The Punisher is a fan favorite Marvel character, but he’s never been successful in cinemas. Though each of the three disparate film adaptations have their own cult fandoms, they all bombed at the box office, and 1989’s Dolph Lundgren version didn’t even see a theatrical release. Frank Castle just wasn’t cutting it on the big screen.
Instead, Netflix is going to insert the character, now played by The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal, into the upcoming second season of Daredevil, premiering on March 18th, before giving him his own series. [Ed. Or maybe not? We thought it was happening when we greenlit the article!]
Here is our list of We Want To See In The Punisher On Netflix.
The Punisher will be making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in season 2 of Daredevil, but we anticipate that the rivalry/begrudging partnership between the two street-level titans will continue to be explored through subsequent seasons, including on The Punisher. Daredevil and Punisher have a rich history together in comics, and based on promotional images of Daredevil season 2, it seems at least one of their confrontations is being lifted straight from the pages of Welcome Back, Frank, with Daredevil chained up on a rooftop and at Punisher’s mercy.
Daredevil, despite his vigilante leanings, still believes in the justice system, hence his day job. Meanwhile, Frank Castle, a man who has lost everything, has nothing to look forward to other than his next kill, the next step in his endless quest to continue killing mobsters for the rest of his life. It’s a fundamental difference which gives their characters great chemistry in print, a chemistry we hope extends to television.
A High Body Count
Frank Castle is unlike any other MCU heroes. He has no superpowers, no Stark-esque technology to balance the odds, and no higher authority to report to; no S.H.I.E.L.D, no Odin, and no God. He doesn’t have enhanced senses or a magic hammer. All he has is his hatred of the scum of New York City and enough bullets for each and every one of them.
While the violence in Daredevil and Jessica Jones sometimes appeared to be in poor taste because of the strict ethical code of their protagonists, this dissonance won’t be a problem for The Punisher, who ventures out into the cold dark on a nightly basis looking for gangsters to kill in as brutal a fashion as the writers can imagine. When gangsters kill innocents and blow up storefronts in Daredevil, we know that, at best, they’re going to get beat up and arrested, but Frank Castle delivers swift and extreme justice to those who earn his ire, with few, if any, survivors.
A War Weary Anti-Hero
“Why do you kill them?”
“I hate them.”
“Oh. I thought it might be because you wanted to make the world safe for good people.”
–Welcome Back, Frank
Calling The Punisher an anti-hero is the understatement of the year: in the comics, his kill count is in the thousands, and when he uncovers a criminal operation, he dismantles it, one principled murder-spree at a time. But there’s more to his character than being the survivor of a mob hit which kills his wife and children. Frank Castle, as written by Garth Ennis (more on him later), was in love with war, and symbolically made a deal with the devil to continue killing for the rest of his life… or maybe he literally made the deal, if you’re into that sort of thing.
It’s not just revenge, it’s preying on those who prey on the weak. It’s righteous, it’s complicated, and it’s ripe for exploration in this Netflix series. Jon Bernthal is too young to have been a Vietnam vet, so, we reckon they’ll update the setting to more modern conflicts and try to keep the characterization intact.
One of the biggest surprises of Jessica Jones‘s first season was the introduction of Will Simpson, a.k.a. Nuke, a super soldier who resembles a psychotic bizarro version of Captain America. Presented in Jessica Jones as a deeply conflicted character whose problems stem from self-medication and fantasy drug addiction, as well as a lust for killing evil-doers and an unhealthy dose of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he could just as easily be a target of The Punisher as he may be an ally.
Still, any partnership will be short-lived; Frank Castle never harms innocents, at one point very nearly committing suicide after he believes one of his own stray bullets killed a bystander. Meanwhile, Simpson has shown in Jessica Jones that he leaves no witnesses. We envision a situation in which Simpson persuades Castle to assist him on a high-risk mission. Once it’s finished, Castle will surely put him down like the rabid dog he is.
“Do I do your makeup for you?”
–Punisher: War Zone
As The Punisher’s most iconic villain, and one of his very few recurring menaces (refer back to entry #9 on this list for why), Jigsaw appearing in this series isn’t so much a question of “if,” but of “when.” Jigsaw was the main villain of 2008’s underrated Punisher: War Zone, the most recent appearance of the character on the screen, so we expect the producers to hold off on introducing him into the series for at least a little while, though they will likely allude to his alter ego, Billy Russo, premiere pretty boy of the Italian Mafia.
Maybe they’ll introduce the handsome Russo in Daredevil and have The Punisher disfigure him, but then Daredevil prevent Frank from finishing him off, allowing Russo to escape and eventually re-emerge as a threat when we least expect…
Barracuda is a monster. One of extremely few Garth Ennis antagonists to get a second chance at taking down Frank, and probably the one who came the closest to succeeding, Barracuda is a massive truck of a man.
Throughout his appearances in The Punisher, Fury: My War Gone By, and his own 5-issue miniseries, Barracuda does things which cannot be recounted here, for they are so vile and horrific. He takes the aura of fear he radiates by being a gigantic bald black dude, all the imagery which his visage inspires in scared white folks, and uses it to his advantage. His is an animalistic brute, but he is so intelligently-written he is able to avoid being dismissed as a racist caricature, and he is shown to be in stark contrast to the white-collar criminals who dominate his first arc in the comics and in whose employ he constantly finds himself, much to his own chagrin. Simply put, there’s nobody else like Barracuda.
Guns. Lots of guns.
“What do we never do?”
“Play with guns?”
–Punisher: Mother Russia
Regardless of where one falls on the gun control debate, second amendment rights, and military spending, there’s no denying that Americans love guns, and Frank Castle is no exception. Guns look great on film, they spit fire, and they can make weak people look strong. In comics and movies, Frank has utilized a veritable arsenal of weaponry, from Desert Eagle hand cannons to sawn-off shotguns to fully automatic rifles and beyond.
We look forward to that tradition continuing here. We also expect The Punisher to make full use of landmines, plastic explosives, knives, knuckle-dusters, and all sorts of other implements of death. This is another case where being an R-rated show will come in handy: we want the violence to be as brutally believable as possible. This isn’t an action series; it’s a war zone.
The Battlevan & Microchip
The Battlevan is a hilariously named vehicle which Frank and his sometimes-sidekick Microchip ride around in. It’s good at keeping the children safe because kids are programmed from birth to avoid large vans driven by middle-aged balding men. Microchip is, of course, said middle-aged man, a hacker extraordinaire who often supplies Frank with state-of-the-art weapons and equipment.
While we wouldn’t care to see The Punisher dragging around a sidekick everywhere he goes, we think the character could be an interesting addition to the Netflix series; someone who agrees with Frank’s war on organized crime and is willing to give him leads and the heavy ordinance required to act on them. Meanwhile, Bernthal’s Punisher probably shouldn’t have an underground lair as he sometimes did in the comics. To stay more true to the realistic aesthetics of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, perhaps a new Battlevan of sorts can be used to stash extra munitions and make for a quick getaway after a successful battle.
While the Netflix series are way on the opposite end of the spectrum from the big-screen adventures of Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of The Avengers, we would like to see Nick Fury, of all characters, appear in The Punisher’s solo series. A vastly more bitter and battle-hardened version of Fury appeared in Punisher MAX, as well as an appearance by Castle in My War Gone By, another seminal story by Garth Ennis.
While very little is known of the backstory of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, perhaps he could appear as an old ally of Castle’s. Maybe Fury had enlisted him during his army days to do some covert wetwork and now requires his service for the type of mission no Avenger, not even Black Widow, would ever accept. Plus, we’d love to see Jackson have a meltdown, take off his belt, and whip a general into submission.
Garth Ennis Stories
While he didn’t create Frank Castle, Garth Ennis brought him back down to Earth. The Punisher is such an outsider in the Marvel universe, so it was a challenge to integrate him with his super-powered peers. This led to such ridiculous stories as the Frankencastle and Purgatory arcs. Ennis knew that Frank is at his best on the street, fighting a gritty, no-holds barred war on the criminal underworld.
Welcome Back, Frank was partly adapted into the 2004 Punisher film with Thomas Jane, but its tone was much more dour, closer to Ennis’s later work in Punisher MAX. Meanwhile, 2008’s Punisher: War Zone was based somewhat on the grim tales of MAX, but borrowed the more irreverent, darkly comic tone of Welcome Back, Frank. Go figure. For Netflix’s series, we’re hoping for straight adaptations of Punisher MAX stories like The Slavers and Up is Down and Black is White, with the “Marvel Netflix Tone” which Daredevil and Jessica Jones have already nailed down.
Can you think of anything else that would make a great addition to the Punisher series on Netflix? Let us know in the comments!