Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is already trending towards the darker side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Season 4, with the series' new 10 p.m. time slot allowing it to be a little edgier. The series also introduced the gritty, supernatural antihero Ghost Rider into the mix, but could there be another vicious vigilante on the way to challenge Ghost Rider?
On Thursday, New York Comic Con announced that Jon Bernthal, the actor who plays the Punisher in Daredevil Season 2, would only be at the event for two days because of his Netflix production schedule. At the time, ComicBook.com speculated that this could mean production had already begun on the upcoming The Punisher spinoff series. That remains a possibility, but it turns out Bernthal's Punisher may be making an appearance elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe first.
Marvel Television had a big premiere event for Agents of SHIELD Season 4, in which they screened the Agents of SHIELD Season 4 premiere episode, "The Ghost." Several comic book creators were in attendance at the event, including Gerry Conway, creator of the Punisher. According to IGN, Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel Television, at one point introduced Conway and other guests and teased, "You will understand why I brought all of these people here later in the season, and why it makes sense."
Could the reason "why it makes sense" be because Conway's creation, the Punisher, is going to appear later in Agents of SHIELD Season 4? Could that actually be what Bernthal is too busy filming to attended NYCC in full?
On one hand, NYCC did specifically state that it was production for Netflix that pulled Bernthal away from the convention. On the other hand, ABC Studios and Marvel Television both work with Netflix on Daredevil and the other Marvel's Defenders series, so it's possible that making a guest appearance on Agents of SHIELD was worked out as part of Bernthal's Netflix commitment.
It's also hard to see why else Conway would be at the Agents of SHIELD Season 4 premiere. While Conway has a sizable body of work at Marvel Comics, including currently writing Carnage and Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows for the publisher, the Punisher is usually considered his most significant contribution to the Marvel Universe.
Conway also wrote a handful of Ghost Rider issues in the 1970s, but probably not enough for him to be considered a definitive creative voice for the character and get him invited to the Agents of SHIELD premiere on that merit alone.
The Punisher showing up in Agents of SHIELD Season 4 makes sense when you think about it. The Punisher and Ghost Ride have similar motivations, to exact vengeance on the wicked and the guilty. It is easy to see how Ghost Rider and Punisher could run into each other while tracking the same criminals.
The larger challenge is geography. Ghost Rider is operating out of Los Angeles, while the Punisher works in New York City. It would have to be someone pretty nasty to drag either Ghost Rider or Punisher across the country to track them down.
As noted in ComicBook.com's Agents of SHIELD Season 4 premiere review, Agents of SHIELD has never felt closer in tone to the Marvel Netflix series than it did in "The Ghost." We can certainly see this as laying down the groundwork for the Punisher to arrive.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.