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Top Five Most Iconic Punisher Covers

Here are my picks for the top five most iconic covers featuring Punisher (with iconic being determined by what covers are most established and most recognized when it comes to Punisher, with a preference towards covers that are homaged a lot). This is not a BEST cover list and due to the very nature of icons, very few (if any) recent covers will be on the list. A notable exception to the rules is that I don’t count covers from a character’s first appearance (which isn’t applicable to all characters, of course, just those who appeared on the cover of the comic they debuted in), as those tend to be automatically iconic so they’re boring. Here‘s a list of all characters featured so far.


Get it, yesterday was the Red Skull, and now it’s a dude with a skull on his chest! Hi-LAR-ious!!!

First off, while I’m exempting first appearance covers from the countdown, it’s only fair, I suppose, to share them here before the countdown begins, so here is the first cover appearance of the Punisher from his debut story, Amazing Spider-Man #129…

Artist: John Romita


Artist: Frank Miller

Miller had a couple of notable Punisher covers (this one and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual), but I think this one is a bit more memorable.


Artist: Tim Bradstreet

Bradstreet has basically become the definitive Punisher cover artist this past decade or so, and the first Punisher cover is as good of an example as Bradstreet’s work as I can think of.


Artist: Frank Miller

Now we’re just into the really famous covers.


Artist: Klaus Janson

This is a tough one – this is one of the most famous Punisher images, but it has not been homaged as much as #1 and it, itself, is basically a riff on Mike Zeck’s Punisher mini-series cover (not enough that I’m calling it a flat out homage, but pretty damn close), so that loses some points.


Artist: Mike Zeck

The argument for this one boils down to the fact that it has been homaged more often than the above cover, and when Mike McKone did homage covers for the first couple of issues of the current Punisher series, this was the one he went to after Amazing Spider-Man #129, which I think says something about this being a slightly more iconic cover than the Janson one.


McKone did do an homage to Punisher #1, but not until issue #4. I’m sure you knew that, just thought I’d point it out to anyone who might be interested. He actually did homages to every cover listed here except #5.

it’s cool that you are continuing the villain theme from Punisher, Red Skull etc. bring on more villains. Is Modok far behind?

I think I like the Janson one best.

hmmm…Other than the LS #3 I don’t find any of these iconic. I vote for 1987 series issue 5
—> http://image2.milehighcomics.com/istore/images/fullsize/65894733778.5.GIF

The truly iconic Punisher images from the heyday were all posters you’d see in every shop.



Isn’t the 3rd cover clearly influenced a lot by the scene of Elektra’s death?

I sort of want to see the Archie cover to Archie meets the Punisher mentioned, but that’s more fun and quirky than iconic. (I guess it’s arguably an iconic Archie cover.)

First one I thought of was the Daredevil cover. That is timeless.

Good choices. For a character I never liked much (out side of Ennis’s handling of him), the Punisher makes for some good visuals. This is another one that always sticks with me:


Some other pretty strong images:



First one I think of is Amazing Spider-Man 201.
Whetehr it’s iconic enough for this list may be debatable–but it’s my favorite Punisher cover.


Agreed with Thok. Archie vs. Punisher.

Never been big on the Punisher, so most of the these are new to me (only recognized 2 and 4).

Must not be a punisher guy, the only cover I’ve even seen before was the spider-man.

I’m kind of surprised that they actually allowed that Daredevil to be published. I thought the “code” wasn’t kind to lots of gunplay on a cover. But a superhero getting shot with a bullet coming through the other side? Pretty violent stuff.

Oh, can we also agree that the bazooka cover is rather ridiculous. It’s bordering on a MAD magazine parody, isn’t it? Not to mention the probable impossibility of firing it from that position…

I gotta say that I think the #4 choice is the most iconic. You know, actually? This whole list with the exception of #1 and #2 coulda just been Bradstreet covers. Any of them.

The first Spider-Man (in fact, the first Marvel) I ever read was #129. Like all my early books, it got torn up over time and thrown away by my mom. I wish I still had it. I can’t afford the one from the local comic book store. If anyone has a spare copy that you’re willing to part with for a few bucks, let me know.

And like Steve, that was the only one of these covers I’d ever seen before.

McKone did do an homage to Punisher #1, but not until issue #4. I’m sure you knew that, just thought I’d point it out to anyone who might be interested. He actually did homages to every cover listed here except #5.

Right, that was part of my argument – that after opening with the first appearance cover, the next cover he chose to homage was the #3 cover, which seems to suggest that McKone felt that that image was more iconic than the bazooka cover.

Oh, can we also agree that the bazooka cover is rather ridiculous.

Absolutely. But surely that’s what makes it so brilliant. The sublime always lies on the edge of the absurd.

Bobo, you do realize that the drawing in the second poster you linked to is just the drawing from the cover listed at #1 here, right? Seems like if the poster is iconic, that means the cover the image came from would be iconic, too.

Hmmm, personally I prefer #1 and 2’s covers from the 4…ahem, I mean 5 part limited series, but I can see why you plumped for #3. (Sorry, but I don’t have any links to them…a li’l help anybody?)

The #1 cover gives me the impression that Frank just shot up the target and turned around to look all cool. Then the target walked up behind him, put its hand on its hip, and was just about to tap the Punisher on the shoulder and clear its non-existent throat.

“Excuse me. Why did you shoot me?”

Remender should bring that target back as a sentient villain in the silent Awesome Andy mode. That’s the sort of thing Marvel would do in 2009.

Yawnn… Punisher…big gun. Makes me wonder about Frank that he needs such a big one. Compensating? :-)

I remember when Bradstreet did a lot of them back when Marvel (was it Jemas?) mandated that all the covers be iconic. I thought this was a bad idea myself. As I recall this is around the time of Unthinkable and it’s follow up Authoritative Action. Mike Wieringo sort of got around it during Unthinkable but the covers for Authoritative Action make it hard to go back and say, “Oh, I remember when Nick Fury brought in the troops in this issue.”

The “Return to Big Nothing” cover deserves a place here, it is a powerful image that I always think of as definitive for the Punisher.


The number one spot was the first cover I thought of. Also the Cap and DD ones. Thought of the Janson one but didn’t expect it to show up as it’s not one of my favorites. But I guess the fact it popped in my head proves it does belong on this list, by our iconic definitions.

Anywho, good list! But hard to beat that first appearance Spidey cover! Classic stuff.

Miller’s Cap #241 and Punisher ’87 #1 by Janson are among my favorites covers ever, period. Anything by Zeck is also great.

Just an observation: up until this point, this series has been focused on characters who have tended not to have their own series. In other words, these have all been secondary characters or villains. That seems to have circumvented the problem of their first appearances not having to count as an “iconic” cover. With the Punisher, you’ve now got a main character for whom you’ve had to pick five iconic covers.

Honestly, I’d say that Punisher’s first appearance IS one of his iconic covers, given that it has been parodied repeatedly, and was even a central plot point in the film “Coyote Ugly.” However, the self-imposed rule of not counting the first appearance has prevented this.

As a challenge, I’d love to see the “Five Most Iconic Hulk Covers.” I’ve been a Hulk enthusiast for over 25 years, and even I can’t think of FIVE (three, maybe) that I would qualify as “iconic” outside the first appearance.

Should point out that the first 5 issues of the current ongoing have covers that homage all of those (cept the Capt cover replacing it with the first issue). So looks like you got this list right.

I always love the CIRCLE OF BLOOD #1 too!

All of Bradstreet’s covers are ionic I guess. Not a bad thing, but I guess that choice is as good as any.

ASM #201 is also pretty cool.

I’ll bring up this one because I don’t think anyone else has, Frank’s 1st solo story was in MARVEL SUPER ACTION #1:


I always thought of that #1 as a riff of the more iconic Dirty Harry posters.

not that these aren’t great, but i really thought that Punisher War Zone # 1 should be on this list

I have Punisher: War Zone #1. I don’t see what’s so great about it.

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