I wonder how many hobbies start by accident or on a whim? This was certainly the case for me. I remember reading my first volume of comics like it was yesterday. It was October 2013, and close to Halloween when I got hold of my first volume of comics: Welcome Back, Frank, a 300-page graphic novel starring the Marvel Comics vigilante/antihero known as the Punisher, one of my favorite characters. But I had no intention of buying it at first. I was merely going to buy Punisher Warzone on Amazon since I wanted to watch a good action flick. But curiosity got the better of me, and I bought the comics as well, since the volume was under $15, and there was a deal on Amazon to buy both the comics and the movie for a cheaper price than normal. Now I know how Jeff Bezos makes so much money, haha. Suggestion selling is a genius marketing tactic!
The $15 I spent on my first volume of comics turned out to be an amazing investment, because it was the first comic book I’d ever read in my life. And it opened me up to a whole new world by how fun to read it was! For anyone who likes stories with action-packed plots, black humor, and fantastic artwork, Welcome Back, Frank is like candy. It’s addicting. I couldn’t put it down, and I blew through the 300+ pages in only a few days! After that, I was hooked. I knew I had to buy more volumes of that Punisher run under the Marvel Knights imprint, so I could continue following the story!
By Christmas 2013, I had bought volumes 1-4 of that Punisher story arc and blown through them all. I bought cheap used copies that I still own to this day, but as long as I was able to read the story I didn’t care.
Around Christmastime, I think I’m usually pretty easy to buy for. If someone buys me Ohio State, Browns, Cavs, or Indians shirts or gear, I’m happy. But I remember putting Punisher vols. 5-8 on my wishlist. Being the comic newbie I was at the time, I didn’t realize how many different Punisher runs there are. There are literally dozens of storylines, from his first solo series in the mid-1980s up to more recent volumes published a year or two ago. Dozens of different takes, each by unique writers, artists and producers. I would compare different takes on the same character to be like different versions of the same type of beer or whiskey. They all are similar at their core, and fun to experience. But they’re also so different and unique too!
An inadvertent and well-meaning mistake Mom made that Christmas truly unleashed a monster though, haha. She bought me a few volumes of comics. But they weren’t from the Marvel Knights run like I was expecting. Instead I unwrapped volumes 5-8 of the Punisher MAX run, a dark, realistic and gritty take on the Punisher. Marvel Knights’ version of the Punisher was like a PG-13 version of the character. Punisher MAX? A hard R-rated version you’d hide in a locked and chained safe, away from the prying eyes of impressionable, innocent youngsters.
She thought I would be disappointed as soon as I saw them. She knew they were the wrong ones and felt bad. But I didn’t care in the least. I was hooked! I had new comics, new stories to read, and I was happy because it was the thought that counted. Thanks, Mom 🙂
I never did finish collecting the other series once I started reading Punisher MAX, haha. It was that good! In the old series, Frank would team up with superheroes like Spider-Man and Wolverine to take down supervillains. In the MAX run he’s a lone vigilante, a grizzled and aging Vietnam vet who takes down real-world crime organizations such as the La Cosa Nostra (Italian Mafia), Irish Mob, Eastern European gangs, Yakuza (Japanese Mafia), drug kingpins, child abusers and sex traffickers. I think I enjoyed that version of the character more because it was closer to what you’d see in real-world situations.
I try my best to be a decent man, love others and do the right thing. I am a Christian. But I am also human. I’m a fan of the Punisher, because he serves justice to the worst people in society. He deals with truly bad people in the comics the way we sometimes wish we could deal with them in real life. He reacts the way many of us would if we lost our family to thugs. It would certainly feel natural to want vengeance if someone took my family from me, even if God warns against it.
But reading those kinds of comics from time to time, even if they are dark and violent, serves as an escape. It’s cathartic. Therapeutic in a way. It allows me to release strong or dark emotions, while also enjoying the action in the story like someone would if they were watching an action thriller.
I also have more lighthearted Captain America comics, although the messages in them about patriotism, and what it truly means to be an American are powerful, and extremely relevant to today’s world. As is the interesting and timely storyline in the Marvel Civil War arc. Everyone has seemingly taken sides on the vaccine in today’s world. Just as every superhero takes a side for or against The Superhero Registration Act. It’s a study on how NOT to handle things when interacting with someone who has fundamentally different views of the world from our own.
Comics either allow us to escape to another world, full of action or relaxation. Or they sometimes mirror who we are as people, or who we aspire to be like. Comics also give people something such as a character to identify with. Like I identify with Captain America for his patriotism and love of country, and Spider-Man for his pure heart and desire to help others. In those characters, I see inspiration for how I should strive to be as a person.
Some comic characters might also serve as inspiration for people who want to be proud of who they are, like Black Panther for African Americans, or the X-Men for the LGBTQ community and anyone who feels like they’re a societal outcast or misfit looking for a place to belong.
Collecting the stories of characters such as these, is like collecting pieces of the human experience. There’s a type of comic out there for everyone to enjoy, and I would encourage everyone to collect and read comic books they find interesting. It’s fun! As for me? I need to finish reading Punisher Noir, the latest addition to my collection. I’ve piled up a 26-volume stash over the last eight years, and plan on adding new comics for the rest of my life!