The Punisher Heading To Television

Fox rebooting Marvel killer as cop show

After three attempts at a movie, none of which managed to spark a franchise, Marvel are now giving The Punisher a try as a TV series. Criminal Minds' showrunner Ed Bernero is currently putting together a pilot for Fox.

Marvel's homicidal vigilante is Frank Castle, a Vietnam vet who loses his family and decides to take his revenge. On all criminals, everywhere. He started out in the 70s as a Spider-Man villain, before being given his own series as an anti-hero, and wandered, somewhat unfocused (one bizarre attempt to reboot him saw him given a supernatural slant working for angels) until he was grasped by the neck and reinvigorated by Garth Ennis for Marvel's more adult-oriented Marvel Knights' imprint in 2000. He later got booted up to Marvel Max, where he could be even more violent and sweary.

Dolph Lundgren played Frank in a not-very-faithful 1990 film version. Then Thomas Jane had a creditable crack at him in Jonathan Hensleigh's 2004 movie, a large chunk of which was based on Ennis' Welcome Back Frank. And there was a further attempt in 2008, with Lexi Alexander's uber-brutal Punisher: War Zone, starring Ray Stevenson.

Fox's proposed TV series of hour-long episodes will seriously tweak the formula, re-envisioning Castle as a rising star of the NYPD, who moonlights as The Punisher when he can't get the results he wants through legal channels. So it's Dexter, with a cop instead of a pathologist. It's a "put pilot", which means Fox have guaranteed they'll air it, and usually means an almost certain expansion to a full series.

Marvel are also developing an Incredible Hulk TV series with Guillermo Del Toro, and AKA Jessica Jones, from Brian Michael Bendis' brilliant Alias. The Punisher is the only one not to be underway at ABC. Fox are also working on a version of DC's The Spectre.