The concept of demons and devils has been heavily expanded on in the Marvel Universe. It’s such a diversified concept that the idea of “Satan” has been divided into many different demonic entities, called Hell-lords. More specifically, each Hell-lord rules his own realm and only goes by the name of Satan when interfering with the mortal realm, Earth. With the upcoming Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok and Netflix’s The Defenders, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to enter a phase of immeasurable evil. Let’s explore these demonic entities and find out exactly who and what they are, and when we could see them in the MCU going forward.
We first need to distinguish the Hell-lords from the Death-gods and evil dark entities like Dormammu. While Mephisto, Blackheart and other demons are Hell-lords, Hela of Asgard and Pluto of Olympus are Death-gods. The difference is significant in their form of creation, but both Hell-lords and Death-gods function in very similar ways and exist for practically the same reasons. Dark entities like Dormammu are neither Hell-lords nor Death-gods, but rather, are extremely powerful energy-based entities that use their powers for evil. Let’s begin.
The Hell-Lords Of Marvel
The mythos behind the creation of these demonic beings takes us to the creation of the Earth, and the intricate history of the Elder Gods and the Demogorge. Basically, after the two faced each other in battle, the resolution brought about evil energy that manifested into different realms, creating the Hell-lords. Each Hell-lord then is similar and is after the same thing on many occasions, which is to grow in power and strength. They achieve this by obtaining the souls of mortals and other individuals (other beings, e.g. Silver Surfer) and by way of worship. Over time, a considerable amount of the Earth’s population adopted the belief of “Satan.” The Hell-lords then used this to their advantage, taking the moniker of Satan and naming their distinctive realms Hell. Also, something to consider is that Heaven and Hell, as conceptualized in the Abrahamic religions and the Bible, actually exist in the Marvel Universe along with everything else that comes with them (like God).
Essentially, the idea of "Hell" acts as a whole, comprised of parts, each part being a Hell-lord’s realm. Now, who exactly are the Hell-lords? The most known Hell-lords consist of Mephisto, his son Blackheart, Marduk Kurios, Satannish and Lucifer. While most have interacted with many of Marvel’s heroes, primarily Doctor Strange, the Hell-lord that has made the most appearances out of all and the most popular is Mephisto. His powers are virtually limitless and he is practically immortal, the only caveat is that, like the other Hell-lords, his powers come from the trapped souls in his realm and from the evil that manifests upon the Earth. When a person dies, that person’s soul could be captured by Mephisto, as a form of “deal with the Devil.”
One such example was in the story, Spider-Man: One More Day, where Peter Parker bargained with Mephisto to bring Aunt May back from the dead. In return, Peter had to give up his marriage with Mary Jane, vanquishing his love for her. Mephisto and the Hell-lords also have the power to descend upon the Earth in mortal form. One example was when Johnny Blaze unknowingly made a deal with Mephisto to cure his father’s cancer. Via the actions of mortals, dead or alive, beings like Mephisto are programmed to exist. Now that we’ve explored the Hell-lords, let’s dive into the mythos of the Death-gods.
The Death-Gods Of Marvel
Unlike the Hell-lords, who are the amalgamation of evil energy left after a billion-year-old battle between ancient supreme beings, the creation of the mythological Norse and Greek/Roman gods (Olympians), in general, takes a rather ambiguous turn in the Marvel Universe — open to many interpretations. Regardless of how they came to be, whether through sentient energy left after the creation of the Earth or something else, the Death-gods in particular were appointed the position of ruling over the dead, without them being necessarily evil, as opposed to the Hell-lords who are evil in nature. This goes to every other god — they were appointed their godly position by a “higher god” (Zeus made Pluto god of the underworld and Odin made Hela ruler of Hel).
In essence, these Death-gods, Pluto and Hela, don’t rule over their own “piece” (realm) of the “whole” (Hell), rather, they rule over their own distinctive whole within their own distinctive pocket dimension (Olympus and Yggdrasil). Think of it as if the Hell-lords are sharing “Hell” and the Death-gods have their own “Hell.” Even though the Death-gods may have their own “Hell,” they still have the same level of power as the majority of the Hell-lords, though it is debatable. As well, even though the Hell-lords and the Death-gods exist non-concurrently — that is to say, that the Death-gods exist in a different plane of existence than the Hell-lords — both have indeed come in contact and worked together many times before, like Mephisto, Satannish and Hela in the story arc, Chaos War. This brings us to when we could see these entities in the MCU, and what this introduction exactly means for the MCU.
The Hell-Lords And The Death-Gods In The MCU
We will see Hela and her underworld, Hel, in next year’s Thor: Ragnarok. Of course, we’ve already been introduced to Marvel’s Norse mythos with Thor and his set of movies, but Thor: Ragnarok will fully explore the concept of “Hell.” Simultaneously, we will see some kind of demonic entity and the concept of the underworld in Netflix’s The Defenders. We still don’t know which Hell-lord the series will depict, but it is clear that the series is heading towards that direction. We were first introduced to that concept in Season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil with The Hand and Elektra. Recall Season 1 when the ninja Nobu was burned alive and killed by Daredevil. He returned in Season 2 and even Daredevil was surprised that he was fighting a “dead” man. Later in the Season’s finale, Elektra was killed by Nobu, but became part of a ritual to eventually come back from the dead via resurrection.
Aside from The Defenders and Thor: Ragnarok, this November we will explore the world of Doctor Strange. The Sorcerer Supreme is someone in particular who has come in contact with most, if not all, of the Hell-lords of the Marvel Universe. His introduction to the MCU eventually led to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to adopt a new member for the show, one that has a very hellish aspect: Ghost Rider. So we will potentially explore one or more of the many realms of “Hell” on Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Are Hell-Lords And Death-Gods What Will Ultimately Connect The MCU?
While the MCU films, the Netflix shows and ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all exist within the same universe, we still haven’t seen a definitive connection; a definitive crossover. As it’s looking to be, this could all change. Netflix is introducing a demonic being, Doctor Strange is opening a multitude of realms, Thor: Ragnarok is giving us their version of the underworld and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is bringing Hell to Earth with Ghost Rider. So where’s the connection? Ruling out Thor: Ragnarok (where a connection is harder to produce), if an other-worldly demonic being is present in Doctor Strange, this being could also be the one that Netflix will introduce in The Defenders, or at least be related to. That same being could be the one that could potentially be explored in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to the presence of Ghost Rider. One thing is for sure though, while Doctor Strange is part of the grand collective of MCU films, it shares more common grounds with Netflix’s The Defenders and Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Concept Of Death Itself
One concept we didn’t touch upon was the concept of Death itself, as its manifestation and physical embodiment in the Marvel Universe is what allows the Hell-lords and the Death-gods to “rule in her name.” That will be an article of its own.
Hopefully you have learned more on the demonic beings of the Marvel Universe. Although we didn’t fully explore all types of demons within Marvel, rather concentrating on Hell-lords and Death-gods specifically, it will be interesting to see how these concepts will be explored as the MCU moves forward. What do you think though? Are these beings of Hell and Death what will ultimately connect the MCU? Leave your thoughts down in the comments!