New York Comic Con is over. After reluctantly leaving the show hall floor for the last time Sunday afternoon, I was making arrangements with my mother. She commented that I didn’t seem as excited this time.
Now, I’m not a long-time con-goer, but over the past couple of years, I have learned that I love them, and it’s one of the few times that I will share nerdy things on all types of social media. Year-round, I don’t spam my Facebook friends with my many musings on the intricacies of The Hand, but when I go to a convention, all bets are off. Over the next week I anticipate many questions about who this “Alex Maleev” guy is. In explaining the lack of Facebook-visible excitement, I realized that the whole reason I started coming to cons was missing, this time around. There was no Marvel Netflix Panel.
I first heard of the cancellation from one of my fellow MCU Exchange writers, who I assumed was pulling my leg. However, the news was true, and I respected the sentiment. At the time, however, I didn’t realize what a big change this was going to be. Oh, sure, it meant that I could maybe do some other Saturday panels that I hadn’t even considered (Psych, The Movie was a blast), but there were even more changes, along the way.
Rumor has it (from somebody in one of many lines over the weekend) that Marvel had planned for Punisher to be front-and-center in all of their marketing for the weekend. The booth was to be decorated for Punisher, the Punisher Panel was their main event, star Jon Bernthal would be doing signings, and they would be giving out Punisher posters. It was a full-court-press, with Runaways and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the assist.
But from what the attendees saw, you would never know Punisher even existed. There wasn’t a single poster about the show (outside of merchandise booths) throughout the Javits Center. After seeing The Defenders around every corner in San Diego, there wasn’t one little hint of Frank Castle on any of the large banners flying overhead. The posters never appeared at the Marvel booth. No trinkets promoting the show appeared in the merchandise give-aways. I couldn’t help but wonder if Marvel had originally planned to have Cloak and Dagger on the giant electric billboard on the street, outside.
Frank Castle was erased, completely, and many attendees never even noticed.
I like to be around people that notice everything regarding the MCU, so we noticed.
We noticed that Marvel didn’t use this opportunity to start a conversation about gun violence, violence, or the tricky situation that fans are in when our heroes aren’t obviously heroes. As we waited for news of what would be in Madison Square Garden in the now-empty Saturday afternoon timeslot, some of us hoped that there would be an open discussion on this subject.
We noticed that our hero is problematic. I have never defined Frank Castle as my hero, and I’ve wondered about how they would present him as the protagonist in a 13-episode series ever since it was announced. While my group of MCU-fan friends sat around on Saturday evening, we were discussing if Netflix should have ever given Castle his own show, no matter how well Bernthal performed in the role. Should a character that unapologetically kills, so frequently, have this sort of spotlight?
We noticed each other. While I have made friends by sitting in lines to get into panels, it was nice to sit with my friends, with no plans, and simply watch all the people at the Javits center. We could work out our feelings on the cancellation, share how exciting Runaways was, come up with theories to fix Inhumans, and wonder what in the world Freeform had in mind with their Cloak and Dagger marketing. With that extra time and energy, we ended up around a dinner table sharing beers, food, and stories.
We noticed how angry some fans were at this decision. When you buy a badge in May for a convention in October, there are no guarantees on what you are going to see. However, a Punisher panel was one of the few things that fans could bet on getting, without knowing the full schedule. Fans have been waiting on this ever since Frank Castle was announced to appear in Daredevil season two. This is a character with a large fan base, and while those fans were sympathetic to the tragedy in Las Vegas, there was a feeling that this cancellation was, in a sense, letting the terrorists win.
We noticed that Marvel Television was sensitive to the impacts of gun violence in America, but the comic book side of the corporation was still a little bit tone-deaf. We noticed, also, that voices of reason were eventually heard.
We noticed fans making sure that Punisher had an appearance at the convention, even if it was unofficial. There was every form of Frank Castle cosplay, from the fully-armed military-inspired version we see on Netflix to the woman in knee-high white boots, calling back to a classic comic-book version of the character.
We noticed that Marvel Television seems to be a little bit cursed, these days. Even when they have a property that might raise hype above the negativity that has surrounded some other recent releases, the world has conspired to dull the shine.
We noticed that there could be deeper reasons that Marvel made this decision. While facts are still being released about the tragedy in Las Vegas, would we see the familiar skull logo associated with the killer? I tried to remember the montage from the series that was shown in San Diego. Did Frank Castle, himself, go on a killing spree in Vegas? Are there deeper correlations that will make this show even more problematic?
When a man has killed so many innocent people, it feels trivial to be upset over the cancellation of one panel at a comic convention. But we will never know what this weekend would have been like, had events of the preceding week been more peaceful. What I do know is that there was no glory in this cancellation. In the main Marvel Television panels, Loeb made no reference to what was missing. There was no expectation of praise, only a complete void that was filled with a Stan Lee documentary. I was not in attendance, if the subject was broached at that event.
Looking back on NYCC 2017, I’m thankful that the only thing we have to complain about is the lack of some hype for a TV show, rather the type of tragedy that folks looking for a good time experienced in Vegas. One day we’ll get to see Punisher. We just won’t get to see it with thousands of other fans in the room with us.