If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many would you say a logo is worth? Taking into account a logo is often times a familiar emblem that immediately sends mental images to the mind at the speed of thought, I'd assume it's worth a great deal. There's a reason corporations and companies put a lot of thought into their logos, and it's clearly understandable why. A logo will stay with you. It can be used to strike any range of emotion, from humor, to happiness, to caution, or to even fear. Looking further into the comic book spectrum, practically every single character or team has a logo, and the Punisher is absolutely no exception. Actually, his logo might be one of the most easily recognizable in the entire comic universe.
What follows is just a quick look at the history of the Punisher's skull logo, and how something so simple can be so synonymous with vengeance and comeuppance.
Jerry Conway, writer of the original Amazing Spider-Man series, was the first to conceive of the Punisher's look and costume, originally brainstorming and sketching a death's head skull on only one breast of the character's chest. It took his legendary teammate, John Romita Sr., to take the skull, blow it up to cover the entire torso, and add teeth that would form the bandolier. How stellar is it, that one of the comic Gods deserves the praise for the final imagining of what would come to be one of the most used logos in comic history? Glorious. A look back at this logo and you'll see Romita drew the skull with more of a ghoulish, detailed resemblance, as seen here in the landmark issue:
It wouldn't be long before the character was given birth to popularity and a vast array of artists would take the logo and put their little spin on the character, by adjusting, sometimes ever-so-slightly, the infamous white skull beacon.
A name familiar to any Punisher fan is Mike Zeck. Zeck tended to almost always use a more rounded skull, with eye-holes shaped like ovals. His art was fascinating, and as more artists used different skulls emblazoning the character, you almost got the feeling different artists were defining their stamp, so you'd know upon first viewing who exactly drew it, without having to look for a name. Here's an example of Zeck's take:
Now, I clearly don't intend to cover every artist that's ever drawn Punisher, but am just giving you a tiny example of the library of versions. John Romita Jr. took his father's idea and ran with it, guns blazing, so to speak, by creating a more rectangle-like, jack-o-lantern style. I had the pleasure of meeting JR jr at a comic book singing and got numerous Punisher issues signed. If I remember correctly, I even had him sketch a real quick picture on the cover of one issue. He was an awesome guy, and every time I see his name I know quality will ensue. His version of Frank Castle will definitely always sit somewhere on the list of my all time favorites. Here's a look:
Skipping along and mentioning a few more, you have the fantastic Steve Dillon who utilized a more triangle-eyed, and sharper skull. There's something about Dillon's work that draws you in so quickly. Maybe it's just because it's so easy on the eyes, his work quickly becomes welcoming and enjoyable.
Along with Mr.Dillon, it was almost commonplace to see covers on his projects completed by the mesmerizing Tim Bradstreet. For a while they were almost hand in hand. There honestly might not be an artist who better catches the humanity and realism in comics with their work, more than this incredible artist. You have to stand back in awe at what Bradstreet does, and his process for creation. He makes the characters come alive! You actually feel they exist, just down the road from you, lurking and waiting.
I promise you if you explore his archive, you'll instantly become a fan. He's almost too good. His skull style was almost always the most basic, however. It's almost as if he was saying, other artists have to create crazy skulls, I don't need that, because I'm drawing the real Frank Castle, and he just put this shirt on, there's your skull. But it worked so well.
Anyways, which artist does your favorite version of the skull? And more importantly, why do you think they started this phenomenon in the first place, exactly? I, for one, am just glad to have a love for a character that is so welcomed and accepted to artistic creativity in the Marvel universe, even be it in the slightest detail.
Well, carrying on, I hope this was entertaining, and as always, thank you for reading. I appreciate the opportunity! Until next time, Punisher Brotherhood!