Doctor Strange Opens Up
A New World For Marvel
As Marvel has dominated popular entertainment over the past eight years or so, most of the stories have existed in the same general world. We’re not talking about the “universe” here—we all know that Marvel’s shows and films take place in the “Cinematic Universe” through which all characters and stories are linked. Rather, we’re talking about the broad setting and atmosphere that surrounds most of the characters and action, from 2008’s Iron Man to 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Even the cosmically inclined Thor storylines seem to find their way back to Earthbound struggles and tie-ins with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stark Industries. This is to say that for a sprawling superhero universe, Marvel sometimes feels oddly compact.
That changed a little bit early last year, however, when Marvel released its Daredevil series to Netflix. To begin with, the series was a total hit presented in an entirely new way. But more importantly, it established a whole new feeling to what a Marvel project could be. As Vulture’s review during season one put it, the show is dark in a film noir kind of way, “without needing to put on and point out its fedora.” That’s a way of saying there was an old-school, no-frills crime drama aspect to Daredevil, as well as that the show was almost uniquely self-assured among Marvel projects. It was bold, new, and enormously successful. And as it turns out, it was just the beginning of an expanding Marvel underground populated by less “super” but darker and more human characters. Jessica Jones followed Daredevil and had similar success for some of the same reasons, and Daredevil’s second season, largely by roping in The Punisher and Elektra, kept the thrills coming. Just this autumn, Luke Cage debuted as possibly the best of the bunch. And all these shows take place in the same dark, twisted, almost Gotham-esque New York.
Oddly enough, this grouping of characters was actually hinted at in other areas of Marvel’s entertainment network before the Netflix shows became so popular. To begin with, several of the Netflix characters have actually headlined a very specific branch of Marvel gaming tied to online casino sites. While there are also games in the casino category based on film characters, Gambling.com’s overview of slots at shows Daredevil, Elektra, and The Punisher serving as the subjects of their own games. They’re not interconnected, and there’s no Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, but it’s interesting now to look back and see this specific grouping of “lesser” heroes put together. Somewhat similarly, most of the Netflix heroes were also introduced in some of Marvel’s mobile games at roughly the same time, though that occurred specifically while the company was promoting their shows.
But the mobile gaming component to the rollout of Marvel’s underworld is actually what’s now making Doctor Strange so interesting. We’ve long known that this would be one of the studio’s strangest films (though we didn’t know it would be such a hit). What’s interesting is that going by some of the same gaming hints that Marvel is so fond of releasing, there may be more to the Doctor Strange “world” within the Marvel universe than we thought. As noted by a website developed to Contest Of Champions—one of Marvel’s most popular games – a recent update has brought about new quests involving not just Strange but a whole range of mystic characters including Mordo and Doctor Voodoo (the latter of whom isn’t even a guarantee to be in the film). Scarlet Witch and Loki also seem to be linked to this mystic realm within the game.
Right now, this is just a game, and it wouldn’t be anywhere near the first time a Marvel game made use of characters that don’t appear in the MCU. But given the way in which Daredevil brought about a whole new level of the MCU, you have to be intrigued by the possibilities with Doctor Strange. There seems to be a new dimension opening up in this ever-expanding world of entertainment.