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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Did the Punisher Fight in the Vietnam War?

by  in Comic News Comment

In this feature we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today, we look at how Marvel has handled the Punisher’s service as a Marine during the Vietnam War…

When the Punisher debuted at the end of 1973 in Amazing Spider-Man #129 by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, he mentions to Spider-Man that he is a Marine and Spidey expresses surprise that Punisher is fighting HERE instead of, well, you know, Vietnam…


It wasn’t until the Punisher’s fifth appearance that we got confirmation that he fought in Vietnam, when he encounters an old war buddy…




Then, later in the issue (which was written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Tony DeZuniga), we get the Punisher’s origin for the first time…





And that was it for the Punisher and Vietnam. They just went together for years. The Punisher even appeared in Marvel’s series about the Vietnam War, The ‘Nam…


In his Punisher Max work, Garth Ennis repeatedly featured the Punisher’s service in Vietnam…


However, in 2011, the Punisher received a new series written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Marco Checchetto. Was nearly forty years of existence too long for the Punisher to still be written as a Vietnam War veteran? Go to the next page to find out…

The reveal was done in The Punisher #4, and it was very slyly worked in there in a profile piece that reporter Norah Winters was doing on the Punisher…



There, without EXPLICITLY saying, “He is now a Gulf War veteran instead of a Vietnam War veteran,” that’s just what they did.

Rucka discussed the change with CBR’s Dave Richards:

In “Punisher” #4, Rucka used the presence of the press to help reexamine and update Frank Castle’s origin. The issue opened with Norah Winters writing a piece about Castle with readers seeing images from various points in his life. One of the images shown is Frank, during his time as a soldier for the U.S. Government. Instead of wading through the jungles of Vietnam as in in previous flashbacks, Castle is shown wearing modern military gear and fighting in the Middle East.

“Steve [Wacker, editor on the project – BC] and I went round and round on this, but ultimately, he wanted to make Frank younger because if he fought in Vietnam, he’s in his 70s, and I get more mileage out of him being in his early 40s. I don’t think that takes anything away from his origin. In the Marvel U, the conflict matters only because he was asked to go and serve his country, and he did. When he returned, the society he was essentially defending betrayed him and murdered his wife and children in front of him,” Rucka said. “The conflict matters less than the fact that he gave his service, and this was the reward. In that broad brush vague Marvel Universe sense there’s always ‘the war’ whatever it was. If that put him in the Middle East rather than South East Asia I think that matters less for the purposes of the Marvel Universe. I really want to emphasize though that I’m only talking about the Marvel Universe Punisher and not ‘PunisherMAX.'”

Really, though, this is one of those things where you are probably best served just being super vague about the details other than the Punisher being a Marine. Rucka basically DID do that, and the next Punisher writer, Nathan Edmonson, basically did the same. He’s a Marine vet, but that’s about it.

If anyone else has a suggestion for an interesting comic book retcon, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!