If you, like me, screamed when Shuma-Gorath apparently arrived in the MCU via the first episode of What If…? then you may have been somewhat surprised to learn that in the MCU the elder god—and beloved Marvel vs. Capcom character—has a different name. Called Gargantos on official MCU merchandise and official press materials, the famed monster seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis. Well, I’m here to answer all your Shuma-Gorath and Gargantos-related questions when it comes to Marvel and the MCU, especially since we will next see the creature in the upcoming Doctor Strange 2. After all, we need to know who we’re cheering for… or against… when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits our screens on May 6.
Who Is Marvel’s Shuma-Gorath?
Named by Robert E. Howard in his posthumously published Kull story The Curse of the Golden Skull, Shuma-Gorath was simply that: a name. Beginning in Marvel Premiere #3, Doctor Strange began battling a string of antagonists who had a mysterious puppet master. Over the next few comic issues, the name Shuma-Gorath is revealed as the force behind the attacks. This culminates in Shuma-Gorath’s first Marvel Comics appearance in Marvel Premiere #10. A giant pink one-eyed monster with gangly tentacles, Shuma-Gorath was a malevolent deity from another dimension.
Doctor Strange managed to dispatch Shuma-Gorath and the character appeared sparsely over the next 20 years, shifting from pink to green in subsequent appearances. The Lord of Chaos was so obscure that Marvel’s licensing division was shocked when Capcom requested to use Shuma-Gorath for their 1995 fighting game, Marvel Super Heroes. The monster’s inclusion took him to new heights, and he also featured in Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In the past decade or so, Shuma-Gorath’s cult status as a fan fave video game character has caused Marvel to use the many-tentacled Lord of Chaos in a greater number of comics, still facing off against Doctor Strange in most appearances.
Who Is Gargantos and Why Is He in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?
Simply put, Gargantos is a sea monster that Namor battles and quickly kills in Marvel Comics’ The Sub-Mariner #13 from 1969. Unleashed by the evil emperor Naga, the one-eyed green beast appears as veritably mindless. Gargantos, in fact, gets dispatched within mere pages by Prince Namor during his first comics appearance. 20 years later, Gargantos appeared in the comics again in a single panel during a flashback in X-Factor Annual #4. This was part of The Saga of the Serpent Crown, a backup feature from the Atlantis Attacks event that ran across all of Marvel’s annuals in 1989. Much like Arthur Harrow from Moon Knight, Gargantos is basically a one-hit-wonder in Marvel’s comic world. Gargantos doesn’t, in fact, ever meet Doctor Strange in the comics.
So why would Marvel Studios use the name of an obscure monster who has no connection to Doctor Strange? Why is it Gargantos that appears in Multiverse of Madness? In the end, it’s all about the complex story of Shuma-Gorath’s creation. Marvel writer/editor Roy Thomas is a massive Robert E. Howard fan, even referencing the name Shuma-Gorath in a Marvel horror anthology comic years before the monster ever appeared. As the editor of the Marvel Premiere series, Thomas and Marvel included a credit that read “Featuring Concepts Created By: Robert E. Howard” beginning with Marvel Premiere #4. Although no details publicly exist about the deal between the Howard estate and Marvel to use the Shuma-Gorath name, the credit essentially cements the creature as a Howard creation. That means Marvel would likely have had to pay the owners of Howard’s estate to use Shuma-Gorath in the MCU.
Did Marvel Try to Get the Rights to Shuma-Gorath?
As we mentioned before, Shuma-Gorath’s name first appeared in a Kull story. Currently, the rights to those tales are owned by Heroic Signatures and its parent company, Funcom. The Norwegian video game company has previously worked alongside Marvel to solve licensing issues. But according to a report by ComicBook.com, this time Marvel didn’t even reach out to the licensor about using the name Shuma-Gorath in Doctor Strange 2. Instead, it appears that they just decided to redub the monster Gargantos for the MCU movie to avoid any rights issues.
Interestingly, Howard fanboy Roy Thomas is the co-creator of Gargantos, alongside legendary artist Marie Severin. Thanks to Marvel’s crediting rules, it’s unlikely that Thomas would receive any thanks or compensation for a Shuma-Gorath appearance, even if his fandom was responsible for bringing the Howard-inspired creation into Marvel’s fold. With his vaguely similar appearance and zero licensing conflicts, Gargantos becomes a wholly Marvel-owned character that provides a safer option for the entertainment juggernaut as they introduce him into Doctor Strange‘s world.
What’s the Difference Between Marvel’s Shuma-Gorath and the MCU’s Gargantos?
So are the MCU’s Gargantos and Marvel’s Shuma-Gorath the same? Well, the biggest difference is that Shuma-Gorath has become an iconic part of Marvel lore, whereas Gargantos has—as we mentioned—only appeared in two Marvel Comics issues. He’s hardly well defined and seems to be Shuma-Gorath by another name. While we’ll have to wait and see if the studio decides to create a whole new set of powers and characteristics for the creature in his MCU appearance, for now, we know that the version of Gargantos that we’ve seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness shares the exact same look as Shuma-Gorath. That makes us think he’ll also share his chaotic elder god powers and connection to Chaos Magic.