Archie Andrews meets the Punisher???

For years, the title existed as an industry joke. Perhaps Archie's parents would be slaughtered, and he would enlist the aid of Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, to deal with crime in Riverdale, crime that has led to metal detectors in his beloved high school and now, to the senseless death of his family. Or perhaps the destinies of the two characters would amalgamate; Archie Andrews would become the Punisher.

Not everyone at Archie comics was keen on this particular crossover.

But, "in a dimly lit San Diego restaurant," Victor Gorelick, then Archie's managing editor, mentioned the premise to comix impressario Batton Lash. Lash developed a script which, against all odds, manages to blend the disparate worlds of America's favourite teenager and Marvel comics' most unbalanced vigilante. He lifted the story's title from a 1950s sf flick: When Worlds Collide. In 1994, the relevant publishers gave the project the green light.

Marvel and Archie released the comic as both Archie meets the Punisher and The Punisher meets Archie. The interiors match, but the covers differ. The latter cover features the contrasting images of the title characters, while the former features a gag situation typical of Archie titles. The teens look gingerly at the heavily-armed Castle and Archie comments, "I knew there'd be a chaperone, but this is ridiculous." Josie and the Pussycats play in the background.

Between those covers, two different artists, John Buscema and Stan Goldberg illustrated; the characters retain at all times their relevant artistic styles. The result is bizarre, but it actually works. The story has the Punisher track a suspect to Riverdale; the suspect happens to resemble Arch, drawn Buscema-style. Meanwhile, Riverdale High is hosting a nostalgic retro-sock hop, so the gang are wearing the outfits with which they first achieved widespread fame. Archie has on his 50s bow tie and "R" sweater.

Moose Mason turns out to be a long-time admirer of the Punisher. Gertrude Grundy flirts with the muscular hero. Dilton Doiley gets to use the word doppelgänger. Throughout, Frank Castle remains serious and obsessed, while Archie does pratfalls.

Justice prevails, of course. The Punisher heads for his next case, in Gotham City. The final panels take us elsewhere, too. Wolverine ponders the face of "the most dangerous mutant alive"-- a dead ringer for Forsythe "Jughead" Jones.

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