Could Marvel Be Facing A Legal Rights Issue With Doctor Strange 2

Marvel Studios is keeping the major details for the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reserved for theaters. But the production is hellbent

By Soniya Hinduja
January 7,2022
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Marvel Studios is keeping the major details for the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reserved for theaters. But the production is hellbent on marketing Benedict Cumberbatch’s second solo outing as Stephen Strange. This gives close lookers more than enough information to start constructing their theories. The teaser trailer for Marvel’s Multiverse of Madness gave fans a sneak peek into Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez and Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff. Too, the footage also suggested tiny reveals surrounding the film’s grand plotline.   

The Multiverse is breaking open. And unexpected entities like giant tentacled eyeball monsters and the evil alter-egos of Strange himself might be behind all that is in chaos. 

Gargantos In The Comics Vs. The Teaser

Doctor Strange
Gargantos featured in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness teaser
Marvel Studios

Shedding some light on the tentacled monster, Marvel’s marketing tactics are currently revolving around Gargantos. Which is the monster we see Strange fighting against in the teaser trailer. It is true that the monster’s name has not been clarified in the clip. However, there are toy sets that suggest otherwise. The creature’s presence in the film has left fans in shock. This is because Gargantos was originally a small-scale antagonist in the Namor comics. 

What surprises fans the most is Gargantos’ characterisation. The creature resembles the basic design of Shuma-Gorath, which is how the comics portray him as well. In the original comics, the eyeball octopus stands opposite to the Sorcerer Supreme. On the other hand, it is Shuma-Gorath who acts as the significant villain against Doctor Strange on the page. Apart from this, previous theories surrounding Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness suggested Shuma-Gorath as an antagonist in the upcoming sequel.

So if Marvel already had the basic agenda of incorporating Shuma-Gorath into the mix, why stay back in bringing in Gargantos? There are new rumors which point to the matter tangling with legal issues. 

Also Read : Theory Reveals An Evil Multiverse Scarlet Witch In Doctor Strange 2

So, Is Doctor Strange 2’s Gargantos Shuma-Gorath In Reality? 

Most viewers believe that the House of Mouse has claimed the rights to all the characters from the Marvel Comics franchise. But that’s not true. There are certain characters that remain untouched around Hollywood. 

ComicBook’s Adam Barnhardt clarifies the fact that Shuma-Gorath is a name taken from Robert E. Howard’s 1967 short story titled “The Curse of the Golden Skull”. The story is the one that features Kull the Conqueror. Whereas Shuma-Gorath made his Marvel Comics debut six years later as a Doctor Strange antagonist in 1973’s Marvel Premiere #10.

Robert E. Howard is known to sketch a bunch of Conan the Barbarian stories. And Marvel regained the comics licensing rights to those stories back in 2018.

Doctor Strange
Shuma-Gorath in the Marvel Comics

However, regarding the live-action iteration of certain characters, matters are a bit complex. Barnhardt mentioned that Netflix obtained the rights to Conan live-action and animation projects in September 2020. The streaming giant is believed to be working on a live-action series focused on the famed barbarian at the moment.

As if that’s not enough, Universal Pictures finds itself in the legal mix. Universal Pictures distributed a Kull the Conqueror movie in 1997. Considering that Shuma-Gorath first appeared in a Kull story, that character’s rights are still in the hands of Universal Pictures.

So Shuma-Gorath Never Makes An Entry Into Marvel Studios?

It is not like the Doctor Strange sequel has seen bigger complications before.

Shuma-Gorath Gargantos in the Marvel Comics

If Marvel Studios decides to introduce Gargantos in place of Shuma-Gorath, it will not be surprising. In fact, it saves the studio from a lot of legal issues. In the words of a Twitter user, @WhatStrangeDays, Norwegian video game company Funcom “fully acquired” the rights to Conan the Barbarian in September 2021. This only increases the complications for an already jumbled rights issue. 

Even on previous occasions, Marvel Studios has gone through the legal procedures for obtaining the rights of some characters to feature them in the movies. For instance, 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduces the Celestial, Ego, which is a Living Planet. Back in, the 20th Century Fox owned the rights to the character. Another example is when Marvel Studios gave Fox Pictures the authority to change Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s powers in 2016’s Deadpool. Director James Gunn even confirmed this information in 2016 through a tweet.

“Haha yes that’s true. I don’t think Fox knew what a big piece of the cosmic universe puzzle he was going to be (and I had no backup).”

Also Read : Doctor Strange 2: How Chaos Magic And WandaVision’s Darkhold Will Wreak Havoc On The Multiverse

However, regarding Robert E. Howard’s wide universe, a trade between characters is tricky business. This is because Marvel’s characters typically do not have encounters with anything Conan or Kull-related. Thus, a mix-up between these two universes is not just improbable, but also uninteresting. 

What About The Namor Variable?

Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange, Gargantos, Namor

Incidentally, for over 20 years, the official rights to Namor were stored under the Universal Pictures label as well. But today, Marvel Studios has regained the rights to Namor. However, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has admitted that the Sub-Mariner’s situation is “not as clean or clear” as most of the heroes in the MCU’s sandbox.

Namor has been in discussions. Mainly because the character might appear to play a groundbreaking role in the year’s forthcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Considering this, we can compare the character’s situation to Hulk’s.

There are two reasons 2008’s The Incredible Hulk never made it to a sequel. Firstly, the film performed surprisingly average in theaters. And secondly, the unexpected departure of the film’s lead actor Edward Norton. However, there is another issue that really hindered the franchise. And it was a legal right. The distribution rights to the solo Hulk outing still lie with Universal Pictures. Marvel Studios has full liberty to incorporate Bruce Banner in “future multi character films.” And we’ve already seen the green superhero suit up for every film including all four Avengers films as well as 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.

Comparing The Hulk Issue To Namor and Gargantos/Shuma-Gorath Issue

The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk

Considering the still-standing issue of the Hulk standalone sequel, there are chances that a solo project circling Namor will never make it to the big screen. But rumors suggest that the character will make his MCU debut in Black Panther 2. Which provides us grounds enough to believe that it might make future appearances in “multi character films”. Much like Bruce Banner’s hero. 

The same scenario can be considered appropriate for both Gargantos and Shuma-Gorath. Gargantos belongs to the same group of characters as Namor. And this gives the character a chance to appear in projects that do not showcase him as the main character or antagonist. 

Gargantos is a character that belongs in universes created by two studios. And they have both set the premises for the character to make his presence felt. But Shuma-Gorath is a whole different monster. Other than Universal Pictures, Marvel Studios will probably have to strike a favorable deal with Netflix, Funcom, and the Howard family. 

Also Read : Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness: All 3 Doctor Strange Variants Explained

What’s With The Reshoot Period Of Doctor Strange 2?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness wrapped most of its production in Winter 2020 to Spring 2021. Following that, the crew returned for a six-week reshoot period in November 2021. The film’s lead actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, mentioned factors like “logistics, COVID, etc” as the reason for the reshoots. But the rights issue surrounding Gargantos could have been a reason as well. 

Benedict Cumberbatch Rocks a Ponytail In New Doctor Strange 2 Image
Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

Marvel Studios’ idea of introducing Shuma-Gorath simply by altering the character’s name did not work out so well. The Marvel Comics portray Gargantos primarily as a sea monster. Whereas Shuma-Gorath is an ancient demon who possesses supernatural powers. So if Marvel wishes to stay away from legal complications, it would need Gargantos to appear as an original entity in Doctor Strange 2. Instead of simply adapting into Shuma-Gorath’s potential and taking the credit from there onwards. 

The six-week reshoot period may have allowed the creators to refurbish Gargantos’ character. This way, the villain will no longer resemble Shuma-Gorath. That is, considering the fact that Gargantos has as much significance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as Ego, the Living Planet did in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Also, that Marvel Studios failed to acquire the upper hand in the legal situation. Which is why reshoots were the Studios’ very last retort.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will introduce Gargantos to the big screen on May 6, 2022.