BY MATT TUCK, BLOGGER SUPREME
FB@ The Comic Blog
Never before has a single movie trailer caused so much commotion as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. For all the hot rumors ahead of the Super Bowl ad, the new trailer has created far more questions than it gave answers. Time to venture down the Multiverse rabbit hole and explore the possibilities.
Spider-Man: No Way Home was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Despite the massive enthusiasm and intrigue the live-action Spider-Verse created, Multiverse of Madness has raised the stakes. The second trailer has confirmed many suspicions while building more mysteries in its wake. The result is that MOM could surpass NWH at the box office.
On that note, let’s explore the sheer chaos the new trailer has created in the comic community and breakdown the most popular rumors and theories that have sprung from the ashes.
CONFIRMED (SORT OF)
Out of everything the world saw in the epic MOM trailer, the biggest reaction goes to the Illuminati.
They have been rumored for MOM for years. Until Spider-Man: No Way Home rewrote the Marvel Studios playbook, the idea seemed far fetched and unattainable. Yet, here we are, and Sir Patrick Stewart’s unmistakable voice seemingly confirmed their role in the movie and beyond. When a handcuffed Doctor Strange is being walked to his apparent hearing, there are six chairs in front of him, which would signify the six members of the Illuminati.
The shadowy overlords of the Marvel-616, these amoral intellectuals have taken it upon themselves to protect the world by controlling aspects through precise, calculated manipulation. Neither good nor evil, they came together to protect their reality from all threats, even if that means doing questionable things, like overseeing the destruction of other universes to protect their own. Sometimes those decisions come back to haunt them. After they shot Hulk into space, he returned more powerful than ever to take his revenge in World War Hulk.
The thing to consider is that a swerve could be coming. Marvel Studios could very well be setting us up for something much different as they are prone to doing. Invest wisely in those Illuminati keys and try not to get caught in the hype.
Maybe adding the X-Men to the confirmed list is a tad premature, but it is all but confirmed at this point. For one thing, it’s Patrick Stewart in a superhero movie, and there’s only one role anyone can imagine him playing: Professor X. Although I have not seen this myself, supposedly the closed captions during the Super Bowl ad confirmed the mystery voice as Charles Xavier. Of course, there’s no mistaking that soft yet commanding British accent, is there?
While it appears Professor X’s role in MOM will mostly be tied to the Illuminati, there’s no arguing that he signals the biggest arrival in the MCU since Captain America. Fans have been waiting for any word on the X-Men’s return to cinema since Disney acquired Fox and all its film and television rights. Adding the team’s namesake to MOM does everything but proclaim that, indeed, the X-Men have arrived.
Stewart was the first X-Men actor rumored for MOM months ago, but he wasn’t the only one. There has been gossip surrounding Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman as well. Although Jackman has said in the past year that he has officially, 100% retired his mutton chops and adamantium claws, NWH has taught us not to trust anyone in the Marvel fold. Albeit with the intent to keep from spoiling the fun of No Way Home, Andrew Garfield and Kevin Feige blatantly lied to the world when asked about those surprise cameos. I applaud not spoiling the movie, but the consequence is that anyone connected to Marvel Studios has lost all credibility. At this point, just because Jackman says he’s retired doesn’t mean anything at all. For that matter, Stewart said last year that he wouldn’t return as Professor X because the character died in Logan. Look where that got us.
Were those the Marvel Zombies forms of Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange in the footage? Fans are saying yes, and it is one more connection between MOM and the animated What If…?.
Since the first footage attached to NWH circulated in movie theaters, audiences have wondered if that is Strange Supreme reeking havoc in the MCU. The Super Bowl trailer did not confirm or dispel the theory, but the latest poster could hold the clues.
The advertisement showcases Benedict Cumberbatch’s titular Doctor Strange among shards of glass. In a moment more or less inspired by What If…?, each shard holds an image from across the Multiverse. Eagle-eyed fans have spotted several important moments, including Captain Carter’s Union Jack shield and more clues to the Marvel Zombies, who will be starring in their own spinoff cartoon in the future. Since those two are linked to the movie, it stands to reason that this also confirms that the main antagonist is Strange Supreme from the animated universe. However, those same closed captions reportedly list him as Sinister Strange, and that makes us wonder if this is a new character or a new name for the What If…? doc.
I thought it was odd that of all the people to publish MOM gossip and potential spoilers, it was coming from Rob Liefeld. What ties does he have to the Doctor Strange mythos? If the image found inside the shattered dimensions Multiverse of Madness poster, it makes a lot more sense.
Like a twisted Where’s Waldo, Deadpool is reportedly hidden among the many images from across the Multiverse. Again, it may be premature to call this confirmed, but the Patrick Stewart reveal does lead me to believe the image circulating social media is legitimate. I would say that Deadpool has been rumored to join the MOM shenanigans for months, but with so many rumors making the rounds, that doesn’t exactly validate anything at all. At this rate, I’m surprised Batman and Robin aren’t rumored for MOM.
THE DEFENDERS INITIATIVE
It would seem that the Illuminati won’t be the only group emerging in the events of MOM. Doctor Strange is seen sporting a new costume that comes from his time with the Defenders.
Not to be confused with the Netflix series that saw Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage come together to fight Sigourney Weaver, the original Defenders from the comics were more magical based. Formed in 1971, the first lineup consisted of Doctor Strange, Hulk, and the Submariner before Silver Surfer joined their ranks a year later. They were one of the most formidable teams ever put together, and they would make sporadic returns to the comics over the decades.
Although the team did not initially sport uniforms, later editions would use matching costumes. This particular suit is inspired by Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson’s The Defenders from 2011. Spinning from the events of Fear Itself, this time the good doctor reunite with Namor and Silver Surfer. Hulk was replaced with Red She-Hulk, and Iron Fist was there for good measure.
Here’s a thought for the Defenders. Let’s assume that Multiverse of Madness is chock full of interdimensional Avengers. That would suggest that Doctor Strange’s reality-bending war is not being fought on Earth-616, but in a different universe altogether. Instead of having the Avengers join forces to save the Multiverse, this world’s Nick Fury and Iron Man spearheaded the Defenders Initiative. In fact, the Doctor Strange sporting the Defenders uniform and trendy haircut may be another Strange variant that is fighting Sinister Strange. For that matter, we could be in for an entire team of Stranges, which would explain the zombie Doctor Strange spotted in the trailer.
Did those robot guards look familiar? Comic fans should have instantly grasped the notion when those silver centurions marched Doctor Strange in front of the council. The heads were clearly meant to be Ultron drones taken straight from the pages of the comics. The bodies appeared more in line with the earlier versions of Iron Man’s armor, and that makes sense. In the comics, Hank Pym created Ultron to serve humanity, but the MCU’s version of the story had Tony Stark take over that responsibility. Having the Ultron drones sport Iron Man bodies is consistent with Stark’s having created them. They could be a movie version of the Iron Legion created by Arno Stark, the Iron Man 2020 from Earth-8410.
What’s the big deal about Ultron drones serving the Illuminati? Besides that sounding eerily close to an authoritarian regime straight out of a science-fiction novel, these are Ultron robots. If decades of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies have taught us anything, it’s that you can never trust artificially intelligent robot armies. Plus, this is Ultron, and he always finds a way to make an evil comeback.
Of everything we have seen in the trailer, this is the least surprising. Afterall, there’s already a Lego set with Gargantos, and the tentacle monster from an evil dimension was front and center in the first trailer. The only thing new circling the gossip sites is that it would appear Gargantos and Shuma-Gorath are one and the same in the MCU.
The reason for combining the characters is simple: Marvel doesn’t have the rights to use the name Shuma-Gorath. The monster was originally penned by Conan creator Robert E. Howard for a Kull the Conqueror short story. While Shuma-Gorath has been named in Marvel Comics, that doesn’t mean that the company has the rights to put the character on film. That belongs to Heroic Signatures, who typically works with Marvel on its Conan license.
Since Marvel needed a tentacle monster to fill the void without using Shuma-Gorath’s name, they went with the next best thing: Gargantos, who is practically the same creature, at least from a design perspective.
Of course, Marvel didn’t give everything away in the trailer, and that is good for audiences. As fans, we are conditioned to play the guessing game and make predictions for all the big surprises in the MCU, but the real fun is when the studio defies those expectations and gives us things we didn’t anticipate.
For every big reveal in the MOM trailer, I suspect Marvel has bigger tricks up its sleeve. Kevin Feige and company are experts at giving us just enough in the trailers to keep us wanting more without ruining all the surprises. They are truly flexing their muscles in that department with the intrigue surrounding MOM.
With that in mind, let’s explore the looming question marks in light of the new footage.
Next to the X-Men, this seems like the multiple Spider-Men rumor of MOM. For months leading up to No Way Home, the idea of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield joining Tom Holland for the first live-action interdimensional Spider-Men crossover went from remote possibility to practically guaranteed. That’s what is happening with MOM and an Iron Man from across the Multiverse. In this case, it’s the addition of Tom Cruise as Tony Stark that most fans and theorists have declared a foregone conclusion.
Once again, this started as the most unlikely of scenarios. Before the MCU, Cruise reportedly was eying the role of Iron Man in a feature film. In fact, he was heavily rumored to play Stark for several years before Marvel ultimately decided on Robert Downey, Jr. The fantasy casting left fans wondering what could have been, and that fueled the speculation heading into MOM. In the past year, there have been reports that Cruise has been spotted on the Multiverse of Madness set wearing a motion-capture suit. That has yet to be confirmed, but that is typical for Marvel. After all, the studio and the actors denied Garfield and Maguire’s involvement with NWH to the end.
That brings us to MOM’s Super Bowl trailer. Among the many intriguing moments, one of the most discussed is the appearance of a red and gold figure flying through the footage. It is intentionally void of any revealing details, but several theorists are pointing out that it could be Cruise’s Iron Man being powered by Infinity Stones. Looking closely, the suit resembles the character’s most famous armor as seen in the iconic cover art of 1968’s Iron Man #1.
Although it would be less exciting, there is a growing voice among theorists that suggests that while that may be an Iron Man suit in the trailer, it doesn’t belong to Tony Stark. Instead, it’s Riri Williams, better known as Ironheart.
We already know that Riri has been cast for the MCU. Feige announced that she will make her MCU debut in the Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever. From there, she will be factored into Armor Wars before starring in her own live-action Disney+ series, aptly titled Ironheart.
Maybe she’s not supposed to make her grand entrance until Wakanda Forever, but that doesn’t mean Marvel won’t change course before then. Featuring her as an Iron Man variant from a different Multiverse would establish her as a major player well in advance of her Disney+ series, which could then explore her past or how she adapts to the Earth-616 climate.
What also could be a factor in that being Riri instead of Tony Stark is America Chavez. As we see in the trailer, she appears to play a pivotal role in the MOM plot. Granted, we still don’t know much about the story, but it would seem that Strange is protecting her from interdimensional threats. As we know from the comics, she and Riri were both members of the Young Avengers, and there is no question that some form of the team is coming to the MCU. We’ve already met Patriot, Cassie Lang, and Kate Bishop, and Scarlet Witch may be searching for Wikkan and Speed in MOM. Add America Chavez and Ironheart to the mix, and you have a recipe for the Young Avengers on an epic scale.
CAPTAIN MARVEL VARIANT
There are a number of theorists who insist that the red and gold figure zooming through the Multiverse is not any sort of Iron Man or Ironheart. Rather, it’s a Captain Marvel variant. That would make sense considering the title of the upcoming Captain Marvel sequel is The Marvels. While we assumed that meant Carol Danvers would hand off the moniker to Monica Rambeau, it could very well be tied to the Multiverse and more than one Captain Marvel. In fact, there are numerous theories that claim the mystery character is Monica Rambeau or possibly her mother, Maria, from a world in which one of the two gained the power of Captain Marvel.
Another theory floating around the internet is that it is the Blue Marvel. Like so many tantalizing allusions and Easter eggs in WandaVision, the mystery of the missing aerospace engineer went nowhere. When Monica first learned about this development, it grabbed the world’s attention. If it turns out that the flying person in the MOM trailer is the Blue Marvel, then it would be a suitable payoff to that dangling thread.
Thanks to the combination of Patrick Stewart’s voiceover and the six council chairs, it would seem the Illuminati have arrived. What’s equally as intriguing as Stewart’s voice is the seat on the far left of the screen. It’s only seen at a glance, but theorists are claiming the chair is occupied by Reed Richards. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen, but the logic does add up considering Mister Fantastic was a member of the Illuminati.
Some theorists have gone so far as to suggest that is Fox’s first onscreen Mister Fantastic, Ioan Gruffudd. Don’t forget that there are plenty of rumors that claim we will see Fox’s first incarnation of the FF, and that none other than Chris Evans will reprise his role as the Human Torch. There’s also a chance that we’ll see the cast of the ill-fated 2015 FF reboot with Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. Although neither version of the team holds a beloved place in the hearts of fans, seeing Evans and Jordan interact as dueling Human Torches would be worth the price of admission.
THE INTERDIMENSIONAL COUNCIL OF REEDS
There’s little doubt that Doctor Strange is brought before the infamous Illuminati in the trailer. The pieces to the puzzle fit together, so it has to be them, right? Not so fast.
What if that’s exactly what Marvel wants us to think? It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been led astray by Feige and the gang, and certainly won’t be the last. In fact, the misdirection and surprises are part of the MCU fun.
Besides Stewart’s voice, since we don’t actually see him in the trailer, the figures on the council are intentionally shadowy and ambiguous. That could lead to other possibilities.
One of the most interesting would be the Interdimensional Council of Reeds. If you’ve watched Rick and Morty, this should sound familiar. Instead of a group of Ricks determining the order of the universe, it’s alternate versions of Reed Richards from across time and space. With the MCU’s focus on comedy over drama, this could be played for laughs.
COUNCIL OF KANGS
Tying back to Loki, another option is the Council of Kangs. Like the Council of Reeds, this is a group of Kang variants that specifically monitor the timeline. This would synchronize with the events of Loki in which we met He Who Remains. Remember that he warned Loki and Sylvie that his variants would be coming for the Multiverse. That would fit in perfectly with the events of Multiverse of Madness.
But wait. If this isn’t the Illuminati, how does Professor X fit into the equation? Time tampering, my friends. The Fox X-Men movies are more or less MCU canon now, and that includes one of the best superhero movies ever made, Days of Future Past. Borrowing from Chris Claremont’s story from the X-Men comics, the film saw Shadowcat send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent a future mutant holocaust. When the mission is a success, it changes the course of history. Putting into the MCU perspective, altering a timeline would flag the TVA and He Who Remains/Kang. Similar to the events of Loki, Professor X could be held prisoner for altering the timeline. For that matter, he could be the last remnant of his timeline, thus laying the groundwork for him to escape the TVA and form a new team of X-Men in the MCU.
This may be a stretch, but who cares at this point? Almost everything that turned out to be true in No Way Home was a stretch in its own right.
In the same scene in which Strange is taken to the council, some fans and theorists point out that one of the figures appears to be wearing a hood. Personally, I think it looks more like long, flowing hair, but I can’t honestly tell much from the footage. For those certain they’re seeing a hood, they are convinced that Doctor Doom is present alongside Reed Richards.
The chances of Doom being in this movie are slim, but not altogether impossible. At this point, it would appear the FF are somehow part of MOM, though they may be regulated to a cameo. Since the Richards family and Doom are eternally linked in comic lore, it can be assumed that the team’s archnemesis would be part of the film. Having the Illuminati interjected into the movie only makes the odds slightly better.
If Doom were to appear in MOM, his arrival would far overshadow the FF’s, and that may be counterintuitive to Marvel’s plans since the FF have a movie on the way unless Feige wants to see Doom and the FF fight one more final battle.
Out of all the rumors and theories coming from the Super Bowl spot, this one could be the most important to the story but the least exciting for mainstream audiences. Marvel fans are conditioned to look for major cameos in basically everything the studio releases, including teasers and trailers. That’s why many viewers may have overlooked a key element.
When the trailer opens, we hear Doctor Strange describe his recurring nightmare. While it is easy to dismiss that as simply wording, there may be bigger implications. In fact, that could have been foreshadowing for the film’s true antagonist, Nightmare.
Loki potentially dropped an Easter egg for Doctor Strange’s early villain. When the God of Mischief is getting the TVA rundown from Mobius, Loki comments that it could all be a nightmare, to which Mobius replies, “That’s another department that I’ll gladly help you burn down.” Although not a direct reference, it was just enough to raise eyebrows, especially for Silver Age Doctor Strange readers. Don’t forget that Tom Hiddleston is part of the MOM cast, and Nightmare may connect the two.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.