Amazing Spiderman #129 Homage Covers
The Amazing Spiderman #129 (February 1974)
Writer: Gerry Conway
Cover Artists: Gil Kane, John Romita, Sr., & Gaspar Saladino
Penciller: Ross Andru
Inkers: Frank Giacoia & Dave Hunt
For many Spiderman collectors, The Amazing Spiderman #129, with a cover date of February 1974, is a prized issue to possess in any grade. Some even call the issue their “holy grail.” The Amazing Spiderman #129 features the first appearances of The Jackal and The Punisher.
The Jackal is the criminal persona of Miles Warren, Peter Parker’s professor at Empire State University, who had developed a deep-seated attraction for Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first love, who died at the hands of The Green Goblin in The Amazing Spiderman #121. Gwen’s untimely death made Professor Warren unstable, and he blamed Spiderman for his loss. As the Jackal, Professor Warren would continue to torture and plague Spiderman and Marvel Comic’s other heroes for many years with an intricate web of deceipt and human clones, which would include clones of Peter Parker (Spiderman) and Gwen Stacy (Peter’s first love who died in The Amazing Spiderman #121). The Jackal’s manipulations would lead to two clone sagas, with many twists and turns, and to the creation of the character of Ben Reilly, aka The Scarlet Spider. Some readers, as the Jackal’s manipulations continued, likewise felt manipulated by Marvel Comics. At one point it was revealed that the character of Peter Parker which readers had been following across titles was in fact only a clone, but this swap was reversed due to yet further manipulations of the storylines involving Norman Osborn, aka The Green Goblin. As Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”
The Punisher, the violent vigilante and anti-hero persona of Frank Castle, would go on to become one of Marvel’s and comicdom’s most popular Bronze Age characters. The Punisher would next appear in The Amazing Spiderman #134 in a brief cameo, and his third appearance would occur in The Amazing Spiderman #135. The Punisher would have several origin stories, all involving a war of some kind – Vietnam, the War on Terror and the fictional Siancong War – which would help mold the character. He has extensive military training and experience and is an expert in hand-to-hand combat, infiltration, special operations and more. The Punisher, as one would surmise, is also an expert marksman and highly familiar with many different types of weapons, firearms and explosives. The Punisher’s character — and by association the character’s logo — has been interpreted in a variety of conflicting and incomplete or shortsighted ways.
Gerry Conway, a co-creator of the character, originally intended the Punisher’s skull logo to appear on one of the character’s breasts (a location where we might see a company logo on a polo shirt, for example), but John Romita, Sr., Marvel’s art director at the time, enlarged the logo to cover the character’s entire chest. This enlarged logo immediately defined the character’s signature costume in his first and every appearance since.
This same logo, or variations of it, however, has been co-opted by military and civilian armed forces, as well as terrorist and anti-government organizations, around the world. The Punisher’s skull logo first became noticeably visible as a symbol during the Iraq War used by US military personnel, who painted it on equipment or created unofficial service patches with it. The Punisher’s skull emblem has been used by far right anti-government militias, and was seen at the Unite the Right rally in 2017. Since 2015, the emblem became popular within the Blue Lives Matter police officers’ movement. In 2017, the Catlettsburg Police department in Kentucky installed large decals with the emblem and Blue Lives Matter on the hoods of police vehicles, only to remove the decals following public backlash and pressure. Citizens and police in Catletssburg interpreted the emblem’s meaning differently: “We’re getting so many calls, and they’re saying that the Punisher logo (means) we’re out to kill people, and that’s not the meaning behind that,” said the Catlettsburg chief of police. The Punisher’s logo has also been widely used by Iraqi Armed Forces and Iraqi paramilitary groups since about 2015, despite widespread anti-Americanism in that country. Researcher Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi has said many Iraqis simply think that the logo is “cool,” ignoring its American origins.
Gerry Conway decries the use of the Punisher symbol by law enforcement, identifying the contradictory and inflammatory message of its use in that manner. “It’s disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography,” Conway has said, “because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system… The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put the Punisher’s skull on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher’s skull patches, they’re basically siding with an enemy of the system.” When members of the Detroit Police Department were seen wearing the Punisher skull during the George Floyd protests in 2020, Conway and others called on Marvel and its parent company Disney to take legal action to prevent law enforcement from using the logo.
Marvel addressed this controversy in September 2019 in Punisher (Vol. 12) #13. In this issue, written by Matthew Rosenberg, Castle as the Punisher comes across two police officers who are fans of his work. They take a selfie with him and show him a sticker of his logo on their car, then compare their work to his. Unimpressed, the Punisher tears up the skull sticker and scolds them, “I’ll say this once. We’re not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don’t do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name’s Captain America, and he’d be happy to have you…. If I find out you are trying to do what I do, I’ll come for you next.” In 2020, Marvel confirmed that this is their official opinion on the use of the Punisher skull logo.