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The Bunisher, as a concept and a character, has roots intertwined with my first discoveries of superhero comics, along with some of the most outrageous and action-packed sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies of my childhood.
The origins of the Bunisher occured around 1989, when at age 10, I was in my final year of primary school. I had a pet rabbit, named Radar, and on a whim one evening I thought it would be fun to draw his head on the body of a super-hero; reprints of American Superman comics had started to appear in British newsagents about a year beforehand. However, Marvel UK had just begun to reprint the comics of an altogether different character, one who captured my juvenile attention like nothing else before. 'The Punisher'; an AK-47 wielding urban vigilante; a sociopathic Vietnam veteran, with an effigy of a ghoulish human skull emblazened across his chest.
The storyline which kicked it all off was Steve Grant and Mike Zeck's classic mini-series, 'Circle of Blood'. It established the Punisher's lone wolf status, the high octane action and the twisted yet heroic morals of the character. I still think it's one of the best arcs the Punisher has featured in. At that time, my Bunisher remained nothing more than a visual pun, an unlikely subject that I would doodle in my spare time.
A couple of years later a storyline of the Bunisher began to form in my head. By 1993 I had been heavily influenced by the diverse anthropomorphic adventures of Mirage Studios' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and by the sci-fi and action movies I'd been renting out whilst visiting my grandparents (it was to my fortune that they hadn't yet grasped the british film certification system, or I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the likes of Robocop, Predator, Die-Hard, Total Recall and Highlander).
The film which most heavily inspired the fantasy world brewing in my psyche was Tim Burton's super hero sequel, Batman Returns. The gothic atmosphere of tragedy, the operatic action, and the general sense of a fairytale plot unfolding in a contemporary setting; under these influences the Bunisher began to lose all resemblance to his macho gun-toting namesake, and instead started to become something far more mysterious and primal. At age 14, as I plotted my urban fantasy at my darkened bedroom desk, Danny Elfman's brooding score played continuous loop on my stereo. And Radar, my unlikely muse, sat by my side. I finished writing the story after a few months, and the notes sat in my desk, unread, for seven years to follow.
In early 2000, I was in the last few months of my Computational Physics degree at Edinburgh University. I wanted to try my hand at producing a small-press comic book of my own; a story which would be stand-alone, require little set-up and next to no dialogue (my confidence as a scripter was yet to develop). Because of my personal attachment to the long dormant Bunisher storyline, I chose to adapt it's climactic final act, the life-or-death struggle between the Bunisher and his arch-nemesis, the lethally mutated tree-frog.
This became 'The Virginia Gallery No.1', and over the two years to follow I produced four more issues, which went back and retold the rest of the Bunisher's tale. After over seven years away from the tale, I was able to introduce new elements to improve and enrich the story, although the plot was largely unchanged. Looking back over it, the flaws in this first effort are plain to see, and yet despite any miss-steps in the five issue series, it still has the power to excite, engage, and enthrall (even if I do say so myself). I'll be posting each of the issues on the website over the next few months, so please check back regularly for updates. You're in for a treat...