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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – Archie Meets the Punisher!

Every installment of I Love Ya But You’re Strange I spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories. Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

Today, in honor of the late Stan Goldberg, we take a look at one of the most famous comics he drew, the famed Archie Meets the Punisher crossover comic book from 20 years ago!

Longtime Archie artist Stan Goldberg passed away on Sunday. When Batton Lash came up with the idea for this story (after the heads of Archie told them of an earlier idea for an Archie/Punisher story that they had that they felt didn’t work because it didn’t fit the feel of an Archie story) and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco (who used to work at Archie early in his career and nowadays is writing some stories for them once again) agreed to do the crossover, the artists chosen for the project were Goldberg for the Archie side of things and the late, great John Buscema for the Punisher side of things.

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The comic is based on a simple, but extremely effective concept…mistaken identity!

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In a really clever move, both the characters are introduced as if their introductions are the first pages of a short Archie-style story. “Wet Works”…

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and then “Shtick to your Guns”…

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As it turns out, the Punisher is not the only one who is on the hunt for the crook known as “Red.” Some hitmen are out to get him, as well, and they and the Punisher both converge on Archie and Jughead, leading to an awesome meeting scene…

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The Punisher realizes that this is just some dumb kid, so Archie and Jughead escape and Lash does a great job explaining why no one will believe Archie’s tale of the Punisher’s involvement, since Archie makes up wild stories all the time or just plain ol’ gets stuff wrong (like the time he thought an undercover cop was a spy or that his father trying to get into their house after losing his keys was a cat burglar).

So the whole thing comes to a head at the big Riverdale High dance, where Red has tricked Veronica into thinking he is a wealthy businessman in town for a little while, so they’re at the dance together. The Punisher and the Hitmen all take the place of caterers and then hijinx ensue, leading to an awesome final moment…

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The hitmen are finished, but “Red” escapes along with Veronica but eventually the Punisher and Archie and the gang track him down to save Veronica from him (with Archie delivering the decisive clue as to their whereabouts), and after being contacted by the U.S. government, the Punisher agrees to let Red live this time, leading to another really clever bit where Lash contrasts Punisher’s War Journal with Betty’s Diary…

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The closing sets up two theoretical future crossovers, one of which actually DID happen later in 1994, the Punisher meeting Batman (a couple of times in 1994, one of which – the one with Punisher meeting Az-Bats – was right around the same time as this crossover, so it worked out well, timing-wise)…

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Where is our Jughead/Wolverine crossover?!? The world needs it!

Anyhow, this was a great story with excellent Goldberg and Buscema artwork that meld together beautifully (Tom Palmer inked the whole thing and he did a hell of a job).

We’ll miss you, Stan Goldberg!

Okay, that’s it for this installment of I Love Ya But You’re Strange! If YOU have a suggestion for a future installment, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

28 Comments

In fairness, this specific column should be called “I Love Ya and You’re Awesome.” The only “strange” element is that this story led into Batman/Punisher, which led into Punisher/Batman, which led into Zero Hour #4. No, really, they did. Read all four in that order and tell me they don’t. That’s right, I blame Zero Hour on Frank Castle and Archie Andrews.

I met Batton Lash this year and got him to sign this. I asked about the sequel, and he left me with the impression that he’s been blacklisted from both companies.

Nice story, but did they have to put Punisher listening to the government at the end? I hated that part. It hurts the credibility of both parties as well as the suspension of disbelief.

I get that, Luis… the Punisher letting a gangster live? Unthinkable! But it works for me at least, because of the one thing I liked best about the story.

Riverdale’s a sweet town the likes of which Frank has never seen before and may never see again. Crime is unbelievably low and murder is almost unheard of. And while at first Frank charges through it all like a bull in a china shop, it starts to affect him in unexpected ways. There’s a great bit where he walks through the school at night, noting casually that there are no bars on the windows, scanning reflexively for some evidence, ANY evidence of crime, and then this happens:

http://blogintomystery.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/ap1d.jpg?w=436&h=500

It’s a fantastic moment that flips your expectations entirely. Suddenly Archie isn’t just the helpless goofball and Frank isn’t just the smooth professional. Archie and his friends may be naive, but they have the peace he associates with his own departed family, and while he holds on to some of his gruff persona through the rest of the story, he can’t fool us after that. We’re on to him.

So as everything wraps up, the bad guy is still alive, and Frank almost doesn’t even care. He’s not going to spatter blood all over this dream town, he’s not going to show these kids what a dead man’s eyes look like. He’ll get back to his old ways of doing things soon enough, but he’s a Riverdalean today. The moment doesn’t compromise the story, it completes it.

That, and his short little subplot with Miss Grundy, which just has to be seen to be believed:

http://blogintomystery.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/ap1e.jpg
http://livingbetweenwednesdays.com/wp-content/uploads/image/Johnathan/Archie%20Sunday/archie%20v%20punisher/heartwarming%20ending.jpg

The irony here is that modern Archie often is, in fact, “grim and gritty.”

Haw! I had the excellent good sense to buy this when it came out, and have loved it ever since. Best Team-Up ever!

And the Punisher flirting with Miss Grundy was hilarious.

Before it hit the stands, there was a pinback button promoting the comic. The image consisted simply of Archie’s trademark buzz-cut hatching (a close-up of the side of his head) with crosshairs superimposed on top of that.

Pretty darn funny. Wish I still had mine.

Greatest crossover ever!

I’m still waiting for Jughead vs Wolverine. Also waiting on Jughead vs Wimpy.

@ Luis Dantas

It’s the Punisher in Riverdale. Suspension of disbelief is already implied.

I really love this comic. It was one of those comics I had wanted for years but could never bring myself to spend the money. Finally, some 4 years after remarking upon it to a close cousin, who was waiting patiently while I thumbed through longboxes on a family roadtrip, I received it as a Christmas present from her. It was 100% worth the wait. The cool thing about Archie Meets Punisher is that it doesn’t coast on its premise. It tells a genuinely satisfying story for each character. And – I’m just gonna throw this out there – for my money, nobody draws Frank better than Big John Buscema.

This comic was a Jeopardy question.

Before it hit the stands, there was a pinback button promoting the comic. The image consisted simply of Archie’s trademark buzz-cut hatching (a close-up of the side of his head) with crosshairs superimposed on top of that.

Pretty darn funny. Wish I still had mine.

Man, that would have taken on a whole new meaning a couple months ago.

This is the only time in my life before or since that I picked up a comic on its wtf factor alone and boy I’m glad I did.. Awsome read. My second favorite crossover behind JLA/Avengers.

I want that comic!

This is the comic that transitioned me from strictly reading Archie to reading superhero stuff. Which was likely the point, really.

Tons of fun, though. I read this a few dozen times, I’m sure.

@Lanier2369: I own a copy of Barkley vs. Godzilla, and recently picked up the IDW book where the Lone Gunmen investigate the TMNT.

I was tempted by Mars Attacks Popeye but wound up giving it a pass.

@emac: actually, as has been pointed out back in 1994, it is entirely believable that the Punisher would choose to act in some place like Riverdale (yes, I am that old).

But having him be treated as a boy scout? By the government no less? That is just wrong. Shades of the future, with him getting “get out of jail free” cards from Nick Fury and enventually becoming a freaking Thunderbolt.

We need zombie Wolverine meeting zombie Jughead in time for Halloween.

@Thad — Mars Attacks Popeye was a fun little book, actually.

I have this comic right around and have been waiting to read it, but now I’m just going to go ahead (look, in my OCD world, I’d have to read it with all my other Archie and Punisher and oh damn Batton Lash wrote it so now I have to throw in my Wolff and Byrd/Supernatural Law and AHHHHH!!!!! Don’t judge me.). The very premise screams awesomeness and everything I’ve heard about the book says it delivered, so now I must see for myself.

@Luis- to be fair, the entire point of the Thunderbolts series is that Ross is maybe MORE of a monster than any of the villains the team fights. It’s not like having him work for Captain America.

I remember finding this comic at a local comic con and getting it for only 25 cents! Best deal ever!

This is the greatest single issue of a comic of all time. Really dug the cameos by both Marvel’s and Archie’s old fashion comic characters like Millie the Model and Katy Keene.

A great comic. It’s chock full of in-jokes as well. Here is the second (and most recent) versions of annotations I did years ago, the original version not long after the comic is published. If anyone has any additions or corrections feel free to add to the comment section of the annotations
http://saneinsanities.blogspot.ca/2011/08/archie-meets-punisher-annotations.html

I have the Archie Comics version. I was young enough when I bought this that I believed 100% that the ending was leading to a Wolverine Meets Jughead comic haha

Punisher need be in Afterlife Archie

If we’re doing INTENTIONALLY strange comics now, I nominate the issue of MARVEL AGE where Fred Hembeck and Wolverine sing Paul McCartney songs together.

If we’re doing INTENTIONALLY strange comics now

Intentionally strange has never been a roadblock. It’s strictly just “Strange but ultimately endearing” comic stories, which doesn’t exclude intentionally strange but ultimately endearing stories.

Yeah, I can’t see the problem with Punisher being a Thunderbolt…he may be the least objectionable member of the team. You have the Red Hulk who was basically a bad guy…if anything, the objection should be that he became an Avenger of sorts. Deadpool, a merc who will do anything for money and laughs. Elektra, an assassin. Venom, the guy who used to eat brains. And wasn’t the whole team’s concept that of villains who may or may not be redeeming themselves as heroes? The only thing that doesn’t fit with him becoming a Thunderbolt is that he didn’t immediately try and kill the rest of the team.

Best Marvel inter-company crossover ever!

In regards Jughead and Wolverine, around 1988, there was an Archie cover that parodied Wolverine, with Jughead holding utensils between his fingers.

I had the pin of the Punisher skull symbol, with Archie’s eyes and freckles superimposed. Best merchadise tie-in of the 80s, with the possible exception of the Starman badge.

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