This article contains major Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness spoilers.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is finally here! And with it comes a host of answers to long-standing fan speculations, the wish-fulfillment of multiple fan-castings and favorite returns, and a even more questions about where this leaves the MCU of the future. Oh yeah, and there’s also a ton of references to Marvel Comics in here.
Here are our favorite ones that we’ve found…
Created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta, America Chavez has been kicking around Marvel Comics for over a decade now. Much of what you see from here in this movie is true to the comics, although she’s more inexperienced/unsure of herself than we’ve come for her to be known. The character has served on several teams, including the Ultimates and A-Force, but this version of America seems destined to take an active role in the version of the Young Avengers that the MCU seems to be assembling.
Also, just a quick shout-out to how appropriately bonkers and Steve Ditko-esque the dimensional weirdness America and Ponytail Strange are navigating when we first meet them!
THE BOOK OF THE VISHANTI
The Book of the Vishanti is described as basically the “ultimate good book” in the MCU. In the comics it’s perhaps not QUITE as sacred, but it’s still important. It’s been part of Doctor Strange‘s mythology since his earliest adventures in 1963, and it’s frequently referred to or deployed by Strange in the comics.
Michael Stuhlbarg returns as Nicodemus West during Christine Palmer’s wedding. This is a character that, if the Strange franchise wasn’t so seemingly intent on just being a major cog in the MCU wheel, could potentially carry his own movie as an antagonist if they wanted to go a little smaller scale with it. Want an idea of what that could look like? Go read the superb Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin.
Yes, that is indeed the same Gargantos (or at least a variant of him) from What If…? here. And yes, it’s also Shuma-Gorath from the comics and (more famously) the Marvel vs. Capcom fighting game. There’s just some legal nonsense apparently tying up the Shuma-Gorath name.
The bit with America Chavez being held hostage by Gargantos as it scales the building feels like a nod to the famous scene in Spider-Man 2 with the similarly-tentacled Doctor Octopus and Aunt May. It even appears to be the same building! We wrote more about all the Sam Raimi references in this Sam Raimi movie right here.
Funny enough, Strange defeats our favorite monster with an “injury to the eye.” When the self-regulating Comics Code Authority was first implemented in the 1950s, one of the first things they explicitly forbade comics from depicting were “injury to the eye” images, in no small part thanks to the horror and crime comics of the era really loving stuff like that. Considering Raimi’s overall cultural literacy, it’s hard to imagine this was accidental.
Yes, this movie does take place after Spider-Man: No Way Home. Although Strange and America’s shared joke about Spidey shooting webs “out of his butt” feels like it could be another bit of Raimi self-referential goodness, as the Spider-Man of his films had organic as opposed to mechanical web-shooters.
RICK & MORTY
Strange bury his own corpse is akin to the kind of macabre multiverse adventures we’ve seen on Rick & Morty. Appropriate considering that Multiverse of Madness screenwriter Michael Waldron has also written for that animated series.
The Darkhold as we see it here bears plenty of similarities with its comics counterpart, from its connection to the Scarlet Witch to the fact that it was written by the demonic entity Chthon (whose name you probably recognize from WandaVision).
We also got a version of the Darkhold in Agents of SHIELD season 4 during that show’s Ghost Rider period. However, it looked pretty different, and there’s constant debate about whether or not that series even takes place on the Sacred Timeline these days, so…who knows? For the record, we think it all counts.
THE SCARLET WITCH
“It won’t be Wanda who comes for her, it’ll be the Scarlet Witch.” That’s a pretty chilling line, and the idea of the Scarlet Witch not as a superhero codename but rather as a prophecy tied directly to the Darkhold is very cool. Once again, the idea that Wanda never had a proper superhero codename is something that we saw explored on WandaVision. Speaking of which…
Wanda’s black-tipped fingers are indicative of the corruption of the Darkhold, as we saw with Agatha Harkness in WandaVision‘s final episodes.
During Wanda’s dream early in the film, a jingle version of the WandaVision episode 2 theme can be heard playing.
Interestingly enough, both Vision and Wanda have faced their doubles and each conflict ended with words instead of violence.
Of course, there’s also the unfortunate matter of how much of the hard work of WandaVision is essentially undone by this movie.
The adorable bull-headed creature is named Rintrah, a character who has been hanging around the Marvel Comics universe since 1986. He isn’t even the weirdest, most memorable thing in this movie, which is pretty cool, all things considered. He’s been Strange’s apprentice (and Sanctum roomie) at points, and eventually becomes a sorcerer all his own. Awwww…
THE LIVING TRIBUNAL
At one point as Strange and America traverse the dimensions, we see the Living Tribunal. Now, this is technically the first proper appearance of the Living Tribunal in the MCU. He was referred to in the first Doctor Strange movie (when “the staff of the Living Tribunal” was mentioned), and we saw his statue at a key point in Loki, which helped seed how important this character is to the multiverse..
Doctor Strange puking after dimensional travel feels like a subtle Watchmen nod, since it’s a running joke that lots of folks end up losing their lunch after being teleported by everyone’s favorite big, blue naked godlike being.
The immortal Bruce Campbell showing up as “Pizza Poppa” now marks his fourth Marvel movie cameo, all in Sam Raimi flicks: brilliant wrestling announcer (Spider-Man), snooty usher (Spider-Man 2), hapless maître d’ (Spider-Man 3), and now Pizza Poppa.
Bruce needing to beat the crap out of himself with an “enchanted hand” is a nod to his defining role as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise where that happened…a lot. And more importantly, Sam just loves torturing Bruce.
McLeod Books is across the street from the Doctor Strange museum, which could be a reference to Marvel Comics artist Bob McLeod…although he never did any significant work on Strange from what I can tell, so perhaps this one is just a coincidence.
IS THAT A JEDI?
OK, I’m definitely not sure about this one but…was that someone wearing Jedi robes running the “Memory Lane” station on Earth-838?
EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HERO
The Doctor Strange statue on Earth-838 refers to him as “Earth’s Mightiest Hero” which was long a tagline for the Avengers comics.
Believe it or not, this is the first time we’ve been to Mt. Wundagore in the MCU. In the comics, that’s the place where Wanda and Pietro were actually born. Here, well, it’s where Wanda dies. Theoretically.
2003 DETROIT TIGERS
Wanda’s kids on Earth-838 are arguing about baseball at one point, and one of them brings up the “2003 Tigers” as “the best.” As in the Detroit Tigers. Sam Raimi is from Michigan.
But more importantly, the 2003 Detroit Tigers are historically one of the worst teams of all time. They only had one more win than the worst baseball team of all time, an ignominious record set by my beloved New York Mets in their inaugural 1962 season. Anyway, this gives you an idea of just how different Earth-838 is meant to be from our world, I guess.
Universe 838 has apparently not been identified in the comics and is a new creation just for this movie.
The MCU is officially given the multiverse designation of 616 here…which is also the designation for the mainline Marvel Comics universe. This might make some continuity lawyers crazy who expected this to have a universe designation separate from Marvel Comics.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR & REED RICHARDS
The Christine Palmer of Earth-838 is a “senior fellow” at the Baxter Foundation. In the comics, the Fantastic Four operate out of the Baxter Building, and at one point have an offshoot known as “the Future Foundation.” The fact that Strange isn’t surprised by this revelation makes me think that perhaps the Baxter Foundation exists in the main MCU already.
Jon Krasinski’s Reed Richards is pretty perfect casting, although, as we’ve seen with variants everywhere from Loki to Spider-Man: No Way Home, this doesn’t necessarily mean he is also the Mr. Fantastic of the main MCU when we finally get the Fantastic Four. We can hope, though!
Interestingly, he already has children, which means he and Sue Storm have been together quite some time in this universe. Their kids, Franklin and Valeria, are known for major multiversal shenanigans of their own.
We don’t need to tell you that the Illuminati are using Ultron sentries as their personal guards, right? It seems they handled that problem a little bit better than their 616 counterparts.
This isn’t quite the comics lineup of the Illuminati which has at various points consisted of Iron Man, Charles Xavier, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, Black Panther, Captain America, Beast, and Namor, but it’s an appropriate lineup nonetheless. There is not at the moment a 616 equivalent, although the post-credits scenes of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may have featured a grouping that could very much evolve into that down the road.
Interestingly, the 838 Illuminati seem to operate out in the open as opposed to how in the comics this was a group so secret that not even other heroes were meant to know about them.
We wrote much more about the implications of the Illuminati for the MCU right here.
Seeing Hayley Atwell back as Peggy Carter? Amazing. Seeing her kick ass as Captain Carter in live action? Even better. Seeing her killed? Um…well…not as thrilling. But still, fear not: this is the Captain Carter of Earth-838 not necessarily the one we met in What If…?, so we expect there will be plenty more Captain Carter asskickings down the road.
Yes, Patrick Stewart returning for a final curtain call as Professor X is cool, but again, this isn’t the Professor X of the Fox movies, just a new variant for this movie. He does, however, rock his ’90s animated series design, visible telepathy (like in the cartoon), and cool hoverchair. Your ears do not deceive you, either…a snippet of the animated series theme song does indeed play on piano when he’s onscreen. We wrote more about the implications of his appearance here.
Hey remember the Inhumans TV series? Yeah, Marvel would also like you to forget about it. But here’s Anson Mount (who is having himself quite a moment) to redeem Black Bolt, in a comics accurate costume, and even signing just like he did in one of the very first comics to feature the Illuminati!
INCURSIONS, SECRET WARS, AND MORE!
All this stuff about dimensional incursions and needing the Illuminati to sort it all out? That’s straight out of the pages of writer Jonathan Hickman’s extraordinary multi-year run on Fantastic Four and Avengers comics, which is a major influence on this movie. Even the visualization of the incursion, with its stark whiteness, feels like what we saw in the culmination of that story: Secret Wars…which may or may not be coming to a future MCU Phase.
Stephen’s recounting of the fate of his sister, Donna, is straight out of the comics, as well. Interestingly, a scene depicting her death was filmed for the first movie but never made it into the finished movie.
CHARLIZE THERON AS CLEA
The mid-credits scene reveals Charlize Theron as Clea, a character who has been key to Doctor Strange mythology since 1964! She’s basically Strange’s soulmate, a powerful sorcerer in her own right…and also the niece of Dormammu himself. This is the character a lot of Doctor Strange fans have been waiting for, and considering that she’s the current Sorcerer Supreme in the pages of Marvel Comics, this has major implications for the MCU going forward! We unpack some of those here.
What other big Marvel and MCU Easter eggs did you spot in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let us know in the comments!