A lot of hullabaloo has been made about Spider-Man’s recent return to the Marvel fold via a recent deal between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios. Pretty soon we’ll be seeing a version of the wall-crawler slinging his way through the New York City skyline alongside the likes of Iron Man, likely beginning in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” But Spider-Man isn’t the only prodigal hero that has returned home.
A quartet of characters previously owned by other film studios — Daredevil, Blade, Ghost Rider and Punisher — have since seen their live-action adaptation rights revert back to Marvel Studios. While Marvel wasted no time greenlighting a “Daredevil” series following that character’s return almost two years ago, the Punisher still remains in limbo despite being reacquired by the studio way back in 2010. Unlike Ghost Rider and Blade, Punisher has around thirty years of constant ongoing series under his pouch-covered belt and one of the most iconic — if not the most iconic — logo of any Marvel character. Frank Castle has to come into play in the MCU and here are the five places his new journey could begin.
Marvel’s first Netflix series will also be the first time that a true vigilante will leap into action in the MCU. All of the other heroes are either government agents (Iron Patriot), S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America) or worked with the spy organization (Hulk, Iron Man). In “Daredevil,” we will se what happens when a person without billions of dollars, a super science brain or the aid of a mighty law enforcement organization decides to deal out his own brand of justice. If “Daredevil” is going to explore what it means to be a vigilante in the MCU, then there’s no better character to compare the Man Without Fear against than Frank Castle. As well intentioned and merciful as Matt Murdock will most likely be, the Punisher strives to punish. This could make him the perfect foil for Daredevil. Punisher’s involvement in the series would have to be a big secret, though, as the majority of the cast has been announced already. That is, the heroic half of the cast has been announced; so far the only antagonists announced are Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), Kingpin’s second in command Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) and the Owl (Bob Gunton). Some other bad guys have to fill out those 13 episodes…
Captain America: Civil War
With Iron Man, Black Widow, Falcon, Spider-Man, Winter Soldier and probably a lot more other characters already slated to appear, “Civil War” is looking pretty crowded. That makes sense, though, if the series is going to tackle its namesake’s superhero registration storyline. If unmasking and enlisting is going to drive a wedge between Cap and Tony Stark, then we will have to actually see heroes unmasking and enlisting — or resisting — in order to convey the scope and ramifications of the law. This could be the perfect place to drop in plenty of Easter eggs for future Marvel projects; we could see Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter in a quick scene as their Netflix heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Additionally, we could get a glimpse of a gun-toting skull-shirt-wearing vigilante resisting Iron Man’s pro-registration forces. Remember how “Captain America: Winter Soldier” slipped Stephen Strange in a long list of other names? “Civil War” could easily include at least the equivalent of that for Frank.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Punisher’s super power is basically just guns. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” TV budget allows for plenty of guns. This seems like a perfect match, right? The notion of seeing a big deal Marvel character like the Punisher on “S.H.I.E.L.D.” would have been laughable just a year ago when it seemed like the ABC show was going out of its way to avoid including any Marvel character. Halfway through Season Two, though, the show seems to finally be embracing its comic book roots. Mockingbird and Quake are regular cast members, Hydra has emerged as one of their primary threats and Inhumans are about to show up. With the show’s attention firmly on Marvel Comics canon, seeing the Punisher in an episode doesn’t seem so far-fetched now, does it? Plus if Coulson’s crew gets tired of dealing with all of the crazy Inhuman stuff heading their way, an episode focusing on the Punisher’s street-level antics could provide for a nice breather.
The Punisher should work on film, shouldn’t he? He’s got a high profile, a solid origin and an iconic look — but he just doesn’t work solo. Marvel should be wary of unleashing Punisher on moviegoers again after three box office disappointments, but maybe they could get him back on the big screen as a foe for Spider-Man. Punisher first appeared in an issue of “Amazing Spider-Man,” so the connection is right there. Spider-Man’s going to be another vigilante in the MCU and, as mentioned before, Punisher is the exact kind of character to use if you want to address what it means to take the law into your own hands. Of course Punisher shouldn’t be the main bad guy of “Spider-Man,” but he could be included in the first act as a way to demonstrate Spidey’s abilities in battle.
1989’s “Punisher” went straight to video in the U.S., 2004’s “Punisher” barely made back its budget and 2008’s “Punisher: War Zone” was such a box office disaster it made “Elektra” look like a blockbuster. Forget movies, It’s Punisher’s time to kill it on Netflix. Frank Castle is a darkly complex and morally off-center character, which is exactly the type of lead that has been excelling on TV with shows like “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards.” There’s also a precedent in “Daredevil.” While DD’s 2003 feature film earned nearly three times the combined gross of all three “Punishers,” it was a flop with critics and earned a notorious reputation amongst comic book fans. If Marvel can turn out a good “Daredevil” series that succeeds with critics and audiences, that could be the boost the studio needs to get up the energy tackle an even bigger problem — Punisher. And if Marvel’s Netflix series are a hit, odds are they’ll keep them all going. Hopefully “Punisher” will be part of Netflix’s wave two.
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