Shuma-Gorath is a Great Old One in the expanded Cthulhu Mythos. It was first mentioned in a short story of Robert E. Howard from the 1920s (exact date unknown) called "The Curse of the Golden Skull", in which the name "Shuma Gorath" is briefly mentioned in a single sentence.
It is a character which has been fully developed by Marvel Comics into a cosmic threat. The first appearance of Shuma-Gorath as the primary antagonist was in a story arc within Marvel Premiere Vol 1 #3-10 involving Doctor Stephen Strange, and it was in issue #8 when he makes his first physical appearance in print.
Since then he has appeared in other Marvel comics and during his incursions into Earth (of the Prime Reality, Earth-616) his manifestations have battled Dr. Strange, the Avengers, Fantastic Four, the Invaders, and the Salem Seven. His minions have battled various heroes and teams, including the X-Men. One of the realities under the rule of his kind, launched an all out assault on the Prime Reality. Shuma-Gorath has also appeared in Marvel properties in both video games (Capcom and Zen Studios) and roleplaying games (TSR).
Shuma-Gorath is a dark god of chaos and war, one of the Lords of Chaos. Who fed on the flesh and bones of mankind's ancestors. He is at least 100s of millions of years old, having been on Earth at the time of the dinosaurs when he battled a rebellious Many-Angled One of great power whom he had created in the skies over the planet. He claims to be older than the universe itself, which would make him billions of years old. Shuma-Gorath once ruled over the Earth along with the other Many-Angled Ones before Sise-Nig (a time traveling sorcerer from the 31st Century) defeated him by putting him to sleep and banishing him into another dimension, after which he destroyed and recreated the universe.
Millions of years later Shuma-Gorath was able to reestablish himself in the Prime Reality (Earth-616) but his manifestation was imprisoned in a mountain by the Cimmerian god Crom. The barbarian warrior, Conan would later battle a newly freed Shuma-Gorath who Crom would banish back to his home dimension. He would be summoned to Earth during the 20th century and early 21st century by sorcerers, an agent of Thanos, and a group of superhuman Nazis, though the heroes of Earth would successfully stop his incursion each time.
During the early 21st century, Shuma-Gorath and the rest of the Many-Angled Ones attempted the conquest of the Prime Reality via an invasion from one of the realities they had conquered, known as the Cancerverse. An invasion force of eldritch monsters, daemonic living bioships, sinister warships with giant skull faces on the bows, and Satanic-counterparts of Earth's heroes invaded the Prime Reality through a tear in the universe called the Fault between the Milky Way galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy, and the Shi'ar galaxy, which had been created in a recent war by the detonation of a weapon of mass destruction. The combined fleets of various interstellar powers (e.g. the million-world Shi'ar Empire), a number of cosmic super heroes, and an army of cosmic beings confronted the invaders. Despite this the defenders were losing but the Prime Reality were saved by Thanos and the Guardians of Galaxy who struck into the Cancerverse and crippled the invasion.
In the Marvel Multiverse, Shuma-Gorath is the greatest and most powerful of all the Old Ones. He rules over the Many-Angled Ones, an eldritch race of cosmic entities who inhabit the spaces between the universes of the infinite Multiverse. In his home dimension he is gigantic and omnipotent, the god of his realm. When the Sorcerer Supreme first visited his dimension, he mistook him for a mountain. In his home dimension, Hell Lords like Mephisto and Sataanish are mice within a great temple.
Shuma-Gorath has conquered 100s of realities and rules countless worlds, and has also devoured worlds. Like the other Many-Angled Ones, he exists simultaneously in many planes. Mortals (e.g. humans) are incapable of seeing his true form and the manifestations they encounter contain a tiny sliver of his power, such as in Earth where his smallest essence has manifested. When one of his manifestations appears in the Prime Reality, it usually is in the form of a great cyclopean eye surrounded by various massive tentacles but he has manifested in at least one other form.
Shuma-Gorath is nothing but power, and his "form" is simply the shell containing that power. His aura-pressure alone would destroy multiple galaxies if it appeared in the Prime Reality. He cannot be destroyed and when it appears that he has been "killed", he reforms though the timeframe varies. Shuma-Gorath can communicate and control others across dimensional barriers, projects mystical blasts of energy from his tentacles, generates his own mystical power, transmutates matter (e.g. the planet Earth), and can draw any type of energy into itself. When he combines his tentacles, he can create a ball of energy that he can fire at a desired target and destroy that reality (e.g. universe).
Deviation from Cthulhu MythosEdit
In the Marvel Multiverse, there are no Outer Gods and entities that in the canon of the Cthulhu Mythos are Outer Gods like Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath are simply Old Ones. Shuma-Gorath is a being of such power that the Great Old Ones of canon like Cthulhu or Hastur have only a tiny fraction of his power. He is more like an Outer God than a Great Old One, existing simultaneously in numerous realities and having the power to destroy a universe with his own power. Though it would be more like a lesser Outer God as his power still pales in comparison to that of the Yog-Sothoth or Azathoth of canon.
Within the Marvel Multiverse its the Cosmic Aspects that are the equals of the Outer Gods of canon. Entities that rival the power of Yog-Sothoth such as the Living Tribunal, Eternity, and Infinity (all of which are Multiversal, with Eternity containing all of the universes within its form). Rivaling Azathoth in power is the omnipotent creator of the multiverse, the One-Above-All. The greatest evil in the Multiverse is not Shuma-Gorath but a recently revealed multiversal entity, the One Below All (the devil of the Multiverse). None of these cosmic entities of the Multiverse's pantheon are Lovecraftian in nature (except for the One Below All). Each of the vast universes in the infinite Multiverse has its own cosmic supreme god or a cosmic pantheon of cosmic beings, some of which are the avatars of the Multiversal entities. The higher tier cosmic beings within the Prime Reality for example are nearly omnipotent within that universe.
Evolution as a CharacterEdit
Shuma-Gorath originally was a minor player in Marvel, eclipsed as both an antagonist and threat by other mystical evil gods and demons (e.g. Mephisto, Dormammu, Set, etc). Marvel retcon him into the ruler of the Old Ones and as a multiversal threat whose power vastly eclipsed beings like Dormammu and Set due to the Japanese market. When Marvel licensed its property to Capcom for the development of video games, Capcom was adamant about using Shuma-Gorath despite Marvel's opposition. In Japanese manga (comics), anime (cartoons), and tokusatsu (live action sci-fi), both mainstream and the hentai variety, a popular theme are tentacled monsters, demons, and aliens. Marvel agreed and Shuma-Gorath became a popular character in Capcom's fighting video games. As interest in Shuma-Gorath increased due to his popularity, Marvel retconned Shuma-Gorath.