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25 Greatest Punisher Covers of All-Time

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I’ve done a few polls for the greatest covers for major characters like Batman and Spider-Man, but for the slightly lesser characters (which is pretty much every other character there is), but in this feature, I will just occasionally do one by myself. When I say “greatest,” I don’t just mean the best drawn covers. I mean covers that ARE particularly well drawn but also have gained historical significance. This is different than “iconic,” as covers can be iconic while not being all that good. The original Daredevil #1 cover is not a great cover (it was a quickly thrown together cover using cropped artwork from various artists), but that cover is iconic BECAUSE it the first Daredevil comic cover. Therefore, in this countdown, I’m balancing really cool covers against historical significance. The covers have to excel at both to be on this countdown.

Anyhow, that was way too long of a preamble. On to the countdown!

EDIT TO ADD: Well darn, I switched the days up on the Punisher/Daredevil covers countdowns. Oh well, my bad! Fixed now.

25. Punisher/Batman

John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson got together for a historic cover. I love the Joker popping up in the background.

24. Punisher War Zone #23

23. Punisher #86

22. Punisher War Journal #61

Suicide Run as a whole was a bit of a forgettable crossover, but the Michael Golden covers, especially the ones covering the opening arc, were phenomenal – a “cover enhancement” all on their own. So I had to put them all on the list.

21. Punisher Vol.2 #1

This Klaus Janson cover is hurt a bit by the fact that it’s basically just a riff on a higher-ranked cover.

20. Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe

This painted Nick Percival cover marks the first Garth Ennis Punisher story.

19. Punisher Meets Archie

Great John Buscema cover to mark one of the craziest crossovers ever.

18. Punisher MAX #6

Dave Johnson did phenomenal covers for this series. Really standout work.

17. Punisher War Journal #6

Jim Lee’s art made a fairly forgettable two-parter one of the most famous Punisher stories of this era.

16. Punisher MAX #1

What a way to launch a series by Dave Johnson!

Go to the next page for #15-6!

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29 Comments

So, what you’re saying is that mike Zeck can draw the hell out of a Punisher cover

Why did the Punisher borrow Supreme’s logo for Kills the Marvel Universe?

A lot of these lower-ranked ones on the first page are seriously underwhelming to me, but man, #16 is terrific.

I will say, though, that even if I don’t care for most of the ones on the first page, the other two pages are chock full of terrific stuff.

IMO Mike Zeck is the best cover artist ever.

Not enough Dave Johnson on this list. His work on the “Six Hours to Kill” arc was among my favourites:

http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_large/0/5756/719752-punisher__67_001.jpg
http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/marveldatabase/images/e/ee/Punisher_Frank_Castle_Max_Vol_1_70.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20090516003926
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4f/ff/e9/4fffe960b45fee28656b3c164fb23daf.jpg

Zeck’s covers on the mini were awesome, but I REALLY do not like the effect the painting had on the finished product.

Some classic covers! I had forgotten that the original punisher mini was extended from four issues to five at some point obviously late into the run. A quick check on Marvel Unlimited shows that Jo Duffy wrote the last issue and Zeck didn’t do the art. Does anyone know what was up with the choice to extend the mini and not have Grant and Zeck finish it?

Those are some glorious covers.

@Papercut Fun:

Brian wrote a Comics Book Legends about the mini changing from four to five issues: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/02/26/comic-book-legends-revealed-196/

Steven Grant also explained the issues concerning the fifth issue in this 2006 interview at DVD Verdict (http://www.dvdverdict.com/interviews/stevengrant.php):

“As for the fifth issue, that’s a scab that’s no longer worth picking. The short version is that originally the book wasn’t on schedule and we were being given all the time we wanted to finish it. Then some other book dropped out of the schedule and marketing went running through all the editorial departments looking for something to fill the hole with. Over the editor’s objections, The Punisher mini-series was thrown in there, and suddenly we were six weeks late. Mike was very lovingly penciling the book, and he’s not all that quick a penciler to begin with. As a result, issues two through four slipping further and further behind, and retailers and readers were screaming for the book. Mike was removed as artist on the final issue, and I went with him, as I felt it was our project, a joint effort, and if one of us wasn’t there the other wouldn’t stay either. We actually made that pact before we started work on the project; I always figured it was me who’d get thrown off if anyone was. In retrospect it probably wasn’t my swiftest career move, but what are you going to do? Jo was brought in to dialogue over my plot, which had already been done. Typical comics experience, really.”

LouReedRichards

March 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm

I can’t disagree with you miss anony. A Zeck cover always makes things better!

The Zeck version of the Punisher ruled my Jr. High and early High School years.

The main reason I didn’t buy the Punisher’s first solo series was the Janson art, never have liked his pencils.

Papercut Fun – I don’t remember why the length of the mini series changed. I DO remember somebody wrote into Marvel Age asking about it and somebody at Marvel said that a 5th issue didn’t exist and that they must be mistaken.
I never figured out if it was supposed to be a joke or what, it was very confusing for me at the time.

Anybody remember that?

Six-fingered Punisher! (Number 21)

I’ve got to disagree: Zeck is one of my least favorite cover artists. Just not a fan of his style.

Fun list. I would have included a Portico cover (#17 is my fave), and I think the Lee Punisher/Wolverine cover from PWJ #7 is much better than #6. I also think PWJ #s 8 & 15 had very iconic Jim Lee covers.

I think Brian did a CBLR post about the Punisher mini-series’ last issue at some point. I’m sure he’ll chime in and link to it.

@Papercut.
Wasn’t it always intended to be five issues, but the cover copy and paste guys were so used to doing 4 issue minis, they messed up the first cover. Then they got yelled at and fixed it for the second issue, but then forgot and fell back to habit on the third and fourth issues.

Bradstreet just traces photos of models. And at some point was just using bad PhotoShop filters. Sorry, he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned with actual artists. Cheapens the efforts of people who actually learned how to draw.

I hope Alex Ross will do a Punisher cover art. For the meantime, Zeck’s covers are AWESOME!

Zagreb with Miss Anony. Could have just ranked those in the top 5 and been done. Though there were some other great covers up there. I wondered if Big Nothing would get up there, because it’s simple, but still striking. I can’t see any reason why Zeck isn’t still getting lots of work, his stuff is so much better than 99% that’s out there. If he doesn’t want to work that fast they should still be begging him for covers and prestige series.

I had forgotten how good Spidey 201 was. And that Lee PWJ story forgettable? It had dinosaurs!

So you picked the rankings of these covers yourself and then say things like, “Oh, barely missed the top 10,” or “Bradstreet’s covers run together, so here’s one at number 11″? Sorry, but that’s a bit silly. It would help if you spoke in the first person in the commentary; it comes off as arrogant when you talk about these rankings so detached as if you’re saying, that’s just how it is.

Ya know, the first few times I saw the cover ranked at #1 here, I thought that the Punisher had some sorta weird trash can leg. I love that cover, but I seriously thought that trash can was his leg for a while. Just throwing that out there.

I like the other, “Archie Comics” cover for Archie vs. The Punisher better, for that juxtaposition of The Punisher and his machine gun in a regular ol’ Riverdale school dance.

I was really hoping the cover to Punisher: G-Force would make it. That thing’s a stone-cold classic by Nelson.

LouReedRichards

March 20, 2016 at 10:12 am

@ Stormfang – I hear you, I love his work, but I can see where his style could turn other people off.

@ Michael – A good image is a good image regardless of how it’s produced. As long as he’s not swiping from other artist I don’t see the big deal. He’s not a favorite of mine, but it’ll do. I certainly wouldn’t say he’s not an artist just because he doesn’t draw the images from out of his head as much as others do.

@ M-Wolverine – yet another thing we agree on. I’ve wondered why Zeck never made it bigger than he did. Like you said, it was always so much better than almost anything else on the stands. I have his Capt. America poster from the 80’s hanging in the stairwell to my basement studio, it’s always inspiring to see as I’m getting ready to paint.

@ P.Boz – thanks now I’ll never not see “trash can leg” when I look at the image. ; )

Tim Bradstreet got punked here

Kneel Before Bob

March 20, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Great list with a bunch of my favorite Punisher covers. I still love that Wolverine cover from War Journal after all these years, as well as the awesome covers from the 5 issue limited.

I am, however, seriously bummed that my all-time favorite cover featuring The Punisher didn’t make the list: the cover to Incredible Hulk #395. That will always be my favorite: I love the colors and framing of it. Always wanted a poster of it!

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/76/dc/1a/76dc1a15647618630e9fa361406c95d0.jpg

I am, however, seriously bummed that my all-time favorite cover featuring The Punisher didn’t make the list: the cover to Incredible Hulk #395. That will always be my favorite: I love the colors and framing of it. Always wanted a poster of it!

It’s an awesome cover and I think that David and Keown handled the Punisher beautifully in that story, but I don’t really know that that appearance was all that historic (not like, say, his Daredevil guest appearances or his early Spidey guest appearances).

Pablo Baraccano

March 21, 2016 at 3:04 am

You forgot “The Amazing Spider-Man” # 285 !!!!

No love for the Volume 2 series? Not one Portacio? #9? #10? #14, which is awesome? The amazing Mignola cover of #6? #45 by Ron Wagner is also a classic.

And the Jim Lee Wolverine belongs in the Top 5 – iconic.

I liked those Bradstreet covers at first- until the sameness lead to 2 duplicate purchases. They really were basically “Frank standing around with the gun of the month.”

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