Luke Y Thompson is covering the Con for Deadline:
SUNDAY AM UPDATE: I think the biggest news of the Marvel Studios panel tonight is that The Punisher is now owned by Marvel Studios again, and will probably figure into a future film. I’ve learned The Punisher rights reverted to Marvel in 2009 following the release of Punisher 2. The studio has no immediate plans to develop a movie based on the franchise. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige last night did not say when the Punisher rights reverted, or how: just that they have.
So who is The Punisher? In the comics, Frank Castle is a Vietnam veteran whose family is killed in a Mafia crossfire. Donning a black spandex costume with a skull logo, he declares war on crime and becomes a vigilante. Introduced as a Spider-Man foe in the 1970s, his popularity took off in the late 1980s, when grim and “realistic” superheroes became the norm. The Punisher is different from many superheroes in that he uses guns and has no secret identity. (He is known to be Frank Castle.) On film, he has been portrayed three times.
In 1989, Roger Corman’s New World made a movie starring Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher. He did not have the traditional costume or skull logo, but the role was a departure for Lundgren, who played the character as deranged. Initially set for a theatrical release, it wound up going direct to video, despite the character’s popularity at the time.
In 2004, with Marvel movies on the rise, The Punisher was rebooted with Thomas Jane in the lead. Jane, who is a comic book fan, and well-liked by other fans, researched the role heavily, hanging out at gun shows. John Travolta played villain Howard Saint. Though many fans liked Jane’s portrayal, the movie was still goofy and overlong, and the costume consisted mainly of a T-shirt with the skull on it.
In 2008, a sequel of sorts was made. Jane bowed out, and director Lexi Alexander was rumored to have lost control. Nonetheless, this was my favorite Punisher movie by far, with Ray Stevenson playing him as a slasher villain with guns, who defends against even worse villains. He didn’t quite get the costume, but the skull logo was still there. The movie bombed, despite being the truest adaptation to date.
While the last two were released by Lionsgate, the Punisher is fair game for future Marvel universe movies. This means you likely won’t see him as a Spider-Man foe (Sony has those rights). But you could see him fighting, say, the Hulk.
Chances are it won’t be Ray Stevenson who plays him again, even though he’s good and would likely come cheap.