Frank Castle hasn’t made that many live-action appearances. We’ve had a few films, one of which was actually quite fitting of the character, while the others… well, not so much. After the more or less disappointing Punisher: War Zone (directed by Lexi Alexander), the film rights to the Punisher reverted to Marvel Studios, who introduced him into the MCU in season 2 of the Netflix series, Daredevil, in which he’s played by Jon Bernthal. As the gruff, no-nonsense Punisher, Bernthal was perfect. He brought the kind of emotion and violence Punisher fans had been waiting for ever since that first film in 1989 was released.
Bernthal is set to take on the role of Frank Castle once more in the upcoming Netflix series The Punisher, premiering in 2018. It’ll be exciting to see how they adapt Frank Castle’s life and rogues gallery, especially with the tone and atmosphere the Netflix series have set, focusing on realistic, street-level bad guys. That sounds like it’d be right up The Punisher’s alley! His comic book rogues gallery is full of fantastic villains that, if done in the right way, could make for compelling television antagonists. So, we at CBR have gone through them all to bring you the 15 that should show up in the series…just so they can be put down!
Billy Russo was a hitman who failed to kill Castle more than once. After one such attempt, Castle went after him though he didn’t kill him like any regular mobster. Castle left Russo alive as a message to all other criminals, after pushing Russo through a pane of glass, forever ruining his face as we see in Punisher: Year One #4 (written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, artwork by Dale Eaglesham and others).
He starred as the antagonist in Punisher: Warzone, but that film didn’t really give the character much depth. It would be great to see the character adapted for the Netflix series. Without being constrained by time, the show may be able to focus on his backstory and his rise through the ranks of New York City’s seedy underbelly. He’s been the Punisher’s nemesis for years, it’s time to bring that rivalry to light.
Admittedly, Bullseye does have more of a history with Daredevil than he does with the Punisher. That doesn’t mean there’s no reason for him to show up in a Punisher-centric television series. If you want an example of what that could look like, look no further than the Punisher MAX series, particularly issues written by Jason Aaron, which focus on a Bullseye who is both undeniably psychopathic and clearly more realistic, perfect for a television adversary of MCU standards.
Would that mean never pitting Bullseye against Daredevil? Maybe. But the villain would arguably work better against Punisher ,with whom he shares obvious deadly qualities. With someone like Bullseye, there’s a lot more room for great storytelling beyond something as generic as good versus evil, as would likely be the case if he was up against Daredevil.
13. THE RUSSIAN
If we’re to see the Punisher show everyone what he’s really made of, maybe the Russian is the way to go in regards to a villain. Since his debut in The Punisher Vol. 4 #8 (written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Steve Dillon and more), the Russian, has shown himself capable of anything and everything the Punisher can throw at him, from bullets to missiles. The Russian, who evidently came out of nowhere, it the perfect villain to test Castle’s mettle.
He was adapted once for the 2004 film, The Punisher (directed by Jonathan Hensleigh) in which he was played by Kevin Nash. He had no lines, but it was perfect that way. If the show were to focus on Frank Castle as a character, having the Russian as a minor antagonist might give the writers more room to develop Castle instead of having to give depth to someone like the Russian where there needn’t be.
12. MA GNUCCI
This persistent mob boss is one of the Punisher’s more outlandish foes. It all began when Frank Castle returned to New York and began his one-man war on crime with the murder of Ma Gnucci’s sons. She tried to force the police to hunt him down and failed, she sent multiple assassins to end him and they failed, but if you think any of that means she’s not a force to be reckoned with, you’d be wrong. She’s wealthy and determined.
Keep in mind, this is the same woman who survived being mauled by polar bears in Punisher Vol. 4 #4 (written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Steve Dillon among others) and returned to hound Castle some more. She’s not a huge threat, which might be better for the show since there’s a lot of Castle’s story to tell and we don’t really need to know more about Ma Gnucci than she’s a badass mob boss who just won’t quit.
This fellow vigilante just wanted to keep the streets clean… of anyone and everyone even slightly mischievous. In Punisher Vol. 4 #5 (written by Garth Ennis, artwork by Steve Dillon and others), he murdered a woman because her dog urinated on the sidewalk. What villain could be more appropriate in this day and age than Elite? As his name suggests, he’s an elitist vigilante with fascist ideology when it comes to an ideal society. Before shooting him, the Punisher even went so far as to call Elite a Nazi.
He doesn’t have to be a major character; after all, someone so obviously evil will get boring easily. But there’s an opportunity here to help depict and distinguish Punisher’s personal views. Whether you agree with them or not, it’ll show us another side of the Punisher than just the one we’ve seen, thirsting for vengeance.
10. MR. PAYBACK
If they do end up getting Elite in there, there’s a good chance they could add Mr. Payback as well as part of the Vigilante Squad. Mr. Payback, unlike Elite, tries to stick up for the little guy in his own twisted way. You might not be able to tell straight away, but Mr. Payback is incredibly intelligent and was actually inspired by the Punisher (as was the formation of the Vigilante Squad).
That would be an interesting thing to see: a villain inspired by our protagonist, kind of like Mr. Incredible and Syndrome but way more violent and far less comedic. He would definitely fit in with the tone and atmosphere the show is likely to possess. He dresses and acts like a street-level thug for the most part, so the writers would be free to make him as small or as big of a character as they want.
9. THE HOLY
The last of the members in the Vigilante Squad is Hector Ridondo, AKA the Holy, who was actually a relatively decent guy until one helluva sinful man pushed Hector over the edge. He kept murdering sinners again and again until finally he became the Holy. Like the rest of the Vigilante Squad, he was quite enthralled by the Punisher’s war on crime. Hector was invigorated and motivated to keep his fight going.
He’s the perfect villain to adapt since the Holy is a perfect example of how twisted the criminal underworld can be. Much like the Elite and Mr. Payback, the Holy could be a character capable of bringing out Castle’s views so we can explore our favorite anti-hero even further.
If we want some gritty drama in the upcoming series, maybe we should hope for a villain like Hitman (Burt Kenyon). Those who have read the comics might know that Hitman is technically one of Spider-Man’s villains, though he has more of a connection to the Punisher. Burt actually served in the U.S Marines with Frank Castle and actually saved his life once, as we discover in Amazing Spider-Man #175 (written by Len Wein, illustrated by Ross Andru and many more).
There’s really no reason why we can’t have him face Frank in the Punisher series since the presence of Spider-Man, in general, didn’t really affect his story in relation to the Punisher in the comics. There’s a lot of potential there for a compelling antagonist, given that they both became savage murderers.
Another perfect villain taken from the pages of the Amazing Spider-Man series is Silvio Manfredi, known in the criminal underworld as Silvermane. This ambitious old crime boss rose through the ranks of the Maggia to become its leader. After multiple attempts at extending his life, including serums and mysticism, Silvio finally found immortality in the form of a cyborg body. The octogenarian became a superpowered crime lord unlike any ever seen before.
Obviously, a lot of that might seem like it would be out of place in the Netflix series, so we’d be unlikely to see that. As a simple mob boss, though, Silvermane would make a great addition to the MCU, smoothly introducing the Maggia as a major criminal organization as we’re sure people are just about exhausted with HYDRA.
Okay, by now you’re probably thinking, “quit stealing Spidey’s enemies!” well, we would if they weren’t all so perfect for the Punisher! Hammerhead, another figurehead of the Maggia crime organization, was found by a surgeon by the name of Jonas Barrow, beaten and severely injured in an alleyway. Jonas fit Hammerhead’s skull with a near-indestructible alloy, giving his skull its unusual shape and his fitting name.
He’d be a fun little minor character to see face the Punisher if only for guaranteed violent hilarity of their battle. With Hammerhead’s signature mimicry of 1920s’ gangsters and Barrow’s misunderstanding of what a flattop is, Hammerhead could potentially bring a sort of dark humor to the show, which is definitely in keeping with the tone and general atmosphere of many Punisher comics.
Lonnie Lincoln is a manipulative psychopath. Born with albinism, Lonnie was bullied and taunted, driving him to grow stronger and stronger until he was the intimidating beast of a hitman he currently is. He’s a bit more complex than your average mobster though. We find out in The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7 (written by Nick Spencer, illustrated by Rich Ellis) that he’s also quite a good father.
We know that Frank Castle clearly doesn’t show mercy, as evidenced by his banter and little social experiment with the devil of Hell’s Kitchen in the Daredevil episode New York’s Finest (directed by Marc Jobst). If Tombstone could bring just a moment of doubt to Frank Castle’s war, he’d prove to be a worthwhile villain. Someone as complex and tormented as Frank Castle needs an equally complex villain to help flesh out the more interesting facets of his character.
Batroc has actually already shown up in the MCU, going toe to toe with Steve Rogers himself in the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (directed by Joe and Anthony Russo). He’s a lesser-known villain from the comics called Batroc the Leaper, who first appeared in Tales of Suspense #75 (written by Stan Lee, artwork by Adam Austin and Gary Michaels). Over the years, he’s gone up against several superheroes including the Punisher, so an appearance in the series wouldn’t be completely unfounded.
Batroc doesn’t actually have any superpowers, he’s just really fit. That means he’d fit in nicely with the rest of the show. He’s also a mercenary with a strong sense of honor, as evidence by his film appearance. That’s something we need to see more of in these shows, especially with characters as stubborn in principles (or in some cases, lack thereof) as the Punisher.
The Punisher’s first comic book appearance was in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 (written by Gerry Conway, illustrated by Ross Andru among others), working alongside the Jackal (albeit hesitantly). Miles Warren is infamous among comic fans for being the progenitor of the poorly received Clone Saga, as well as his tendency to clone pretty much everyone he encounters.
We don’t expect to see that green creature creating clones in the series (though wouldn’t that be something), but a nod to the comics by having the twisted Miles Warren appear would be welcome. He can just be a regular mad scientist, trying to clone people and not necessarily raising an army of clones, only to have his experiments and life brought to an end by Frank Castle. Something that simple may only last a minute or two, but it would be awesome nonetheless.
This demon from the depths of hell would be, without a doubt, the most difficult to adapt to television without making it look like a low-budget television bad guy. Olivier was fallen angel, banished from hell for betraying its lords and cursed to live on Earth as a human. He regained his memories of hell, his supernatural powers and began plotting his vengeance on the Lords of Hell, using the Punisher to collect souls for an army.
None of this sounds like it would fit in with what the writers and directors of the MCU are going for, we know. Still, the potential here is undeniable. Olivier was the one to make Frank face guilt for his actions in Punisher: Purgatory #4 (written by Tom Sniegoski and Christopher Golden with art by Bernie Wrightson and others). That’s something we almost never see and would like to in the series.
Last but not least…Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin. He’s been a major antagonist in Daredevil, and he helped facilitate Frank’s escape from prison after an epic brawl and a promise they made to kill one another the next time they met. It probably won’t happen in the first season or maybe even the season after that, but we think the Punisher series is where Kingpin should meet his end.
Why? Daredevil would never kill Wilson Fisk. He’d try and topple his criminal empire, unravel his network and ensure that he’s unable to enjoy peace with Vanessa. Unfortunately for Matt, Kingpin is ruthless, patient and calculating. He’ll rebuild, he’ll learn and counter and overcome. Kingpin has already begun to prove Castle right. When Matt hits them, they get up. When Frank hits them, they stay down. Someone needs to make sure that the Kingpin stays down.
Which other villains do you think the Punisher should take down on the show? Let us know in the comments!