If you had to take a guess about what was going on in the image above, what would you say? I would imagine some of you might say, "Hey, isn't that Shane from The Walking Dead shooting his shot," and you'd get partial credit. Most of you would probably say, "Yo, that's Jon Bernthal as The Punisher," and you'd technically be right. But for me, what that image actually is is a representation of Marvel waiting for the right moment to spring the release date of Marvel's The Punisher. As we all know by now that date, which was shrouded in mystery for well over a year, is Friday, November 17th, the exact same date DC has had circled for the release of their tentpole spectacle Justice League. Maybe it's just me, but that can't be a simple coincidence but rather a sign of Marvel just being petty party poopers on the Justice League parade.
Don't believe me? Think about it. For months, Marvel purposefully hid the release date from fans. We knew it'd drop in 2017, but for some reason, they wouldn't let us know WHEN.
The release date was a point of contention not only when the first trailer was released but was pump faked days later, with many thinking the series was going to drop in October. Personally, I thought it'd drop on November 10, 2017, primarily because the following Saturday was Veteran's Day. I mean, it makes sense given the way The Punisher is structured, with Bernthal's Frank Castle coming to grips with some capital-S Shit that went down during his time as a Marine? The series is one large eye-opener for those who may not understand the plight of a soldier when they are sent back to the "real world" and asked to assimilate. Shit is fucked the fuck up, and there are moments in The Punisher that feel like real wake-up calls to the harsh realities veterans face and have faced for centuries.
But that's not the game Marvel played. Marvel stayed low and kept firing until it announced the release date of...November 17, 2017, which also happens to be the day that DC's heroes form like
Voltron The Avengers and do battle with big, bad dudes in Justice League. "Could Marvel actually be that petty," you're asking? Why wouldn't they?
Think about it: DC's Justice League is getting a host of mixed reviews from critics. The squad over at Collider says the film is "beyond saving," while Vanity Fair straight up called it a "big, ugly mess." That's not to say that Justice League doesn't have bright spots: there are loads of praise being heaped on how "fun" this film feels, with most attention being given to the Wonder Woman and Aquaman characters specifically. The thing is, the early, temporarily-hidden Rotten Tomatoes score for Justice League was sitting at a depressing 48%; even for DC diehards, this couldn't be surprising—they are practically BEGGING for low scores, so they can go ham with their reasons why everyone else is wrong.
Now, this is just a theory, but let's just say Marvel knew a few things: one, they knew that The Punisher had to drop at some point before the end of 2017. It was already filmed, and Bernthal's performance during Daredevil's sophomore run low-key saved that season. It had to drop. Two, one has to assume that Justice League was going to be ripped apart by the critics. And keep it funky: Justice League needs to be a solid win for DC, primarily to help sort out the confusing mess of a future they have built for themselves. Why wouldn't someone over at Marvel Studios be on some "let's release The Punisher the same day" shit and kick 'em while they're down?
For someone who has to decide if their Friday night is spent going out to see the latest DC flick, which critics are already calling ass, or staying in to binge the 13-hour first season of The Punisher, the choice for many might overwhelmingly be Marvel. And while The Punisher has it's own piping hot stew of issues—which primarily boil down to "this is really a six-hour season in a 13-hour season's body"—when Bernthal's Punisher is on, he's really on. Folks will come for Frank Castle (violently) working out his issues, and Marvel hopes they will stay to subconsciously stick it to DC.
Makes sense, right? Maybe not; maybe this theory was just a shot in the dark. Get it? Because Punisher's got the sniper in the dead of night? No? I'll stop.