Comic Book Legends Revealed #196

This is the one-hundred and ninety-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and ninety-five.

This week is a special theme week - "Additions and Omissions." Doesn't that have a heck of a ring to it?

Let's begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The original Punisher mini-series was expanded from four issues to five based on the high pre-orders of the first issue of the series, which explains why there is additional artwork in the final issue from different artists.

STATUS: False on Both Accounts

Once upon a time in an almost mythical era known as the early 1980s, the Punisher did not have his own comic book series.

That gross injustice was corrected when Steven Grant and Mike Zeck teamed up for the 1986 Punisher mini-series. The mini-series proved a massive sales success, and soon the Punisher would gain an ongoing series (and soon after THAT, he had his first spin-off series! At his peak, the Punisher was starring in three ongoing monthly series plus the semi-regular Punisher Armory series plus seasonal specials).

Fans, however, noticed something strange about the covers of the comic.

Look at the covers for #1 and #2.

Anything seem odd to you?

The first issue notes that the comic is a four-issue series.

The second issue notes that the comic is a FIVE-issue series.

The third and fourth issues go back to four-issue series...

while the fifth issue, naturally, says it is a five-issue series.

After the somewhat surprising nature of the Punisher's popularity, the rumor began that the reason for the change was because Marvel saw the order numbers for the first issue and quickly moved to expand the series to five issues.

In addition, the fifth issue was not drawn by Mike Zeck, but by Mike Vosburg. This was attributed to the fact that the move from four issues to five necessitated a quick fill-in artist, as Mike Zeck was only scheduled to do four issues, not five.

In fact, the Wikipedia entry for the Punisher limited series says basically just that...

The first issus was bannered on the cover as the first of four. After this first issue immediately sold out, Marvel expanded the miniseries to five issues. The miniseries was such a success that the Punisher was brought back the next year in his own ongoing monthly title.

Issues #1, #3 and #4 had banners promoting a four-issue limited series and issues #2 and #5 promote a five-issue series. Mike Zeck was the artist on the first four issues and Mike Vosburg was the penciller of #5. The splash page of issue #5 has a caption stating "Special thanks to true pros Mike Vosburg (pencils), Jo Duffy (script), and Big John Beatty (inks)" alluding to the difficulties of expanding a four-issue limited series into five issues.

I asked both Grant and Zeck about the situation, and here's what they had to say.

First, writer Steven Grant...

Originally Mike and I wanted to do the 4th and 5th issues as one double-sized like the first one, but Marvel wasn't keen on it, so we split it in two. But that was long before production started, so it shouldn't have been a factor. I think the first issue reads "of a four-issue limited series" and Mike and I raised holy hell over that so the second issue has "five" on it. But production couldn't keep it straight because nobody DID five issue series. People did four issue series. Mike and I had a bet with each other that the fifth issue would read "#5 In A Four-Issue Limited Series," but they managed to get it right that time.

Next, penciler (and cover artist) Mike Zeck....

Grant is right in that it was always planned to be a 5-issue limited. The logo mix-up was really just a matter of the production department being in a habit of pasting "#X in a 4-issue Limited Series" with almost all other limited series. I noticed it right away when I caught sight of the first issue and called the editor right away. We were just in time to contact the printer and have the line corrected on the second issue. I figured it was taken care of until I saw the third issue with the same "4-issue Limited Series" banner. I figured it was useless to try and correct that fourth issue at that point since readers wouldn't know what to believe anyway.

The Vosburg fifth issue was the result of deadline problems. I spent more than my usual time with the art on the first double-sized issue. Then spent even more time re-coloring it once I saw the originally submitted colors. It was already scheduled at that point, and I was well behind by the time I was into the second issue. So,.. breakdowns were suggested again to speed things up, and even with that, the editor figured it best to assign the last issue to another artist just to make sure shipping dates were met for all issues.

I think that basically settles that, no?

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