Marvel Studios had a pretty stacked panel at this year’s D23 convention, but there was one reveal that seemed to stand above the rest. Werewolf by Night, a zany new Halloween-themed short film, was finally unveiled after numerous months of rumors. Being released under the new banner “A Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation,” the project will be unlike anything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has attempted before. Michael Giacchino‘s fright fest is filmed entirely in black-and-white, with animatronic effects and cheeseball dialogue ripped straight from the classic Universal horrors. Should Werewolf by Night succeed, the studio will likely want to follow up on its new formula with more terrifying specials in the years to come. Luckily for them, there are plenty of Marvel monsters to choose from.
Follow along as Murphy’s Multiverse breaks down some of the best options:
This one is sort of a cheat because Werewolf by Night‘s trailer has already confirmed Man-Thing is coming to the MCU, but maybe his appearance simply exists to set up a future spin-off? The character is sort of the flagship monster on Marvel’s roster, so it feels like, if the studio plan on delving deeper into its spooky lore, Marvel Studios will end up giving him his own project somewhere down the line. There’s plenty of source material to draw from, and the tone of the final product could fit into any number of genres. Heck, according to Thor: Ragnarok, the Man-Thing has somehow already been off-world. Unfortunately, despite all the potential, the creature may not warrant his own feature film (2005’s cult classic Man-Thing was not well received), so another Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation could be the landing spot for his solo story.
For those outside of the know, Man-Thing is a rather large swamp monster who traditionally exists within the Florida Everglades. He began life as Dr. Ted Sallis, a biochemist working to recreate the Super Soldier Serum, until his wife Ellen Brandt – played by Stéphanie Szostak in Iron Man 3 – turned him over to agents of A.I.M. and indirectly sent him and his car crashing into the nearby swamp. There, a dosage of the new Serum and a splash of magic turn Sallis into the Man-Thing, a lumbering plant-matter beast with little human intellect. Famously, among many other magic and science-based abilities, Man-Thing is empathic and angered by fear, which causes him to burn those who show the emotion around him. As his classic comic covers put it, “Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!”
2. The Living Mummy
If Marvel Studios wants another horror special that plays to the Universal classics and sticks with the pulpy nature of Werewolf by Night, then N’Kantu might just their man – er, mummy. Known to comic fans as “The Living Mummy,” the character is not actually the Egyptian baddie most people think of when they see a human covered in wraps. The chieftain of a North African tribe, N’Kantu and his people are taken by Egyptian soldiers and forced into slavery for the Pharaoh Aram-Set. Always a fighter, N’Kantu ends up leading a rebellion that results in the death of the Pharaoh but puts himself in a tomb instead. Aram-Set’s priestess finds a way to mummify N’Kantu while keeping him alive, and when he’s unearthed several millennia later, the Marvel Universe is forced to confront a mystic mummy situation they weren’t expecting.
Plainly put, this would be a great way for Marvel to counter Sony’s Morbius film. They can keep their Living Vampire, because Marvel has the Living Mummy instead. All jokes aside, N’Kantu actually has several strong comic ties to both Werewolf by Night and Man-Thing, having encountered them both on many occasions, and could be tied firmly to the greater MCU with only some minor tweaking. An easter egg in Moon Knight confirmed Kang the Conqueror’s Egyptian alter-ego, the Pharaoh Rama-Tut, did in fact exist at some point in the timeline. Perhaps a Living Mummy special could elaborate on this further, making him N’Kantu’s captor instead of Aram-Set, and giving the hypothetical Halloween spooktacular even more reason to be part of the Multiverse Saga. Or maybe fans will just get to see a mummy roam the streets of modern America. Either option is fun.
Should Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation: Man-Thing not work out, Marvel does have another marsh-based monster hidden up their sleeve. Well, sort of. Manphibian, who has the greatest name in comics, is actually an alien from another world. They just look a lot like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and are therefore, often thought of as a fish monster. Instead, they come from a once peaceful civilization where no one Manphibian ever harmed another. That is, until someone killed their mate, and the Manphibian felt a strong urge to pursue revenge. Traveling across the galaxy in search of their mate’s murderer, the nautical-faced extraterrestrial finds themself on Earth, where they confront their enemy and are then stranded with their children. Oh, they’re also a single parent.
If the Werewolf by Night trailer proved anything, it’s that Marvel is going all-out for weird with these shorts. Manphibian’s classic monster look, combined with an out-of-this-world backstory, could make for the perfect Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation recipe. It also ticks off the ‘alien’ box on the long list of horror tropes the studio could be looking to cover. Imagine an opening that feels like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, only for Manphibian and their many kids to come tumbling out of the spaceship. Terrifying, and also incredibly watchable.
Ok, hear this one out. Marvel does have its version of Frankenstein’s Monster, but he’s not the patchwork behemoth that should get his own special. That honor should belong instead to FrankenCastle, an undead version of – wait for it – Frank Castle, better known as The Punisher, sewn together and resurrected to aid the Legion of Monsters after being dismembered by Wolverine’s child, Daken, on orders from Norman Osborn. A mouthful, for sure, but also a great set-up for another pulpy adventure set within the MCU. Of course, it’s debatable whether Castle, played by Jon Bernthal in Netflix’s universe of shows, actually exists in the MCU at the moment. Even if he doesn’t, though, there are plenty of opportunities coming up (like Disney+’s Daredevil: Born Again) to get him in and set him up before Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation comes calling.
So, why The Punisher and not Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s most morbid creation? Because the story of Frankenstein’s Monster has been told a thousand times over, and Frank Castle offers something new to the age-old tale. A few years from now, there’s a very real possibility the character has reappeared in the MCU and had one or two more stories thrown his way. If so, Marvel could find a way to briefly make him dead and then alive again in time for his very own horror special, fitting in a fan favorite comic arc without awkwardly changing the tone of a potential solo series mid-way through or sacrificing a whole film to a rather risky premise. Also, Castle’s time as a monster is mostly spent with the other characters mentioned on this list and his resurrection is only made possible through the use of the Bloodstone, which will also seemingly be a focus in Werewolf by Night. As Marvel always likes to say – it’s all connected.
5. Ghost Rider: Kushala
Let this be prefaced with a true statement: Ghost Rider deserves his own franchise. That being said, he can hypothetically have a franchise that’s kickstarted by a short film. It’s well-known that Johnny Blaze, the character most people associate with the Rider, made a deal with the devil and lost his soul in the process, becoming the Spirit of Vengeance and tearing pavement across the globe in his lifelong search for evildoers. However, most people don’t realize there have been quite a few Ghost Riders over time, and a Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation covering a Rider from elsewhere in the Marvel timeline could be a very unique chance to expand the mythos and tell the kind of story that couldn’t otherwise be told in Ghost Rider film.
Kushala, specifically, gives Marvel the best chance at something truly unique. An Apache woman who lived in the mid-1800s, Kushala’s wish to avenger the death of her parents led to a possession by the Spirit of Vengeance, transforming her into a version of the Ghost Rider she referred to as the ‘Demon Rider’. Seeking to learn more about her curse, Kushala traveled the world learning magic, eventually becoming so skilled she achieved the rank of Sorcerer Supreme in her own era. Yes, that’s right, this is a single character who is both Ghost Rider and Sorcerer Supreme. The storytelling possibilities are endless. Moreover, this could be fans’ best shot at finally seeing Mephisto done properly in live action. Without the involvement of one Ralph Bohner.