Marvel Studios is up to something.
As immediately noted by an internet’s worth of Marvel fans, the trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home nods heavily in the direction of 2007’s One More Day — a comic book storyline where Spider-Man has to wrestle with the possibility of making the world forget that he’s actually Peter Parker under the mask.
In that story, though, it’s not Doctor Strange offering the chance to give the entire planet amnesia, but the demonic villain Mephisto, a name repeatedly mentioned in various theories for WandaVision, Loki, and now the upcoming Spider-Man movie.
Despite Mephisto not actually being in any Marvel Studios production, the villain keeps popping up indirectly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s plans. Is this a coincidence? Or has this been the MCU’s plan all along?
Mephisto’s looming MCU presence
When WandaVision originally aired, fans were convinced that Mephisto would appear in the series, revealed as a corrupting influence behind Wanda’s Hex. That didn’t turn out to be the case — it was Agatha all along, as the song went — but the Mephisto theory didn’t come from nowhere.
In comic book canon, Wanda’s two sons, Tommy and Billy, were the product of a no-more-nefarious plan hatched by Mephisto, who’d transformed shards of a human soul into the impossible children.
So when Tommy and Billy showed up onscreen, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to expect Mephisto to follow.
Fans also wondered if Mephisto would show up in Loki based on both a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance of a devilish figure on a stained glass window in Episode 1 and his shared comic book history with Loki. (Mephisto once stole Loki’s soul; don’t worry, he got it back.) Again, he didn’t show up.
No Way Home may also fail to feature Mephisto. After all, Doctor Strange seems to be the one responsible for trying to make everyone forget about Peter Parker’s alter ego, judging by the teaser trailer. Nonetheless, this marks the third Marvel Studios project this year that fans are convinced he’ll appear in, and the second that has made a direct reference to a comic book storyline that Mephisto plays a major role in. It could be a coincidence, but… this is Marvel Studios we’re talking about.
Is Mephisto part of Marvel’s secret plans?
Marvel, let us not forget, is the studio that used “It’s all connected” as a tagline, hiding an Easter egg in one project that ends up foreshadowing future movies in retrospect. (Remember seeing Captain America’s shield in the first Iron Man movie? Or the Infinity Gauntlet in Asgard in the first Thor?)
It’s also a studio that loves to play the long game, as anyone who waited the six years and twelve movies for Thanos to make his move after debuting in 2012’s The Avengers can attest to.
Bearing all that in mind, the idea that there is some kind of Mephisto plan doesn’t feel far too outside the realms of possibility, especially given that audiences have seen two near-direct references to the character in 2021 alone. Since mid-2018, Mephisto has been the secret big bad for Marvel’s Avengers comic book series, working behind the scenes to manipulate events — and, in some cases, changing history to ensure certain things happen the way he wants — for reasons yet to be revealed.
While there have never been direct, one-to-one parallels between Marvel’s cinematic and comic book universes, the publishing arm releases material to bookstores timed to when certain movies hit theaters. This year’s new Eternals series is one example. The first collection, Only Death is Eternal, will be released in September and therefore be available for any audiences wanting more after seeing Eternals in November. (Shang-Chi, too, has starred in two different comics in the last year; the first is already available ahead of next month’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.)
So, Marvel is doing something with Mephisto then, surely? It’s not as if all of this activity could purely be coincidental, right? But then again, this is Marvel Studios we’re talking about — a studio known for dropping Easter eggs into its output that drives long-term fans and continuity minutiae obsessed viewers wild but could have no seeming relevance beyond teasing faithful fans. (Hello, Tony Stark’s kid in Endgame being named after Tony’s comic book cousin.)
All that we can know for sure is Mephisto keeps lurking around the edges of Marvel Studios’ productions, remaining in the shadows even as bigger things seem just around the corner. Will these hints lead to Mephisto’s MCU debut? Or will this all end up being a practical joke played on an audience expecting a major villain that’ll never appear?
That remains to be seen, which is — let’s be honest — just a little devilish, really.
Spider-Man: No Way Home arrives in theaters on December 17.