Who will replace Thanos as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next big bad? There are plenty of options, from obvious villains like Kang the Conqueror to celestial beings like Galactus to fan-favorites like Doctor Doom.
But there’s one Marvel supervillain that could top them all, both in the terms of threat level and general weirdness, and the latest episode of What If...? on Disney+ seems to confirm that’s where the MCU is headed.
We’re talking, of course, about Shuma-Gorath. So grab a tentacle, and let’s dive in. (Spoilers ahead for What If Episode 4.)
What If and Shuma-Gorath
In What If Episode 4, we see an alternate version of Doctor Strange who seeks out magic not because his hands are destroyed in a car crash, but because that very same accident kills the love of his life. This is a darker, more disturbed version of Strange, who ultimately obtains unholy powers when he learns the Time Stone isn’t enough to bring Christine Palmer back to life.
In the process, Strange encounters an interdimensional being portrayed simply as a mass of giant tenacles. The first time he meets it, the tentacles win. The second time, Strange wins, absorbing their powers into his own body. But in the process, Marvel could be introducing fans to a classic comic book villain, the ancient demon known as Shuma-Gorath.
This also isn’t the first time we’ve seen a similar beast. In What If Episode 1, an alternate version of Red Skull uses the Tesseract to unleash an identical being he calls the Champion of Hydra, a name with no meaning in the comics.
Is it possible these are both the same creature? And if so, could Marvel be hinting at its next big bad through What If just like it did with Thanos in 2012’s The Avengers? Let’s take a closer at the beast itself.
Who is Shuma-Gorath in Marvel?
First mentioned in 1972’s Journey into Mystery (Vol. 2) #1 only to appear a year later in Marvel Premiere #10, Shuma-Gorath is, among other things, a giant eye with tentacles. It’s also one of the “ Great Old Ones,” predating most things in the Marvel universe. Shuma has ruled over hundreds of dimensions, including ours. It controlled ancient Earth for many years before being banished by a time-traveling sorcerer.
Shuma-Gorath is sometimes (but not always) described as omnipotent. Its powers include the ability to communicate across dimensions and even control others throughout the multiverse. It can also shoot powerful energy blasts from either its eye or tentacles, which are capable of destroying entire realities. Shuma can even destroy galaxies using nothing but the power of its own aura. On the defensive side, its skin is resistant to most magic, making it extremely difficult to defeat.
In other words, Thanos is no match for this giant tentacle monster, but can the Avengers defeat it?
Shuma-Gorath has fought many of Marvel’s heroes, and in the comics, the Avengers have defeated the monster multiple times. However, its first (and often primary) enemy was Doctor Strange, who once traveled back in time to witness Shuma’s original banishment from Earth in 1,000,000 B.C.
With all this in mind, it makes sense that Shuma-Gorath would show up in the Strange-centric What If Episode 4, but it may also confirm a popular rumor about a major upcoming Marvel movie.
Shuma-Gorath in the MCU
According to recent reports, Shuma will be the main villain of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The report from fansite The Illuminerdi, which should be taken with a grain of salt, claims Shuma-Gorath will appear in an unspecified MCU title, but Doctor Strange 2 feels like the obvious answer, mostly due to their shared comic book history.
Is it possible that, after getting a taste of Strange in the multiverse via What If, Shuma-Gorath will go looking for the real thing? If that’s what happens, the Sorcerer Supreme is about to face a threat unlike anything the MCU has seen before.
What If...? is streaming now on Disney+.