Ever since the word came out that Jon Bernthal would play Frank Castle -- The Punisher -- in Season Two of Marvel and Netflix's Daredevil series, speculation has run rampant that he could be getting a Netflix show of his own.
Of course, his persona in Marvel's Daredevil was pretty...unstable. It's hard to imagine just how that character could translate into being a straight-up hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That said, The Punisher in the comics hasn't always been a straight-up guy. So...what stories could they mine from the source material to make the series great?
We've got a few ideas...!
WELCOME BACK, FRANK
Even though a lot of the material in Steve Dillon and Garth Ennis's first story arc was fairly well-covered in the Thomas Jane movie, there's a hitch to that: comics are written as a serialized medium, and packing a bunch of comics, with a bunch of characters being developed toward a long-term goal, into a single, 2-hour-ish movie is a dicey proposition.
While I personally enjoyed The Punisher, it doesn't even crack the Top 50 among our readers' favorite movies...
...and that's in spite of having been inspired by what's generally agreed to be one of the best Punisher stories of all time.
A TV series is also at its best when there's a supporting cast, and since Frank tends to be a lone wolf, this era -- when the people in his apartment building served some kind fo narrative function and bounced off of him in interesting ways -- could be one of the better moves to humanize him and make him less of the maniac he was in Daredevil.
With the Rambo sensibilities of many early Punisher stories, it's easy to see why not all combat vets are huge fans of the character: Frank is the poster child for the black-and-white way the mass media depicts PTSD: he went of to war and came back "broken."
A story like Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's "Born," which told the tale of his time in Vietnam (which is too old for Bernthal, obviously, but it could be adapted to other conflicts), gave a sense for who Frank was -- and how tortured he was -- even before he lost his family.
(And, yes, it's genuinely a great story, too, so this wouldn't be "just" about rehabbing the way Frank's mental state has been handled in the past.
Again, a key here is humanizing him, making him more than the broad caricature that he can so often be, and in so doing helping to offset some of the generalizations about soldiers suffering from PTSD. Using his combat experiences and the trauma he suffered there to inform his later transformation without it being blunt or stereotypical would give Frank some depth of character that fans outside of comics hav never really seen before.
Elsewhere on this list, I've talked about how I feel like in order to make Frank a compelling lead in his own series, he needs to be softened or humanized a bit.
"The Slavers," a story from Ennis's Punisher MAX series, shows where and when that's not necessary: when you can play his cold, callous exterior off of other people who are in distress, allowing him to dispassionately do the right thing when nobody else wants to because, for whatever reason, their humanity gets in the way.
Part of the reason that worked so well in this story is that it wasn't like Daredevil, where the "right thing" was somewhat subjective and The Punisher often felt crazy or wrong. Instead, the "right thing" in "The Slavers" was pretty cut and dry...and that could be a good arc (or maybe even season if handled correctly) for this version of Castle.
This story didn't exactly work as well in the comics as it might have sounded like it should, but an adaptation of it could easily be made into a compelling episode of TV, likely the finale of a season that builds and builds in its violence, insanity, and stakes.
Basically what happens in this book is that The Punisher (and a group of imitators who had started essentially being his unauthorized sidekicks, if I'm remembering right) heads into a building full of the worst of the worst of organized crime and in a story that was essentially a comics version of Dredd or The Raid, goes on a "suicide run" to take out all the bad guys before they can take him out.