Monday, January 11, 2016

Real Name: Frank Castle
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #129 (February, 1974)
Fight Club Ranking: #64

Featured Fights:
- vs Daredevil: Daredevil #65 (Nov 2004)
- vs Rhino: Punisher War Journal #3 (Mar 2007)
- vs The Syndiate: Punisher #5 (Jul 2009)
- vs Deadpool: Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2 (Jul 2009)
- vs X-Men: What If...? #24 (Apr 1991)
- vs Captain America: What If...? #51 (Jul 1993)

The notion that we're living in a new "golden age" of television begs serious review, but for fans of live-action superheroes on TV, it's clear to see there's never been a more fertile time. The medium in its varied forms -- including subscription based streaming services -- has become the new battleground for bulging licenses already spilling out of overbooked theatres. One of the rare characters making the crossover from big screen to small is The Punisher -- upcoming in Netflix's Daredevil Season 2, March 18th.

Where DC's properties have exploded through sprawling quantity across various networks; Marvel and Netflix are favouring a deliberate pace of premium subscription content. Daredevil's second season is the third produced by the unique partnership. This week's Friday Night Fight [The Pulse #14] was inspired by late last year's breakout addition: Jessica Jones. Each featuring Marvel's "street level" urban heroes; all Netflix series are planned to converge in an Averngers-esque crossover using The Defenders banner. Heroes for Hire Luke Cage and Iron Fist are next in line for shows.

With the four pillars of these grand designs announced back in 2013, it was no certainty any of the individual heroes would receive more than one series. The thought that there'd be room to accommodate new feature players like The Punisher seemed a bridge too far. That's exactly what's promised of DD Sseason 2, though. The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal becomes the fourth actor to step into Frank Castle's world weary combat boots. He'll establish an antagonist for what's been described as the "Daredevil vs Punisher" series. It's a tantalizing concept for fans of the comics.

Casting choices seems to be the through line of conversation for 2015-2016. Bernthal made an immediate impact on announcement - not just for his fan courting comic-based credentials, but for his suitability for the role. The dark hair, cold gaze, and busted nose have the obvious tough guy trappings of Marvel's militant vigilante. The hard work will be in the creative direction, and a character rooted in the aftermath of the Vietnam War always poses adaptation challenges.

As noted, there have been three Punisher feature films in the past - The Punisher (1989), The Punisher (2004), and Punisher: War Zone (2008). They've all had their virtues and pitfalls.

Dolph Lundgren's '89 Frank Castle was a violent ex-cop meditating nude in the sewers when he wasn't gunning his way through the criminal fraternities of stand-in city Sydney, Australia. A low budget, turn of the decade action vehicle, it was pretty much everything you'd expect: monosyllabic, cheap, but not without its charms. Punisher's iconic skull emblem was infamously absent from wardrobe, but tonal echoes from the comics make it a uniquely enjoyable guilty pleasure. Castle's war on the mob has left them unable to defend themselves from incursion by Lady Tanaka and the Yakuza. Even organized crime couldn't escape fears the Japanese were going to buy the world! What you get is the only Punisher movie to deliver dockside ninjas, a high rise full of training assassins, and a drunk out of work stage actor turned informant called Shake (as in 'Speare).

2004's do-over bumped Thomas Jane's Frank up to Desert Storm veteran turned FBI Agent whose entire living bloodline is wiped out by the mob -- not just his wife and offspring! Jane didn't have the pencilled and inked look of Lundgren's Punisher (who's visually underrated) -- but accepted a death's head t-shirt into his life, and embarked on a one-man war that keeps the film mostly tethered to a tightly packed series of events set in Tampa. Some saw location as a major drawback, but it worked.

No Yakuza assassins in 2004, though. Only a comic-inspired turn by pro wrestler Kevin Nash as "The Russian" that's nicely over-the-top in its stripey, seven-foot absurdity. As opposed to 2008's War Zone, which fumbles its many impressions of the violent comic world to finish with an unpleasant, unengaging mess inspired by Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy if it was a fraction of the budget and on suicide watch. Which was a shame, because Ray Stevens nailed the character in a great many respects - and Seinfeld's Wayne Knight completed dream casting as Microchip. It also gave us the first name-villain: Jigsaw. No gains to note from that.

With Marvel back in charge of their gun toting maniac, the hail of bullets has the opportunity to hit targets they've missed to date. Throwing the character into the world of Daredevil is a great chance to both define the character, yet do something all together new. If successful, the feature player could develop into his own starring character, either in series or another shot at movies. I'm hopeful this can be a great new outing for the character, and that hope makes Punisher the Hero of the Week.

If you were a fan of the original HOTW run on, or just want to see who was featured in past instalments, you can now use the links below to track back chronologically through the entire archive. The unwritten rule is no hero will be repeated in a year, so there should be some nice variety. There'll be more variety during this Friday Night Fight, but I think we'll see the influence of more superhero TV. Hope to see you then!

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