Fan theories are not a new thing for the MCU. Whether it was the Marvel faithful wondering if Iron Man would bite the dust in Infinity War or Stan Lee being one of the Watchers, the viewing audience has spent a significant amount of time pontificating on the future of their beloved franchise.
And that prognostication has not stopped in Marvel's move into episodic content; if anything, it has actually heightened. Since WandaVision debuted on Disney+ as the MCU's first streaming series, internet message boards and Twitter feeds have been alight with various hypotheses. One such fan theory has been the inclusion of the villain Mephisto in any upcoming Marvel Studios project.
The devil-like antagonist was speculated to be the big bad in WandaVision. After that rumor was debunked, audiences moved on to wishing him into the Disney+ series Loki. Now it seems Mephisto is popping up in fan theories connected to nearly every project the Big M releases...including their recent dive into the world on animation.
Another No-Go for Mephisto
In a feature on Rotten Tomatoes, What If...? director Bryan Andrews and head writer A.C Bradley debunked a fan theory that connected Doctor Strange to the Marvel Comics devil Mephisto. Andrews mentioned that the Strange seen consuming beasts from across the multiverse in the animated anthology series may have shared some visual similarities to the Marvel villain, but any connection was not intentional:
“He absorbs a dragon, he absorbs [these creatures and] temporarily he is that thing, because those things truly are inside of him... And so, he gets their abilities, he gets all of that stuff. And they’re just ready at the fingertips. So, we get that hybrid look where he has the horns and looks very devilish. It’s so funny how everyone’s like, ‘He’s Mephisto.’ It’s like, wait, but it was just a dragon!”
Bradley followed by expounding on the fact that fitting Stephen Strange into the pocket universe What If...? was building within the MCU canon was quite difficult, admitting that the team "weren’t too sure how he was going to play into the bigger story":
“Doctor Strange was always such a tragic character. We weren’t too sure how he was going to play into the bigger story, but it’s the first hero — or villain, depending on how you look at him — that The Watcher interacts with.”
The writer also noted that Doctor Strange wasn't the only character the creative team had trouble integrating into the larger narrative:
“[It was the] same with Killmonger. We knew we wanted to revisit that world, give it some resolution and see him again.”
Putting the What If...? Puzzle Together
From these quotes, one can tell putting together the tapestry that is What If...? was no easy task. Wanting to tell these individual stories, that are then tied back into a greater narrative, sounds like a Herculean effort, one which Andrews, Bradley, and co. seemingly pulled off.
It is interesting that Andrews mentions all the Mephisto talk though. The moment he is addressing was taken by some fans as truth that the devilish figure was in fact (technically) included in something MCU-related, although it turns out that is not the case.
The Mephisto hopes are high, despite many calling him a third or fourth their villain from the comics page. For some reason, the fandom has latched onto this character and is begging Marvel Studios to bring him to screen.
Now, the MCU brass has never been one to pander to the fans simply because they are asking for something; however, they do listen. It only seems like a matter of time, at this point, until Mephisto does legitimately make an appearance in the storied movie franchise.
All episodes of What If...? are available to stream now on Disney+.