Marvel Runs Into Copyright Issue, Forced to Change Villain Name

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benedict cumberbatch in doctor strange 2016

Credit: Marvel Studios

One of the most highly anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of 2022 is Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness. Originally slated for a March 25, 2022 theatrical debut, the upcoming Doctor Strange 2 was part of Marvel Studios’ recent rash of film delays.

benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

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It is now scheduled for a May 6, 2022 release, but marketing efforts for Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange) and Elizabeth Olsen’s (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff) next MCU installment are already beginning to ramp up following the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The second Spider-Man post credits scene was the first trailer for Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madnessit featured a return to the WandaVision post credits scene’s Wundagore Mountain and thrilled Marvel fans.

wandavision post credits scene wanda on cabin porch
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Now, however, fans have noticed something strange (no pun intended) about a recent merchandise leak. A new LEGO set for the Doctor Strange (2016) sequel seemingly features the Marvel Comics villain known as Shuma-Gorath.

However, in this case, the box art suggests that the tentacled creature will go by the name of Gargantos.

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This seemingly pointless name change frustrated some fans on social media, but it seems that there may be a very good explanation that has to do with copyright law. As Twitter user @UpToTASK noted:

After doing some research on ̶G̵a̵r̵g̵a̵n̵t̵o̵s̵/Shuma-Gorath, I get it but I hate it. The name “Shuma-Gorath” was first created by Robert E. Howard for Conan [Conan the Barbarian]. And yea, that’s a WHOLE problem that can be avoided by simply changing the name. UGH that SUCKS. But at least it’s him?

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Marvel likely wants to avoid even the suggestion of a copyright battle with Conan creator Howard’s estate, as the works featuring the character and any adjacent characters are not yet in the public domain.

ant-man and the wasp
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Furthermore, this isn’t the first time Kevin Feige and his team have made a name change to avoid a potential lawsuit. The “Quantum Realm” in Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man) and Evangeline Lilly’s (Hope Pym/the Wasp) Ant-Man films is referred to as the “Microverse” in the Marvel Comics universe.

evangeline lilly as hope van dyne aka the wasp and paul rudd as scott lang aka ant man
Credit: Marvel Studios

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The word “Microverse”, however, is already copyrighted as part of Hasbro Toys’ “Micronauts” franchise, so the MCU opted to make the name change. Presumably, that is what has happened with the villain now known as Gargantos as well.

Marvel fans can currently watch Benedict Cumberbatch in Spider-Man: No Way Home, exclusively in theaters.

More on Spider-Man: No Way Home

doctor octopus and spider-man no way home bridge scene battle
Credit: Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios

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Joining Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), the official description of Spider-Man: No Way Home reads:

For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life from the high-stakes of being a Super Hero. When he asks for help from Doctor Strange the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.

spider-man no way home lady liberty
Credits: Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios

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Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) and Zendaya (MJ) are joined by Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Marisa Tomei (Aunt May), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), and Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus) in the film.

What do you think about this Marvel villain name change?

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