Welcome to “Comics, Seriously,” a recurring column here on SKTCHD that’s going to take weird and inexplicable moments from comic book history and look at them in a far too serious fashion. It’s inspired by the bizarre memories we all have from years of reading comics, in which we see these characters we know and love do things that make us wonder, “What would happen if they actually did that?”
This column will do that with the help of people who have answers to that question.
Up first is what might be the first in a series of pieces related to a particular character, as he has a long history of making bad decisions that quite often involve improper use of equipment of some sort. 1 It’s a look at one of my favorite comic covers ever: 1987’s The Punisher #1, as depicted by the legend that is Klaus Janson.
Now, this is no sass to Janson, a veritable genius who does not deserve dissection by yours truly. It’s about the decision my guy Frank Castle is making there. This cover has always been hilarious to me because, as far as plans by The Punisher go, this isn’t the best one. Even I know that as a person who has only seen a bazooka fired in movies. Because of that, I’ve always wondered what exactly would happen if Frank went through with this breathtakingly bad plan. How bad of a decision would it be, exactly? To figure that out, I talked to Aaron Mehta, the Deputy Editor and Senior Pentagon Correspondent for Defense News. While his expertise is mostly in planes, he helped me dig into this situation that Frank’s got himself into, providing insight into just how big of a mistake this might be.
Let’s look at this cover in far too serious a fashion in this week’s edition of Comics, Seriously, which we’re calling…
To understand exactly what Frank was up to here, I wanted to start by exploring the kind of device he was dealing with. That would help contextualize the potential problem he was facing, as I look at what he’s wielding and I’m just like, “oh, that’s a bazooka” without knowing what that means. What kind is it, and what does that mean exactly? Mehta had answers.
“Bazooka is basically slang for what is technically known as the ‘recoilless anti-tank rocket launcher weapon,’ or recoilless rifle (Why they call that thing a rifle, I don’t know),” he said. “That looks like a Carl Gustof variant, which would have been in service across a bunch of militaries for a while when the first issue was released.
“It’s basically a man-portable anti-tank weapon.”
The premise is simple, as Mehta noted. “Put in on your shoulder, fire, explosion.” You get the gist if you’ve seen a fair amount of action movies. Which apparently Frank has not, because dang, this is not a good plan. And that’s not me supposing that for once…an expert told me!
“No, it’s not ideal firing position,” Mehta shared when prompted about that very idea. “If he’s just hanging on by (his) left hand off the skywalk there, Frank is gonna flip back.
“But frankly, at that range, that’s probably the least of his issues.”
While it’s not ideal, it is theoretically doable. Even if the weapon is suggested to be used with a two-man crew 2 and it’s certainly not advantageous to dangle from a rope while firing it; a man of Frank’s strength could do it. 3 But this weapon is suggested to be fired from a minimum distance of ten meters from your target, which, even with the inexact science of eyeing a comic cover, seems like a minimum that Frank does not meet. As Mehta said, “Bad idea, Frank! That’s way, way to close.” 4
But let’s look at the truly worrisome part of what Frank is dealing with, and that’s the range problem Mehta alluded to above. What would happen if he actually fired from that distance?
“It’s…gonna be ugly,” Mehta said. As he shared, it would devastate that entire room and everyone in it while likely taking out the lower and upper floors connected to it in the process. It’d have a significant area of effect, which wouldn’t be good news for anyone in the building, really.
That’s of course if it would fire. Mehta noted that the ideal distance for a modern bazooka is over 100 meters away, and on a lot of these weapons, they won’t even arm if “it’s under that distance because of safety concerns.” Thank god for safety concerns! While Mehta was unsure if this would apply to the technology of that era, “it actually might be better for Frank” if it did, because at that point it would just be a projectile and not explode everywhere. Because, again, let’s face it: Frank would be a big loser here if it did.
“As to Frank – assuming the blast doesn’t come back on him and kill him or force him to lose his grip or crumble the wall, the backblast will send him spinning around and he’ll probably lose his grip and fall.”
So that confirms my long-time suspicions. While Frank Castle is not exactly a man known for sound decision-making processes, this might be his magnum opus, as it’d likely be curtains for him and everyone else involved. Maybe back up a little bit, my guy, 5 and get some protection for your ears while you’re at it. Or maybe find a different line of work!
Thanks to Mehta for the insight, and if you’re enjoying the content on SKTCHD, please consider subscribing to the site!
The second person can help stabilize against a backblast, which happens even if it is called a “recoilless” weapon.”↩
To that last point and the general way Frank seems to be lugging the bazooka around, Mehta said, “It seems kinda painful.” Agreed.↩
Additional note: Get some ear protection, Frank! Mehta warned of hearing damage and of recent research by Center for a New American Security that connected these kinds of weapons with concussions, which can’t be great for Frank’s already fragile mindset.↩
Worth noting: Within the comic itself, Frank does fire from a building across the street, but I suppose that would make for a much less interesting cover.↩