TITLE: Archie Meets the Punisher – Vol. 1, Issue 1
YEAR: August 1994
COMPANY: Archie Comics/Marvel Comics
Written by Batton Lash
Artists: John Buscema (Punisher), Stan Goldberg (Archie)
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Colorist: Barry Grossman
Inker: Tom Palmer
It was the issue that started out as a joke, Victor Gorelick with an idea of an Archie and Punisher crossover with a violent storyline that then Archie Comics publishers Richard Goldwater and Michael Silberkleit were not going to go through with it.
But when Batton Lash, creator of “Wolf & Byrd” came onboard and wrote a story that would appeal to Archie and Punisher fans, it went to then-Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Tom Defalco and sure enough Marvel Comics publishers gave the thumbs up and “Archie Meets the Punisher” was greenlighted.
And back in early ’90s, although it was seen as a joke and then later as a real issue and an unusual, crazy but yet fascinating collaboration between Archie Comics and Marvel Comics, seeing something a little dark in Riverdale seemed like a precursor to the stories we see today with the “Afterlife” stories and even the “Riverdale” television series.
The story revolves around the Punisher (Frank Castle) and whiz kid Micro Chip tracking down a mob boss named Mel Jay a.k.a. Montana Bob a.k.a Freckles a.k.a. “Red Fever”.
In order to get access to Red Fever’s sources, the Punisher is working with the Federal Govt. on this case to capture Red Fever, but after an intense gunfight, Red Fever manages to ditch Frank. And he takes a train to Riverdale.
Meanwhile, Archie accidentally squirts Veronica Lodge with a supersoaker and upset that Archie ruined her dress, she cancels her date with Archie to the ’50s sockhop dance.
Immediately, the mob boss/con man “Red Fever” ala Melvin Jay manages to infiltrate Mr. Lodge’s home, telling him he is the chairman of the board for Pulaski Pharmaceuticals and that he is planning to build a business in Riverdale. But his true goal is to steal Mr. Lodge’s money but most of all, he wants to “get fresh” with Veronica.
Veronica notices that Melvin Jay looks exactly like Archie but with an overbite. But she figures, he’s rich and successful and looks like Archie, why not go with him to the dance.
The Punisher and Micro Chip end up at Riverdale but they noticed other mob members are looking for Red Fever and because Archie looks like him, they start going after Archie.
Needless to say, with the Mob wanting to kill Red Fever and the Punisher in town, suffice to say, the town of Riverdale is going to experience a violent situation that the area has not seen.
So, we get the best of both worlds, of Archie and friends in Riverdale and the Punisher and his violent ways and trying to protect everyone by not trying to go after Red Fever but also the other members of the mob.
Artwork is split between Archie’s artists and Punisher artists, so you’ll ee a mix of art styles featured for each panel. And once in awhile, you see a panel featuring the work of both Archie Comics Stan Goldberg and Marvel Comics artist John Buscema.
But writer Batton Lash has managed to create a storyline that managed to integrate both worlds into one.
What’s interesting is the introduction panels by Victor Gorelick and Tom Defalco. One can only imagine if Victor’s original idea of Archie arriving home to find his parents massacred and enlisting Punisher would have received approval in 2017.
Both Archie Comics and Marvel Comics have changed, especially now that they no longer follow the Comics Code Authority (Marvel Comics abandoned it back in 2001 and Archie Comics abandoned it in 2011).
Personally, I think this would be a fascinating off-shoot series with a darker storyline that would no doubt appeal to mature readers and would no doubt make money. Taking that idea, not incorporating the Punisher but an alternate world storyline, which Archie goes after those who killed his parents and then his friends being targeted. I’d have Archie in law enforcement, discovering his parents being killed by a serial killer and when the police are not close to finding the killer, Archie decides to take things into his own hands. Almost similar to what happened to Frank Castle, but have Archie in a true balls to wall action role. Sure, it’s popcorn action storyline banality but depending on how it was written, I think it’s an interesting premise worth experimenting with.
OK, I know I’m going off on a tangent but if Archie Comics can have Archie being killed off and the whole town of Riverdale being chased down by Zombies, vigilante Archie doesn’t seem so far off.
Overall, “Archie Meets the Punisher” was interesting for me, as a fan of both Archie Comics and Punisher storylines but for seeing an unusual collaboration that was so different to see coming from the comic industry at that time.