With the coming of Marvel Legacy, many titles from the House of Ideas will be taking a “back to basics” approach, but the cover for The Punisher indicates Frank Castle will be moving in an exciting new direction. However, the concept has roots nearly 30 years old.
The cover revealed the Punisher will be the take up the armor — and possibly the mantle — of War Machine, fulfilling a void left since Thanos killed James Rhodes in 2016’s Free Comic Book Day issue of Civil War II.
While the storyline might seem like a new take, beloved comic writer Dwayne McDuffie pitched a similar story in the late ‘80s with writer John Rozum. Mark Bright provided some concept art. McDuffie passed away in 2011 but this is yet another example of the creator’s widespread legacy.
The story, called The Killing Machine, was recently brought up by Taimur Dar of the Beat during their report on the new Punisher series. It features the Punisher stealing Iron Man's Guardian armor, as designed by Tony Stark, then painting his patented skull on the chest and mounting heavy weaponry to take on the Kingpin.
The story pitch predates Rhodes’ debut as the War Machine by a few years, who didn’t appear in Iron Man comics as the armored ally until 1992. Dar points out that McDuffie’s proposed plan for a sequel even includes Rhodes getting his own black Iron Man armor.
Check out the pitch below, and you can check out McDuffie’s other pitches and scripts at his archived website.
McDuffie and Rozum's Pitch
Proposal For a Limited Series
The Punisher and Iron Man
THE KILLING MACHINE
Dwayne McDuffie/John Rozum
First Draft, 12/3/89
Since the day the mob gunned down his family, FRANK CASTLE has unswervingly dedicated himself to his one-man war on crime as THE PUNISHER. Using only his wits, and an arsenal of the world's most advanced military hardware, he has systematically weakened the underworld's stranglehold on the law-abiding populace. But the Punisher is only one man, and even for a man as skilled and obsessed as Frank Castle, it's only a matter of time before his number comes up. And when the time finally comes, it's the Kingpin's fast-rising lieutenant, a man known only as RAPIDFIRE, who's got that number. Surviving their first encounter only through sheer luck, the Punisher decides that, if he's to continue to survive, it's time to upgrade his arsenal. And he does so, through his meticulously-planned theft of one of the most awesome weapons on the face of the Earth, Tony Stark's invincible GUARDSMAN armor!
What happens when the ultimate vigilante gets his hands on the ultimate weapon..?
The Punisher and Iron Man
THE KILLING MACHINE
It's during a routine raid on a drug warehouse that the Punisher first meets, and is nearly killed by, the Kingpin's new enforcer, RAPIDFIRE. Rapidfire is a new villain armed with a needle-firing rail gun, and high-tech armor of his own. He will serve as the bridge between the gritty, down-and-dirty world of the Punisher, and the super-scientific world of Iron Man. Believing the Punisher dead, he returns to his own plans to take over the Kingpin's organization.
As the Punisher recovers, he realizes that his war will continue to go badly, as long as the enemy has superior firepower. With his confidant, MICROCHIP, the Punisher hatches a plan to steal a suit of Guardsman armor from the high-security super-villain prison, the Vault.
A few months later, the Punisher implements his complex, "Mission Impossible" style plan to steal a suit of the armor during the transfer of a super-villain from the Vault to his trial. After stealing the armor (and killing the super-villain when he takes a shot at the Punisher), the Punisher disappears for several weeks, leaving the hapless, denuded Guardsman to explain to his superiors how a normal man got the best of him.
Tony Stark, millionaire industrialist, and inventor of the Guardsman armor (as well as his own, slightly more powerful IRON MAN armor) is only somewhat upset at the theft, until reports of who has the armor, reach him.
The Punisher has customized his armor (painting it black with the requisite skull insignia on the chest-plate, mounting a gattling gun on one shoulder and a retractable missile launcher on the other) and gone on a vigilante spree, the likes of which the world has never seen. He's headed for the Kingpin, and not incidentally, Rapidfire. The Kingpin, of course, expects this. But he doesn't expect Rapidfire's forthcoming treachery.
Tony Stark has begun searching for the Punisher, aided by a beautiful DEA agent named Bianca James who, though Stark doesn't know it, is actually on the take from Kingpin. When their partnership turns to romance, a potentially explosive situation heats up considerably.
A huge shipment of tainted drugs, an equally large shipment of high-tech weaponry, (manufactured at one of Stark's factories without his knowledge), a war between Rapidfire and the Kingpin for control of the underworld and an all out battle between the Punisher and Iron Man, are the highpoints of this proposed limited series.
The conflicting forces are set in motion. The Punisher wants both Rapidfire and the Kingpin dead. Rapidfire wants the Kingpin's empire, Stark wants his armor back. The Kingpin wants the Punisher dead and to thwart Rapidfire's doublecross. And the answer to the question of what Bianca wants will decide the fate of them all.
At the series' conclusion, the status quo is restored as Punisher loses the armor, but saves the day --reaffirming that it's the man using the hardware, not the hardware itself, that makes the difference. And, whether Iron Man likes it or not, the Punisher does make a difference.
This is a proposal for a four-issue bookshelf-format limited series. Sales points include the Punisher, of course, but this is a Punisher we've never seen before. The Punisher in armor is almost as great a visual as it is a sales hook. Also, Iron Man is a consistent top twenty seller who has never had prestige format treatment. Finally, it would be the first meeting of two of Marvel's most popular characters. There aren't too many situations in the Marvel Universe like that left to exploit. Can we get started? Can we? Can we?
Since its inception, Marvel has been delivering groundbreaking heroes and explosive stories. Now, prepare to return to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC – when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Star Brand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1!