With almost a year before Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters, fans of Marvel Comics and the MCU are already trying to figure out exactly how The Incredible Hulk and elements of the Planet Hulk story will be included in the film. Director Taika Waititi has already said that Thor 3 will be the more “out there” than any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films — which is saying quite a bit for a franchise that includes such “out there” stories as Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Age Of Ultron. The inclusion of Sakaar’s Imperial Arena and Hulk in his gladiator gear is proof enough that the MCU is still expanding.

In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe started off with little more than billionaires and robotics in Iron Man. Since that time, the MCU has introduced superhuman serums (Captain America, Hulk), sorcerers and magic (Doctor Strange), space travel (Guardians of the Galaxy), freak-accident superheroes (Matt Murdock/Daredevil), god-like beings from Norse mythology (Thor), deals with the devil (Ghost Rider), talking animals (Rocket Raccoon, Howard the Duck) and a Microverse accessible by technology not unlike that found in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. With the expansion of the MCU showing no signs of slowing down, doesn’t it seem likely that a race of vampires will eventually show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

In fact, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all but confirmed the existence of Hellcow — which implies the existence of at least one vampire, namely, Dracula. In Marvel Comics, the only established character that Dracula ever runs into is The Incredible Hulk — who just happened to be under the influence of an Asgardian hammer, fresh from a battle with Thor.

The same story (Hulk vs. Dracula, 2011) reveals that there’s been an entire race of vampires — several different sects, in fact — who have been living in hiding in Eastern Europe. The mere existence of vampires — especially after an encounter with someone like The Incredible Hulk — could easily make way for an introduction to Blade, Marvel’s most iconic vampire hunter.

Hellcow

But the whole thing starts with Hellcow. If you use your Netflix subscription to go back and watch Season 2, Episode 5 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “A Hen in the Wolf House,” just shy of eight minutes in you’ll see Jemma Simmons reviewing something under a microscope while working undercover at Hydra.

What sort of Hellcow produces carmine milk?

The response from Hydra agent Kenneth Turgeon confirms that it is, indeed, the same obscure Hellcow found in Marvel Comics.

I don’t know. The file just says “Bessie.”

The only time Hellcow exists in Marvel Comics is in an issue of Man-Thing in which she battled Howard the Duck. Viewers who stuck around for the post-credits in Guardians of the Galaxy know that Howard the Duck already exists in the MCU. So, at the very least, the Marvel Cinematic Universe already contains evidence of Hellcow’s existence, and the existence of the character who (spoiler alert!) killed Hellcow in the comics.

Hellcow/Bessie, “Super-Sized Man-Thing” #5 [Image by Marvel Comics]

Dracula and Vampires

The essential biography of Hellcow is that she was turned into a vampire cow by Dracula about 300 years ago. Much like a vampire among humans, Bessie was able to appear as if a normal cow before changing into her vampire form and eating her human prey. Bessie/Hellcow’s only motivation was finding Dracula and exacting her revenge. Unfortunately, she mistook Howard the Duck for Dracula and the ensuing battle resulted in the cow’s death.

While Marvel Comics has done a few different versions of Dracula and his ancestors over the years, only once did Dracula interact with any significantly established Marvel characters: Hulk vs. Dracula. The backstory explaining how Hulk came to meet up with the most famous vampire of all time begins with someone already entrenched in the MCU: Red Skull. As detailed in the preface to Hulk vs. Dracula #1 (2011):

Sin, daughter of the deceased Red Skull, has… achieved something her father never could: releasing the… Asgardian known as The Serpent.

It goes on to explain that The Serpent unleashed several Thor-like hammers, one of which was received by The Incredible Hulk. Under the influence of this Hammer, Hulk becomes a possessed super-Hulk known as Nul. As Thor and Nul-Hulk battled in New York City, the alien hit the monster so hard that he landed in Eastern Europe.

There, Dracula united all of the vampire sects. When Nul refuses their offer of a truce, it is revealed that these are modern vampires, who take full advantage of the same sort of technology SHIELD and Hydra would have had in 2011.

The Nul-Hulk encounters a fleet of charniputra — flying, gargoyle-like vampires — and fends them off with no problem. A group of highly-trained vampires known as the Forgiven are sent in to distract Nul-Hulk while Dracula and the vampire military leaders put together a vampire army to try to save their part of the world from the destruction of the Nul-Hulk.

When Raizo Kodo, leader of the Forgiven, concludes that there is no number of weapons or soldiers at their disposal that can stop Nul-Hulk, Dracula decides to try an Adamantium net with gravity generators — but even that can’t hold him down. Just before Nul-Hulk kills Dracula, one of the vampires uses her power of illusion to make Nul-Hulk believe she is Betty Banner/Red Hulk.

A vampire posing as Better Banner/Red Hulk, “Hulk vs. Dracula” #3 [Image by Marvel Comics]

At the request of who he believes to be his wife, he puts down the Nul Hammer and goes back to join Thor in an effort to save New York City. Dracula and the vampires live on in the dark in the mountain villages of Eastern Europe.

Blade

Blade’s story in Marvel Comics isn’t very complicated. As his prostitute mother was having labor complications, she fell into the hands of a vampire. The vampire feeding on his mother but not touching the unborn child resulted in a child who would grow up with special abilities and use them to hunt vampires. His battle with Dracula is seemingly never-ending, as the world’s greatest vampire is continually resurrected — or even cloned — every time Blade manages to kill him.

In Marvel Comics, Blade would go on to have encounters with such MCU names as Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, The Punisher, Hydra and SHIELD. Were he to ever be introduced to their world, he could easily be used in any number of story arcs.

How It Could Work

While Marvel certainly has things planned too far in advance to include something like this in November, the theoretical beginning of the vampire arc could be shown at the end of any MCU film, especially if it involves Thor, Asgard or Hulk. In a flashback scene shown mid- or post-credits, Red Skull is shown sleeping with a woman sometime after his transformation but obviously before his destruction. The resulting offspring is revealed to be Sinthea Schmidt, otherwise known as Sin.

Following in the footsteps of her destructive father, she grows up to be power-hungry and evil. Borrowing heavily from the Hulk vs. Dracula story, after coming into possession of the Hammer of Skadi, Sin causes the release of The Serpent, who had been a prisoner of Odin for several millennia. Fast-forward to the present, The Serpent sends the Hammer of Nul to The Hulk on Earth. As The Hulk catches the Thor-like hammer, he slowly begins to morph into Nul-Hulk as the post-credits end.

In a follow-up film — or even a short, Netflix special — Thor is there to witness Hulk’s transformation into Nul-Hulk. Fearing for the safety of New York, Thor hits Hulk so far that he lands in Eastern Europe. The story arc plays out as it does in Hulk vs. Dracula, with Hulk returning to his normal self after dropping the Hammer of Nul and allowing Dracula and the rest of the vampires to live as he rejoins Thor and the good guys in NYC.

Before long, someone like Daredevil or The Defenders encounter a vampire who has relocated to the Big Apple from Romania. Unsure of how to defeat a vampire — much less an entire race of vampires — an ally suggests that legends tell of a vampire hunter. Blade is introduced, his history with Dracula is revealed, and a new Netflix/Marvel series based on Blade is ready to be added to the MCU.

Of course, there’s still the issue of Hellcow. AoS brought it up, so the issue must be addressed in this theoretical phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The simplest way to include Bessie in the MCU canon would be to put her on display in the mid- or post-credits of an upcoming MCU film that features The Collector and his remodeled trophy room. After another accident causes several beings to be set free, Hellcow is shown chasing after Howard the Duck. And just like he did in Marvel Comics, the wise-quacking fowl can put an end to the carmine-milk-producing beast with a hammer and a stake.

However, a second option — although incredibly convoluted — could provide a way for Hellcow to become a permanent fixture in the MCU. If Hydra had data on Bessie, it only stands to reason that the cow could potentially be cloned. Assuming the information fell into the wrong hands, someone from another planet could be running a farm that produces vampire cows, to be sold off as weapons to intergalactic armies. The Guardians of the Galaxy are forced to make an emergency landing on this out-of-the-way planet of vampire cows, and leave as quickly as they can. However, before taking off, a vampire calf finds its way onto the Milano. Raised in the right environment, the Bessie clone grows up to be a nicer version of the original Hellcow, now an official pet and/or ally of the Guardians.

While it seems unlikely that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will ever include Dracula or vampires, the mention of Hellcow in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. allows for the possibility a new type of undead to be introduced in the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters on May 5, 2017, while Thor: Ragnarok is set for a theatrical release on November 3, 2017.

[Featured Image by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Paramount, Michael Buckner/Getty Images, and Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images]