Friday, April 11, 2008

Tales From the Quarter Bin--Targitt!!

He was a former military man who saw his wife and child killed as innocent bystanders in a mob hit. After getting no justice through traditional channels, he goes on a one-man rampage against the mob, determined to kill them all...

I did that all by myself...I'm so proud!No, I'm not talking about the Punisher, you silly people. I'm talking about John Targitt, the avenging angel of death also known as TARGITT!!

Really, it is a good coverYup, it's time to once again take a dip into Atlas waters. Barely a year after Frank Castle debuted in the pages of Spider-Man, Atlas' attempts to ape all things Marvel led, surely by coincidence, to a family-avenging vigilante who had no qualms about killing the bad guys. I assure you, a complete case of synchronicity...

But unlike the fun, gritty cover by Dick Giordano, the interior art by Howard Nostrand makes for a really odd story. His style here is almost cartoony, sort of Joe Staton-like, which makes for a fairly schizophrenic contrast with our Death Wish story line.

Perhaps it was necessary to soften the art in order to get this book approved by the Code. While Marvel was having the Avengers fight "zuvembies" because you weren't allowed to portray zombies in comic book, Atlas had a reputation of pushing the line on killings and violence and such. Well, on Targitt, they smashed through that line. And the Code never smacked them down (then again, they weren't around for long...). Ric Meyers script was heavy on slaughtering bad guys, and light on moralizing.

Let's skip over the explosion of the plane his family was on (because I don't feel like scanning a 2 page spread today). Meet John Targitt, FBI agent who manages to get over the grief of his family's death awfully quickly.

Dude, they died 5 minutes ago! Grieve a little...So he travels to Boston to hunt down the mobsters responsible, but they try to take him out first:

Yes, the 'try to shoot him from the opposite escalator' trick is the oldest in the book, in use since caveman days!But he strikes back, because all rogue FBI agents are packin' knives, and know how to throw them.

Let's see Mulder do thatWe then venture in a Dirty Harry rip-off, as Targitt tortures his perp by pummeling him in the knife wound he just caused. Note the cartoony look...why, torture is almost fun!!

The 'YOWP' means it hurtsWell, the next perp in the chain continues the Dirty Harry swiping, stealing lines almost verbatim, and without irony:

Go ahead--make my dayBut John Targitt will not put up with copyright infringement!!

Have a nice day, indeedYes, his head is completely through the door. Yes, he's dead. But he's only the first, as Targitt goes on a murder spree that makes Frank Castle look like Mary Marvel (oops, not such a good example any more, is it?)

First, let's take out a hitman--Archie-style!!

Murder, Riverdale styleCartoony or not, that's dead. So, John, really--what's the best way to deal with criminals?

Well, at least he provides burials...Oh. Okay. That explains this and this:

Dead, dead, dead...Enough. I've shown you less than half of the killings this issue, including Targitt blowing up hoods with hand grenades, and shooting down the head hoodlum's helicopter.

Interestingly, while Targitt could be seen as a Punisher knock-off, it should be noted that Punisher had only appeared once by that point, and was hardly the monster success that he is today (that didn't happen until the 80's, especially after Frank Miller made him cool again in his Daredevil run). So it's not as if Atlas were aping a hot comic trend. And younger fans, especially readers of today's Punisher stories, should realize that this level of violence--especially killing with guns--was completely uncommon in 70's books. it just didn't happen, especially at the Big Two.

It's also interesting that in that first Punisher story, the hero of the comic provided a moral counterpoint to Castle's Death Wish crusade. Not so here, as there's no one trying to stop Targitt from his rampage as an "avenging angel" (actual quote from the story!!). This was a common view in films of the day, but not so much in comics, mostly because of the Code.

Of course, this was Atlas. By the next issue (seriously...they re-thought the premise after one issue!!), the title of the mag was changed to John Targitt...Man-Stalker. Targitt was given a Marvel-like costume, and was now officially working undercover for the FBI, spending less time killing mobsters, and more time preventing the "Arabs" from stopping the Alaskan pipeline from being built, so they can raise oil prices (seriously). By the third (and final) issue, Gerry Conway was on board and co-scripting, and the "Marvelization" of the book was complete:

Can a cover be any more marvel wannabe?Really, now. That could be a generic Daredevil or Captain America cover from 1975, couldn't it?? Oh, Atlas...

So the moral of the story? If Martin Goodman had stayed on as Marvel publisher, this could have been what the Punisher looked like after a couple of appearances:

Worst costume ever?


rob! said...

Targitt was one great book...and then of course Atlas (well, Martin Goodman) crapped all over it!

Marty McKee said...

This issue was probably inspired by the Executioner and other men's adventure novels by Pinnacle that were major dimestore successes at the time. The Punisher's debt to the Executioner is well known.

Anonymous said...

The Punisher was so much like the Executioner that I don't know how Marvel avoided a lawsuit.