Marvel Studios' First R-Rated Show Gets Record-Breaking Episode Count

By Sam Hargrave Updated:
Marvel Studios R Rated Iron Man Zombies

Over recent years, superhero fans have begun craving more mature projects, as has been showcased by the likes of Daredevil and Titans. The coveted R-rating has only been slapped on select a few comic book projects - including The Suicide Squad and Deadpool - but the MCU has long avoided entering that area... until now.

As part of Marvel Studios' upcoming Multiverse Saga slate, the studio will take its first dip into that avenue with Deadpool 3, opening up a suite of new opportunities for the MCU. On the television side, Werewolf by Night came close to becoming the studio's first TV-MA endeavor, but that honor will instead go to Marvel Zombies.

The upcoming animated series will spin-off from the "What If... Zombies?!" installment of What If...? and see iconic Marvel characters living through a zombie apocalypse and going up against undead heroes and villains. Set to appear as survivors are the likes of Shang-Chi, Kate Bishop, Ms. Marvel, and more favorites.

Fans are elated to finally see mature content coming from Marvel Studios, fulfilling years of pleas. But that hasn't been the only hot topic in the MCU fandom lately, as many have been up-in-arms over short runtimes and episode counts. And while Marvel Zombies may deliver on its rating, many will be disappointed with its length.

Marvel Zombies Reveals Surprising Episode Count

Marvel Zombies
Marvel Studios

Speaking to Comicbook at New York Comic-Con, Marvel Zombies executive producer Zeb Wells revealed the episode count of the TV-MA (R-rating equivalent) animated What If...? spin-off series. Wells confirmed the undead epic will run for just four episodes, breaking the record for the shortest MCU Disney+ series looking at episode count:

"So I did not do [the Zombie episode] but I'm doing the spin-off. So it's not out yet. But I love that episode too, so when I got the call that they were going to do a spin-off from that episode, I was like 'oh yeah, let's do it.' So it's four episodes, not sure when it comes yet, but it's looking really cool."

The list of Marvel Studios' Disney+ episode counts so far can be seen below:

  • WandaVision - 9 episodes
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - 6 episodes
  • Loki - 6 episodes
  • What If...? - 9 episodes
  • Hawkeye - 6 episodes
  • Moon Knight - 6 episodes
  • Ms. Marvel - 6 episodes
  • I Am Groot - 5 episodes
  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law - 9 episodes

Marvel Zombies should still prove to be a sprawling tale despite its short length, judging by how many MCU characters have already been confirmed to appear.

Marvel Zombies Release Date, Violence Level, and More

Marvel Zombies
Marvel Studios

Given how passionate MCU fans have been with regard to seeing longer projects, many will undoubtedly be disappointed to discover Marvel Zombies will be just four episodes. This news comes as a particular shock after the MCU's only other animated series, What If...?, came in with nine episodes.

However, a common theme that has run through the MCU Disney+ series so far has been that the shorter shows produce longer episodes (excluding I Am Groot), and vice versa. All three of the nine-episode seasons have released chapters around the 30-minute mark, while the six-episode outings usually produce 40-50-minute runtimes.

With this logic in mind, perhaps Marvel Zombies' four episodes will each fall at the upper end of that spectrum with longer animated installments. Alternatively, perhaps the story Marvel Studios wants to tell is just a shorter one, in which case the creative team shouldn't be pushed to drag out the season for runtime's sake.

And while the episode count may be shorter than any Disney+ project in the MCU to date, its rating will allow for something that MCU fans haven't seen from this franchise before.

Giving an R-rating to an animated project like Marvel Zombies most likely means that the violence will be unleashed to levels that the movies haven't explored, making things much bloodier and graphic in a manner that hopefully lends itself to a stronger story. While there may also be more explicit language, the unique TV-MA rating will likely be more influenced by the visuals and sound effects as fans feel the full effects of watching zombies take over the MCU landscape.

Marvel Studios has yet to set an exact release date for Marvel Zombies, but the animated series will arrive on Disney+ at some point in 2024. As of now, the studio has yet to confirm whether a second season may be on the table, or if this will be told as a one-off limited series.

- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.