While Marvel Studios still has creative control over the character of Spider-Man, the folks at Sony have continued to expand their own franchise of interconnected films that put the spotlight on some of the most notorious members of the webslinger’s rogues gallery. We have already seen two VENOM movies, saw the cinematic debut of the vampiric Morbius and solo flicks starring Kraven the Hunter and Madame Web — actually not a villain, but an important ally — are also now in the works. The latest Spidey-adjacent character to be added to the fold is El Muerto.
If you had never heard of this character — who is also not quite a villain, but has been at odds with Peter Parker — before his own feature film was announced, you are likely not alone, as he debuted not so long ago and his total number of comic book appearances so far is slim. Yet, El Muerto’s backstory is an interesting one, nonetheless, so here is a convenient summary of it to prepare you for when he hits the big screen. We will start, however, with who is bringing this character to life in a new medium for the first time.
Bad Bunny Will Play El Muerto
There has actually been one other movie with the title EL MUERTO, which is a 2007 supernatural thriller starring Wilmer Valderrama of “That ‘70s Show” fame that also happens to be based on an independent comic book by Javier Hernandez from the late 1990s. However, the upcoming EL MUERTO is inspired by an entirely different character who exists in the Marvel Comics Universe, and starring as the title character is Bad Bunny.
The Puerto Rican rap artist, whose real name is Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, made his acting debut in the summer of 2021 in F9: THE FAST SAGA, as Lookout, before landing a recurring role on Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico” later that year, and also stars in 2022’s fast-paced action thrill ride BULLET TRAIN. Bad Bunny has also participated in a few WWE tournaments, which makes him an especially fitting choice for what will be his first leading role in EL MUERTO.
El Muerto Is A Luchador
Created by writer Peter David and illustrator Roger Cruz, El Muerto — which translates to “The Dead” — debuted in “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” Issue #6 in 2006. He was born Juan-Carlos Estrada Sánchez in Mexico, and raised by his father, a professional luchador named Marcus Estrada de la Garcia, who wished to pass his skills and his wrestling moniker onto his son.
Sánchez initially refused to become the next El Muerto until his father died trying to protect him from the evil luchador El Dorado, giving him no choice but to become the warrior he never wanted to be. Fortunately, de la Garcia’s bravery earned his son ten years before El Dorado would come back for him, so he could find his courage and perfect his wrestling skills, which were also enhanced by his costume’s long-cherished, signature article.
He Wears A Magical Mask
By accepting the identity of El Muerto — a title passed down between fathers and sons for generations — Sánchez also inherited a traditional mask which looks like a typical luchador costume piece to the naked eye. However, this mask also has the ability to grant the wearer the strength to lift 30 tons and endurance at a superhuman level.
Even without the mask, El Muerto is still a force to be reckoned with in the ring with his expert-level skills in freestyle wrestling and a Japanese form of combat known as shoot wrestling.While also fluent in Spanish, he openly admits that his English could use some work, which is why he often resorts to the “language of violence.”
El Muerto Wrestled Spider-Man
In order to protect himself from El Dorado — who aims to destroy the mystical, ancestral bond between all holders of the El Muerto moniker and their powerful, traditional luchador mask — Sánchez was forced to fight and defeat a masked hero, so he chose Spider-Man. He sought the help of known Spidey-hater J. Jonah Jameson to help set up a match, which Peter Parker ended up winning by accidentally knocking him unconscious with a poison stinger that ejected from his Iron Spider suit.
El Muerto was taken to a hospital where El Dorado appeared to finally do him in, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Spider-Man, who had detected something was afoot with his Spider-Sense. Sánchez would then join the superhero in a tag-team effort against El Dorado, who was defeated in the end with the help of a chemical concoction Peter Parker quickly whipped up that dissolved the villain’s armor and made him susceptible to injury.
He Is Also Referenced In The Civil War Story Arc
El Muerto is also associated with writer Mark Millar’s famous 2007 comic book storyline “Civil War,” which sees most heroes from the Marvel Universe forming teamed alliances against one other that are each led respectively by Captain America and Iron Man. This might have some people asking why the luchador did not already make his big screen debut in the film that this arc inspired, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, in 2016.
Well, other than the fact that said MCU hit diverts strongly from the events of the source material, El Muerto’s involvement with the story is merely a mention by newly appointed S.H.I.E.L.D. director Tony Stark, who classifies him as a foreign national following the passage of the United States Superhuman Registration Act. Otherwise, Sánchez’s only official appearance in Marvel Comics remains his aforementioned two-part storyline from “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man,” for now.
El Muerto’s limited comic book presence has actually caused some Marvel fans to question why he was chosen by Sony to be the next character to headline his own movie in their shared cinematic universe. Well, perhaps because of the upcoming Bad Bunny-led film, which is currently set for a theatrical release in 2024, readers can expect to see even more comic book adventures starring the powerful luchador — and likely Spider-Man, too — in the near future.