Comic Legends: What Happened to Jim Lee's Punisher/Fury Graphic Novel?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and twenty-sixth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

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Jim Lee was going to draw a Punisher/Nick Fury graphic novel.



Reader RL wrote to me years ago to ask me, "What was the deal with the Jim Lee "Punisher: Rules of the Game" graphic novel?" At the time, I did not know the answer, but in the ensuing years, I have since learned what the deal was.

The project was promoted in the 1991 "Punisher" annual, and here's the weird thing, it included as a promotion TWO FULL, COMPLETE PAGES from the graphic novel!!


We're all used to projects being announced and then they fall through, but when you see ACTUAL ART from the project in question, the project almost always comes out. So what was the deal with this one?

As it turned out, the major problem was that Lee was doing the project basically like the old school Marvel style, where Lee was co-plotting the book, so the comic was coming out AS Lee was drawing it. In other words, there wasn't a written out script, it was just being written as Lee and Gregory Wright (the co-plotter and the scripter of the series) went along. Marvel knew that it was going to be a big deal, considering it was a Jim Lee project when he was just becoming a superstar, so they used what little Lee had produced already to promote the project, since they were very excited about it.

That explains why there was actual completed artwork for an uncompleted project. As to why it was not completed, that "problem" was that Jim Lee was just TOO good.

Gregory Wright explained it to CBR's Chris Arrant back in 2011:

Stuff really looked amazing. But, Jim was staying in New York. Everyone in the office had access to him, and they all kept throwing really cool things at him to do. Our project had no deadline, so he took on several things. But he kept working on this project. And then they gave Jim ‘Uncanny X-Men.’ That took over almost all of his time, and work on the project ground to a halt. The intent was always to finish it, but then Jim and crew formed Image, and Jim later wound up as staff at DC. The project was never officially cancelled as far as I know, just never completed.

Punisher Central had a few more pieces of unfinished art from the series, including the sketched out cover for the book:

The series was going to be about Punisher and Fury teaming up to take down a bad guy named Walter Maddox who was the head of a group called the Blackhearts. Maddox was a drug lord who was trafficking in stolen SHIELD weaponry. Punisher and Fury both wanted him for different reasons and obviously had different ideas on what to do with him.

Years ago, Wright also discussed the genesis of the story with CBR's George Khoury

I had the initial idea of the two characters going after the same foe for different reasons, which would lead them to clash frequently while having to work together. Jim and I had several sit-downs to hash out the characters and sequences. Jim and his friend Brandon Choi had come up with a really cool bad guy named Blackheart that they wanted to use, so he became the villain of the piece. Jim and Brandon had come up with a whole history for the character which made its way into the story. Jim and I sent rough plots and corrections back and forth for a while so all of our ideas would get integrated. I did the final plots stringing together all the different ideas we had come up with and created an actual story.

Amusingly enough, Wright noted that the project began when Tom DeFalco asked the "Punisher" office to come up with some special projects starring the Punisher. Graphic novels and the like. Carl Potts was originally working on this one with Wright and Lee, but Lee said he would draw a second graphic novel with Potts instead. Obviously that didn't happen, so Potts began to work on one with Marc Silvestri and, sure enough, that project also fell apart when Silvestri left Marvel for Image!

So there ya go, RL, many years later, I have an answer for ya!

Thanks to Gregory Wright, Chris Arrant, George Khoury and Punisher Central for the info!

Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at CBR: Why didn't Captain America eat any Shawarma in the famous "Avengers" post-credits scene?

Check back Sunday for Part 3 of this week's legends! And remember, e-mail me at cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com if you have any suggestions for future comic book legends! As you can see from this week, I eventually get to most of them, even if it takes years!

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