Marvel has done something that no one thought possible: found a way to bring successful superhero stories to both the big and small screens. While Marvel movies are making more and more money every year, the publisher’s Netflix series have been getting better and better. Daredevil was a surprisingly great start, and Jessica Jones knocked it out of the park. Luke Cage is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and the recent teases for Iron Fist are a great first glimpse into the final Defender’s debut.
On top of all of that, there’s also The Punisher. While it wasn’t originally a part of Marvel’s Netflix-centric plans, Jon Bernthal’s take on Frank Castle was so successful that a full solo series was ordered just one month after Daredevil’s second season debuted. With the series set to arrive later in 2017, there’s still a bit of a wait left before Frank Castle finally gets his own solo series, but that just means there’s more time to speculate on who’ll be joining the cast next year.
As filming for the series has already begun, casting announcements are starting to trickle out, with several key roles having already been filled. There are far too many characters that we want to see make their way onto the small screen to fully list here, and we’ll be honest, some of these are more realistic inclusions than others. Whether or not they'll actually happen, here’s 15 characters we’re hoping to see when The Punisher debuts.
Batman has the Joker, Spider-Man has the Green Goblin, and the Punisher has Jigsaw. Billy Russo was, like many of the Punisher’s foes, a member of New York City’s criminal underground -- in this case, the Maggia crime family. A brutal assassin, Russo wasn’t afraid to take work from multiple contractors. And, as one might expect, his macabre line of work eventually brought him into contact with Frank Castle, better known as the vigilante known as the Punisher. After several failed assassination attempts, the Punisher threw Russo through a large glass pane, tearing the criminal’s face to shreds.
Russo managed to survive the fall, albeit with severe injuries to his face. As a result, Russo ditched his old nickname (’the Beaut’) for something that better matched his new, scarred appearance: Jigsaw.
Given the Netflix Universe’s darker tone, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Jigsaw is set to make his debut in the first season of The Punisher...sort of. Ben Barnes, best known for his recent work in HBO's Westworld, will be taking on the role of Billy Russo in the first season. It's unclear whether we'll get to see him actually take on the true form of the Punisher's archnemesis (hence Jigsaw's inclusion on our list), but here's hoping Netflix doesn't elect to keep that ace up their sleeve for season 2.
14 Silvermane/Silver Sable
In the comics, Silvio Manfredi was a hardened gangster desperate to retain his youth. Eventually, after fighting against the Kingpin’s criminal organization and drinking several mystical potions, Silvermane became a cyborg and lived as a disembodied head. Obviously, this version of the character won’t be appearing in The Punisher.
Instead, the Silvermane that fans should/hope expect to see would likely take inspiration from more recent incarnations of the character, most notably from the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. In the show, Silvermane was a vicious gangster with a criminal army spanning New York City, whose daughter eventually became the mercenary known as Silver Sable.
It was a drastic reworking of two characters, but in a lot of ways, it made both Silvermane and the Silver Sable realistic and relevant again. Gone were the over-the-top youth potions and Cold War-era espionage, replaced with a grounded story of an aging gangster and his only heir. While the Punisher may have never made an appearance on the show itself (Spectacular Spider-Man was a kids’ show, after all), it’s not hard to imagine a similar dynamic working within the already-established Netflix Universe.
13 Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross
He may have started off as a Lieutenant General and one of the Hulk’s primary antagonists, but Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross has recently taken up a bigger (and arguably more impactful) role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During the events of Captain America: Civil War, Ross was serving as the United States Secretary of State -- otherwise known as the one who helped kickstart the fight between Iron Man and Captain America.
At first glance, it may not seem like Thunderbolt Ross is a good fit for the Netflix Universe, but there are a few reasons as to why the Secretary of State would want to get involved with the ongoing vigilante trouble in New York City.
First off, Thunderbolt Ross has always been depicted as a military man, regardless of his position. Given Frank Castle’s ties to the military (most notably, his Navy Cross service in Afghanistan), it could be assumed that he and Thunderbolt Ross have already crossed paths before. Secondly, given that Marvel tends to reserve Nick Fury and Black Widow for its films, Thunderbolt Ross could serve as a more concrete bridge between the MCU proper and the Netflix Universe. And given just how good an actor William Hurt is, it wouldn’t hurt (pun intended) to see a bit more of him throughout Marvel’s ongoing projects, either.
12 Ghost Rider
There’s always been something a split between Marvel’s different TV shows. The company’s Netflix-exclusive shows have been huge hits, and it’s clear that Marvel is building towards something bigger (more on that later). Over on ABC, however, things haven’t been going as smoothly: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't quite been the ratings monster the network had hoped it would be, while Agent Carter was cancelled after its second.
Ghost Rider has quickly become ABC’s main marketing push, and Robbie Reyes’ appearance has definitely injected some life into Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.’s fanbase. That being said, Ghost Rider does seem a bit darker than most fans would have expected from an ABC series.
Which is why the Spirit of Vengeance would make a perfect fit for Marvel’s Netflix shows, and The Punisher in particular. Think about it: these are two characters who are literally built for revenge, and have no qualms about straight-up killing their foes. It’s a bit of stretch, sure, and Marvel hasn't been in any rush to mix their ABC and Netflix shows (though that could soon change). In any case, there’s no denying that a Punisher/Ghost Rider crossover could be absolutely amazing.
11 Ma Gnucci
Compared to the rest of the villains on this list, Ma Gnucci isn’t quite as recognizable. At this point, she’s only been the subject of two separate stories, and that’s including a story revolving around body doubles and fake resurrections. It’s a short list, to be sure, but it goes to show just how much of an impact Ma Gnucci made during her debut.
Ma Gnucci started out as many Punisher villains do -- as the head of a major New York City crime family -- but what makes her different is the excess. After losing three of her sons to the Punisher, Ma Gnucci blackmails the NYPD into creating an anti-Punisher task force on top of sending waves of hired muscle after him. When the Punisher finally meets Ma Gnucci in person, she tries to escape via the Central Park Zoo, only to lose all of her limbs to a polar bear before being burned alive in her own home shortly thereafter. Comic books, right?
It wouldn’t take much to adapt Ma Gnucci’s debut into the first season of The Punisher. Given that fans are expecting a much more violent story from the series, having Frank Castle hunt down and (be hunted by) one of New York’s biggest criminal organizations doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. It’s almost guaranteed that the stories about body doubles, polar bears and supposedly escaping from hell won’t make it into the show…but that’s probably for the best.
10 The Russian
Though his name may not be all that original, the Russian has proven himself to be one of the Punisher’s most resilient foes…even if the villain’s comic book storyline is about as over-the-top ridiculous as you can get.
Originally, the Russian was one of the mercenaries hired by Ma Gnucci to kill the Punisher. And while it seemed like the Russian actually had the upper hand for a moment, he was killed when the Punisher’s morbidly obese neighbor rolled on top of him. After being brutally decapitated and having his head sent back to Ma Gnucci, the Russian was resurrected as a psuedo-transgender cyborg (it’s as bad as it sounds) before being tied to a nuclear weapon and vaporized by the Punisher.
Ignoring all of the comic book silliness, the Russian could easily become something akin to James Bond‘s Jaws -- a seemingly unstoppable henchman with near-superhuman strength and durability. Typically, it’s a shame to see comic book backstory dropped in favor of something that the average viewer will be able to wrap their head around, but when it comes to the Russian…well, it’s probably for the best.
In a lot of ways, Barracuda and the Punisher are two sides of the same coin. Both have extensive military training, both had their families tragically taken from them, and both were willing to do seemingly anything in order to accomplish their objective.
That being said, Barracuda is also an absolute psychopath. He’s engaged in acts of cannibalism, drug running and weapons dealing -- all while under the employ of the U.S. government. Even before he was recruited into the military, he viciously mutilated a would-be attacker in a juvenile detention center. Somehow, things only got worse when he left the Army and started a new life as a gangster.
Much like the Russian, Barracuda could be an imposing hurdle for the Punisher to overcome. The two characters have such similar training and such vastly different personalities that it’s easy to see them playing off one another, and the comics have made it clear that Barracuda will work for just about anyone, which means that he could fit in just about anywhere without feeling forced. Plus, he’s one of the few Punisher villains that consistently survives one-on-one fights with Frank Castle. Every hero needs a good rival, right?
For the most part, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has steered towards sci-fi rather than the supernatural. Even Thor, with its different astral planes and mythological figures, seems to shy away from the truly fantastical, and it doesn’t look like Marvel’s policy will change much until Doctor Strange launches later this year.
If Marvel were to introduce a stronger fantasy element, it’d have to do so slowly, one piece at a time. Going in too hard and too fast would throw off viewers, and possibly alienate fans. Basically, Marvel would have to choose the right character for the job…and, if given the choice, most fans would probably choose Blade.
It’s a long shot, but if the character’s done well, Blade could add a supernatural element to Marvel’s shows that simply doesn’t exist yet. Blade’s stories fit the darker tone of the Netflix-exclusive series, and much like Ghost Rider, the two heroes don’t really worry about whether or not their enemies make it out alive. Jumping from gangsters to vampires might be a bit much to swallow, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Marvel’s Netflix team.
7 The Tinkerer
The Tinkerer is the answer to an age-old comic book question: where do the bad guys get all of their gear?
On the surface, Phineas Mason is a simple repair man. In reality, however, he’s one of the most skilled technicians on the planet. Ever since The Amazing Spider-Man #2, the Tinkerer has been building and supplying all sorts of weapons and gadgets to New York City supervillains, producing everything from Scorpion’s tail to Mysterio’s illusion-enhancing suit. He’s also carried out his own crimes from time to time, though Mason seems to be more than content with helping others further their criminal careers.
In regards to The Punisher, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Tinkerer turn up. With Luke Cage bringing in some of the more traditional superhero tropes, having someone running guns and building advanced tech for the bad guys doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. Plus, fans already know that the villain will appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Of course, the Tinkerer probably wouldn’t be building super-suits or rocket-powered skateboards on the Netflix show, but running guns and other high-powered weaponry to foes like the Kingpin sounds like the perfect job for Mason.
6 The Jackal
Over the past several decades, the Jackal has proven himself to be one of the most influential and dangerous criminals of the Marvel Universe. Though he tends to butt heads with Spider-Man more often than anyone else, his cloning technology and manipulative personality has given him sway over a number of different heroes…including the Punisher.
For all of Frank Castle’s skills, he can also be a bit thick-headed, making him exactly the sort of person that the Jackal revels in manipulating. In the comics, the Punisher was actually tricked into working for the Jackal in his long-running battle with Spider-Man. And although the partnership was short-lived, it’s one of many examples why the Jackal’s influence can’t be ignored.
It might be a bit much to introduce cloning in the first season of The Punisher, but showcasing the Jackal’s criminal genius would be a great place to start. Then again, if Marvel did decide to bring cloning into the mix, there’s always the draw of Frank Castle working with the Jackal in order to bring his family back. That alone could carry an entire season’s worth of stories.
5 Jack O'Lantern
Alright, yes, the idea of someone flying around on a disc with a flaming pumpkin on their head does sound a bit silly, especially compared to the relatively grounded Netflix Universe. Yes, Jack O’Lantern sounds like the worst sort of bargain-bin Halloween superhero. And yes, the stories featuring Jack O’Lantern tend to get a bit weird…but there is a way that the villain could work in regards to Marvel’s already-established TV continuity.
For the most part, all of Marvel’s Netflix villains have been ordinary people. They’re still awful human beings, and some are more physically capable than others, but they’re still what most people would call ‘human.’ Jack O’Lantern is far from normal, and that variety could do a lot to keep all of Marvel’s Netflix villains from blending into one another. If Christopher Nolan can make a man with clown makeup and outlandishly complicated villainous plots feel realistic, who’s to say that the Netflix team couldn’t do the same for Jack O’Lantern?
At the very least, The Punisher could have one hell of a Halloween special.
Sure, Bullseye is typically seen as Daredevil’s archnemesis, but after two seasons and no signs of the master assassin anywhere, it’s not all that crazy to think that Bullseye could make his debut as part of The Punisher.
And that’s not to say that Bullseye hasn’t gone up against Frank Castle on more than one occasion. The two have been fighting for almost as long as they’ve existed, as Bullseye’s ties to organized crime frequently put him at odds with the Punisher’s violent rampages. What’s even more intriguing is that Bullseye is arguably more powerful than Frank Castle. Neither man sports any sort of superpowers, but Bullseye’s superhuman reflexes and aim outclass the Punisher’s more often than not.
As for the Netflix series, it’s easy to see Bullseye serving as the catalyst for a Daredevil crossover. Not only could it serve as an introduction to one of the Man Without Fear's greatest foes, but Bullseye’s debut could serve as a lead-in to the third season of Daredevil. True, it’s likely that Marvel is saving Bullseye’s first appearance for the next season of Daredevil, but a tease via The Punisher wouldn’t be too surprising, either.
If there’s any one crime boss in New York City that can rival the power and influence of the Kingpin, it’s Lonnie Thompson Lincoln, better known as the ruthless gangster Tombstone.
Born as an albino African American living in Harlem, Lincoln used his physical size as a way to intimidate and control those around him. He entered the New York crime scene as one of the underworld’s most notorious hitmen, eventually working his way up the ladder to serve under Kingpin. After coming into contact with Spider-Man and the Punisher on a number of occasions, Tombstone gained superhuman strength, durability and reflexes thanks to an experimental OsCorp Industries toxin, which made him even more dangerous than he already was.
Considering that the procedure shown in Luke Cage provided the hero with similar powers, it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see a villain undergo similar experiments somewhere down the line. With Tombstone’s long-running ties to organized crime and frequent clashes with Frank Castle, it seems like Lonnie Thompson Lincoln could be the perfect fit for the show’s first over-arching antagonist.
2 The Defenders
Back in 2008, no one expected Iron Man to be such a monumental success, but thanks to that film’s success, Marvel spent the better part of the next decade building its Cinematic Universe. In 2015, Marvel and Netflix attempted to do the same thing with Daredevil. Again, this was a property that no one expected very much from; following the abhorrent Ben Affleck film, Daredevil was more of a joke than anything else.
Now, roughly one year later, and Marvel’s Netflix Universe has already exploded. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Daredevil are all huge hits, while the upcoming Iron Fist show is one of Netflix’s most anticipated original series.
Taking all of that into consideration, it’d be shocking if the Defenders didn’t make an appearance in The Punisher. It might not be some massive team-up, or any sort of crossover, but it’s hard to imagine full season of The Punisher that doesn't feature any of the other Netflix superheroes. There’s no telling whether the Defenders will be limited to a set of extended cameos or if Marvel’s got something big up their sleeves, but it’s almost guaranteed that Frank Castle will have some backup at least once during his solo series’ first season.
1 Wilson Fisk
Speaking of Marvel’s Netflix Universe, it’s about time that fans got caught up with what happened to Wilson Fisk following his appearance in the second season of Daredevil.
The Punisher and the Kingpin have crossed paths plenty of times over the years, and it just wouldn’t feel right if the first season didn’t feature Wilson Fisk in some capacity. As with the Defenders, there’s a chance that the Kingpin’s presence will be somewhat limited -- it’s clear that Marvel wants him to be a Daredevil villain first and foremost -- but with a character like Wilson Fisk, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Kingpin is known for pulling the strings behind the scenes, and that sort of characterization could work well as the backbone of The Punisher’s first season.
That being said, it’d be amazing to see a round 2 between Frank Castle and Wilson Fisk, since their first showdown was one of the highlights of the second season of Daredevil. Fans of the comics know just how much history these two have, and it’d be great to see them reunite on the small screen. Vincent D'Onofrio and Jon Bernthal are two of the most intense actors on television, so it only makes sense that fans would want to see them share the screen once again.
Who do you want to see pop up in Marvel's Punisher series? Let us know in the comments.