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CSBG Archive

When We First Met – When Did the Punisher First Kill Someone?

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!'” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today is a special edition devoted to Punisher firsts, like the first time he killed someone in a comic, the first time his origin was revealed and the shocking revelation of when his real name was first disclosed!


The Punisher debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #129 in 1974, but it would not be until his fourth appearance, in Giant-Size Spider-Man #4, that he actually killed anyone (his first appearance he was trying to kill Spider-Man and obviously that didn’t work, and in his second and third appearances, he teamed up with Spider-Man and just, for whatever reason, didn’t kill the bad guys)…

Thanks to Omar Karindu for suggesting I feature this first (and even more thanks as his suggestion inspired me to do the other two, as well)!

Later in 1975, in the black and white Marvel Preview #2, the Punisher got his first solo adventure and it was in this story that we first saw the Punisher’s origin….


Note that they don’t give the Punisher’s name there. Amazingly enough, it would not be until Punisher #1 in 1985 that the Punisher gained a real name (even when he stands trial in Spectacular Spider-Man, everyone just calls him “Punisher”)…

Over 10 years just to get a NAME! Wow.

Feel free to send in ideas for other debuts that you’re curious about! Send your ideas to bcronin@comicbookresources.com!


That black and white artwork looks awesome. Who was the artist?

Would love to see more black and white printed books.

Agreed re: that amazing pencil work. Comics.org credits it to Tony DeZuniga.

Mr. DeZuniga has suffered a recent stroke, by the way. I hope we don’t lose him. :(


“His family is asking people to continue praying for his recovery, and his friends, meanwhile, have rallied to help with the financial cost.”

The first Marvel Handbook featured Frank Miller doing the Punisher’s entry around the time Miller featured him in Daredevil. No name was given in either book. Much like Wolverine, not knowing his ID made the character all the more interesting.

The Punisher’s solo career really took off thanks to a solid succession of writers: Steven Grant, Mike Baron, Carl Potts, Chuck Dixon, and so forth. That said, the art for his Marvel Preview origin is awesome.

interesting that marvel took ten years to reveal the punishers first name as frank. plus that he did not kill any one right away.

Charles Knight

April 23, 2012 at 7:52 am

On a similar note, anyone know the first time that Daredevil is seen to kill someone? Is it in Born Again or does it happen earlier than that?

Holy crap, THAT was Tony DeZuniga’s art? That stuff is beautiful. Very Neal Adams, only looks like more photo reference was used.

I just read the Punisher mini for the first time and i was impressed with how strong the writing was. It was some of the best Punisher writing Ive ever read. I’m just wondering Brian, have you ever discussed why Grant didn’t write the final issue of the mini and why he wasn’t tapped to write the ongoing?

Is it in Born Again or does it happen earlier than that?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember DD killing anyone in Born Again…

During Miller’s original run, he must’ve killed some Hand ninjas, right? And there was also the issue where he let Bullseye drop from a great height, expecting him to die, though he didn’t.

In Born Again he fired a rocket launcher at Nuke’s pilot, killing him. (then thought, “Forgive me.”) It was alarming (I think it is the first time he definitely killed someone) and yet somehow worked really well (he had no choice but to act in a split second because the pilot was spraying machine gun fire into a crowd from his ‘copter).

I have wondered about if he killed the Hand ninjas. In issue 189 he fights them with two sais, but it seems to show him taking great pains to knock them out (he hooks one ninjas mask with the sai and knocks his head on the ground). Then again, there’s another panel where the sound effect “chuk” (or something like that) made me wonder if he’d just stabbed a guy.

The Hand’s an odd situation, since just knocking them out essentially kills them, as they disintegrate right after.

I remember being very disappointed with the scenes in Miller’s Man Without Fear miniseries where DD was shown to be way more ruthless. It seemed pretty unnecessary as retcons went, needlessly removing some of his superhero charm (although I guess you could argue Miller was deliberately removing his superhero aspects, not featuring a costume, for example). Since it re-wrote DD’s meeting Kingpin, is that series even considered canon?

Wow, this train of thought got me rattling on, didn’t it?

Oh yeah, I forgot about the helicopter pilot. Anyway, if memory serves me correctly, in the earlier issue where DD lets Bullseye fall and expects him to die, the scene is written very dramatically, and it certainly feels like this is the first time where he consciously breaks the superhero code of not killing anyone except in self-defense. Back in the early 80s that was still a rare thing in superhero comics, and Miller clearly knew it, so the scene is given a lot of weight, more than the helicopter scene in Born Again.

The first Marvel Handbook featured Frank Miller doing the Punisher’s entry around the time Miller featured him in Daredevil. No name was given in either book. Much like Wolverine, not knowing his ID made the character all the more interesting.

But the big difference between the two is that we KNEW the Punisher’s origin. He wasn’t exactly hiding it, ya know? We knew his family was killed in Central Park. heck, it seemed like his LAWYER knew that his family was killed in Central Park, but no one could just go to the newspaper and see the name of the family that was killed in Central Park a few years back (unless perhaps that is a much more common in the Marvel Universe)?

As I understand it, Grant did not script the final issue of the Punisher miniseries because the editor replaced Mike Zeck with another penciler (Mike Vosburg, I believe?) in order to have the book ship on schedule. I know, from today’s perspective, that sounds *really* weird, considering how Marvel held up shipping a huge chunk of their Civil War crossover issues to enable Steve McNiven time to complete working on the main miniseries.

It’s a shame Zeck was given the boot, instead of being given a little extra time. If Marvel had any idea how many times the book was going to be reprinted in TPBs and hardcovers over the next 25 years, maybe they would have made a different call.

As it is, I don’t understand why Marvel hasn’t ever thought to approach Grant, Zeck & Beatty to re-do issue #5, and then reprint “Circle of Blood” as some kind of “director’s cut” type of collection. Whatever it would cost to hire them would be more than offset by all the money Marvel would make on the project.

It made some publishing and writing sense to keep the Punisher a bit mysterious when he was just a recurring antihero in Spider-Man stories. Like the JSA in the 1960s Justice League title, the Punisher essentially appeared yearly in Amazing or Giant-Size Spider-Man in two-parters (or double-sized stories) starting from issues #134-5.

In that context, keeping the Punisher’s background vague meant that writers could always invent new characters from his still-unseen background, as Len Wein did, or reveal new aspects of his modus operandi, which seemed to be Gerry Conway’s preferred method. Among his earlier opponents, Wein had both Jigsaw and the Hitman turn out to be people he had met offstage at various points in the past; the earlier Conway stories selectively introduced operational elements of the character such as his habit of carefully researching opponents — something he clearly didn’t do in his first appearance! — and his “war journal” narration.

But as a feature character, that sort of plotting needed to be replaced by a consistent origin and method of action for the sake of character consistency and development. Hence the expansion of Conway’s hints, such as the Punisher’s background as a Marine mentioned in his first appearance, into full-fledged backstory in his tryout story from 1975.

The tryouts didn’t answer every question, of course, since the Punisher was still slated to guest-star in Spider-Man’s comics and might need some unexplained or unrevealed backstory to fuel those guest shots. In that vein, Wein’s work on the character postdated his solo outings in Marvel Preview and Marvel Super Action, and in them the Punisher’s past actions are again reduced to elliptical flashbacks and dialogues that fill in a few tantalizing bits and pieces here and there.

Considered in that light, it makes more sense that the 1985 miniseries, which was meant to demonstrate that the Punisher could work as a continuing feature character, was the place where his real name and other details of his past actions and methods were revealed or concretized. The newly-christened Frank also got a distinct age-down there, since Ross Andru and Tony DeZuniga originally drew him as a middle-aged man. Presumably that was a conscious choice to give Castle a bit of youth appeal should the mini lead to an ongoing…which, of course, it did.

In one respect, the Punisher was lucky: his creators didn’t have to explain away early appearances the way, for example, Doug Moench had to almost completely retcon parts of Moon Knight’s initial appearances in Werewolf by Night, or the way other tryout or guest characters’ creators or inheritors have had to radically revise them so that they may to function as solo stars. See, for example….Wolverine.

I just read a lot of those stories in the Essential Punisher and there’s some good stuff there. Some hoaky stuff too, more than once the Punisher shoots people with ‘mercy bullets’ that knock them out without killing.

At one point Spidey wakes up surrounded by mobsters with big holes in their chests and says something like ‘the Punisher probably shot them with mercy bullets, they’ll be fine’.

Of course that’s the problem with the Punisher co-existing wtih normal heroes, either they have to stop him and shut him down, or they’re complancent in his crimes, there’s no room for a normal superhero relationship there.

Punisher shouldn’t be treated as a superhero, and it was Marvel’s loss that it decided otherwise in the mid 1980s.

It hurt most characters’ credibility in a manner second only to DC’s when it promoted the beejezus out of Kyle Rayner the self-indulgent.

Considering the amount of comics sold with the Punisher as a lead since then, I don’t think Marvel perceives it as a loss.

There have been a ton of awesome stories with Punisher as a lead. Although I suppose Ennis and Aaron do not treat Punisher as a “superhero.”

…So the “Castiglione” thing was canon from day one? Huh. I had assumed it was a feeble later attempt at making the name more sensible, a la Ultimate Doom’s surname being “van Damme”. I apologise to the relevant Marvel creators for my uncharitable thoughts!

Omar Karindu:”The newly-christened Frank also got a distinct age-down there, since Ross Andru and Tony DeZuniga originally drew him as a middle-aged man. Presumably that was a conscious choice to give Castle a bit of youth appeal should the mini lead to an ongoing…which, of course, it did.”

RE: Punisher’s age,

Did the miniseries reduce the Punisher’s age?The bio that we get on the opening page describes him as having served for 5 years* in Vietnam. The Marines pulled out of Vietnam in 1971, meaning that his service would, presumably, have been 1966-71. Since the miniseries came out in 1986, that would indicate that Frank was around 40, assuming that he was commissioned in 1966 at the age of 22.

*Conway, in SPIDER-MAN 129, said that the Punisher had only served for three years in the Marines. Since SM 129 came out in 1974, that would seem to indicate that the Punisher, at least from Conway’s perspective, was probably under 30.

I meant that Zeck drew Frank looking younger than Andru and DeZuniga had.

“In one respect, the Punisher was lucky: his creators didn’t have to explain away early appearances”

Hey Omar – I swear I read something about the first part o the 85 Mini referencing him having been drugged as some attempt at RetConning his more violent guest appearances. Can’t remember where I got that. Can’t find my TPB either dagnabit .

That was his relatively recent prior appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man #81-3, where Bill Mantol wrote him wildly out of character. The lunatic Punisher in Mantlo’s stories, who shoots automatic weapons at jaywalkers and litterbugs, really doesn’t resemble the consistent version from prior years of appearances. It’s certainly not an “early” Punisher appearance in any case.

I agree with Flypaper, the “Castiglione” thing surprises me more than anything. I actually have not read any of the more recent stuff where they tried to establish that as his original name, so this is the first I’ve heard of it. I guess it makes sense, as he has always looked Italian, and he is a New Yorker. I find myself wondering if Frank is his full name or if he was born Francis or Franco (both his parents have very Italian names, so Franco wouldn’t be too surprising).


April 23, 2012 at 6:49 am

interesting that marvel took ten years to reveal the punishers first name as frank. plus that he did not kill any one right away.

In the Mack Bolan novel Continental Contract, Bolan encountered a mobster called Castiglione. Since, well, pretty much all the other parts come from Mack Bolan, no surprise here.

I had suggested the Battle Van, also debuting in GSASM#4 earlier. It, of course, derives from Mack Bolan’s van.


(In Marvel Vision#15, Gerry Conway admitted the Shadow as an influence. As Conway named an agent of the Committee from Werewolf by night as “Max Grant”, Gibson’s house name, that stands as appropriate.)


[…] Frank Castle, a.k.a the Punisher, ten years to get a name. […]

Bill Mantlo did not write the Punisher out of character in Spectacular Spider-Man; he brought him to his logical conclusion.

It is the retconned character that got so many stories since that is out of character.

Incidentally, where did the idea that the murder of the children took place in Central Park come from? It sure makes the mobsters involved look far less competent than the other mobsters who inadvertently instigated vigilante origins (the various mobsters in the Sharpshooter, the Assasin, the Avenger, the Revenger, the Penetrator, the Marksman, etc.)

(Interesting that the pulp heroes such as the Spider had less clear cut origins.)

This has a list of the early appearances.

Amazing Spider-Man #129, 134-135, 161-162, 174-175, 201-202 Annual 15, Giant-Size Spider-Man #4, Marvel Preview #2, Marvel Super-Action #1, Captain America #241, Daredevil #181-184, Spectacular Spider-Man #81-83

These issues came out from 1973 to 1983. So you can see, he did not appear often in those days. I would guess that explains why Don Pendleton found it an amusing homage and did not bothe pursue legal action.*

One odd irony; the first member of the X-Men he met; Nightcrawler. Although Wolverine appeared in the same tale (#161 to 162), he only appeared in a cameo.

*Gerry Conway has admitted the inluence of Mack Bolan and the Shadow-of course, with Disney’s backing, legal action now would not go smoothly.


Incidentally, the first time one of the Castle children receives a forename occurs in Strange Tales II#14.

(I find it amusing that Katie Power starts keeping a a journal-this trait, as with so many others, derives from Mack Bolan and the Shadow).

Of course, that was the rationale behind the supernatural retcon of the Punisher’s origins some years back, that the idea of a public hit in Central Park was nuts.

That issue of Marvel Preview was great. In addition to the Punisher story, with its wonderful art by DeZuniga, there was a really cool Dominic Fortune tale. And the cover was by Gray Morrow!

@Luis Dantas I’m not sure how you can say that, since all the stories before Mantlo present him one way, and all the stories after Mantlo present him the same way. It’s Mantlo’s that’s out of character, and the only retconning done. It seems you’re projecting your personal views onto a character that makes you think he should be something he’s not.

Punisher clearly kills someone with a head shot earlier in Giant-Size Spider-Man 4 that the splash page and panels shown.

Frank Castle doesn’t come anywhere near Clint Barton for how long a character can go without a civilian name and Hawkeye was being regularly featured the entire time!

I have to agree with what others have said about Tony DeZuniga’s art from that Punisher story from MARVEL PREVIEW #2 looking damn good.

Is it just me, or wouldnt Robert Davi circa 1988/Die Hard have been perfect as the Punisher?

just reread the “Assassin’s Guild” graphic novel by Jo Duffy and noticed it questions Punisher’s real name
“James Maxwell is just one of your names…you’ve also called yourself Frank Castiglione, or Castle but still draw a serviceman’s pension in the name of…” (the sentence is not finished)

Alaric Shapli

March 6, 2016 at 6:19 am

I always thought of pre-mid-’80s Punisher as someone so completely consumed by his hatred of criminals that he’s completely lost his original identity, so, in a sense, his real name is “the Punisher”. I think giving him a real name took away from that a bit.

Who appeared first: Mack Bolan or Frank Castle ? Very similar origins.

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