There was a sniper in the sales department of the Marvel Comics office.
We were hunkered down behind desks, chairs, filing cabinets but we were slowly getting picked off one by one. It was dark but a little light filtered in from the fluorescent lights of the editorial department behind us and from the windows the lights of New York city reached even to the tenth floor. We strained our eyes into the shadowy recesses, trying to see where the shots were coming from, but the sniper might as well have been Sue Storm.
So naturally we had to give up. Being all dead and all.
Jim Novak had started all of the trouble. He was the “miscreant” Jim mentioned in More Strange Tales: War at Marvel. Jim Novak, master letterer and major talent, was the production manager at the time. One day he brought in this cool pump action toy gun he had bought. It fired these soft rubber bullets and it was so cool! The bullpen and even some of the editors couldn’t stop playing with it. So, of course, we all had to have one. We plied Jim with money and waited anxiously until he went to the toy store again.
War was inevitable at that point.
On the tenth floor of 387 Park Avenue South there were two office cultures existing side by side. If you went left out of the reception area you reached the sales, promotion and subscription departments. If you went right you walked toward the bullpen, editorial offices and the mailroom. But the gulf between the two sides was wider than just an office building floor. A lot of us in the bullpen didn’t know that much about what went on over there. But we knew this… they went home earlier than we did. All of them.
Heck, we had so much fun working together in the bullpen that we hardly wanted it to end. We would often go out after work in a group for dinners or activities. That was a great bunch and one of the most wonderful times of my life. When we got the guns we played around a bit in the bullpen, but couldn’t get too serious around the staffers who were still working. Bullets, even rubber ones, and ink don’t mix. But there was that lovely dark, deserted area on the other side of the tenth floor.
Sometimes we had teams, sometimes we picked a guy to be “it.” One night it was Squid’s turn. John (Squid)(Jack) Morelli was athletic, nimble, fast, tough and fearless. An amateur body builder from the mean streets of Brooklyn. Squid used to jump down onto the subway tracks and run across three or four sets of rails to change trains! Sometimes with transit cops in hot pursuit! In the 30 second head start we gave him he managed to clamber (silently) up a six foot high file cabinet and hide in the tiny space between the top of the file and the soffit. Hidden in a dark nook amongst the notebooks and boxes of paper where we never imagined anyone could fit, much less climb into, he picked off all his hunters until we cried uncle. Little rubber bullets littered the area, but I don’t think even one came near him. We turned on the lights and told him to come out, looking around to solve the mystery of where he had hidden. When he crawled out and jumped down off that file cabinet it broke everybody up.
We tried to collect all of our little yellow bullets after the games, but I’m sure the staffers who’s area we invaded on these nightly raids wondered why they kept finding them in odd places like their coffee mugs and in boxes. They probably just shrugged their shoulders. They knew what we were like. (Hey PAD, you were in the sales dept at the time, right?)
But just like all gateway drugs, those toy guns led to harder stuff.
I don’t remember who first suggested this new thing… paintball. But it sounded like it might be cool. An initial foray was organized to a paintball field upstate to a place near Newburgh and early one Saturday morning a small group of us met outside the Marvel offices. It was so early that some of the Park Avenue hookers were still out. They were scary in the daylight.
For that first time, we didn’t have all of our camo clothing and masks and we rented guns at the field. I remember feeling really intimidated by the other, more experienced players who made fun of us (and were kind of jerks) but in the very first game we did really well! We caught on quick and had a blast. It was a lot of fun and we knew we needed more. The only bad part was being grouped on a team with those jerks, and the obvious solution was to organize a large enough fighting force to have a team of our own. Thus the Marvel Punishers were born.
After that it was an addiction. Carl Potts did a great job organizing a lot of things with Steve Buccellato and Hector Collazo, I think. I remember Carl, John Wellington, myself and a couple of others bought our own paintball guns, a really good one at the time, the Carter Comp gun. We had special camo t-shirts printed up with a big Punisher skull that Carl drew (Carl, I still have it!). The t-shirts were cool-looking, but turned out to make a really good target for the other side to hit. So, we had some less prominent embroidered patches made.
We even went in for Airsoft guns that shot hard little plastic bullets and went out to Phil Felix’s farm in western New Jersey to practice with them. Those things hurt when they hit you. And I accidentally shot Morrelli in a very tender spot. I still feel bad about it. But see, paintballs break up when you shoot into brush. So I shot at a figure crouching behind some underbrush, not thinking that the darn little projectile would pass right through it. But it was the best time I can remember. We really were at our best when playing with all our own guys. I think everyone honestly liked one another.
We went on one weekend paintball trip to a place in Pennsylvania called Wolf’s Lair. That was an extensive paintball field with different types of fields to play in including a village and a kind of castle. It was an overnight trip and we got a bit of a shock when they dropped us off at our “barracks.” There was nothing to sleep on except rows of bare particle board bunks. We hadn’t known to bring sleeping bags! So we spent a cold night trying to get some sleep in the unheated structure. In other words, not much sleep. Another trip we went to West Point to battle the cadets. First time out I think they beat us, but once we caught on to their unusual, but predictable fighting style, the second time out we beat ‘em. We often had chaos and unpredictability on our side.
|Carl Potts and the Spartan accommodations at Wolf’s Lair.
I also found out an odd thing about myself. If I tried to aim carefully I could pop away all day at a guy and almost never hit him, but if someone became a moving target, they were dead! For some reason, adrenaline maybe(?), I can pick off moving targets like crazy. I was pretty slim in those days and could hide in small spaces so I tried some Jack Morelli sniper action myself a few times.
Squid woulda been proud.
|Marvel Punishers from a later game
JayJay Jackson, Bob Sharon, Dan Raspler, ?, Steve Buccellato, ?, Don Daley, Carl Potts, John Wellington and a mysterious masked player.
|Carl Potts in his amazing Spanish Foreign Legion paratrooper camo that made him invisible!