While the Spider-Man movies might just now be dipping their toes into the multiverse, it’s a concept that’s been long established in the comics and shows for over 30 years now. As such, you can imagine all the pure weirdness the webhead has been involved in.
Marvel, compared to the other titan of the comics industry, DC, likes to dabble in the bizarre. With Santa Claus himself being an omega-level mutant, it can’t be that shocking that old gods like Dagon also share space among the various universes. However, it’s surprising how few degrees of separation there are between Peter Paker and eldritch entities.
Six degrees of Spider-Man
For this thought exercise, we will focus on the universe established in Insomniac’s series of games. In Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, several strong clues establish the necessary connections. The biggest is that the larger multiverse has established a beachhead in Peter and Miles’ backyard.
Collecting the various Spider-Bots spread throughout New York is more than an interesting side quest. After nabbing the last one, players receive a quest where an all-too-familiar portal opens up. Inside, Spider-Man meets a mysterious character named Delilah, who directly mentions Across the Spider-Verse‘s Miguel O’Hara.
This is so important because it means this universe is clearly no longer isolated. Sure, this was established in the aforementioned film, but this is akin to asking a question and getting a definite answer. Not only does this universe’s Peter Parker get introduced to the Spider-Verse, but he becomes an active member of the larger Spider-Man corps.
This creates the opening for things to get truly bizarre for this universe’s Peter and Miles. However, Insomniac seems to be stacking the deck as not only are connections being made across universes but the seeds for Old Ones are being planted in the universe.
Venom and its ties to Knull
Barring the existence of the multiverse, we also get some ties through this version of Venom. The meteorite the symbiote rode to Earth is branded with Knull’s jagged spiral symbol. This same symbol appears on the various symbiotes that Venom creates in the back half of the game.
The symbol is itself a reference to the Cthulhu Mythos, with it being similar to the Spiral of Carcosa. Created by Ambrose Bierce in his 1886 short story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa,” this fictional city is a common reference in eldritch horror. It would later be used in homage by Robert W. Chambers in 1895’s The King in Yellow and H.P. Lovecraft‘s 1931 work, The Whisperer in the Darkness.
This symbol, Venom sprouting wings just like Knull’s, and the overall story are all nods to Knull and the King in Black event. In King in Black, Knull, the eldritch God of Darkness and progenitor of the symbiotes, arrives on Earth. The title “King in Black” also references The King in Yellow.
Knull is a monstrously powerful eldritch god chosen by the Celestials when they were shaping the universe. Rejecting them and their offer, Knull formed the first symbiote into a sword and decapitated one of the Celestials. Using its head, Knull refined the sword into the Necrosword.
From there, Knull began bonding his living abyss to other beings to corrupt and control them. Sound familiar? Yep, “living abyss” is simply another term for the symbiotes.
Knull is the epitome of an eldritch being in Marvel’s mythos. Even with other actual Old Ones like Chthon and Dagon existing in the same mythos, Knull still manages to nab the top spot. I’d like to think it’s due to the “cool factor” imparted to Venom by its creator, Todd McFarlane.
The introduction of Cindy Moon/Silk
Cindy Moon, also known as Silk, is introduced at the end of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. In it, she is the daughter of Albert Moon, a man whom Miles’ mother has begun seeing. Silk has direct ties to the larger and weirder side of Spider-Man lore.
Cindy was not only at the same exhibit with Peter at the time of his infamous spider bite but was also bitten by the same spider. This led to her developing spider-based powers the same way Peter did. Unlike Peter, she was immediately thrown into the deep end of the bizarre.
The Spider-Verse films are getting to this revelation, but it essentially boils down to this: in the first universe, Earth-001, the Web of Life and Destiny was created. It stretched out and connected every other universe. Anansi, the Akan spider god, was responsible for creating the web. Neith, the Egyptian goddess who created the world daily with her loom, acted as the first Spider-Totem, and her spiders would select avatars for the other Spider-Totems.
While there are six Spider-Totems, there can be many more avatars, aside from the Other, who may only empower one avatar (Peter Parker). Cindy Moon serves as an avatar of the Bride. Within the Web of Life and Destiny, the Bride makes additional Spider-Totems through “chance, curses, magic, and unwanted luck.”
The long and short of it is that this web and its Spider-Totems are the sources of spider powers and problems. Once ensnared by it, nearly every spider-person is thrust into a battle for reality itself waged by gods and their avatars.
The MCU is flirting with old gods, too
It’s not just Sony projects like Spider-Verse and Madame Web that are dabbling with larger-than-life figures. Marvel and its MCU have already laid the groundwork for Lovecraftian-inspired tales.
Thor: Love and Thunder has direct ties to Knull as the antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher, wields the Necrosword. While it’s not explicitly stated that the sword came from Knull, the abilities it grants Gorr track. It’s similar to how Gorr stole the sword from an incapacitated Knull in the comics. For the time being, it’s as close as Marvel can get to touching Spider-Man content in the movies without Sony getting involved.
Scarlet Witch does the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to otherworldly things in the MCU. In the comics, the Elder God, Chthon, bestowed a then infant Wanda Maximoff with the ability to use chaos magic. The idea was to use her as a vessel for himself to return to the Earth plane. As a result, this essentially makes her a magnet for all things chaotically powerful.
Wandavision introduces Agatha Harkness and the Darkhold to the MCU. The latter is a book of spells written by Chthon and acts as a conduit for his influence in the Earth plane. It would serve as the catalyst for Wanda’s corruption in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The Darkhold and Mount Wondagore are integral to Wanda and Chthun’s relationship.
The former is a witch of incalculable age who had come into possession of the Darkhold and used it to discover Wanda was the Scarlet Witch. In the comics, Agatha acts as a mentor for several characters, including Franklin Richards and Wanda. In the show, Agatha intends to take away Wanda’s “undeserved” powers. After defeating Agatha, Wanda takes the Darkhold, setting up the events of the Doctor Strange film.
Carnage, the symbiote offspring of Venom and prominent villain of Spider-Man, is also tied to Chthon. A member of the Darkholders cult, Barry Gleason, believed that Carnage was the key to a ritual that would resurrect Chthon.
“When the Red Slayer spills blood on sacred stone, he who sleeps shall wake and what walked once will walk again.”
Carnage Volume 2 #4
Ultimately, the sacrifice didn’t pan out, and Carnage was instead infused with the power of the Darkhold. Carnage was drawn to a temple of Chthon on an island in the Timor Sea, where the symbiote was able to resurrect the Elder God. Since then, Chthon has acted as Marvel’s stand-in for Cthulhu.
However, the Elder Gods are not to be confused with Marvel’s “Great Old Ones.” These beings, like Azotharoth, Yog-Sothoth, and Shuma-Gorath, are more akin to the tentacled horrors usually associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. The distinctions are a little muddled, and it gets even murkier as Lovecraft himself is a Marvel character in Earth-616.
Outside of the Marvel universe, the Elder Gods were created by writer and Lovecraft’s publisher, August Derleth. It was Derleth who came up with the term “Cthulhu Mythos” to describe Lovecraft’s universe of madness. The Elder Gods stand against the Great Old Ones in a celestial battle of good versus evil.
TL;DR: Spider-Man might get weird
Marvel, Sony, and Insomniac have already laid the groundwork for things to get really weird in the various Spider-Man properties. With only a degree of separation between Peter Parker and the Elder God, Chthon, in the comics, I wouldn’t be shocked if some of that dark tentacled void started creeping into the next Spider-Man game from Insomniac. With audiences and critics tiring of the same superhero formula, injecting some eldritch horror could be the shot in the arm we need.