Life for a Punisher fan isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. His appearances in comics are seldom and inconsistent, his cinematic history is laughable, and we’re still not far enough away from Frankencastle. But now that Marvel has the rights back to the killer of killers they could change all that. They may have their ideas about how to do that but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t force my thoughts on the matter on everybody else. So here for you is my Pipedreams for The Punisher.
Let me start off by saying putting The Punisher in his own movie would be a mistake—trust me on this, I’m an ardent fan of Frank Castle but he was not meant to carry a film solo. The problem with him is that the only good version of him is as a sociopath, no fear, no rage, no joy, no remorse. For him killing a human being elicits as much emotional response as turning a door knob. That’s why he’s able to kill so many of them and remain functional. But a sociopath absolutely cannot be a protagonist because a protagonist has to go on an emotional journey where they are forced to make tough decisions and grow as a person. That’s why I propose his first foray into the Marvel Cinematic universe be an appearance in somebody else’s story. After all, that’s how he came to the comics, by way of Spider-Man (and no I’m not suggesting the first Spider-Man movie be an adaptation of “The Omega Effect” crossover, despite my wife’s insistent pleading).
Preferably I would have liked his first outing to be in the “Daredevil” series on Netflix but it seems too late and far-fetched. Instead, let me entice you with another possibility: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I know some of the first detractors will say that he’s too violent to be on prime time. False. Yes, the Garth Ennis run on “Punisher Max” was brilliant, wildly entertaining, and almost grotesquely violent, but I would like to provide a counter-example with Greg Rucka’s recent run on “Punisher”. This series focused more on Frank’s Special Forces training, allowing him to rack up an enormous body count without brutally maiming his enemies. So: S.H.I.E.L.D. team-up, Prime Time sensibilities, and no Frankencastle—let’s do this!
I wanted to utilize a pretty easy McGuffin: Hydra has a thing and S.H.I.E.L.D. wants the thing. The trouble is Hydra is using human trafficking, surgically inserting the thing underneath the skin in order to transport the thing so it is untraceable. They simply have their surgeon implant it, send the human traffic across our border, and then remove it on the other side. However, Hydra doesn’t move in the human trafficking world so they contracted with a local crime syndicate. They get the bodies and Hydra pays them.
The episode opens with all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents getting ready to deploy. They found the location of a warehouse where Hydra removes the thing from the human traffic. It is owned and operated by the syndicate, a nasty bunch of killers with copious firepower. The agents are all readying themselves around entry points of the warehouse, guns at the ready. Coulson’s voice comes over the radio: “Go!” They blow the doors and come in, weapons raised and ready to fire… and the floor is littered with dead bodies, each one a crime syndicate member. They figure out pretty quick that everyone is dead and immediately start analyzing the scene.
There was clearly a firefight. Bullet holes are everywhere, all of them sprayed out in a panic. At several junctures there’s evidence of fragmentation grenades—one of the exits was even wired with a claymore landmine. The team start speculating who could have done this:
-Was it a competing criminal organization?
Too well coordinated. Whoever did this had serious expertise.
-Was it Hydra turning on their own contractors?
Not their style. This fight was a tactical assault, Hydra likes stealth.
-Was General Talbot reneging on their deal?
No, he has bigger fish to fry than to get involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. again.
The entire team is speculating on what team could have done this but Coulson and May both have looks of dismay. Phil is examining the dead, looking at spray patterns, picking up shell casings that litter the floor:
I know who did this. May does too. And it wasn’t a team.
Coulson bends over and picks up a shell casing from the ground, holding it in the light to examine it.
It was just one man.
(shaking her head)
We don’t know that.
Sure we do. Tactical entry, zero survivors, and I’d recognize this 5.56 NATO round anywhere.
We lost him crossing the border over a year ago. If he’d made it back into the states, we’d know about it.
You sure about that?
Excuse me, but who the Hell are you talking about?
Marine Corp Captain Castle a.k.a. “The Punisher”.
(holds up shell casing)
Welcome back, Frank.
How incredible would it be to hear Clark Gregg say that iconic line? But what’s more is it sets up a few things. It establishes that Frank Castle has existed and operated in this universe as The Punisher for some time. Since Coulson is the one to call him Frank, it sets up a history with these two, maybe even a past friendship. It also places where Punisher would be on SHIELD’s priority list. Not only do they have an extensive knowledge of his past, but they also know of his vigilante activities and are actively surveying and possibly interfering with them.
I’m going to abridge the rest of this story for the sake of brevity. Coulson will find Castle and ask for his assistance and offer SHIELD resources and intelligence for a small window if he cooperates. Frank will begrudgingly accept and kick off a gritty, action packed adventure. There are some things I would focus on in this episode. Whenever there is a shootout, Frank will never use excessive artillery. This is one way to limit gore and violence for TV audiences but more importantly it shows that Frank Castle doesn’t kick down the door with a chain gun and pull the trigger until the bullets are gone. Punisher deploys like a Navy Seal with proper hardware, controlled shooting, and good tactics. That’s how he’s survived against the hordes of the criminal underworld.
Another thing to highlight is his total and absolute disconnect from human beings. During the episode, other agents should try and confront him about his life. They can question his honor, his sanity, even question how his dead family would feel. But most importantly, he must never have an emotional outburst or lose control. Because only humans lose control of their emotions and he lost his humanity long ago.
So the episode would end with SHIELD and Punisher taking down their target, the leader of the syndicate. The agents are able to extract the information that they need on Hydra—and Punisher shoots him in the head. All the other agents are stunned but Melinda May has the clarity of mind to chase Punisher down as he leaves. She catches up to him right before he can get in his van and escape and she puts the wallop on him. Frank is at a complete disadvantage. While he may be one of the best in a gun fight, in close quarters combat he is nothing on May. She lands blow after blow while she tells him she never trusted him, that he was too far gone, that he needs help. As she winds up to knock him unconscious, a gunshot rings out. May looks down to see Frank shot her in the leg with a pistol.
Frank gets up off the ground as Melinda May staggers back. He holsters the pistol and tells her she can either apprehend him and bleed out or seek medical aid. Frank gets over to his van and opens the door and May shouts at him that he’s on a never ending road, that no matter how many criminals he kills there will always be more to take their place. Punisher stops and looks back at May and says:
“Cut off the head and two more will take its place?”
There’s more to it in my head but with this bare bones I feel like I’ve showed a proper way to fit Punisher into this universe.