Comic Flashback: Punisher #60-62 (2nd series; 1987); Remember the time when The Punisher was black?

Stepping out of Daredevil season 2, the Punisher made his Netflix debut in November. While it didn’t break the internet like the premier of Luke Cage, it garnered a decent following. With the shows set not only in the same comic universe, but in the same city, it is inevitable that the two cross paths. But have they crossed paths before in the comics?

The answer is yes, but not in the way you would have imagined….

Issues #60-62 we find the Punisher on the run from the Kingpin and Jigsaw, who have had the Punisher beaten near death and Jigsaw mutilating the Punisher’s face and now in need of some place to lay low while he recovers. He locates a former plastic surgeon who is now a junkie, and with her help, sets us up for a story arc for the ages.

Cover #60 Feb 1992

In issue #60 Frank is patched up by the junkie doctor in New York. As an added measure, the doctor hyper-accelerates Frank’s melanin glands, and the effects make his skin turn dark, giving him the appearance of a black man. He then grabs a vehicle from the doctor and decides to drive to Chicago where he has a safe house. Upon entering Chicago, he is tired and swerves across the yellow traffic line and is stopped by the police. Without any ID or way to prove his identity, the police attempt to capture him. A fight ensues and due to the Punisher’s weakened condition he is being handled by the police. Noticing the altercation while driving by, Luke Cage, who has now relocated to Chicagoand sporting a new costume as well as a more up-to-date vocabulary, steps in to save the “black man” for getting beaten by the cops.

After saving the Punisher, Cage is talked into helping him retrieve his cash and weapons from his safe house, which has now been taken over a one of the biggest drug gangs in the city. The same gang that Cage has been hired to clear out of an apartment complex in which they are trying to set up shop. The Punisher, going by the name Frank Rook, is warned by Cage about killing, and the two set out on their task. Although the cash was gone, the weapons were still there, and reluctantly Cage and Rook formed a partnership to get rid of the gang as payment for Cage helping Rook retrieve his weapons.

Cover #61 Mar 1992

In issue #61 Cage and Hook put there plan into action by sending Hook in to recon the building that the gang was attempting to take over. after fighting through initial resistance, Rook gains entry into the building and ultimately garners a meeting with the head of the drug operation. After refusing to smoke some of the drugs, Rook makes his way out of the building in true Punisher style. This upsets Cage, who continues to insist that there be no killing. Cage and Rook go to meet some of the residence of the apartment building and stumble upon them being assaulted by members of the gang. They intervene and Cage once again stops Rook from delivering a potentially fatal blow.

Cage and Rook put their plan into action and attack the building, Cage concedes to Rook that there may be fatalities, but to at least try to keep them at a minimum. Cage task Rook with gathering the remaining tenants who were cornered off in the building. Cage and Rook battle their way through the building and Rook makes it to take the tenants out but is stopped by the Head of the drug operation, who attempts to stop them. Rook and Cage are able to get the tenants out, but not before Rook kills the drug lord. Cage also notices that Rook looks a little pale. Meanwhile, Cage and Rook’s activities have gained the attention of the head of the drug cartel, who has decided to take matters into his own hands and get rid of Cage and Rook.

Cover #62 Apr 1992

In #62, the final issue of the story arc, word gets back to New York about the operator working out of Chicago with Cage, and it is pieced together that this may be the Punisher in disguise. The crime syndicate then formulates a plan to identify this new operator and take him out. Rook and Cage meanwhile are continuing their war on drugs, and Rook continues to be frustrated with Cage because of his “no killing” policy. Rook realizes that Cage is working hard on earning and maintaining a good rep in Chicago so his business can thrive. Cage reminds Rook that he is trying to build up his business and that Rooks style had to change if he wanted in. Rook realizes that his time is short and the treatment he received that darkened his skin is wearing off, so he and Cage decide to part ways.

Cage and Rook head back to the apartment they reside in separately, and on the way Rook is spotted by the crime boss who has been assigned to confirm his identity and take him out with the help of a mysterious eye witness. Arriving at the apartment, Rook and Cage say they goodbyes with Cage giving Rook a stern lecture about running from his problems and a stern warning to stay clean and not make him come after him. Rook leaves and is immediately set upon by hired mercenaries. Cage witnesses this from the window of the apartment, but it too late to stop them from incapacitating Rook and throwing him into a truck. Taken to a warehouse, the witness is revealed to be the doctor who did the procedure on him. Just when the bad guys were about to finish Rook off, Cage burst in and the pair take on the crew. In the midst of the fighting , the treatment wears off and reveals Rook to be the Punisher. Cage tells Punisher that he owes him for saving his butt again, but Punisher quickly lets Cage know not to hold any markers against him, but instead he would repay him in his own time and in his own way. He then gives Cage a stern warning about being on the edge of the law and not to cross that line or he would come after him.

Cage and Punisher’s paths would cross again in Cage #3 & #4 (June/July 1992) and Punisher is able to repay his debt.

Marcus Roberts

Marcus is a freelance writer and longtime comic book collector. He is a husband and father of two. He is also a certified Life Skills Coach with a degree in psychology. He is a moderator for the Independent Creators Connection (ICC) and ICC Anthologies groups and an administrator for the Heroes of Color page on Facebook,and the creator of Project Nexus and The Protector. Written credits include Jennifer Rash's Dream Angel , and from ICC Publishing, IHERO 3,Imperia: The Chaos of Calamity and ICC Magazine.

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