How Marvel Horror Comics Are Shaping the MCU

Though it might be wild to think about, the first Marvel Studios movie wasn’t Iron Man. In fact, it came out 10 years before that momentous movie. Bladethe R-rated tale of Marvel’s most famous vampire—became an instant smash hit, sparking a trilogy and even a TV series. All of that is to say that while the family friendly antics of the MCU seem a world away from horror, the studio behind the films is built on blood (and guts). So if anything it’s actually a surprise that it’s taken the MCU so long to get back to its origins.

Embracing the genre that sparked the MCU and one that is so integral to its comics makes sense. Now with the arrival of Moon Knight and the soon to be released Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it’s safe to say that Marvel Studios is back in the horror business. Its horror comics are shaping our MCU future.

Moon Knight, Blade, and the Future of the MCU
Moon Knight stands in a center of strange fairground with sand below his feet and colorful bunting behind him
Marvel Studios

With the mythical and often brutal introduction of Moon Knight, Marvel is dipping its toes into the horror realm. However, it’s not the first time. Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange definitely leaned into the genre. But with Moon Knight, Marvel is using the MCU to dive into its more horror-inspired comics catalog. As we’ve spoken about in other pieces, Moon Knight debuted in Werewolf by Night #32. That’s one of Marvel’s flagship horror titles. So it makes sense that the show is the MCU’s first full foray into the genre. Even in later series, Moon Knight used horror tropes like terrifying asylums and potential possession to play with its horror origins. But we shouldn’t be surprised that Moon Knight is leading us in this direction as Eternals really started this trend off.

In the post credits scene of the epic Marvel movie, Dane Whitman came across an ominous weapon. We know it as the Ebony Blade. It’s a cursed Arthurian sword that corrupts the soul of anyone who wields it. The weapon makes them a violent berserker. In Eternals, Dane was willing to take that chance in order to save the life of Sersi. If that wasn’t horrific enough, we then got a voice appearance from the most famous Marvel horror character of all: Blade. Not only is he the character who sparked Marvel Studios as we know it in 1998, but he’s one of the characters fans have most wanted to return to the screen. So with the goosebumps-raising voice work from Mahershala Ali, Blade finally arrived in the MCU, heralding a horror-tinged new age. And that was only just the beginning as Marvel’s plans for the future show us.

Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, and Marvel’s Lesser Known Horror Comics
A collage shows the cover of Marvel's Tomb of Dracula 10 which shows the Black vampire hunter Blade fighting Dracula, then a picture of Oscar Isaac in the Moon Knight costume, followed by an image of Werewolf By Night #32 which shows Moon Knight fighting a werewolf
Marvel Comics/Gil Kane/Tom Palmer/Gaspar Saladino/Al Milgrom/Marvel Studios

Yes there’s an obvious—and massive—Marvel release coming up that seems very horror influenced. But we will talk about that a little later. We’re dedicating this to some of the lesser known titles that Marvel Studios is teasing. Werewolf by Night is already key to Moon Knight, but the main character from that series, Jack Russell, has yet to be seen in the MCU. That’s going to change this Fall, though, as multiple reports suggest that Disney’s untitled Halloween Special, is actually going to be a Werewolf by Night project. If that’s the case we can likely expect to see Oscar Isaac’s supernatural hero show up alongside Gael Garcia Bernal. But the bigger question is whether or not either of the characters will show up in the wider MCU.

The most exciting thing about Werewolf by Night isn’t the introduction of lycanthropes to the MCU but that Marvel Studios is finally looking back at its ’70s horror comic books as a source of inspiration. While Blade hailed from the Tomb of Dracula series, his original movie trilogy reimagined him. Instead of the vintage pulp inspired origin we got a contemporary, edgy, and cool ’90s Blade. We loved that iteration, but with Marvel fully embracing Werewolf by Night, we’re hoping Blade looks back to the comics that spawned him. It would be a super interesting way to reshape the character for the MCU, and the fact that we met him first in London in Eternals harks back to his Tomb of Dracula origin where he was born in Soho.

Midnight Sons, Marvel Knights, and the Extreme Era of Marvel Horror
A panel from a Midnight Sons comic shows Ghostrider and other superheroes standing next to each other
Marvel Comics/Andy Kubert

With the introduction of so many horror-connected characters, it seems like Marvel is looking to build a darker team. Think Midnight Sons or the Marvel Knights. We dug into those in a more in depth way earlier this year. But here’s the CliffsNotes: in 1992, Doctor Strange brought a collective of supernatural heroes together to defeat Lilith. They were casually known as the Midnight Sons. The team included Blade, Morbius, and two different Ghost Riders. This feels very much like something that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could introduce. We already know that Wong is potentially making a Thunderbolts style team of villains turned good, so perhaps Steven could do something similar with supernatural heroes.

The fact that we met Blade and it sounded like he was recruiting Dane for something also got us thinking that this could actually be Blade’s team. The pair have teamed up before in the comics and it would make sense to move away from the core Avengers members. As for the Marvel Knights, it was never an official team name but more of an unofficial designation inspired by Marvel’s edgy imprint of the same name. That group included some recognizable MCU heroes like Black Widow, Daredevil, Shang-Chi, and Moon Knight. That comic collective feels like something we could definitely see Marvel bringing to fruition in the future of the MCU, especially as the MCU tries to find new teams.

How Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Will Open the Horror Floodgates
MCU Zombie Wanda Scarlet Witch from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or Doctor Strange 2.png
Marvel Studios

Bringing on a horror icon like Sam Raimi makes a certain kind of statement. And from what we’ve seen of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Raimi’s horror chops will come into play. While Doctor Strange has never been a solely horror comic, it’s often played in the realm. Strange regularly fights fearsome creatures, terrifying nightmarish demons, and his own existential horrors. All of those aspects make his film a great fit for truly ushering in the horror genre.

The trailers have shown zombified versions of characters, Carrie-esque blood splattered heroes, and even eldritch monsters in the form of Gargantos (nee: Shuma-Gorath). This more obviously horror blockbuster, along with the way the MCU has been seeding Marvel horror, means that the bloodshed is only just beginning. We can’t wait to see just how far down the genre rabbit hole we go.

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