read, but also write about. In case you didn't read the title of this page, here's what I'm talking about:
This hurts. It hurts already. Before I dive into what you're about to read, let me refresh your memory concerning these two characters who collectively have been in print for a combined 106 years (at least). First off, let's talk about The Punisher:
The Punisher, a.k.a. Frank Castle, is a character that Marvel made back in the mid-1970's. He ended up getting really popular and, chances are, you've seen a movie (or two) based off of him. He's a violent psychotic vigilante who murders criminals violently and commits "macabre justice" upon evil-doers on an almost genocidal scale. In his wake he leaves tortured crime lords, rivers of blood, and piles upon piles of rapidly cooling bodies. It's what he's known for. It's what he does. It's what he IS. So who's this guy he'll be partnering up with for this funny book?
Holy crap, it's Archie. Now, I don't remember EVER reading any Archie comics, but somewhere in the primordial reptilian part of my brain...I know these characters. Archie's been around since 1941 and, as far as I can tell, hasn't changed much since the 1950's. He's a goofy redheaded kid with freckles (a "Ginger" if you're a Southpark fan) that constantly gets into misadventures with his eating-disorder enabled friend Jughead. Really, though...who reads Archie comics these days...and who read them in the 1990's? Sure, I remember seeing them in the grocery store, but I always assumed they were there so that the old people could pretend they weren't old. I mean that in the most polite of ways. Hardcore Archie fans (dear Lord, please let that be something I just made up now) might disagree and inform me I'm missing the subtle nuances of the Archie mythology, but ultimately it comes down to Archie comics being this weird tribute to another time. Suffice to say, Archie himself does NOT leave a trail of corpses wherever he goes, unlike Frank "Da' Spanka'" Castle.
Before we go any further, I think you need to realize that this wasn't COMPLETELY meant to be a joke when it was made. Sure, the book's opening introductions says "It started as a joke"...but by the end of the introduction you end up reading this:
"I read the synopsis. Batton Lash (the writer) had done the impossible, effortlessly mixing two wildly disparate universes while completely respecting the integrity of each individual character. Wow!"
While I'm pretty sure everyone involved knew, somewhere in his bones, that this was a joke or an offense to God...the sheer pretension in that little excerpt is enough to make me doubt that, if only for a second. Let's get this over with.
The comic's plot is pretty straightforward and best explained by this:
Apparently the drug-pushing criminal the Punisher is after looks a hell of a lot like Archie. Since Archie's comics are usually funny by 1950's standards, hilarity ensues whenever someone happens to look like someone else. So the Punisher chases after "Red Fever" (don't judge me, I didn't make up the damn name) and ends up crossing paths with Archie and the gang. God. I'm already sick of typing about this. That's never a good sign.
Can you imagine if the next panel had The Punisher kissing him full on the lips? Me neither.
The weird thing about this comic is how Archie's drawn in his style, while the Punisher runs around looking, well, more anatomically correct than everyone else in town. Well, as least the Punisher has a pinky, unlike everyone else in town. Also, I'm slightly concerned with the thick viscous fluid that Archie is currently secreting from his forehead. That can't be healthy.
After pointing a gun at Archie, the Punisher pretty much decides "holy crap, I can't kill this dork" and realizes what's going on. Instead of me explaining everything that happens in the book, let me just rant and ramble...and illuminate a few highlights in between.
I like the fact that both Archie and Jughead have heard of the Punisher. Considering how they live in a happy cartoon universe where no one's died in almost 70 years of comic books, that's pretty impressive. In case you haven't noticed, I really hate Archie and his pals. I think it's the same with how so many people hate newspaper comics these days. With a few exceptions, they're not funny and they're all outdated. They've apparently got tenure so they'll be around forever...a lot like Archie. I wish someone would just go ahead and....
Personally, I think Archie's mistake here is informing his enemy that he is NOT, in fact, the person that's meant to stay alive. "Oh no...I'm totally not the guy. You can like, totally kill me Pops!"
Obviously Frank's experiences in Vietnam helped him master the art of ballistic cake throwing.
Considering how Archie's never gotten laid and he's been courting this girl for 7 decades, maybe Evil Archie's "overpowering" strategy isn't quite as evil as it seems. No. Wait. That's all types of messed up. Stop trying to RAPE VERONICA, you sick bastard! Stop it now!
You have to be a special grade of evil henchman to ask someone to hold your cheese tray so you can attack the crime-fighter in the the corner. Sure, they were pretending to be caterers, but man, that's dedication.
Is he actually SAYING "Puff, Puff! Grunt"? Try it yourself to see how weird it is. Do as I do and pause, turn to the face whoever's closest to you, and say "Puff Puff Grunt!" So far the best response has been disturbed silence. Life is good.
I can't say that I've ever read "Pee-Ying" as a sound effect before. Maybe it's really just a more descriptive term for what Archie's doing as he jumps into the laundry cart, wetting himself in terror.
Considering how I want to propagate the "Archie and Jughead are secretly gay lovers" theory, I'm not going to put the above picture in context.
Watch carefully to see the entire Black community of Riverdale almost get pulled into the story. It sort of reminds you that Archie lives in a world still in the past. You know, when racism was still "hip." Damn you old people, you racist bastards.
When the Crap is this story taking place? Is Archie stuck in that episode of the Twilight Zone where time doesn't pass anymore? This particular comic says the school's celebrating a "1950's-style School Dance" but that doesn't even come close to explaining while the whole town STILL looks like something from Back to the Future. And when Reggie (the smarmy bastard above) talks about James Dean, is he really asking if Archie's like a pop icon that died forty years earlier? This comic came out in 1994 and OMG Archie just makes no sense if you really think about it. Gah.
The artist really has fun with negative space. Instead of leaving it empty, he fills it with random things like the above image. "Oh No, The Monster Gamera Burger is Attacking, and It is Only 25 cents!" "Oh No, That Quarter will surely Destroy us All."
Sorry, I'm just terribly amused at the expressions of these two extras as they gaze in terror at the price of a hamburger.
Just to be fair, the Punisher isn't above reproach here either. He keeps all his thoughts in Blog form, like he's narrating his own life. Sure he's a psycho, but realizing that he's thinking what he's going to write in his LiveJournal later somehow makes him less "hardcore" than he initially seemed.
While the "LiveWarJournal" gag is pretty fun here, I just wanted to point out his chubby mullet-adorned sidekick, named Micro Chip. Oh hell, now I just want to start narrating my own life the way Frank Castle does.
"LiveWarJournal Entry 234: My journey to Burger King proved fruitful. I motivated the clerk to bring my kid's meal to my table, with success. I sensed something was awry. The Barbie toy was not to my liking."
What kind of Candyland does The Punisher live in where he thinks that a guy tied to a giant balloon by his feet floating into the upper atmosphere is going to live? I like how Frank's internal LiveJournal keeps the attention on himself and not how the bad guy's floating away screaming about lack of oxygen and...ahem...pigeons.
If you were or are a Punisher fan, you probably didn't need to see him kissing Ms. Grundy nor him wearing a freaking Riverdale varsity jacket. I would have liked to see the torch-passing reversed, with the Punisher giving Archie a blood-stained grenade launcher or something. :sigh: These sad, sad moments are best put in perspective. The Punisher's comic books, like a lot of comics at the time, just weren't selling. A year after his run-in with Archie, all the comics he was in would come to a screeching halt. So what you've been looking at was not only meant to be taken seriously, but it was seen as a last-ditch effort to get the character in the profit-margin again. Sure, he'd also meet Batman this year, but after you've pointed a gun at Archie, it's all downhill from there. Speaking of sad ploys to boost sales reminds me of the ending of this particular trainwreck.
Whenever a company tries something new, they often want to make sure they leave room for a sequel, just in case. In this case, they decide to tantalize (or threaten) the reader with a sequel involving Wolverine and Jughead. Even better, they ask the reader to let them know if they need to see it. Considering how no one on the planet's had to tolerate another Marvel/Archie crossover (to my knowledge), I think we can all relax a little knowing if it wasn't done then it won't be done now.
So there. That's all I have to say about how Archie met the Punisher. What seemed like a good idea for an article has mutated into this literary trip to the dentist and I'm just glad it's over. In conclusion, all I can say is that this comic ended up being much more serious than I ever thought it would while sucking all the joy out of life as most Archie comics do. Oh and if you're an Archie fan under the age of 20 (or even 30), know that you are a dying breed of dinosaur. Evolve wings or fur and stop wearing the God Damn Riverdale varsity jacket. Or hell, just give it to the Punisher. He'll wear anything if it'll sell more comic books.
Now stop reading...and let us never speak of this again. There never was an article about the Punisher and Archie. Never.