Shuma-Gorath is coming to the MCU, it looks like more and more.
New promotional artwork for a Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness LEGO tie-in toy shows off a villain that certainly looks a heck of a lot like Shuma-Gorath, right down to his reddish-green color scheme, tentacles, and big central eye, just as Newsarama has theorized for some time.
The new toy set follows in the footsteps of what appears to be an official 1000-piece puzzle depicting Benedict Cumberbatch's Sorcerer Supreme doing battle with the same villain/monster .
There’s only one problem. The new LEGO toy set specifies that the villain pictured isn’t Shuma-Gorath at all, but Gargantos, a totally different (and way more obscure) sea monster dating back to ’60s Namor comics.
Gargantos has only shown up a few times, mostly as a mindless monster without Shuma-Gorath’s multiversal power or sinister intelligence. So why might Marvel Studios potentially using a lesser-known villain, when they’ve got a perfectly good Shuma-Gorath sitting around?
It’s hard to say. For one thing, the name ‘Gargantos’ on the toy could be a misdirect, or incorrect labeling. But there’s also the chance that Marvel Studios is hedging their bets on the usage of the name ‘Shuma-Gorath,’ which actually originates outside of the publisher.
The name ‘Shuma-Gorath’ comes from a fantasy story written by Conan creator Robert E. Howard, which predates the Marvel Universe. However, the character’s likeness, powers, personality, and backstory are the creations of writer Steve Englehart and artist Steve Brunner, which we detail below.
Marvel has used the name Shuma-Gorath in other media adaptations, specifically video games, and names can’t be trademarked (meaning they can be shared by multiple characters with different owners, depending on the context of they’re used), but nonetheless, there could be a legal reason behind using a name that the publisher has sole ownership of, and which originates entirely in Marvel Comics.
Whatever the case, it appears that a Shuma-Gorath style villain will appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness under one name or another.
Why we still think it’ll be Shuma-Gorath and not Gargantos
That issue comes down to the monster’s first appearance in the MCU.
For fans of classic Marvel video games, Disney Plus’s animated streaming series What If…? may have hit you right in the feels, thanks to what now appears to be two appearances of Shuma-Gorath, who though unnamed l ooked and acted a helluva lot like the cult-favorite Doctor Strange villain.
In What If…? episode 1, Super Soldier Captain (Peggy) Carter fights a seeming alien menace conjured through a cosmic portal in the 1940s by the Red Skull. A mass of writhing tentacles trying to breach Earth through the portal is pretty much all we see of the villain, however. While it isn’t name-checked in the episode, what little we see does bears a striking resemblance to Shuma-Gorath, the Marvel comic book villain dating back to the ’70s that enjoyed a pop-culture moment in the sun due to its appearance in several fan-favorite Marvel video games.
And the tentacles/unnamed monster returned in What If…? episode 4, again seen trying to breach a portal and this time (with a nod to gamers) acting as a sort of mystical final boss that an obsessed, grieving Doctor Strange needs to level up for hundreds of years to defeat and to absorb a portion of its powers.
It’s worth noting, even this uber-powerful Stephen Strange can’t fully defeat it and only absorbs a couple of the monster’s tentacles, as opposed to it entirely as he does with all the mystical monsters that come before it, seemingly indicating the enormous power the full creature possesses.
And it’s this mystical/multiversal aspect that separates Shuma-Gorath from Gargantos and makes us think the creature is the former.
So what’s Shuma-Gorath’s story, why do we think it’s him, and what could it mean if it does make it to the MCU in some form, fashion, or multiverse? We’ll break it all down right now along with explaining Shuma-Gorath’s odd path to Marvel Comics in the first place.
Who is Shuma-Gorath?
The cosmic horror known to mankind as Shuma-Gorath made its debut in 1973’s Marvel Premiere #10 , after being name-checked a few issues earlier. Created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Frank Brunner, Shuma-Gorath actually takes its inspiration from two non-comic book literary sources – H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories.
The two writers often seeded connections between each others’ ideas in their stories, something that plays directly to Shuma-Gorath’s history in the Marvel Universe.
Shuma-Gorath is one of the so-called ‘Multi-Angled Ones,’ a group of eldritch monsters who exist in a space outside Marvel’s Multiverse known as the ‘Cancerverse,’ who enter different realities only to conquer and bedevil them.
The name Shuma-Gorath itself comes straight from Robert E. Howard’s fantasy story ‘The Curse of the Golden Skull,’ while the concept of its appearance is inspired by the description of Lovecraft’s Elder Evils of the Cthulhu mythos. In fact, the name ‘the Multi-Angled Ones’ is taken from a story set in the Cthulhu mythos, ‘The Lair of the Star Spawn’ by August Derleth and Mark Schorer.
Shuma-Gorath’s Marvel history plays up both these connections, as well as the connection between Howard and Lovecraft themselves. And thanks to Marvel Comics licensing the comic book rights to Conan in the ’70s (as well as in the present day) and adapting that Robert E. Howard story into being a Conan comic, Shuma-Gorath’s story ties directly to Conan the Barbarian’s larger continuity.
In Marvel Comics terms, Shuma-Gorath predates known history, first coming to Earth in a primordial age in which it conquered the planet as a sacrifice-hungry deity. It returned again in Conan’s Hyborian Age, a time period that’s also been incorporated into Marvel history thanks to the aforementioned Conan license, fighting the Barbarian himself.
Shuma-Gorath’s time in the modern Marvel Universe began when the entity tried to manifest himself through Doctor Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One, beginning a rivalry between the eldritch horror and the Sorcerer Supreme that lasts to this day, which has gone so far as Shuma-Gorath trying to magically take over Strange’s body like a parasite, and Strange being tricked into summoning Shuma-Gorath to fight other heroes in the story Infinity .
The rivalry between Strange and Shuma-Gorath has even grown to encompass Strange’s other key nemesis Dormammu. In fact, Shuma-Gorath and Dormammu’s hatred of each other was central to some of their last appearances in Strange’s title. Shuma-Gorath, in one of its interdimensional conquests, destroyed the homeworld of the anti-magic villains known as the Empirikul, who then invade Earth seeking to eradicate all magic in the Marvel Universe and to kill Shuma-Gorath in the story Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic .
In the story, the Empirikul actually succeeds in eliminating not just magic altogether, but in destroying the Sanctum Sanctorum, leaving Strange nearly powerless as he is forced to collect magical artifacts to rebuild his power. But this also brings the return of Baron Mordo, servant of the Dread Dormammu, who hopes to capitalize on Strange’s weakness and kill him.
It’s revealed that Dormammu and Mordo can keep using magic, despite others like Strange and the Scarlet Witch being totally cut off, by leading the Empirikul to Shuma-Gorath.
Finally regaining his power by the tale’s end, Strange banishes Dormammu to the realm of Shuma-Gorath.
Shuma-Gorath in the Marvel Universe
Shuma-Gorath’s hatred of pretty much everything but itself and the other Many-Angled Ones (and even some of them) means that its rivalries go far beyond just Doctor Strange and Dormammu to many other heroes and villains.
In the story The Thanos Imperative , the Mad Titan was trapped in Shuma-Gorath’s ‘Cancerverse’ along with Nova after a battle with the Guardians of the Galaxy, though both Thanos and Nova later escaped.
And in the tale Doctor Strange: Damnation , Shuma-Gorath is one of a multitude of evil beings vying to become the ruler of Las Vegas when a portal to hell opens in the city, losing out to Mephisto.
Over the years, the cosmic horror has faced down the Avengers multiple times, lost a fight to Groot the talking tree, and had its body turned into a bizarre kind of zombie powder by Arnim Zola, who attempted to use his horrid concoction to mind-control the Invaders in the story Invaders Now! .
It’s even wound his way across the Multiverse, thanks to its origins in a dimension that exists wholly outside of its bounds, fighting variants of the X-Men, Thanos, and many more.
One of Shuma-Gorath’s most interesting connections, especially in terms of its MCU potential, comes from one of its earliest appearances away from Doctor Strange, in which the villainous Nicholas Scratch – AKA the son of Wanda Maximoff’s comic book mentor and WandaVision villain Agatha Harkness – summons Shuma-Gorath to fight the Fantastic Four.
Weirdly, Shuma-Gorath also has an ongoing rivalry with Deadpool thanks to both of their proximity to the living embodiment of Death – with the flash-forward story Deadpool: The End even including Shuma-Gorath inviting Deadpool to Death’s realm to celebrate the birth of its child (Deadpool RSVP’d “no.”).
And of course, we can’t mention Shuma-Gorath’s place in Marvel lore without bringing up its inclusion in the old-school video game Marvel Super-Heroes: War of the Gems, in which many Marvel characters battle for control of the Infinity Stones. This led to its later inclusion as a playable character in the games’ spiritual successor, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds .
These video game appearances made Shuma-Gorath, a previously mostly obscure villain, into an unlikely fan favorite and boosted its profile in Marvel Comics – potentially leading the way to his MCU debut.
Shuma-Gorath in the MCU
If Shuma-Gorath did make his MCU debut in What If…? episode 1 and then returned in episode 4 starring Doctor Strange, that’s a pretty strong signal it will be seen in the MCU again – with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness being a likely live-action debut as any, now corroborated on a couple of fronts.
The easy connections are all there, from Strange and Shuma-Gorath’s classic comic book rivalry, to the villain’s origins as a being outside the Multiverse itself, right down to Shuma-Gorath’s usual motivations of Multiversal conquest, which play right into the story set up by Disney Plus’ Loki show .
There’s also the matter of popular – but so-far unfounded – rumors that the Super Soldier version of Peggy Carter could appear in Multiverse of Madness alongside other variants of known MCU characters, which would dovetail directly with his possible appearance fighting Peggy in What If…?
The first Doctor Strange movie ended with a post-credits scene establishing Mordo – up until that point an ally of Strange in the MCU – as a likely new enemy whose goal is to destroy magic in the MCU following the events of Dormammu’s attack in the film. That sounds quite a lot like the Empirikul, the magic-hating villains with ties to Strange, Shuma-Gorath, and even Dormammu and Mordo.
And of course, there are the comic book ties between Scarlet Witch and Shuma-Gorath, both through the aforementioned Last Days of Magic story and through their shared connections to Agatha Harkness. With Wanda Maximoff and possibly Agatha herself set to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (and for certain to appear in her own Disney Plus spin-off series House of Harkness ), those comic book roots could be even more reason to bring Shuma-Gorath in.
Whether we’ve seen its nightmarish presence yet in What If…? twice now or not, there are more than enough comic book connections and potential story hooks for Shuma-Gorath to find its way into the MCU eventually – especially in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Unless he’s Gargantos not just in name but just a sea monster and nothing like Shuma-Gorath.
That’s possible, but we wouldn’t count on it.
Before the upcoming Death of Doctor Strange comic book and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness film, it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on the best Doctor Strange stories of all time.
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