Helstrom, which airs on U.S. streaming service Hulu, is Marvel’s latest television adaptation. But if you weren’t familiar with the characters, you wouldn’t know it’s a Marvel property.
Helstrom doesn’t have the Marvel logo at the start of episodes or include any kind of Marvel branding in its presentation. Outside of hints towards the Roxxon corporation, it doesn’t have any ties to the MCU or other Marvel properties.
A similar treatment befell New Mutants earlier in the year.
New Mutants began development in 2016 at Fox as a horror adaptation of the X-Men comic of the same name. It wasn’t released until September 2020 due to various delays and reshoots caused by the Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
While reports at the time were unclear, the pervading belief was Disney was unhappy with the dark tone of the film and considered it a ‘risk’ to release a high concept horror movie in the current entertainment market.
While coronavirus dampened the plans for New Mutants, it’s also fair to say the marketing and merchandising for it wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it was for ‘mainline’ X-Men films. After years worth of delays, New Mutants was released and promptly forgotten about. All the hype that accompanied it was effectively stifled by a reluctance to actually release it.
The film ultimately released to middling reviews, but its potential impact on the horror genre (and on horror-fied superheroics) is hard to determine due to the rise of coronavirus. Still, fans were vocal about their enthusiasm for the film. They also frequently voice their desire to see more horror-inspired properties from Marvel, despite an apparent reluctance from Disney.
This reluctance to explore the horror genre is likely the reason why Helstrom has been stripped of Marvel branding.
Despite Marvel/Disney owning multiple popular horror properties like Ghost Rider (its own Hulu series was recently greenlit, then scrapped), Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, Midnight Sons and Man-Thing, Disney has mostly stuck to adapting kid-friendly stories. Its roots are in childhood entertainment, after all.
But many fans are looking for Marvel to try something new. With plenty of horror-themed material to work with, there’s boundless potential for a full-fledged Marvel horror series.
This debate over horror at Marvel/Disney is also not new.
In January 2020, it sparked again when director Scott Derrickson left Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness due to ‘creative differences’ after his vision for the film was described as ‘scary’ and horror-inspired. Fans weren’t happy with this decision, citing too many “cookie-cutter” film releases lacking in creative vision. The current outlook for Multiverse of Madness is unclear, but it’ll likely steer away from the horror tale initially planned.
The horror genre is still largely seen as a niche interest by large companies, despite the wide crossover appeal of horror-fantasy blockbusters like It, Birdbox and A Quiet Place. There’s certainly an audience curious to see what Marvel can truly do with the horror genre, but it appears we’ll have to wait a while until then.
Helstrom is a fun TV show. It’s not particularly deep, but it is entertaining and if you’re a fan of schlocky horror procedurals (or you really loved the first-and-only season of Constantine) you’ll enjoy this show. But with Hulu currently in a strange place, Helstrom receiving meh-to-poor reviews and Disney seemingly uninterested in the horror genre, it’s unlikely we’ll see a second season for this horror adventure, or other horror shows like it. It’s a shame, because Marvel really does have potential to create some fantastic horror properties.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.showed interesting glimpses of the exciting crossover between superheroism and horror in its fourth season, and Marvel’s brief forays into horror with Helstrom and New Mutants were equally intriguing.
For now, expect Marvel to stick to the straight and narrow, particularly as coronavirus forces entertainment heavyweights to reconsider their upcoming content slates.
Gizmodo Australia reached out to local representatives from Disney to confirm the reason for Helstrom’s rebranding, and to inquire about the future of horror for Marvel. No official comment was provided.