To quote Wong (Benedict Wong) in the finale of Avengers: Endgame, “What, you wanted more?” Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness offers an abundance of surprise Easter eggs and hat tips to Marvel Comics lore. Lots of them are hard to miss, but a few may have enduring ripple effects across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So let’s open our third eyes and dive into an exhaustive list of all the film’s many, many references to comics and existing MCU lore, divided into cameos and Easter eggs.
Nicodemus West (Michael Stuhlbarg)
Michael Stuhlbarg reprises his small role from Doctor Strange (2016), in which he performed surgery on Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) hands. The character’s only comics appearance was in Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin’s limited series, Doctor Strange: The Oath (2007), in which West steals an elixir that puts Strange in his path, leading to a battle in which he meets his demise. It’s notable in Multiverse of Madness that West, disheveled and bitter, does have a darker edge — he blames Strange for his five-year disappearance following the sorcerer’s surrender of the Time Stone to Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, during which his cats and brother died. It’s possible Stuhlbarg may have a slightly more antagonistic role in a future Doctor Strange film.
Rintrah (Adam Hugill)
What’s up with the green Minotaur? The sorcerer seen at the Kamar-Taj first appeared in Doctor Strange #80 (1986) and was created by Peter Gillis and Chris Warner. This extradimensional minotaur saved Strange’s life and eventually became his apprentice, even aiding the Sorcerer Supreme during the Infinity War. In the comics, he currently teaches young magicians at the Strange Academy.
Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Ejiofor reprises his role, this time as a variant of Strange’s ally turned enemy. This version of Mordo presides over the New York Sanctum Santorum and is a member of the Illuminati. He fears the threat Strange poses, citing the corruption of his own universe’s version of Strange by the Darkhold. Interestingly, Strange mentions that his universe’s Mordo tried to kill him — which we haven’t yet seen in the MCU. It suggests there are still untold Strange adventures, and that the Mordo we met in the first Doctor Strange may still return and make good on his threat to cleanse the world of “too many sorcerers.”
Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell)
Atwell finally gets to suit up in live-action! Mirroring the version of Captain Carter introduced in Marvel Studios’ What If…? series, Peggy Carter cameos here as Earth’s super soldier and a member of the Illuminati — that is, until the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) cuts her in half with her own shield. With Captain Carter currently starring in her own comics miniseries from Jamie McKelvie and Marika Cresta, keep your fingers crossed that the character’s rising popularity will allow Atwell to portray her again in the MCU.
Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch)
In what feels bound to become a future episode of What If…?, Maria Rambeau appears as an alternate universe version of Captain Marvel instead of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). As another member of the Illuminati, Maria meets her end when Wanda strips her of her cosmic power and sends a statue crashing on top of her. It’s a mystery whether we’ll ever see Maria as Captain Marvel again. But her daughter Monica (Teyonah Parris) played a key role in WandaVision and is set to return, fully-powered, in the Captain Marvel (2019) sequel, The Marvels.
Black Bolt (Anson Mount)
We don’t have to talk about the ill-fated Inhumans series that lasted one season on ABC in 2017. The project wasn’t run by Marvel Studios, which makes it all the more surprising that Anson Mount was given the chance to return and redeem the role in Multiverse of Madness, complete with a comics-accurate costume. Here, he appears as a member of the Illuminati, who receives the movie’s most disturbing death scene. As the king of the Inhumans who possesses the ability to destroy matter with his voice, Black Bolt is a pretty big deal in the comics, and the history of his people has strong ties to the Kree and even some connections to the Eternals. Maybe enough time has passed that the Inhumans can be revisited and placed within the MCU, if not with a solo movie or series, then at least as an acknowledged presence within the multiverse.
Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski)
You asked for it, and you have received! John Krasinski has been the internet’s pick for Reed Richards for years, with artist Russell Dauterman adding fuel to the fire by using the actor/director’s likeness in the 2019 comics event The War of the Realms. The patriarch of the Fantastic Four is one of the universe’s smartest men, but that doesn’t stop Wanda from shredding him to pieces and destroying his brain with a pop before taking out the rest of the Illuminati. Is that the last we’ll see of Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic? I doubt it. When the Fantastic Four finally do make their appearance in the MCU, I fully expected Krasinski to be at the head. There’s also the fact that their upcoming film’s director’s chair just opened up…
Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)
Stewart’s iconic voice confirmed his presence in Multiverse of Madness back in February when the second trailer dropped. Here, Charles Xavier shows up in a live-action version of his iconic yellow hover chair from the ‘90s X-Men animated series, accompanied by hints of that show’s theme song. It seems this Xavier is not the same one from the Fox movies, deflating the idea that the MCU plans to make those films canon. But who knows? Maybe those characters still exist somewhere out in the multiverse. Either way, Wanda kills him off before he gets that chance to say the word “mutant.” This marks the fourth time Stewart has died as Charles Xavier on film. Poor guy.
Ultron (Ross Marquand)
The villain who first brought Wanda Maximoff into the Avengers’ orbit plays a small role here in the form of security sentries for the Illuminati. Ultron is surprisingly unambitious in this universe, begging the question of who created him and whose brain patterns his mind is modeled after. Wanda makes quick work of the robots here. Despite the fact that the Ultron she knew killed her brother, his presence doesn’t even get the respect of her attention here.
Pizza Poppa (Bruce Campbell)
Not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need right now. What would a Sam Raimi movie be without an appearance from Bruce Campbell? Campbell shows up as a pizza ball-selling street vendor in the Illuminati’s universe, and has some choice words for America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who mistakenly believes food is free in this universe. Doctor Strange casts a spell that makes the vendor punch himself repeatedly for the next three weeks, allowing Campbell to play up the slapstick violence he used to iconic effect as Ash in Raimi’s Evil Dead series.
Clea (Charlize Theron)
Lucky you, we wrote a whole post about her here!
As comics readers know, each universe within the Marvel multiverse has its own numerical designation. The main-continuity universe is Earth-616, while the Ultimate Marvel Universe is Earth-1610, and so on. The variant version of Doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) in Multiverse of Madness works to catalog the multiverse’s many worlds, and dubs the universe Strange hails from (and where the majority of MCU movies have taken place so far) Earth-616, like in the comics. Her Earth, where Wanda kills the Illuminati members, is Earth-838, which doesn’t exist in the comics.
The Book of Vishanti
The Book of Vishanti is the Darkhold’s opposite, a book of white magic and a key element of Doctor Strange mythos almost since the character’s origins: it first appeared in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Strange Tales #116 (1963). In Multiverse of Madness, the book gives users whatever they need to defeat what plagues them, though it is destroyed before Strange can read it. Perhaps its destruction, and Strange’s subsequent choice to finally allow others to “hold the knife” and make the difficult decisions was exactly what he needed.
The giant, one-eyed, tentacled creature that Strange and Wong battle in the streets of New York is an Old One, an elder god that feeds on screaming souls and represents chaos. Although its first comics appearance came in Marvel Premiere #10 (1973), where it fought Doctor Strange for the soul of the Ancient One, the character itself is a much older creation. It was originally conceived by Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard in his Kull the Conqueror short story The Curse of the Golden Skull. Due to rights issues, the creature is dubbed Gargantos in Multiverse of Madness, and may be the same tentacled creature who appears in several episodes of the animated Disney+ show What If…?
The Living Tribunal
Blink and you’ll miss it, but as Doctor Strange and America Chavez fall through the multiverse, we catch a glimpse of The Living Tribunal, a giant three-faced cosmic entity who protects the multiverse from mystical forces. Considering what goes down in Multiverse of Madness, he may, uh, not be doing the best job. First appearing in Strange Tales #157 (1967) and created by Stan Lee and Marie Severin, its three faces represent equity, necessity, and revenge, judging entities and individuals, and preventing any one universe from becoming more powerful than another. Hopefully, we’ll see the character again in the MCU as the multiverse continues to expand.
Wanda’s “throne” in Multiverse of Madness has a storied history in the comics. Introduced in Thor #134 (1966), it’s the place where the demon Chthon dwelled and wrote the book of black magic known as the Darkhold. Later, the mountain served as a home base for the sorceress Morgan Le Fey and her followers, The Darkholders, who sought to harness Chthon’s powers. In modern times, it was ruled by the geneticist The High Evolutionary and became the birthplace of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, the former of whom was imbued with Chthon’s energy.
The demonic god of chaos, the father of monsters, and writer of the Darkhold, Chthon’s history in Multiverse of Madness appears to be similar to what it is in the comics. The character first appeared as “The Other” in Marvel Chillers #1 (1975) and was created by Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, and Yong Montano. In Marvel lore, he is the source of Wanda’s powers and has possessed her in the past, with an influence similar to what the Darkhold has over Wanda in the film. More recently in the comics, the Scarlet Witch absorbed Chthon, taking his powers and containing him, at least for as long as she remains alive. While we don’t see him in the flesh in Multiverse of Madness, the guardians of Wundagore who serve The Scarlet Witch look similar to one depiction of Chthon. Given that future MCU projects will focus on Blade and Werewolf by Night, I suspect Chthon, who created both vampires and werewolves, will come into play again.
The Baxter Foundation
Earth-838’s Doctor Christine Palmer works at the Baxter Foundation, a name drop sure to make Fantastic Four fans smile. In the comics, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm reside in the Baxter Building, while the Baxter Foundation is a think tank for young geniuses introduced in the 2015 Fantastic Four (2015) movie. If that’s the only aspect of that Fantastic Four movie that makes its way into the MCU, I’ll be grateful.
Sue Storm, Franklin and Valeria Richards
Right before The Scarlet Witch absolutely wrecks Reed Richards, he tries to empathize with her, sharing that he’s a parent, too. Wanda asks if his wife is still alive; Richards confirms that she is. To which Wanda stone-cold replies, “Good. Then they’ll have someone to raise them.” Sue Storm is, of course, the wife Reed is referring to, and his children are Franklin and Valeria Richards. Franklin was the world’s most powerful mutant before an unnecessary comics retcon, and Valeria is one of the smartest people in the multiverse. Both play a major role in Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s 2015 comic book event Secret Wars. Which leads us perfectly to the movie’s final Easter egg.
Reed Richards warns that incursions happen when two worlds in the multiverse collide, resulting in their mutual destruction. In the mid-credits scene, Clea (Charlize Theron) tells Strange he’s responsible for an incursion, something Earth-838’s Illuminati was afraid their Stephen Strange would cause. How Earth-616’s Strange created an incursion will be explored in the future, but the concept itself originated in Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting’s New Avengers, which served as the lead-in to Secret Wars. In that series, The Illuminati, consisting of Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, Iron Man, Black Panther, Beast, Black Bolt, Namor, and Captain America, are forced to deal with the looming threat of their Earth’s destruction by an incursion. It’s decided the only way to save the world is to destroy the other planet, a tactic Captain America doesn’t agree with, so his teammates manipulate his mind. It seems the MCU may be moving ever closer to an Earth-616 iteration of the Illuminati, and Secret Wars as a model for the next Avengers: Infinity War/Avengers: Endgame-level event.
More on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
- Sam Raimi Exploding Superheroes’ Heads in ‘Doctor Strange 2’ Is Good, Actually
- Doctor Strange’s Multiverse of Madness Mid-Credits Meet-Cute, Explained
- The Biggest Cameo in Doctor Strange 2 Is a Bit of a Stretch