Did Marvel just declare war on DC? You can't blame fans from jumping to this conclusion with the news breaking today that Marvel's The Punisher has announced its long-awaited release date. The new series starring Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle will begin streaming on Netflix on Friday, November 17th. If that date rings a bell, it should, because November 17th is the release date of some other superhero project fans have been looking forward to - Justice League. By planting their flag on the same day as the Justice League had long been waiving theirs, are Marvel and Netflix purposely taking aim at rival DC? Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Punisher's release date has been a subject of speculation for many months, fueled by their own cryptic marketing campaign which purposely played coy with the actual release date. Marvel and Netflix were set to make a major announcement at The Punisher panel at New York Comic Con at the beginning of October, but they canceled the event out of respect for the real-life Las Vegas shooting tragedy on October 1st. Some speculated that the announcement at the scrapped Punisher panel would have been the release date, possibly during the month of October, with a buffer between The Punisher and Netflix's other high-profile series, Stranger Things season 2 on October 27th. The Punisher's release date was ultimately pushed back to an unspecified date. Now we know the date for sure: November 17th is the date Frank Castle's guns start blazing.
Pushing The Punisher's release date as far from a real-life tragedy eerily similar to the basic subject matter of the series was the only rational course of action for Netflix. Their schedule in October was already crowded with high profile new releases like Mindhunter, produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, on October 13th, with the aforementioned Stranger Things 2 looking to be huge as it smartly drops during Halloween weekend. Marvel and Netflix also never officially confirmed any release date for The Punisher, in October or otherwise, until today, so it's very possible the November release date was what they would have announced at NYCC.
November 17th begs the question, however, why this day of all days in November? Pushing closer to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States would be counter-productive for Netflix to schedule an ultra-violent Marvel vigilante show on a day known for spending time with your family feasting and watching football. But why not earlier in November? Will The Punisher setting its sights on Justice League hurt the DC superhero blockbuster, or vice versa? It's not likely.
Justice League v The Punisher is the first time Netflix has released a Marvel series head to head with a DC Film. In 2016, Daredevil season 2 released 7 days before Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hit movie theaters. Looking at their numbers, both projects did very well for themselves. Daredevil's second season is the most watched of any Marvel/Netflix series thus far, topping The Defenders, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. Meanwhile, Batman V Superman, despite its poor critical reception, opened with a massive $166-million first weekend - the weekend it would be most impacted by Daredevil - and went on to gross in excess of $873-million worldwide, and while it saw a big initial drop-off, those numbers are attributed to poor reviews and word of mouth, not Netflix binge watchers. Neither was hurt by the other. Both projects found their audiences. It was an exciting time for comic book movie fandom, with DC presenting Batman meeting Superman for the first time in a movie while Marvel was showcasing Daredevil encountering the Punisher for the first time in live action as well.
Rather than The Punisher and Justice League going head to head damaging each other by forcing fans to choose, if anything, fans are going to be treated to what will essentially be a Superhero Holiday Weekend from November 17-19 on top what's already a gigantic month for comic book movies. The anticipation for Justice League, fueled in no small part by the wildly positive reception that greeted Wonder Woman over the summer, is already high. Justice League's major competition at the box office will actually be Thor: Ragnarok, a sure-fire hit fans are also rabidly excited for, which will be in its third weekend. With both those films in theaters and an entire Marvel Netflix series in the form of The Punisher waiting for them on their streaming devices, fans are getting an embarrassment of Marvel and DC riches in November. There's ample cause for excitement for all fans. The biggest problem for many will be finding the time to watch it all.
While they are both comic book properties, The Punisher and Justice League are also targeted to different audiences in the overall fandom. Justice League is designed as a four-quadrant movie, meant to appeal to the widest possible audience of all age groups. The Punisher, a bloody and violent tale of a gun-toting vigilante, skews towards an older and predominantly male fan base who have embraced that character. Not all comic book properties are alike, and you don't get more different than brightly-attired superheroes fighting off an alien invasion contrasted against a street-level lone wolf conducting a private blood war against criminals. (Though Batman himself would normally fall under that latter category were he not cheerleading the gathering of a demi-goddess, a merman, a speedster, and a cyborg.)
There are of course fans who are fiercely loyal to one comic book company over the other. Some DC fans cry foul at Marvel dropping The Punisher on Justice League's release date. Other DC fans don't look upon Frank Castle as a threat to the Justice League's box office power. There will be Marvel fans who thrill to the idea that the Punisher alone can possibly take down the mighty Justice League and hobble their opening weekend haul. However, it's healthier to see The Punisher v Justice League not as a war but as a surplus; even more comic book bang for fans on the weekend of November 17th.
What will be your priority on November 17th weekend? Will you be All In with the Justice League or will you be binging The Punisher first? Let us know in the comments.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017