With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hitting our screens this week, Marvel fans have been treated to the usual surprise cameos and big character additions that have become the norm for any new MCU release. Fans have long speculated that The Illuminati would make their MCU debut at some point in phase four, and now you finally get to see them on the big screen in ‘Doctor Strange 2.’
For those who aren’t familiar with The Illuminati from the comics, they were a covert society made up of individuals from each of Earth’s superhuman communities–this included Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, Professor X, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, and Namor. While The Illuminati seen in the ‘Multiverse of Madness’ do differ slightly, there are still a bunch of new characters that make their MCU debut. Just who are they, and what can be learned about them from the comics.
America Chavez appears in the opening scene, accompanied by a version of Doctor Strange sporting a ponytail. The pair flee from an unknown malevolent force that is trying to steal America’s power. The scene is later revealed to be a dream that the regular MCU Stephen Strange is having. Doctor Strange encounters America once again in his waking life, immediately recognizing her. America tells Strange that dreams are glimpses of other universes and everything he saw really happened. In the film, America uses her power to create Star Portals which allow her to travel the multiverse.
Much like her MCU counterpart, comic book America Chavez also has the power to create Star Portals. Known primarily by the alias Ms. America, she was brought to the island of billionaire Mr. Gales where her mothers treated her and her sister Catalina for a genetic disease called Edges Syndrome. Once cured, America’s powers manifested to the delight of Mr. Gales who encouraged her to use them against her mothers’ wishes. This conflict led to an altercation where both her mothers perished and Catalina was ripped away from America when she opened a Star Portal for them to escape through. Like her on-screen counterpart, America believes her family to be dead and becomes a small-time vigilante, enjoying stints with the Young Avengers and the Ultimates.
Better known as Mister Fantastic, Reed Richards may already be familiar to movie-goers for appearing in previous Fantastic Four Marvel Legacy films. However, this is Mister Fantastic’s first appearance in the MCU, and John Krasinski‘s first time carrying the mantle. Sitting on the council of The Illuminati, Reed Richards is introduced as the smartest man on Earth. In a battle with the Scarlet Witch, fans get to see Reed using his other signature power–the extraordinary plasticity that allows him to stretch his body at will.
Just how did he obtain these powers? Why, high levels of cosmic radiation, of course. In the comics, Reed travels to space to retrieve a stolen rocket with his friends Ben Grimm, Sue Storm, and Johnny Storm. The radiation causes them to manifest powers and in turn come together to form the Fantastic Four–Ben as The Thing, Sue as the Invisible Girl, Johnny as the Human Torch, and Reed as Mister Fantastic. Just like in the film, Reed is also part of The Illuminati in the comics.
Another familiar face from the Marvel Legacy films, Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier, better known as Professor X, is the founder of the X-Men. Making his MCU debut as a member of The Illuminati, he possesses great telepathic abilities which allow him to penetrate the Scarlet Witch’s mind. He finds a saner version of Wanda being held hostage within a mental prison resembling her destroyed home in Sokovia. Unfortunately for this version of Professor X, the Scarlet Witch’s power is too strong, and he fails to rescue the Wanda within.
In the comics, Charles Xavier is an Alpha-Level Mutant with the most powerful brain in the world. Committed to protecting the mutant population, Professor X created Cerebro, a machine designed to amplify his telepathic power and allow him to locate young mutants all over the world. He founded the “School For Gifted Youngsters” where mutants would train, learning to use their powers for the good of humanity. Charles was constantly at odds with his best friend turned enemy Magneto, who believed in mutant supremacy over assimilation. Professor X was also part of the comic book version of the Illuminati.
The silent superhero who fights alongside his fellow Illuminati, Blackagar Boltagon a.k.a. Black Bolt is a formidable force. He is seen fighting the Scarlet Witch with sonic energy, channeled from the fork-like amulet he wears above his brow. While this is Black Bolt’s first appearance in the MCU, fans may remember him from the short-lived TV show The Inhumans, played by Anson Mount who reprised his role for Doctor Strange 2.
In the comics, Black Bolt is part of a race called the Inhumans who live separately from the rest of humanity. When the Kree came down to Earth, they experimented on a bunch of humans, creating the Inhumans. After the Kree’s departure, the Inhumans continued to use the Terrigen Mist on embryos in the womb which assisted them in gaining their powers. Black Bolt’s powers were stronger than most, able to emit sonic energy through the use of his voice. He eventually learned to channel his power through the fork-shaped antenna at his brow though continued not to speak in fear of what destruction his voice may cause.
While MCU fans may have already caught a glimpse of Captain Carter in animated form on What If..?, this is her first live-action appearance. Captain Carter is the Captain America of her universe, where Peggy Carter went through the process of becoming a super-soldier instead of Steve Rogers. She puts up a good fight against the Scarlet Witch, using her Union Jack emblazoned vibranium shield, letting Wanda know that “she can do this all day.” Steve would be proud.
Interestingly, Captain Carter doesn’t find her origins in the comics but made her first appearance in the video game ‘Marvel Puzzle Quest.’ After her role in What If..?, she was officially added to the Marvel Comics canon with the first issue of Captain Carter released in March 2022. In this reality, Steve Rogers is injured during the Project Rebirth procedure and Peggy elects to step in and become the army’s first super-soldier. Like Steve, she is lost in action and ends up frozen in ice for decades before she’s rescued and reintroduced to the modern world.
MCU fans will recognize this version of Captain Marvel as Maria Rambeau, Carol Danvers’ old Air Force buddy. However, in her universe, she is the one and only Captain Marvel, and a member of the Illuminati. She possesses the same powers as Carol’s Captain Marvel, but they, unfortunately, prove no match against the Scarlet Witch in all her glory.
Maria Rambeau never appeared as Captain Marvel in the comics. It was her daughter Monica Rambeau who held the moniker before adopting the alias Photon when Genis-Vell, the son of the original Captain Marvel, adopted the name.
Clea Strange appears in the first post-credit scene as a mysterious blonde woman clad in purple, who has come to collect Stephen. She tells him that the Incursion he caused must be fixed and they step through a portal reminiscent of the Dark Dimension where Doctor Strange battles Dormammu in the first film.
Well, it turns out Clea is Dormammu’s niece in the comics. She was born to Prince Orini, former ruler of the Dark Dimension, and the Faltine Umar, Dormammu’s sister. Clea eventually becomes ruler of the Dark Dimension after battling her mother. She encounters Stephen on Earth, and he trains her in the mystic arts. They fall in love, donning magical rings that eternally connect them. After Stephen’s death, Clea becomes Sorcerer Supreme and adopts the name Strange. Fans can only wait with bated breath to see what role Clea plays in the MCU.
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