Netflix’s The Punisher, starring The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal, has just wrapped production on its first season. With a little luck, it will be the first of many. So far, the show is slated to include comic book villains as varied as Jigsaw, the disfigured psychopath to be played by Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian), and William Rawlins, a duplicitous CIA agent with a sadistic streak scarcely covered up by his sociopathic delusions of patriotism. This vile character will be portrayed by Paul Schulze (Rambo, Nurse Jackie)
As compelling as Rawlins and Jigsaw are sure to be, it is unclear if they will be the main bad guys in the series, or if Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher, will go toe-to-toe with any other of his comic book adversaries. Either way, the Netflix series is bound to enjoy a level of success on par with Daredevil and Jessica Jones, making future seasons a seemingly inevitable eventuality. Here are 15 Comic Book Villains We Want To See In The Punisher On Netflix.
Tony Masters has the uncanny ability of “photographic reflexes,” the power to effortlessly recreate any action he witnesses. By watching people fight, he can learn their techniques almost instantaneously and match their skills in combat. He is a mercenary, a man loyal to nothing but battle and improving his own abilities. He’s usually a villain, or in league with villains, but if the price is right, he will work alongside SHIELD, and is sometimes written as something of a neutral anti-hero.
Taskmaster is a character who, despite his decidedly fantastical nature, is generally seen in street-level stories and grounded adventures. As a mercenary, he is uninterested in conquering worlds or collecting Infinity Stones; he’s in it for the money and the pride, and that would make him a fitting enemy for The Punisher, who does not seek fortune or glory. Frank Castle doesn’t have a goal in his one-man war on crime; he will just continue to kill until the bitter end.
Lonnie Thompson Lincoln is an African American albino hitman who shaved down his teeth to give himself the visage of a blood-sucking vampire. In the comics, he gets a degree of superhuman strength and resistances due to exposure to an experimental Oscorp formula, but the 6’7″ gangster wouldn’t necessarily need to be superhuman to be an intimidating threat in the Netflix corner of the MCU. He’s a gigantic gangster, and that’s all the character needs to go to battle with The Punisher.
In the comics, Tombstone went to high school with none other than The Daily Bugle’s Robbie Robertson (who is presumably not related to The Band’s Robbie Robertson), with whom he had a long-running feud. While it doesn’t look as though J. Jonah Jameson will be appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Punisher would be the perfect opportunity to bring in Marvel’s most famous newspaper, and, if not its hot-headed editor, at least his second-in-command, Mr. Robertson.
The Punisher usually ignores universe-ending threats like Galactus and Thanos. He doesn’t have superpowers, so he’s not really a superhero. He’s also not like Batman or Iron Man; he doesn’t have powered suits or fantastical gadgets. He has guns, grenades, and the iron willpower of a man with nothing to lose. He usually goes up against organized crime, usually New York-based criminal enterprises.
Hammerhead is a mobster who was beaten to a pulp and left for dead in an alley before being rescued by surgeon Jonas Harrow, who replaced most of his skull with steel, leaving him with his obvious namesake. Hammerhead is obsessed with old-timey gangster movies and models his criminal empire after those of the 1920s. He fancies himself as a newfangled Al Capone, if his cranium was lined with nigh-unbreakable steel.
Roussel Dupont, also known as Rapido, is a former member of the French Foreign Legion who became a mercenary… Oh, and he’s a cyborg like The Winter Soldier, having had his right arm replaced with a high-tech Gatling gun which also shoots grenades. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and he’s often seen alongside Batroc the Leaper, a fellow French mercenary.
Batroc appeared briefly in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so it would be cool to see an MCU version of Batroc’s Brigade, led by a returning George St-Pierre. A common complaint of the Netflix shows is that they have little-to-no crossover with the main MCU canon, even when compared to the relatively anemic cross-promotion of Agents of SHIELD and the recently-cancelled Agent Carter. Bringing Rapido into the fold, alongside Batroc, would alleviate those concerns. Though, if they go up against Frank Castle, he won’t aim to wound – he shoots to kill.
11. General Zakharov
A Garth Ennis creation, General Nikolai Zakharov, served his country during the Russian war in Afghanistan. He ordered the murders of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and even went so far as to throw a defenseless baby off a cliff. His lack of emotion during these brutal acts of unspeakable violence earned him the nickname, “Man of Stone.”
During Ennis’s storied run with The Punisher, Castle came up against the nationalistic Russian general twice; once during a mission in Russia as a favor to his old friend, Nick Fury, and later in Afghanistan, where he teamed up with William Rawlins in an effort to take out The Punisher.
It would be tough to directly adapt Mother Russia and Man of Stone, the two storylines in which Zakharov appears, since they are so much larger in scale than the average Punisher story, but if showrunner Steve Lightfoot can find a way to bring in the old-school Soviet general and use that character to tell a tale about war heroes and war criminals, such risky storytelling would be well worth the effort.
10. Ma Gnucci
Some of Garth Ennis’s Punisher stories are grimly uncompromising historical fiction or have their roots in real-life issues, but some of them skew more towards the realm of black comedy, complete with over-the-top villains and outrageously creative displays of ridiculous violence. One of Ennis’s first stories with the character was Welcome Back, Frank, which saw the character return to his roots after shaking off that whole “literal angel of vengeance” phase. The scene in Daredevil season 2 where Castle has Matt Murdock chained to a rooftop with a gun taped to his hand is ripped straight from that comic.
The main villain in Welcome Back, Frank is Ma Gnucci, a ruthless Italian mafia matriarch whose rage is turned up to eleven following a trip to the zoo. During a battle with The Punisher, he provokes a polar bear (by literally punching it in the face), which then proceeds to maul Gnucci, tearing off her arms and legs. She miraculously survives and continues to torment Frank, until he literally punts her into raging fire like a football player booting a field goal… And she still manages to return for the Resurrection of Ma Gnucci storyline. Due to his nature as judge, jury, and executioner, The Punisher has relatively few recurring villains, but Ma Gnucci is one of them, and she deserves to get her due in the Netflix series.
Bushwacker is one of The Punisher’s most dangerous adversaries. Like Rapido, his arms have been augmented to have special abilities. However, rather than just being a metal replacement (a la The Winter Soldier), Bushwacker’s enhanced limbs are more ghastly in appearance. His cyborg arms look like horrible deformities straight out of a horror movie, and they only get more disgusting when he starts shooting bullets literally out of his hands.
In some stories, Bushwacker’s deformity is a result of CIA science experiments, but sometimes they are implied to be the result of his being a Mutant. In the MCU, Mutants are strictly forbidden, but he could easily be made an Inhuman. While Agents of SHIELD implies that hundreds, if not thousands, of Inhumans are scattered all over the world, not a single one has appeared in any of the movies or Netflix series. Perhaps that can change, with Bushwacker popping up as an Inhuman criminal going to war with Frank Castle.
8. Norman Osborn
In Marvel Comics, New York City’s two most dangerous villains are Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, and Norman Osborn, AKA the Green Goblin. Usually depicted as the arch-nemesis of Spider-Man (he was played by Willem Dafoe in the Sam Raimi films), he nonetheless hounds the rest of NYC’s costumed heroes, both in his position as a masked criminal and as a rich and powerful businessman. He’s basically the Lex Luthor of the Marvel universe.
Norman Osborn is not slated to appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it’s hard to fathom that Marvel Studios doesn’t have plans for one of its most famous villains. Being an NYC-based rogue, Osborne would be the perfect connective tissue to link the Netflix part of the MCU to its big-screen brethren. Perhaps Osborne could appear, pre-Goblin transformation, as a corrupt businessman looking to fill the void left in Kingpin’s absence, hounding NYC’s street-level heroes before going full supervillain in the eventual sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. It would all lead up to Spider-Man teaming up with Punisher and The Defenders to take down the Green Goblin. Marvel always says, “It’s All Connected.” It’s time to put up or shut up.
Speaking of MCU crossovers, Silvermane would be another tremendous opportunity to introduce a character on Netflix before bringing them into the movies, or even something like Agents of SHIELD.
Silvermane’s arc is ripe for this kind of storytelling. In the comics, Silvio Manfredi is introduced as a middle-aged mobster, and his early appearances involve a youth serum which turns him into a child… The MCU can skip that part. Silvermane is better-known for — after succumbing to old age (the youth serum didn’t quite work out) — turning himself into a cyborg, transplanting his head onto a massive robot body.
Rather than having any kind of youth serum or anything too far out for the MCU’s Netflix shows, Silvermane can appear as a mob leader in opposition to Kingpin, who finds himself on the wrong side of Punisher’s heavy ordinance. After miraculously surviving his ordeal, he could then be experimented upon by Hydra or SHIELD or some other organization, becoming a cybernetic supervillain who must be taken down by more…big-budget superheroes, like Spider-Man or Black Widow.
6. Massimo Cesare
Massimo Giovanni is another Garth Ennis character. Though he only appeared in a single issue of The Punisher, he certainly left an impact, inspiring the breath-taking opening of the underrated film, Punisher: War Zone. In turn, it’s obvious that the production design of that movie was a clear inspiration on the visual style of Marvel’s Netflix suite.
In the comic, Cesare is gunned down by Castle at his 100th birthday party. To The Punisher, just because he’s a feeble old man doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve a bullet to the head. In the film, his fate is even more violent; Punisher decapitates him with a machete at his dinner table and then proceeds to kill everyone else in attendance, including his now-widow. (Link NSFW, obviously.) It’s a visceral introduction to the level of violence which defines War Zone. Netflix’s Punisher series could benefit from featuring its own version of Cesare in its first episode. His fate would set the tone for how Jon Bernthal’s version of Frank Castle deals with criminals, even frail senior citizens already on the brink of death from natural causes.
One of the most famous “street-level” villains in Marvel’s canon is Bullseye, the deadliest marksman this side of Clint “Hawkeye” Barton. A cold-blooded assassin, Bullseye technically doesn’t have any superpowers, but his marksmanship skills are second to none, and he is commonly seen fighting against heroes like Daredevil and Punisher.
The character was previously played by Colin Farrell in the 2003 Daredevil film, which likely led to his not being included in the Netflix MCU reboot of that character. It was all-but-expected that Bullseye would appear in Daredevil season 2, but that failed to materialize as well. Marvel is obviously holding on to the character until the time is right, and maybe a villain as psychotic and murderous as Bullseye would be better served as an enemy of The Punisher.
One way or another, it’s only a matter of time before Bullseye shows up in a Marvel Netflix show, and common sense dictates that it would have to be in either Daredevil season 3 or The Punisher. Regardless, sooner or later, there’s no doubt about it: Bullseye will appear.
4. Nicky Cavella
Nicky Cavella is one of Garth Ennis’s most interesting creations, a comic book villain who appears fearless and intimidating, but, following multiple failures, is eventually reduced to a weak and sniveling mess.
In the comics, Cavella has a downright disgusting backstory, even by the standards of Garth Ennis’s twisted psyche. He was repeatedly raped by his aunt and forced to murder his own parents to prove his loyalty to her. After failing to kill The Punisher during their first encounter, Cavella decides to provoke his quarry in the most heinous way imaginable.
Cavella, in an effort to throw Castle off his crimefighting game, decides to hit him where it hurts: he digs up the bodies of Castle’s family and desecrates their remains, throwing New York’s greatest vigilante into a vicious frenzy of rage and murder. Inevitably, the story ends with Cavella at Castle’s mercy, or lack thereof… It doesn’t end well for him.
3. Paxton Page
In Netflix’s Daredevil, Deborah Ann Woll plays Karen Page, the chief romantic interest to Matt Murdock. She developed a certain bond with Frank Castle during his Daredevil episodes, and their characters will continue to develop, as Woll is slated to be a regular on The Punisher. In the MCU, Karen Page has a secret in her past which has yet to be revealed. Perhaps that secret could have something to do with her father, Paxton, also known as the supervillain Death’s-Head.
The character only appeared in two issues of Daredevil in 1969, but he had a unique hook. He was a scientist developing a new type of bomb, but when he refused to hand over his work to the US military, he was branded a traitor. Going into hiding, Paxton continued his research into cobalt radiation until it drove him insane, leading to his adoption of the awesome supervillain name Death’s-Head. He rode a skeletal horse into battle and carried an irradiated sword.
While it would be unreasonable for the grounded New York City of Marvel’s Netflix suite to have radioactive villains riding on mutated horse skeletons, utilizing Karen Page’s father as a villain still has endless storytelling possibilities. If Punisher kills Paxton, even if he totally winds up deserving it, will Karen still display compassion for New York City’s most tortured soul?
Few Punisher villains can hold a candle to the veritable monstrosity that is Barracuda. He is a massive brute of a man, one of the few who can go toe-to-toe with Frank Castle and dish out just as much damage as he takes. He first appeared in the arc Barracuda as a hulking enforcer working for white-collar criminals. After miraculously surviving a shark attack (one of Punisher MAX’s few examples of unexplained recovery), Barracuda returned in his own self-titled miniseries before fighting The Punisher a second time in the story, Long Cold Dark. The character even returned in Ennis’s historical fiction comic, Fury: My War Gone By, which saw Barracuda, then a Green Beret, running drugs for the CIA in Nicaragua, and massacring villages full of innocent civilians to keep it secret.
Barracuda needs to appear in the MCU, but he’s a tricky character to get right. He’s more than just dumb muscle and id; he’s a cold and calculating force of savage masculinity, sybaritic self-indulgence, and frightening intelligence. In Fury, he relishes the opportunity to commit war crimes in Nicaragua because he knows that nobody will ever find out, and he has the nerve to say as much directly to Nick Fury’s face. Of all Garth Ennis comics, Fury: My War Gone By is the story which needs to be read by history buffs and Marvel fans alike.
1. The Slavers
Perhaps the most famous Punisher story out there is The Slavers, which sees Frank pushed to his limits, not based on a personal affront or grudge, but by pure hate towards the kind of people who would kidnap women and turn them into a money-earning property. The Slavers is grim, even by the exceedingly dark standards of Ennis’s other work with the character, and has The Punisher going up against a ring of sex-traffickers, led by Tiberiu Bulat, his son, Cristu, and Vera Konstantin, the brains of the operation.
Of course, Castle spends the duration of The Slavers killing these monsters in graphic and satisfying fashion, juxtaposing their old-world delusions of honor with the reality of their horrific “business.” One Frank Castle’s defining moments comes when he finds Vera Konstantin in a high-rise skyscraper and begins beating the unarmed woman to death, stating, “I’m stronger than you, so I can do whatever I want. Isn’t that the way it works?” After throwing her through the window of her office (actually, he throws her against the nigh-unbreakable glass enough times that the frame bends and eventually falls out), he muses to himself, “It had been a long time since I hated anyone the way I hated them.”
Punisher MAX is an adults-only comic, and The Slavers is one of the toughest tomes in the series. It is chock full of graphic sexual violence, uncomfortable themes, and it’s set in a morally gray world where the “good” is powerless, “evil” reigns, and The Punisher is the walking embodiment of death, for better or worse. It’s not the type of story which can be told in a PG-13 MCU movie, and it might prove to be too heavy even for Netflix, but it’s a tale which deserves to be shared with a wider audience, one way or another.
What do you think? Do you agree with our choices? Who would you like to see in The Punisher on Netflix? Sound off in the comments!
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