Skip to main content

Shuma-Gorath: 5 Things To Know About The Doctor Strange Enemy From The Comics

Shuma-Gorath in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
(Image credit: Marvel)

As one could see from the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer (which was released as a post-credits sneak peek following Spider-Man: No Way Home), things are about to really get “out of hand” for Benedict Cumberbatch’s surgeon-turned-sorcerer. In director Sam Raimi’s sequel Dr. Stephen Strange has to deal with the return of his former ally Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the emergence of his apparently evil doppelgänger, and a creature that looks a whole lot like the monstrous comic book villain Shuma-Gorath.

I am referring to that giant, squid-like monster with the giant eyeball that we get a brief glimpse of in the teaser – the identity of which has yet to be officially confirmed, I should admit. However, it certainly matches the resemblance of Shuma-Gorath, who is not only one of Doctor Strange's greatest enemies but has a fascinating history that spans much of the Marvel Multiverse. If you care to learn more about the creature, read on.

Shuma-Gorath from Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Shuma-Gorath Is An Extra-Dimensional Being Of Omnipotent Ability

Created by comic book writer Steve Englehart and illustrator Frank Brunner (although the name comes from Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Curse of Golden Skull”), Shuma-Gorath made his official debut appearance in Marvel Comics in Issue #10 of Marvel Premiere in 1973. Like many of the best and most fascinating villains in comic books, the beast is defined by the fear and awe that he inspires in “lesser beings,” which is something that he can literally feed off of.

In fact, Shuma-Gorath is often referred as a being of nigh-omnipotence and is described in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe as the “archetypal Class Three Demon.” He has the ability to, not only travel between other dimensions, but even communicate with and assume control of other beings in disparate realities and in his native dimension (which remains unknown), he is virtually unstoppable, but still difficult to kill elsewhere with his scaly, naturally armored skin. It comes as no surprise that he is powerful enough to conquer entire dimensions, yet his motivation to do so is beyond human understanding.

A creature from Lovecraft Country

(Image credit: HBO)

Shuma-Gorath Bears Similarities To Creatures Created By H.P. Lovecraft

As previously established, Shuma-Gorath’s name and a few other aspects of his lore are borrowed from Robert E. Howard’s “The Curse of the Golden Skull,” but many of his most essential and fearsome characteristics are reminiscent of an even more famous name to the horror-fantasy genre: H.P. Lovecraft. The prolific author (whose bizarre creations were also heavily referenced in HBO’s Lovecraft Country, obviously) envisioned an ancient race of extra-dimensional beings referred to as either The Old Ones or the Many-Angled Ones. Reason being, they can pass through an innumerable amount of different dimensions, which causes their appearance to distort with each transference. 

In his Marvel iteration, Shuma-Gorath is said to be the most powerful of the Many-Angled Ones, meaning that the multi-tentacled, large-eyed beast we see in the comics (specifically Marvel’s main 616 universe) and, possibly, in the Doctor Strange 2 trailer may not even be his true, natural form. Furthermore, the Old Ones are said to be the echoes of nightmares that would haunt demons in their sleep, meaning audiences who show up to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will, supposedly, bear witness to the deepest fears of a demonic entity, essentially. That would have to be the most ambitious concept that Sam Raimi, the creator of the Evil Dead movies, has ever taken on.

Doctor Strange battles Shuma-Gorath in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Shuma-Gorath Was First Introduced As A Doctor Strange Villain

Marvel Comics readers’ first proper introduction to Shuma-Gorath in the aforementioned Marvel Premiere #10 was also the first time the beast crossed paths with Doctor Strange. Before we get into that, another important detail we should mention about Shuma-Gorath is that his dominance is dependent on a set of magical, iron-bound books that can either be used to banish him to one particular dimension or release him onto the Multiverse to travel as he pleases. 

After a wizard named Crom was able to use the books to banish Shuma-Gorath with the help of Conan the Barbarian (yes, the same Conan the Barbarian Arnold Schwarzenegger played in the 1980s), Shuma-Gorath needed to find a new way to return to Earth. His solution, which he envisioned centuries later, was to possess the mind of the Ancient One (portrayed in 2016’s Doctor Strange by Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton). In order to stop Shuma-Gorath, the Sorcerer Supreme had no choice but to kill his mentor - the death of whom is already canon to the MCU at this point.

Marvel's Genesis

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Shuma-Gorath Is Involved In Marvel Comics’ Interpretation Of The Story Of Genesis

To really put into perspective how vast the history of the eternal Shuma-Gorath in Marvel Comics truly is, here is pretty cool detail for you. What if I told you that the being plays a pivotal role in the origins of the Earth as it is depicted in Marvel’s main continuity?

When Shuma-Gorath first traveled to Earth billions of years ago (before the existence of the Celestials, who created the Eternals), he was able to assume full dominance over its primitive beings until a 31st-Century sorcerer named Sise-neg traveled back in time to witness Shuma-Gorath feeding off of primates. Sise-neg then put the creature in a long slumber and banished him to another dimension before creating a “Garden of Eden” for the two remaining survivors of Shuma-Gorath’s feeding frenzy. Did you happen to notice that Sise-neg spelled backwards is “genesis”?

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Doctor Strange 2 Potentially Marks The Cinematic Debut Of Shuma-Gorath

As a character mainly known for being a Doctor Strange villain, it would make sense if Shuma-Gorath is confirmed to appear opposite the Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It would make even more sense that the extra-dimensional being’s first big screen appearance is in a movie that uses the concept of the Multiverse as a major plot element.

However, this would not exactly be Shuma-Gorath’s official screen debut. He has appeared as a playable character in several video games, notably the mid-‘90s Marvel Super Heroes computer game and the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Each time, he was voiced by Frank Perry - a Canadian actor who also lent his voice to a small role on Spider-Man: The Animated Series once.

I was already convinced that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could be destined to be one of the best Marvel movies yet when horror auteur turned Spider-Man trilogy helmer Sam Raimi was brought in as the new director. Now that one of the Sorcerers Supreme’s most fearsome, cosmic enemies might be involved, few Marvel films have me more excited.

Jason Wiese

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.