The Benedict Cumberbatch film could unleash a whole new side of the Marvel Universe, including parallel dimensions, monsters, the underworld and more.
Benedict Cumberbatch film looks to delve into a previously untapped (on the big screen) aspect of the Marvel comics — the realm of magic and the supernatural.The MCU is about to get a lot bigger with the release of Doctor Strange, as the
This darker, sometimes scarier side of the Marvel Universe has long been a major part of that world on the printed page, and in fact there have already been some seeds planted in the MCU movies and TV shows that can be capitalized on once Cumberbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme makes his long-awaited debut. So let’s take a look at five of the most notable supernatural doors Doctor Strange opens for the Marvel Cinematic Universe…
The Marvel Universe is a big place! Not only do our heroes traverse every corner of the earth — including locales like Atlantis and the Savage Land — but they often journey through space and time as well. But Doctor Strange is also a veteran when it comes to travelling to other dimensions.
The CW Arrowverse shows — particularly The Flash — have done a good job of bringing the concept of the multiverse to the mainstream, but the fact is Marvel also has a multiverse. (Technically speaking, Marvel and DC actually co-exist in the omniverse, but that’s a discussion for another time.) Going back to the earliest days of Doctor Strange in print, creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were imagining other dimensions and realities (and pocket dimensions and planes of existence) that were very alien when compared to our own… or to that of Marvel’s world, known as Earth-616. Ditko’s out-there psychedelic art only drove home the otherworldliness of these realms more.
We’ve already seen that Marvel is introducing this concept in the Doctor Strange movie, but it remains to be seen how far they’ll take it. Not only could Strange spend entire sequels in one or more of these weird dimensions, but alternate earths could also eventually be established. The Miles Morales Spider-Man, for example, originally hailed from the Ultimate Universe, while other popular realities have included Marvel Zombies, the New Universe, Old Man Logan (yes, that will be a Fox property on the big screen) and so many others. Heck, Marvel could even launch a What If…? series of movies or a TV show based on that beloved comic that introduces different one-off concepts set in other worlds like “What if Captain America had been elected president?” or “What if Loki had found the hammer of Thor?” Those were both actual issues of the comic, and hey — if they got turned into movies, I’d watch them both!
This kind of falls into the idea of other dimensions (see above), but the depiction of hell-like worlds — and battles with the demons who lord over them — is a fairly frequent Doctor Strange occurrence. One of Strange’s greatest enemies is the fiery (like literally — his head is on fire) Dormammu, who hails from the not-so-nice place known as the Dark Dimension. And actually, Strange’s chief love interest in the comics is Clea, the niece of Dormammu, though fortunately she has lovely silver hair rather than a crown of flames.
While the Dark Dimension is, strictly speaking, not hell in the biblical sense, it is frequently depicted in a very similar fashion. And there are several other notable stand-ins for the Devil and representations of death itself in Marvel Comics, including the demon Mephisto in the former case and the Asgardian goddess of death Hela in the latter, both of whom rule over their own underworlds. In fact, Cate Blanchett will be playing Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, and there is a rumored Doctor Strange connection to that film. Hmm…
Dormammu and Clea reportedly are not in the first Doctor Strange movie, but Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has said we will get a glimpse of the Dark Dimension. And surely sequels, if they happen, will explore these characters and settings more.
While you could certainly say that MCU villains like Red Skull or Ultron or Thanos are monsters of a sort, the truth is that actual monsters are a part of the Marvel Comics world. Yeah, we’re talking guys like Dracula here. Heroes such as Blade (who has vampiric qualities himself) and Doctor Strange have battled the lord of the vampires over the years, and the thing is a lot of these monsters exist due to the mysterious and eldritch magic of the Marvel Universe.
Some of the monsters aren’t really evil, however. Creatures like Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, Ghost Rider and of course Blade himself are all monstrous figures born from magic and the supernatural who are heroes (or at least anti-heroes). Then there are guys like Morbius the Living Vampire and the Frankenstein Monster who were created by science, but come on… They’re monsters too. And actually, a bunch of these characters have teamed up over the years in groups like the Legion of Monsters and the Midnight Sons, the latter being a team that Doctor Strange also worked with.
With Ghost Rider currently appearing on Agents of SHIELD and the movie rights to the popular Blade having reverted back to Marvel from their former home at New Line, it doesn’t seem that crazy that a few movies down the line we could get a monster-filled team led by Doctor Strange. The Avengers of the Supernatural!
The Scarlet Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen in the MCU has so far not really been a witch, but simply a super-powered being who got her reality-warping abilities from Loki’s staff (which contained an Infinity Stone). But in the comics, Wanda Maximoff’s powers go far beyond that, as she actually uses them in conjunction with magic. This makes her a very powerful, and very complex, character.
Of course, Wanda’s got a pretty confusing back story in the comics (as does her brother Pietro/Quicksilver), including her having been depicted as a mutant for many years until that was recently contradicted, questions about her true parentage and nature which have altered her status quo frequently, and more. But the bottom line is the concept of a super-powered being combining her abilities with her more supernatural gifts is a pretty interesting one, and something that Doctor Strange’s entry into the MCU could help bring to fruition. In fact, the comics version of Wanda was trained in the use of her hexes and magic (specifically chaos magic) by Agatha Harkness, another practitioner of the art. So perhaps the Scarlet Witch and the good Doctor could team up in similar fashion in a future Avengers movie.
Wanda has had some crazy storylines in the comics that tie into this supernatural side, many of which could be mined for the big screen. At one point she had twin children with the Vision, using her magic to facilitate the conception… magic which unfortunately turned out to be the result of her tapping into the soul of Mephisto (and the kids themselves, it was discovered, were shards of the demon’s soul — long story!). She once wiped out 90% of the mutants on the planet by uttering the simple words “no more mutants,” and another time she reshaped reality into the so-called “House of M” where mutantkind reigned supreme. Of course, some of these mutie-related stories would fall into the realm of the Fox/X-Men movies, but there are plenty of ripe MCU-related possibilities here, including her losing control of her powers, destroying Avengers Mansion, killing several of her teammates, and causing the Avengers to disband. Yikes.
Stephen Strange will be the MCU’s Sorcerer Supreme — mankind’s main protector against magical threats — but there’ve been many others who’ve held that title in the history of Marvel’s comics, including Strange’s mentor the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton in the film) and the legendary wizard Merlin himself centuries earlier. If Merlin existed, that means King Arthur did, and Camelot, and…
In the modern continuity, Brother Voodoo (a.k.a. Jericho Drumm) has also served stints as the Sorcerer Supreme, and he certainly seems like a character who could wind up on the big screen eventually. Not only would his Haitian background bring some much-needed diversity to the MCU, but when IGN’s Daniel Krupa visited the set of Doctor Strange he saw concept art that indicates the character may be mentioned in the final film. (Art for another magical character named Minoru, who ties into the comic Runaways, was also spotted.)
And other supernatural players and events are creeping into the MCU on the small screen too. The magical book the Darkhold has shown up on Agents of SHIELD this season, immortality of a sort has occurred on Daredevil, and Iron Fist is coming to Netflix soon in all his mystical chi glory. Will these drips and drabs of the supernatural turn into a tidal wave of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe once Doctor Strange is released? Only the Eye of Agamotto knows for now…