A new report details that Disney and Marvel terminated their deals with Punisher showrunner Steve Lightfoot and Helstrom showrunner Paul Zbyszewski.
The report comes from The Hollywood Reporter who claim these terminations are the first in what will more than likely be many more “amid the industry-wide production shutdown as studios of all sizes begin to tighten their respective belts.”
They claim the terminations were done under a force majeure clause. A force majeure clause typically frees parties from obligations due to an extraordinary circumstance like the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s unclear what kind of deals Lightfoot and Zbyszewski had with Marvel. Lightfoot did showrun the Punisher series on Netflix for two seasons. The show was cancelled after the second season.
As for Zbyszewski, he was in charge of the upcoming live-action Helstrom series that is to debut on Hulu. The report notes that while Zbyszewski’s contract was terminated he will remain with Helstrom as they wrap up post production work on the show. It had completed physical production before the industry shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The series is expected to focus on siblings Daimon and Ana Helstrom, the son and daughter of a serial killer. But unlike their their serial killer parent, the two siblings use their unique abilities to hunt down those who are terrorizing humanity.
Zbyszewski’s Helstrom series was originally planned to debut on Hulu alongside an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ghost Rider spin-off series starring Diego Luna. Zbyszewski was expected to serve as executive producer on the series.
However, the series was axed in September with THR’s sources explaining the cause was “creative issues.” Other rumors indicated the show’s cancellation could have been a financial one rather than an artistic one.
Scooper Mikey Sutton explained, “I have a strong feeling this wasn’t just an artistic decision but a financial one as well a la Swamp Thing on DC Universe.”
He indicated it might have also something to do with former Marvel TV boss Jeph Loeb, “Jeph Loeb is no stranger to having his shows cancelled after they were greenlit like Marvel’s Most Wanted and New Warriors, neither of which ended up on the silver screen, either.”
And there might be something to that rumor as Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has eliminated all but Helstrom and two animated shows M.O.D.O.K. and Hit Monkey from Loeb’s Marvel TV that was recently folded into Marvel Studios.
Zbyszewski has been with Marvel since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2013. He was the co-executive producer from 2013 to 2015 and became an executive producer in 2015. He also wrote a number of episodes for the show including Ghost Rider: The Laws of Inferno Dynamics in 2016.
This news comes following Marvel Studios delaying their upcoming Phase 4 slate. Black Widow moved to November 6, 2020, The Eternals was moved to February 12, 2021, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings moved to May 7, 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness moved to November 5, 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder was moved to February 18, 2022.
Marvel Studios’ parent company The Walt Disney Company had disclosed in March they raised $6 billion in debt in the United States. They would then raise another $1.3 billion in Canada at the end of March.
The company furloughed 100,000 theme park and hotel workers, with 70,000 of them from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
They’ve also furloughed a number of their film employees. In early April, Disney announced staffers “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” at their Burbank, California facility were being furloughed.