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Times That the Punisher Has Escaped From Prison

In Drawing Crazy Patterns, I spotlight at least five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Note that these lists are inherently not exhaustive. They are a list of five examples (occasionally I'll be nice and toss in a sixth). So no instance is "missing" if it is not listed. It's just one of the five examples that I chose.

Today, inspired by an e-mail from reader Luy W., we take a look at the Punisher's long history of escaping from prisons. This topic came about because Luy asked me whether we had actually seen the Punisher escape from the super prison that he was put into by the Avengers at the end of the Punisher War Zone miniseries. You can read that article to get the answer to that specific question, but it made me realize that, boy, we sure have seen the Punisher break out of a lot of prisons over the years!

The Punisher's first major stint in prison in the comics occurred during Bill Mantlo's run on Spectacular Spider-Man where Mantlo, clearly not a fan of the character, had the Punisher essentially snap and try to "punish" all sorts of low level offenders before being sent to prison as a bit of a mess. This was followed by the Punisher miniseries by Steven Grant, Mike Zeck and John Beatty, which is probably the most important Punisher comic book series in the history of the character (outside of his first appearance, that is), as it was this series that showed that the Punisher could sustain his own comic book series (heck, not just SUSTAIN his own series, but THRIVE with his own series).

One of the first things that Grant did in the series was to reveal that the Punisher had been drugged, which led to his strange behavior in those aforementioned Spectacular Spider-Man issues. Frank Castle then "crashed" an escape attempt by a gangster and his crew. Frank stopped them from taking the warden of the prison hostage. After that was dealt with, the warden then revealed that he was part of a secret group that wanted the Punisher to work for them to "punish" people with their help. So they sprung him from prison...

Of course, shockingly enough, the warden's secret group (The Trust) turned out to be villains themselves. But hey, at least the Punisher was free to punish them!

Again, as noted, the Punisher miniseries led to the Punisher getting his own ongoing series. Mike Baron took over as the writer on the series and remained on the book for a number of years. One of his last story arcs involved the Kingpin conspiring to throw Punisher into prison. Castle got into a knife fight in prison and so his face was bandaged up. This gave him the chance in Punisher #56 (by Baron, Hugh Haynes and Jimmy Palmiotti) to swap places with a fellow prisoner whose face was also bandaged up, whose gang was planning to spring him from the less protected medical ward...

As you might imagine, when they found out that the Punisher wasn't really their buddy, they were none too pleased. This story led to the infamous "Punisher turned his skin black to avoid arrest" storyline (Baron's swan song on the title).

After a few years, sales dropped on the Punisher's books. He was holding down THREE monthly series, but eventually all three were canceled and the Punisher was led into a crossover of a newly created group of Marvel titles (Marvel Edge) that resulted in the Punisher being brainwashed into killing Nick Fury (don't worry, he got better). The Punisher was sent to the electric chair in the debut issue of a new Punisher ongoing series by John Ostrander, Tom Lyle and Chris Ivy)...

As it turned out, the mafia faked his death to get him to work for them. He agreed (but obviously he had his own plans).

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