Fans of classic Marvel video games got a little excited in the first episode of Disney Plus’ MCU animated streaming program What if …? thanks to the appearance of a villain who, although unnamed, looked a lot like a cult favorite Doctor Strange villain Shuma-Gorath.
In the climax of the episode, Super Soldier Captain (Peggy) Carter faces an alien threat summoned by Hydra in the form of a mass of twisting tentacles coming through a cosmic portal. Although the creature is not named in the episode, viewers noticed its resemblance to Shuma-Gorath, a Marvel Comics villain dating back to the ’70s who came to the forefront of pop culture thanks to his participation in several beloved Marvel video games.
Although we may only have seen his tentacles creep into MCU, we will take every opportunity to talk about Shuma -Gorath, one of the strangest characters Marvel has ever given a multimedia push – and with his potential connection to rumors around Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness, the older evil may become more relevant than ever.
The strangeness of Shuma-Gorath’s Marvel Comics story goes beyond his video game star, to his roots that lie outside of comics, in a completely different myth.
So what is Shuma-Gorath’s story, and what could it mean if he makes it to MCU in some form, fashion or multiverse? We’re breaking it all down right now.
Who is Shuma-Gorath?
The cosmic horror known to mankind as Shuma-Gorath debuted in the 1973s Marvel Premiere # 10, having been named a few questions earlier. Created by author Steve Englehart and artist Frank Brunner, Shuma-Gorath actually draws its inspiration from two non-comic book-literary sources — HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian Stories.
The two writers often froze connections between each other’s ideas in their stories, something that plays directly into Shuma-Gorath’s story in the Marvel universe.
Shuma-Gorath is one of the so-called ‘Multi-Angled Ones’, a group of eldritch monsters found in a space outside Marvel’s Multiverse known as ‘Cancerverse’, which only enters different realities to conquer and onde dem.
The name Shuma-Gorath itself comes directly from Robert E. Howard’s Conan tale ‘The Curse of the Golden Skull’, while the concept of his appearance is inspired by the description of Lovecraft’s Elder Evils of the Cthulhu myth. In fact, the name ‘The Multi-Angled Ones’ is taken from a story set in the Cthulhu myths, ‘The Lair of the Star Spawn’ by August Derleth and Mark Schorer.
Shuma-Gorath’s Marvel story plays out both of these connections as well as the connection between Howard and Lovecraft himself. And thanks to Marvel Comics, which licensed the comic rights to Conan in the ’70s (as well as today), Shuma-Gorath’s story is directly linked to Conan Barbari’s greater continuity.
In Marvel Comics terms prior to Shuma-Gorath known history that first came to Earth in an ancient age where he conquered the planet as a sacrificial deity. He returned again in Conan’s Hyborian Age, a time period that has also been incorporated into Marvel history thanks to the aforementioned Conan license that the barbarian himself fought.
Shuma-Gorath’s time in the modern Marvel universe began when the unit tried to manifest itself through Doctor Strange’s mentor, the old man, began a rivalry between the Eldritch horror and the Sorcerer Supreme that lasts to this day, which has gone as far as Shuma -Gorath magically tries to take over Strange’s body as a parasite, and Strange is tricked into summoning Shuma-Gorath to fight other heroes in the story Infinity.
The rivalry between Strange and Shuma-Gorath has even grown to include Strange’s other central nemesis Dormammu. In fact, Shuma-Gorath and Dormammus’ hatred for each other was central to some of their last appearances in Strange’s title. In one of his medium-sized conquests, Shuma-Gorath destroyed the home of the antimagic villains known as Empiricul, who then invaded Earth to exterminate all magic in the Marvel universe and kill Shuma-Gorath in history. Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic.
In the story, the empiric actually succeeds in not eliminating magic completely, but destroying Sanctum Sanctorum and leaving Strange almost powerless as he is forced to collect magical artifacts to rebuild his power. But this also brings back Baron Mordos, servant of Dread Dormammu, who hopes to exploit Strange’s weakness and kill him.
It is revealed that Dormammu and Mordo are able to continue using magic, despite the fact that others like Strange and Scarlet Witch are completely cut off by leading Empirikul to Shuma-Gorath.
Finally regaining his power at the end of the tale, Strange Dormammu knocks on Shuma-Gorath’s realm.
Shuma-Gorath in the Marvel universe
Shuma-Gorath’s hatred of pretty much anything but himself and the other Many-Angled Ones (and even some of them) means that his rivalries go far beyond just Doctor Strange and Dormammu to many other heroes and villains.
In history Thanos imperative, Mad Titan was caught in Shuma-Gorath’s ‘Cancer Verse’ with Nova after a fight with the Guardians of the Galaxy, although both Thanos and Nova later escaped.
And in the narrative Doctor Strange: Damnation, Shuma-Gorath is one of a host of evil creatures fighting to become ruler of Las Vegas when a portal to hell opens in the city and loses to Mephisto.
Over the years, the cosmic horror has turned several times against the Avengers, lost a battle against Groot, the talking tree, and turned his body into a bizarre kind of zombie powder by Arnim Zola, who tried to use his terrible composition to think about – control Invaders in the story Invaders Now!.
He has even fought his way across the Multiverse thanks to his origins in a dimension that exists completely beyond its boundaries, and fights against variants of the X-Men, Thanos and many more.
One of Shuma -Gorath’s most interesting connections, especially in terms of his MCU potential, comes from one of his earliest appearances away from Doctor Strange, where the villainous Nicholas Scratch – AKA, son of Wanda Maximoff’s cartoon mentor and WandaVision villain Agatha Harkness – summons Shuma-Gorath to fight the four fantastic.
Oddly enough, Shuma-Gorath also has an ongoing rivalry with Deadpool thanks to both of their closeness to the living embodiment of Death — with the flash-forward story Deadpool: The End also including Shuma-Gorath, who invited Deadpool to the Kingdom of Death to celebrate the birth of her child (Deadpool RSVP’d “No.”).
And of course, we can not mention Shuma-Gorath’s place in Marvel lore without bringing his participation in the old school video game Marvel Super-Heroes: War of the Gems, where many Marvel characters are fighting for control of the Infinity Stones. This led to his later involvement as a playable character in the game’s spiritual sequel, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.
These appearances in video games made Shuma-Gorath, a formerly mostly obscure villain, an unlikely fan favorite and increased his profile in Marvel Comics — possibly leading to his MCU debut.
Shuma-Gorath and MCU
If Shuma -Gorath made his MCU debut in What If… ?, it could signal a later inclusion in later MCU properties – especially Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
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, all the way down to Shuma-Gorath’s usual motives for Multiversal Conquest, which play straight into the story created by Disney Plus’ Loki show.
There is also the question of popular – but unfounded – rumors that the Super Soldier version of Peggy Carter could appear in the Multiverse of Madness along with other variants of well-known MCU characters who would cool directly with his possible appearance fighting Peggy and What If …?.
Something to back up about the idea of a possible movie cameo is one quick scene from one of What if …? trailers depicting Peggy meeting Doctor Strange in a future episode.
The first Doctor Strange movie ended with a post-credits scene that established Mordo, until then an ally of Strange in the MCU, as a likely new enemy whose goal is to destroy magic in the MCU after the events of Dormammu’s attack in the movie. It sounds a lot like Empiricul, 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. Since Wanda Maximoff and possibly Agatha herself were to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, these comic book roots could be even more reason to bring Shuma-Gorath in.
Have we yet seen his nightmarish presence in What If…? episode one or not, there are more than enough comic book connections and potential nooks and crannies for Shuma -Gorath to find her way to MCU in the end – especially in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Before the upcoming Death of Doctor Strange cartoon and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up best Doctor Strange stories of all times.
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