Everybody either wanted or already had a poster of one of Mike Zeck’s wonderful covers from this series. This is by far the “standard” when it comes to the Punisher, back before he was hanging out with magicians and being turned into a Frankenstein. “Circle of Blood” is the definitive Punisher series.
Everything I have done with the Black Flag was really inspired by this series. The Punisher was never a hero, he was a guy doing what needed to be done. He wasn’t trying to be cute with polar bears and piranhas, he was just a mean dude with a big gun and more big guns as back-up.
The Punisher included several events rare in Marvel Comics publisher in the mid-1980s: a suicide, the death of an innocent child, and the main character having intercourse. In issue #4, the warden of Rykers prison (who assisted in the Punisher’s prison break) committed suicide when faced with the options of battling the Punisher or going to prison himself. In issue #3, Marcus Coriander, a small time numbers runner used as a proxy crime boss by the Kingpin, accidentally kills an innocent girl while exchanging gunfire with the Punisher.
It was almost like proto-Tarantino. Both Steve Grant and Mike Zeck were on their game with this series, everything was perfectly executed. Except the cover layout artist, who SHOULD have been executed. The initial issue had a banner indicating that the series would be four issues long; however, the series had always been intended to have five issues, and the banner was an error that recurred throughout the entire run except for issue #2 which says 2 of five.
My favorite scene was when a dirty cop attempts to murder Frank in his cell. Castle uses the mattress as a bulletproof vest, hiding inside it until he can disarm the cop. It’s been too long since I read this series and the story itself has faded, but to this day I remember the amazing art, the danger of the prison and the sheer craziness of the series.