Some Marvel fans are convinced What If...?'s first new villain will appear in Doctor Strange 2

Doctor Strange in What If...?
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

What If…? may have made Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter the centre of attention, but it’s who she faced off against that merits further inspection.

The tentacle-laden monster – Red Skull’s ‘Champion of Hydra’ – that appeared at the climax of the first episode of the Marvel animated series has sent fan theories into overdrive.

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"Is that Shuma-Gorath in episode 1 of What If…? I think it is," one fan wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab). "Here we go Multiverse of Madness! Heard Shuma is the big baddie in Doctor Strange 2."

Another adds (opens in new tab) that it could go even further given Captain Carter’s one-way trip through the portal: "It looks like [Captain Carter] will be in [Doctor Strange 2]."

In the comics, Shuma-Gorath is a Lovecraftian being that feeds on multiple universes, an act that often sees him often come into conflict with Doctor Strange.

It’s not yet known if it will appear in Multiverse of Madness, but signs are looking promising. After all, the multiverse opening up (thanks to Sylvie’s actions in the Loki finale) might lead to a greater intersection of timelines and universes. That’s very much Shuma-Gorath territory – and could clue us in to what happened to the creature during and after Captain Carter pushed it back into a portal.

But it’s not completely set in stone. A separate Marvel fan was more level-headed, suggesting that the Champion of Hydra was just that, and nothing more. "Not related to Doctor Strange at all," they reckoned (opens in new tab).

If nothing else, it shows how What If...? can spark the imagination. Something as minor as a partially-unseen villain in an animated series could kick off a chain reaction of MCU theories, debate and maybe, just maybe, lays the groundwork for something further down the line in Marvel Phase 4. Stay tuned.

For more on the MCU’s future, check out the other new Marvel TV shows in the works. Plus, read more on our idea that What If...? could be a low-key trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

I'm the Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.