X2: X-Men United: Complete Guide to Marvel Universe References and Easter Eggs

From all the mutant names on the mysterious computer screen to a history of the characters, here's a complete guide to the best X-Men movie.

With everyone talking X-Men: Apocalypse, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the X-Men movies that have come before to find all the easter eggs and references we can. One thing to keep in mind, X2: X-Men United came before the era of shared universes where every offhand mention was a setup for a later film, so they just piled them into this one.

X2 was based largely on the seminal graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. In it, Professor X is tricked/forced by a religious fanatic named Stryker to try and kill all the mutants, and the X-Men team up with Magneto to save Charles. The comic, from Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson, was one of Marvel’s earliest original graphic novels, and holds up really well today.

The comic was not strictly canon until after the movie. Claremont followed up on the OGN with a sequel in the pages of X-Treme X-Men, a book not nearly as stupid as its title, and brought William Stryker into mainline continuity.

– In something only touched on in X-Men: Apocalypse, the opening narration is Professor X asking if mutants are the next step of human evolution. That is more or less the crux of Apocalypse’s argument as a villain, and was (at that time) tackled in the comics by Grant Morrison, who in his opening arc of New X-Men had Beast discover that regular humans were going extinct.

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– The opening sequence is Nightcrawler attacking the President in the White House, in an action sequence that still holds up today. Nightcrawler, the teleporting, demon-looking religious (occasionally swashbuckling) acrobat, was created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for Giant Sized X-Men #1, the comic that brought the X-Men back from a 5 year hiatus and introduced Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Colossus, and Thunderbird as a new generation of X-Men. Kurt Wagner was based on a design Cockrum had drawn for the Legion of Super Heroes at DC, but never used.

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– Wolverine, hunting information about his past from clues given to him by Professor X at the end of the last movie, finds what he thinks are the ruins of the Weapon X compound in Canada. The Weapon X program is as old as Wolverine IRL, a part of his mythos since his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #181. It was later retconned into…a lot of things, including an extension of the Super Soldier program that created Captain America, but the bottom line of it is presented fairly well here: it’s a Canadian (in the comics) super weapon research division.

– In the Museum of Natural History, we see a kid in the Xavier School’s field trip group stick his lizard tongue out at a girl giving him a weird look. He’s called “Artie” by Storm. Presumably this is a reference to Artie Maddicks, a cute little pink kid in the comics who communicates by making holographic pictograms for other characters to see. He first appeared in X-Factor #2 in 1986, and has since hung out with every generation of young people in the Marvel Universe, from the X-Terminators to the Future Foundation, forever 8 years old and proving that the Marvel Universe is just a figment of Franklin Richards’ imagination OH MAN I JUST GOT THE END OF SECRET WARS.

Seriously, he’s friends with Franklin.

– Jean Grey’s powers going out of control is a fairly well-worn trope, a regular signifier of the emergence (or reemergence) of the Phoenix Force. The Phoenix Force, which we only get glimpses of in this movie, then nothing ever happens with it again (ha ha no, there wasn’t a third movie before First Class, why do you ask?), is one of the foundational energies of the universe, a creation/destruction essence that inhabited Jean Grey’s body in Uncanny X-Men #101.

– Rogue, Iceman and Pyro are chilling in the food court of the Museum of Natural History getting shit from a couple of bullies for not lighting one of their cigarettes for them. Hey, remember when you could smoke inside? No, you probably don’t. Smoking was banned indoors in New York City in 2002’s classic Intro 256-A, The Smoke Free Air Act (this was back before they started renumbering Council bills every couple of years). X2 was released in theaters about a month after that law went into effect.

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– Pyro, Saint John Allerdyce, was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #141 as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He can control fire, but not create it. In the comics, he’s Australian, and never even loosely allied with the good guys before he dies from the Legacy Virus, or “Mutant AIDS.” That’s him on the right, in front of Juggernaut, from X-Men The Arcade Game.

-The TV in the Museum of Natural History says “Mutants Attack Whitehouse,” but I’m pretty sure Rhode Island Attorney General (at the time) Sheldon Whitehouse would have been low on the priority list of a gang of evil mutants trying to make a point.

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– Bryan Cox’s William Stryker is introduced in a meeting with the President. In the movies, Stryker is a military something or other, running a black ops squad and military research division. In the comics, he’s a televangelist. It’s really amazing how much the various versions of Stryker are reflections of the anxieties of their time: OGN Stryker was a Jimmy Swaggart style TV priest and charlatan. In the film, he’s the head of a post-9/11 military shadow bureaucracy. Then upon his return in the comics, he’s the leader of an anti-mutant religious sect, a Fred Phelps-adjacent flatscan.

– Senator Kelly joins the meeting between Stryker and the President, and just a reminder, Kelly is Mystique at this point, following Kelly’s gooey death in the first X-Men movie.

-Stryker’s bodyguard is Yuriko Oyama, Lady Deathstrike. In the comics, she’s a cyborg with knifey fingers who, because of paragraphs and paragraphs of comic book gibberish, hates Wolverine. In the movie, she’s a mutant who underwent the same adamantium bonding process as Logan, but works for Stryker because she’s brainwashed in much the same way Nightcrawler was and Cyclops will be.

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– Iceman and Rogue’s relationship began in the movies, but only migrated to the Ultimate comics. In the 616 (the main Marvel Universe until…recently), she was only romantically linked with Gambit, Magneto, Magneto’s hippie clone Joseph, and Colossus for a couple panels. One person she DIDN’T have a romantic relationship with in the comics is Wolverine. You know why that never transferred? Because it’s pretty fucking weird in this movie.

– Speaking of Colossus, he is the behemoth of a man drawing the picture of Iceman getting zapped from kissing her. Colossus was also introduced in Giant Sized X-Men #1. In the comics, he’s a Russian-born strongman farmer with a little sister who’s a variably aged demon princess, and an older brother who’s a time-displaced reality warper.

– Genuine question, I don’t know who did the art that Colossus drew. Let me know in the comments if you can find that.

– The Once and Future King is a recurring theme in this movie (and shows up again in X-Men: Apocalypse!). It’s the story of Merlin and King Arthur’s interactions through the years, and if you really want to hammer the symbolism in there, you can argue that the stories of Arthur as a child learning about the difference between might and right is a totally missed point by Magneto (who’s reading it in his cell), and the stuff about Arthur eventually being reborn is heavy-handed foreshadowing of a Phoenix story that never came, but mostly it’s a good book that gave us a Disney movie about a kid turning into a fish to learn from his old wizard.

– You may recognize Mister Lorio, the substantial security guard with the steel trap for an ass, from The 100 where he plays Nyko, or Supernatural where he was Benny, or Battlestar Galactica, where he was Captain Kelly.

– In the comics, Cerebro didn’t really pose a danger to the general populace. It was more of a problem for people using it: the massive increase in psychic input had the potential to do serious harm to the user.

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Stryker’s computer that Mystique goes through to try and find Magneto is chock full of easter eggs. Names on the screen include:

– Maria Callasantos, or Feral, the cat lady introduced late in New Mutants, member of X-Force and then killed off not too long ago.

– Angelo Espinosa, Skin of Generation X. He has prehensile skin. I’m not sure what you were expecting from the name.

– Paige & Sam Guthrie; Husk and Cannonball from Generation X and the New Mutants, respectively. Paige has the ability to rip her skin off to reveal a totally different physical composition underneath. Cannonball is nigh invulnerable when blastin.

– Kenuchio Harada, the Silver Samurai. He has the power to charge his sword with “tachyon energy.” But instead of making the blade of his sword travel through time, he can only cut through really hard stuff.

– Garrison Kane, or Weapon X. He’s a cyborg.

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– Remy LeBeau, Gambit. He’s a scumbag.

– Two Cassidys, and whoever they are, they’re likely mutants. Black Tom Cassidy is a mutant thief and a stereotype and the Juggernaut’s bestie, who channels force blasts through a shillelagh. Sean Cassidy is Banshee: former Interpol detective, later X-Man who, like his daughter (who we’ll meet later) can cly and hurt people with his “sonic scream.”

– Jamie Madrox, or Multiple Man. He’s a human computer, he can do multiplication really good just kidding he makes duplicates of himself.

– Lila Cheney, a teleporting rock star whose power only allows her to travel MASSIVE (think stellar) distances.

– Xian Coy Mahn, Karma. She is able to possess people and take control of their bodies.

– An entry that says “Maximoff (2),” a reference to Pietro and Wanda, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. They were Magneto’s kids in the comics until they weren’t.

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– Kevin McTaggart, Moira’s son Proteus who is a brutal reality warper.

– Another New Mutant by the name of Danielle Moonstar (Mirage), who can manifest people’s greatest fears.

– Amara Aquila, the New Mutant by the name of Magma. She can control lava.

– Alison Blaire, Dazzler. She converts sound into light energy.

– Sally Blevins, or Skids from X-Factor (then X-Force, then a bunch of vastly less cool places). Blevins’ body is covered by a frictionless force field.

– Elizabeth Braddock, who we’ll see as Psylocke, one of Apocalypse’s horsemen.

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– Eric Lensherr (Magneto), Artie Maddicks (We talked about him), and John Allersomething (likely Allerdyce, or Pyro) are also on there.

– There are also files for Muir Island (the island from which Moira McTaggart conducts most of her mutant research); Omega Red (a product of the Soviet super soldier program); Project Wideawake (the government plan to whack mutants before they became a threat); Franklin Richards (Reed & Sue’s kid and…there’s a lot here. Go read Secret Wars) and Cerebro.

– The kid changing the channel by blinking isn’t named. If I’m cranky, I think he’s a whitewashed Taki Matsuya, the technopath from X-Terminators, the miniseries that followed the kids from X-Factor around Inferno. If I’m in a good mood, he’s a young Madison Jeffries, or Box, a technopath who eventually falls in love with the Danger Room.

– There’s a brief flash when Cyclops is attacked in Magneto’s cell of Cyclops being a badass. That’s the extent of his cool moments in the films. Nobody X-Man got shit on worse in the last 15 years across all mediums than Scott Summers.

– When Stryker’s team attacks the mansion, Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) falls through her bed, then runs through a few walls and gets recast as Ellen Page. Pryde was created in 1980 by Claremont and John Byrne in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

– The screaming girl is Theresa Cassidy, Siryn. In the comics, she is the daughter of Banshee, and a former member of X-Force, X-Factor Investigations, and a crime crew headed by her uncle, Black Tom Cassidy. She was created in 1981 (!) by Chris Claremont and Steve Leialoha.

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– Stryker’s son Jason, the man in the wheelchair whose spinal fluid is used to mind control other mutants, is widely considered to be Mastermind. Jason Wyngarde was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (way back in 1964’s Uncanny X-Men #4) before gaining notoriety as a member of the Hellfire Club, where, in a story with broad parallels to what this Jason does, Mastermind gaslit Phoenix into turning evil. Here, he tricks the Professor into thinking he’s helping, when in actuality he’s going to kill everyone.

– The only mutant I can conclusively make out in the Weapon X prison is Jubliee. Jubilation Lee creates explosive “fireworks” with her hands (and is secretly SUPER powerful). Also now she’s a vampire. Don’t ask.

– Wolverine running naked into the Canadian winter is from Weapon X, epic Barry Windsor Smith Wolverine story from Marvel Comics Presents.

– This is more a comic lifting from the movies thing, but in The Death of Wolverine, Logan dies when he pours liquid adamantium over himself. In X2, he kills Deathstrike by dumping liquid adamantium into her. Oh, I just got the sex thing.  

– Rogue can’t pilot the Blackbird in the movies, but I think she’s a flight instructor in the comics.

Know something we don’t? Let us know in the comments!