Heads up, Tampa. Some people aren't convinced that you're the proper locale for The Punisher, a $30-million Marvel Comics adaptation starting production in the city July 28.
Don't worry, Pinellas County, nobody has pulled you into the discussion yet. Or perhaps you do worry that the neighbors across the bay are getting all the attention on Internet bulletin boards, even if it isn't always flattering. After all, The Punisher is expected to do some filming in your back yard, too.
Landing the role as principal photography locale for The Punisher is a big deal, not only for local cash registers and wallets, and chamber of commerce-style exposure, and the chance of bumping into John Travolta at Bern's.
Just for fun, what also matters are The Punisher's devoted fans making their anonymous presumptions clear about a number of topics on Web site bulletin boards. Thomas Jane is a perfect choice for the title role as Frank Castle, a violent avenger. Or he isn't. Travolta will make a great bad guy. Or he won't. Punisher could kill Batman in a fight. Or he couldn't.
About the only thing Punisher fans agree upon is that Dolph Lundgren, a colossally bad actor who starred in a cheap Punisher flick 14 years ago, should make a cameo appearance.
Slightly fewer Punisher fans apparently believe that Tampa is a lousy place for the Punisher to stalk criminals.
"I think the idea of the movie being in Tampa is really lame," posted "The Incredible Hulk" _ everyone uses aliases on bulletin boards _ at www.superherohype.com.
That site contains a more detailed Punisher bulletin board (more than 5,400 postings on nearly 300 topics) than www.countingdown.com and www.comics2film.com, two other prominent Web sites on the subject.
"Frank is supposed to be battling the mafia," "Hulk" continued. "At least put the film in one of their hotbeds like (New York), (New Jersey), Chicago, Boston (or) Philadelphia. Leave plastic cities like Tampa (if you actually consider five tall buildings a city) for the Crockett and Tubbs's of the world."
As a reminder, Crockett and Tubbs were the fashionable cops on Miami Vice, a pastel plague of an image that has haunted Florida for nearly 20 years.
"Why do they wanna turn Frank Castle into Don Johnson?" posted "Grim," from parts unknown. "Is he going to live on a house boat, wear no socks and keep a pet alligater (sic)? Florida is pretty. Full of beutiful (sic) people and sunny scenary (sic). Punisher should be gritty and real with a gray overtone to it."
Even a cheap shot from Central Florida:
"Tampa isn't a tough city with Mob elements like NYC, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Chicago, or even Kansas City!" posted "Nivek" from Orlando. "Is this the Punisher (who) kills jaywalkers? Cause aside from a few coke/crack heads, that's all he's gonna find in Tampa!"
"Rscal," from parts unknown, suggested other targets for Castle's wrath: "Maybe he goes after senoir (sic) citizens because they (have) their turn signals on forever."
One participant who joined early enough to grab the prized pseudonym "Punisher" complained: "Next, I suppose Castle is going to be using a sexy convertable (sic) filled with guns in the back seat instead of a battle van!"
Fear not, Tampa Bay area residents, a few defenders of your honor can be found on the Web.
"Gainsboro" from Indiana replied to "The Incredible Hulk" posting with what began as like a satisfied vacationer's comments.
"You people who say Tampa is plastic and almost too corny to place a Punisher movie in obviously haven't been anywhere except the road that goes along the beach so they can get a good look at all the girls in bikinis and palm trees and happy happy Florida people."
Then Gainsboro added his backhand to the compliment:
"I gotta say this is one thing that disappoints me. But I guess I have to live with it. There's just something odd about looking at Punisher, clad in his skull (shirt) and trench coat, wielding big guns on a beach with a palm tree over his shoulder.
"What I think they SHOULD do is keep much of the sort of scenic stuff out of the movie and just play in the inner city slums where, I assume, it might fit the picture a little better. I don't think they should MENTION Tampa anywhere in the script."
Finally, among the hundreds of postings, one participant seemed to know what he was talking about.
"I always have to re-explain Tampa to my friends who haven't been here," typed "mannix," who proceeded to assure everyone that the population is one of the youngest in the southeastern United States (although he didn't need to add: "all the old people and the beach are on the other side of the bay in Clearwater and St. Pete").
Rest easy, "mannix" told Punisher fans, we've had our share of organized crime. "Heck, remember the guys in Goodfellas came down to the "Tampa Zoo' to kick some (mobster butt)."
And five tall buildings may not make a cool skyline, but "mannix" touted Tampa's "real culture" in Ybor City, the port and South Tampa. "Anybody who's been to Ybor/Channelside knows that it's a VERY cultural area with some cool potential locations," he posted.
Besides, DAPUNISHER of Rockledge wrote at www.countingdown.com: "Tampa outside of the downtown district is an old, seedy and crime infested city and is a better setting than New York just because many of us are tired of looking at New York."
Um, thanks, DAPUNISHER.