Following earlier reports confirming the casting of Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner in The Avengers, Saturday's Marvel movie panel may have seemed a little anticlimactic. However, at least one piece of news emerged from the presentation: The Punisher film rights are now controlled Marvel, and studio President Kevin Feige told the crowd in Hall H he hopes to "bring him into the fray soon."
Whether that means taking a fourth run at a Punisher film or using Frank Castle as a supporting character in another Marvel production is anybody's guess. It seems unlikely that we will see the character developed by Marvel Television, as its projects are destined for Disney-owned ABC and ABC Family -- not exactly the venues for a vigilante who doesn't mind using a little murder and torture in his war on crime. (Of course, a sanitized version of Castle has appeared in Marvel's family-friendly animated properties, so it's certainly not out of the question.)
The two previous Punisher movies -- 2004's The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane, and 2008's Punisher: War Zone, starring Ray Stevenson -- were co-productions with Artisan/Lionsgate. But with the character squarely back in Marvel's stable, the studio is free to weave him into its shared big-screen universe. Perhaps we'll see Frank Castle on the trail of Bruce Banner (now played by Mark Ruffalo) in a third Hulk film. It's now a possibility.
The character's movie history has been a rocky one, dating back to 1989's The Punisher (starring Dolph Lundgren), which went straight to video in the United States, and has been widely mocked ever since. Thomas Jane's turn as Castle in 2004 met with largely negative reviews, but performed well on DVD, encouraging Marvel and Lionsgate to release 2008's War Zone. It became the lowest-grossing film based on a Marvel comics property.