One of the next big names from the annals of the Marvel Comics Universe that will come to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be The Punisher, when Daredevil returns to Netflix for its second season in 2016. Fans are anxiously waiting to see how their favorite vigilante, Frank Castle (played now by The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal), will turn out; including, how true he will be to the most beloved comic versions of Castle.
The original Punisher debuted in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #129 as a rather one-dimensional assassin. In fact, that was his original name, The Assassin, but the creative teams wanted to turn him to the good side and use the character more down the road, so he got a better name. Then you have the original mini-series and run of the 1980s and '90s; this is the Frank Castle that a lot of fans grew up on, the steely eyed hardened Vietnam war vet who ripped (sometimes literally) through every imaginable organization, villain and even hero that Marvel could imagine.
IGN recently caught up with Marvel Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, at the premiere of the new Marvel Comics Netflix series Jessica Jones and questioned him about the possibility of The Punisher getting his own series after his appearance in the upcoming second season of the Daredevil series. Quesada had the following to offer:
"I think we'd love to see something happen, but its way too soon to tell and we don't necessarily like to discuss which metrics we use to decide these things. But what I can tell you is that anyone who is a hardcore Punisher fan is going to be blown away and incredibly satisfied by Bernthal's take on Frank Castle. He is...its one of those cases where its the character from the pages come to life."
Anyone who has spent a long time reading comic books may be questioning the ambiguity of that statement from Queseda. After all, to say that a character is coming to life right off the pages of the comics is rather vague. You can take almost any character that has been around for a few decades, much less one like The Punisher, who debuted way back in 1974, and find multiple variations and takes on the character, due to creative teams needing to keep the stories fresh over the years. No one is going to pitch a fit about getting a true to the comics version of The Punisher, but which one should it be?
Queseda himself edited a fresh new take on the Marvel Comics Universe in the late 1990s called Marvel Knights. This series, under Queseda's direction, resurrected The Punisher as a sort of demon hunter with a funky glowing symbol on his forehead, an idea that was short lived. The Marvel Knights imprint was used by Garth Ennis to revive Frank Castle once more in 2000-01 for a 12-issue miniseries. This lead to an ongoing series and eventually a new era under the Max imprint, boasting more realistic and gritty art and storytelling. Comic books had changed and now one of the more brutal and imposing anti-heroes to ever grace the pages of Marvel Comics had caught-up to the fold.
This appears to be where Jon Bernthal is taking his inspiration. This era of The Punisher spawned yet another film in 2004, starring Thomas Jane as Frank Castle, that was well-meaning, but still fell a bit short for many fans. Although Jane did spark some serious fan interest when he financed his own Punisher short film in 2012, titled Dirty Laundry, to showcase for the fans at San Diego Comic Con. The last feature film version of The Punisher came in the ultra-violent Punisher: War Zone back in 2008. The imposing Ray Stevenson portrayed a dark and certainly violent version of Frank Castle, very akin to the 1990s comic book of the same name.
Whichever version of The Punisher fans are dished in the second season of Daredevil, it has to be one that we can take seriously if he is going to fit inside the confines of the series and the new Marvel Universe, so the Ennis/Max-era Frank Castle is the most likely way to go.
Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones Season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage Season 1 and Daredevil Season 2 (a.k.a. Daredevil V Punisher) will premiere on Netflix in 2016. Iron Fist and The Defenders will arrive sometime thereafter.