This July, Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will reach its endgame in Spider-Man: Far From Home. The long-awaited Spidey sequel will be our first real opportunity to see how the fallout of Avengers: Endgame will affect the wider MCU. It's also expected to contain the first tease as to what we should expect from Phase 4, which is set to begin with an untitled Marvel movie (as revealed in the recent Disney Fox movie schedule) due for release on May 1, 2020. If the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer is anything to go by, the future of the MCU could hinge around Jake Gyllenhaal's portrayal of a legacy Spider-Man character. To prepare you for what’s in store, here's everything you need to know about Quentin Beck, his alter-ego Mysterio, his array of supernatural-styled powers and abilities, and just what this might all mean for the future of the MCU.
I'm going to level with you, there's a pretty good chance that this Far From Home reveal is little more than an illusion, one designed to throw you off of the Phase 4 scent , for reasons that will become clearer the further you read on. Either way, all of this gives me an opportunity (/excuse) to absolve myself of a deep regret that continues to haunt me to this very day – that of spending a truly horrific amount of money on Spider-Man comics every week for over a decade. It isn't avocados that are ensuring a millennial like myself can't afford to buy a house, it's the god damned Marvel publishing division's fault.
As a warning, while I haven't been able to divine any all-new information on Far From Home, there's a very real chance that some of these Mysterio details – particularly if you have no god damn clue who the character is or the chaos that he is so famously capable of conjuring – have the potential to spoil a few big twists in the upcoming flick. While it's true that we need to, like, massively chill it on the spoiler-phobia that's threatening to tear society apart at the seams, consider this your warning ahead of time. We good? Alright, let's do this thing.
Quentin Beck explained: Who is Mysterio?
In the realms of panels and pages, Mysterio is one of the most dangerous and persistent foes Spider-Man has ever faced. The villain made his official debut in issue #13 of The Amazing Spider-Man back in 1964, a creation of the legendary Marvel creative duo Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and he's been a fan-favourite ever since.
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Mysterio immediately caught the attention and captured the imagination of readers because of his decidedly distinct look: the ribbed green suit, billowing purple cape, and, of course, the iconic mirrored fishbowl helmet. It's a styling that has persisted across the decades because, frankly, it's incredibly awesome – although many Spidey fans have long assumed that it would be too awesome ever to make it to screen. Thank the Elementals that we are all wrong on that one.
Behind the fishbowl, you'll most likely to find Quentin Beck (although others have donned it and the Mysterio moniker over the years… we'll get to that in time) and he is a somewhat unconventional figure in the pantheon of superhero villains that have afflicted the Marvel Universe. Beck isn't, however, as the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer suggests, a master sorcerer from another dimension intent on saving Earth-616 from an array of elemental-based terrors threatening to snap Europe in two. To be honest, that couldn't be further from the truth; if you understand just one thing about Mysterio after reading this feature, it should be this: Quentin Beck is the undisputed king of bullshit.
What are Mysterio's powers and abilities?
Beck has no superhuman abilities or powers, nor can he wield magic or commune with the gods. No, Beck is merely a brilliant special effects artist and stunt man with a chip on his shoulder. A master of illusion and a gifted engineer, to an extent that he can make it look as if he is wielding magic in a manner that would put the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, to shame. In reality, he's nothing more than a disgruntled artist desperately searching for recognition, opting to use his talents and mastery to enrich himself and steal glory from others.
Here's the thing with Mysterio: despite Beck having no powers of his own he is an incredibly capable street-level villain for Spider-Man. He takes the practical skills, knowledge and mastery that he has honed over years working in Hollywood – working on movie sets – to enact his plot and schemes. He has a talent for designing complex and elaborate stage illusions and devices, combining them with his skills as a master hypnotist, magician, roboticist, and amateur chemist, to live a life of crime. Does this all sound a little ridiculous? Well, it is, but it's also the foundation to some of the best Spider-Man (and Daredevil) stories of all time.
Mysterio's illusions and misdirections are so effective that he is able to trick heroes (like the aforementioned) with ease. Entire boroughs of New York City have been known to fall prey to his schemes over the years, while his tenacity has earned him a place in the legendary Sinister Six ensemble – /supervillain therapy group – time and time again. Mysterio's greatest asset is that he is able to expertly blur the line between reality and fantasy, making it difficult for heroes (and readers) to untangle the real from the fallacy unfolding before your eyes.
How do Mysterio's misdirections work?
There are plenty of examples of Mysterio's stage illusions working in practice, but perhaps the most famous example is also one of his first. Quentin Beck entered Marvel Comics as a hero, of sorts – he wanted it to look that way, at least.
Mysterio was able to duplicate Spider-Man's abilities and powers mechanically, and with such finesse, that he was able to frame the wall-crawler for a whole host of crimes, and the entire city was tricked into believing the ruse. Mysterio then emerged as a brand new hero, as the only character capable of stopping Spider-Man and putting an end to the crime spree gripping New York City. It almost worked too. That's Mysterio's true power, his ability to convince whole swathes of people that something bad is happening, and that he is the only person that can save them – looking at the Far From Home trailer, well, this doesn't seem out of the realms of possibility now, does it?
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Still, that's just one example; here's just a few more of his greatest hits. Beck has been known to force his victims to lose their minds, warping and twisting scenarios through his implementation of stage magic and robotics, not to mention smoke-based illusions that are actually laced with hallucinogenic drugs. There's the time he framed Spider-Man to make it look as if he was responsible for causing a car crash that resulted in the death of J. Jonah Jameson by trapping Jameson in a projection of hell, causing him to slowly lose his mind. He once convinced Spider-Man that he had been shrunk down to just six-inches in size before pushing the web-slinger through a series of elaborate traps in an abandoned amusement park that had been fashioned to resemble a demonic dollhouse. Beck has also assumed the alter-ego of a psychiatrist – Doctor Rinehart – to fleece millions of dollars out of unwitting elderly patients; once, he even unravelled Spider-Man's mind so effectively with these parlour tricks that Peter Parker almost unwittingly revealed his secret identity in an effort to secure a cure to his madness, only to be saved at the last minute by none other than his arch-nemesis, Jameson.
This is what Mysterio does best, mastering misdirection to get what he believes he deserves, and he achieves such success with his illusions through the cruel combination of hypnogens and hallucinogens – along with an array of photorealistic holographic projections – to ensure that few are safe from his web. Would all of Paris, Spider-Man, and even the MCU's own resident of misdirection Nick Fury be liable to fall victim to Mysterio's trickery in Far From Home? I wouldn't put it past Beck, as he's capable of a great many things.
Who are the Elementals?
What we know of Far From Home so far sees Nick Fury bringing in Peter Parker to assist Quinten Beck's Mysterio to help take on an all-new threat to the MCU, a group that's known (in the comics, at least) as the Elementals. These villains first appeared back in the seventies, in the pages of Supernatural Thrillers #8-15 – creations of Tony Isabella and Val Mayerik.
There are five of these characters, each with the power to wield the natural elemental forces of Earth. It looks like it's these little known characters that will be terrorising Peter Parker in Far From Home. There is Hydron, the lord of waters; Magnum, master of Earth; Hellfire, lord of fire; and Zephyr, the mistress of the wind. You're probably noticing that we skipped a character here, a water-based creature clearly seen in the trailer – that's in all likelihood Hydro Man, a water golem who first appeared in 1981's Amazing Spider-Man #212 from Dennis O’Neil and John Romita Jr., although it could also be the lesser known Elemental, Hydron.
Either way, the Elementals have barely appeared in the pages of print since popping up in a two-issue run of Ms. Marvel in 1977. That's why A) It's more likely that Hydron is in fact Hydro-Man, a well known Spidey villain who has been a regular combatant for the web-slinger, and B) It's even more likely that these magnificent creatures are little more than creations of Mysterio, designed to cause trouble that only Beck can contain… until Spider-Man and what remains of S.H.I.E.L.D unexpectedly arrives on the scene.
Is there a multiverse in the MCU?
While the Far From Home trailer works to establish that Quentin Beck is a sorcerer that has crossed over from Earth-833 through the Quantum Realm – a direct result of the time-nonsense in Avengers: Endgame – I know a little better than that. After reading all of this, hopefully you do too. While Far From Home could very well be the culmination of a decade long tease of the multiverse, I think it seems rather unlikely, given what we know of Mysterio at any rate.
The thing that continues to puzzle me is why Marvel would make Mysterio so prominent in the trailer were this the play, the twist that would have audiences recoiling in their seats? This is a character that has escaped the pages of the comics and appeared across multiple media, including the ever-popular animated shows from both the Nineties and Noughts (Spider-Man and The Spectacular Spider-Man, respectively), not to mention being heavily teased all throughout the Rami-era of movies, with Bruce Campbell confirmed for the role before the fourth film was unceremoniously cancelled. It feels like this is too simple for us to figure out, to see the whole plot laid bare.
Unless, of course, the trailer itself is an illusion designed to misdirect us. Marvel has always been known to take established characters, stories, and themes out of the panels and into the MCUs, twisting them ever-so-slightly to fit its needs and bend expectation. What if the Quinten Beck that Jake Gyllenhaal, from Earth-833, is indeed good, duty-bound to defeat the Elementals and save the reality he now finds himself trapped in? What if we are now turning ourselves inside out trying to think of a reason why the destruction we see in the trailer isn't an illusion, when in fact it is , setting Mysterio up for an ass kicking from everybody that's been tricked: Spider-Man, Maria Hill and - well, you just know that Nick Fury will want to get a few kicks in for being made to look the fool.
There's plenty to play for here. It's fantastic to see a character as high-concept and wonderfully strange as Mysterio make it to the screen, as his power-set is purpose-built for cinema, after all, but there is still a chance that Far From Home's marketing campaign is an expertly-implemented bit of misdirection. We won't have to wait too long to find out for certain.
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