The Illuminati may be relatively new to Marvel Comics, but they are one of the universe’s most compelling concepts. The Illuminati have been absent from the MCU, but recent trailers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness confirm the existence of the organization, albeit in a slightly different form.
In Marvel Comics, the Illuminati is a gathering of the smartest and most influential heroes on Earth. They exist to deal with galactic and multiversal threats; complex problems that demand difficult solutions. They first appeared in the pages of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on New Avengers and played a major role in the follow-up, New Avengers, written by Jonathan Hickman. These stories found the Illuminati making morally gray decisions, like when they decided to exile Bruce Banner in space to avoid any further Hulk outbursts, and plotted to destroy alternative Earths before their own was compromised in Secret Wars.
But who will be on the Illuminati of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let’s speculate!
Professor Charles Xavier
At this point, it’s all but confirmed that the founder of the X-Men, Professor X, will be there, and once again played by Patrick Stewart. A member of the first Illuminati, Professor X brought his signature mix of hope and pragmatism to group discussions. Although he was briefly replaced in the comics by Beast after his death (that happens a lot), he regained his seat at the table after his resurrection (that also happens a lot).
We know very little about the MCU version of the Illuminati. Promotional materials show Strange entering a large room lined with five chairs, several filled by indistinct figures. However, between the comics and these materials, we can make some educated guesses about the members and omissions from the Illuminati’s roster.
For movie fans, Professor X’s appearance is particularly exciting as the first proper X-Men character in the MCU. Although WandaVision did tease Evan Peters as Quicksilver (yes, I’m still bitter about it), Professor X will be a variation of the one we’ve seen in the Fox X-Men movies. For that reason, he’ll likely be restricted to this movie, as the MCU may have its own mainline version of Professor X that it has not yet revealed.
In the comics, Mordo has been the archenemy of Doctor Strange from the beginning, and therefore never held a seat on the Illuminati. In the MCU, Karl Mordo has only just now taken steps away from the Ancient One’s teachings, and thus fits much more comfortably among the questionably heroic members of the group.
Promotional materials seem to show Mordo leading a handcuffed Strange to the Illuminati. The reality-bending actions of Wanda and Strange have likely only strengthened his conviction that sorcerers are a menace, as seen in the post-credit sequence of Doctor Strange. The Illuminati may be very inclined to agree.
Steve Rogers briefly joined the Marvel Universe version of the Illuminati, a tenure that did not end well, as the other members responded to his conscientious objections by wiping his mind. However, Peggy Carter has shown herself to not only be more of a strategic thinker than Rogers but also more willing to be morally flexible.
We first met Captain Carter in the animated series What If…, which presented an alternate reality in which it was Peggy and not Steve who received the Super Soldier Serum. The result is a true super-soldier, one who combined a brilliant tactical mind with inhuman brawn. That said, expect her to still be the voice of moral reason within the MCU’s organization.
The glowing figure in one of the Multiverse of Madness trailers may be Monica Rambeau, daughter of Captain Marvel’s best friend Maria Rambeau. Introduced in WandaVision as a member of S.W.O.R.D., Rambeau has experience with the multiverse and could be on the Illuminati as a representative of our Earth.
But the more interesting possibility is that Rambeau is Captain Marvel from another universe. Rambeau first appeared in 1982’s The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (written by Roger Stern and drawn by John Romita Jr. ) as Captain Marvel, owning the name long before Carol Danvers took up the moniker. Although she would later take on other code names, Rambeau has been a constant in important Marvel teams, leading the Avengers and Nextwave.
This one might be tricky, as one of the seated figures does appear to be wearing armor. It would make sense for Iron Man to be among the Illuminati, as Tony Stark is one of the most consistent and active members in the comics. Ever the futurist, Stark prides himself on seeing trouble and acting on it, a quality carried over in the MCU version who wanted a suit of armor around the world.
That said, Robert Downey Jr. had a pretty definitive end as Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame, and while superhero deaths are easily overturned, Marvel may not yet want to undermine that moment. Another possibility is that we’re seeing a Variant of Iron Man. This could be Rhodey or even Killmonger in the armor. But the most tantalizing (albeit extremely unlikely) possibility is that we’re seeing an Iron Man played by Tom Cruise, who spent years in the ’90s trying to get a movie off the ground in which he starred as Tony Stark.
Other Potential Members
Hank Pym and Bruce Banner have both been members in the comics, and they both play high-profile advisory roles in the MCU. Banner’s part in the post-credit sequence of Shang-Chi does raise the chances, especially given his new connection to Wong. Our familiar Captain Marvel Carol Danvers stood next to Banner in the post-credit scene, and while she hasn’t been an Illuminati member in the comics, she would fit the role – if she can fit it in her schedule of patrolling the rest of the galaxy.
Two important figures from another upcoming MCU movie could also be members. The Black Panther T’Challa has been on the Illuminati since the beginning, as has the prince of Atlantis, Namor. However, with Namor and a new Black Panther rumored to debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it’s unlikely that Marvel would want to take away attention from that high-profile film.
Perhaps the most important member of the Illuminati is Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four. We know that an MCU Fantastic Four movie is currently in production, but no casting announcements have been made, so one shouldn’t expect Richards to show up, not even in the form of Miles Teller or Ioan Gruffudd, who played the character in little-loved movie adaptations.
Speaking of little-loved adaptations, the King and Queen of the Inhumans, Black Bolt and Medusa, have both done turns on the Illuminati. You may not remember this, but the Inhumans starred in an eight-part tv miniseries from 2017 that was technically part of the MCU. Kevin Feige has shown even less love for this series than he has the Netflix shows, but stars Anson Mount and Serinda Swan have a lot of goodwill among fans. They may be ready for a reclamation project.
At any rate, all speculation will be put to rest when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness manifests in our reality on May 6.