What If...?: Who or What is Shuma-Gorath from Episode 4?

It's not Cthulhu nor the Kraken.

By Jo Craig

September 1, 2021

**Spoilers Ahead for What If…? Episode 4**

Marvel’s animated Disney+ series What If…? is bouncing along nicely in an alternate universe by presenting different “What If?” questions every week. Episode 4, titled “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?,” had scarce plot details prior to its release, but we did find out that Doctor Strange would be running the show and taking a trip to the dark side.

Those who have watched episode 4 will have noticed the return of a familiar foe from Captain Carter’s episode 1, and we explore who the enemy is and how it could possibly tie into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Ask The Question | Marvel Studios’ What If…? | Disney+

Ask The Question | Marvel Studios’ What If…? | Disney+

Who or What is Shuma-Gorath?

The name, ‘Shuma-Gorath,’ was first mentioned in a 1967 short story by Robert E. Howard called The Curse of the Golden Skull, where “the iron-bound books of Shuma-Gorath” were briefly mentioned. The name then appeared in Marvel Comics’ 1972 issue Journey Into Mystery Vol 2 #1 and was later revealed to be one of Doctor Strange’s most-feared enemies.

In Marvel Premiere #3, Nightmare attacks Doctor Strange supposedly under the control of an unknown threat, and the Ancient One warns Strange of “a cosmic obscenity that slumbers” in the next issue. Within the fifth issue, the name Shuma-Gorath is finally revealed to the Sorcerer Supreme and the rest of the series continued to document the beast’s awakening. Strange and the Ancient One ended up having an intense battle with the one-eyed monster, surrounded by feelers, and it was consequently killed by Strange before returning to its slumber.

The great monster, Shuma-Gorath, made a flurry of appearances in later Marvel Comics, and the villain even branched out to video games. Shuma-Gorath’s powers revolve around the phrase “his secret is his power, and his power is his secret,” and the full force of his abilities was on show when Capcom united with Marvel for the Marvel vs. Capcom series.

The Future of Shuma-Gorath in the MCU

What If…? Episode 1 revealed a tentacled foe for Captain Carter and Steve Rogers to fight in the climax, and many Marvel fans stated that this was likely Shuma-Gorath too, traveling between dimensions, timelines, and multiverses – who knows at this point.

After the iconic comeback of the Doctor Strange villain in episode 4, many Marvel fans are wondering if Kevin Feige and his elaborate team are actually teasing the behemoth villain that will be at the center of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. We know very little about the sequel so far, including a small roster of confirmed characters, but what we do know is that there will be plenty of mind-bending multiverse action, which we know is on Shuma-Gorath’s turf.

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Jo Craig

Being a pop culture writer and a proud geek of all trades, Jo loves to dissect fandoms and marvel at their insides. The entirety of The Lord of the Rings, superhero origins, the Ghost of Tsushima score, the Wings of Freedom, and the endless search for a sleepy Tyranitar are but a few of Jo's passions, with a penchant for contributing to the geek culture community.

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