There are a lot of familiar faces there!
While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness features many new characters, artefacts, and comic book events, there’s no questioning the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the Illuminati steals the show. Inspired by a Marvel Comics group of the same name, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness features a live-action version of a secret society of heroes who acts behind humanity’s back to decide the world’s fate. For this secret society to work, the Illuminati unites some of the most powerful heroes in the cosmos, including alternative versions of Earth-616 heroes and characters who have yet to make their proper MCU debut. But who are the Illuminati members in Erath-838? And how did the secret group get together?
Stephen Strange 838, the Illuminati Founder
As Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reveals, Earth-838’s Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) decided to put the Illuminati together to make tough decisions the majority of people are not ready to face. While it’s unclear exactly when Stephen created the Illuminati, the group was already active by the time Thanos (Josh Brolin) went after the Infinity Stones to move on with his genocidal plan. Just as Stephen from Earth-616 was willing to let Thanos kill half the universe’s life to ensure the Avengers would win in the end, in Earth-838, Stephen’s pragmatical thinking led him to convince his most powerful allies to start making decisions in the shadows.
Stephen from Earth-838 used the Darkhold to search for ways to defeat Thanos in multiple realities. His goal was to wander the Multiverse looking for powerful weapons that could prevent the villain from snapping the Infinity Gauntlet. Stephen indeed found a weapon capable of killing Thanos, the legendary Book of Vishanti, however, the cost was the destruction of an entire reality. While wandering the Multiverse, people risk making different realities clash, which might lead to the destruction of one of them or both. So, to prevent Earth-838 from ever disappearing just because Stephen was reckless and arrogant, the Illuminati decided to kill their Doctor Strange. Stephen from Earth-838 fully supported this decision, warning his teammates that other versions of himself could one day cross the barriers between universes and put everyone in danger. The Illuminati hid the truth about Stephen’s demise, pretending the Master of the Mystic Arts died at the hands of Thanos. That’s one clever solution that allows the Illuminati to keep acting in secrecy while creating a martyr that would unite the whole world and usher in an era of prosperity.
Baron Mordo, Sorcerer Supreme
Taking the place of Stephen Strange as Earth-838 Sorcerer Supreme and member of the Illuminati is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s, Baron Mordo. In this alternate reality, Mordo never became a villain determined to destroy all the wizards in the world. Instead, Mordo and Stephen kept their brotherly relationship until Doctor Strange got too greedy with the Darkhold and caused trillions of lives to disappear. Mordo represents the magic wielders in the Illuminati, helping to decide what to do about mystical menaces that threaten reality.
Professor X from the X-Men
One of the most prominent members of Earth-838’s Illuminate is Professor X, the telepath Mutant who’s the leader of the X-Men. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness brings back Patrick Stewart for the role of Professor X after the star played the Mutant leader in Fox’s pre-MCU X-Men film franchise. The Earth-838 version of Professor X uses a golden futuristic wheelchair just like the one featured in the 90s’ animated series focused on the Mutants. The design connection could have something to do with the upcoming X-Men ‘97, a revival for the animated series coming to Disney+ in mid-2023. We are also waiting for the inclusion of Mutants in Earth-616, so Professor X’s cameo could be teasing that it won’t take long for the X-Men to join the MCU officially.
Captain Carter, the First Avenger
In Earth-838, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter takes the super serum in place of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), becoming the First Avenger. As Captain Carter, Peggy uses a Vibranium shield to fight bad guys. Just like Steve, Earth-838’s Peggy seems to have remained frozen in time for a few decades before becoming one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Captain Carter became a fan-favourite character after she showed up in the MCU animated series What If…? However, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness doesn’t confirm if the Earth-838 version of Captain Carter is the same we see in the animated series. We hope not, given that the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) destroyed the Illuminati, cutting Captain Carter in half with her own shield.
Maria Rambeau, Captain Marvel
Just as Peggy Carter is the First Avenger of Earth-838, a different person took over the mantle (and powers) or Captain Marvel. While Earth-616’s Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) becomes Captain Marvel, her best friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), becomes a cosmic powerhouse in the alternate universe. In Earth-838, Maria has all the same powers Carol displays in Earth-616, which leads us to believe it was Maria, and not Carol, who got involved with the explosion of the Kree ship and overcharged with the power on the Space Stone. Curiously enough, in Earth-616, Maria’s daughter, Monica (Teyonah Parris), just got her MCU superpowers as part of the events of WandaVision. Monica will appear next in The Marvels, together with Larson’s Carol Danvers and Iman Vellani’s Ms Marvel.
Black Bolt from the Inhumans
No one was ever expecting to see Anson Mount replaying his role of Blackagar Boltagon, king of Inhumans. Mainly known as Black Bolt, the hero is part of an altered superpowered human species that live on the moon’s dark side, in a glorious city called Attilan. Black Bolt is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, capable of shattering an entire building with just a whisper. That’s why Black Bolt usually keeps to himself and remains silent. Mount has previously played Black Bolt in ABC’s failed series Inhumans, released in 2017. At the time, the idea was to introduce the Inhumans and make them cross over with the rest of the MCU, but the series bombed so hard that Disney thought it best to pretend it didn’t exist. Which is a shame. For everything that Inhumans did wrong, it also introduced a great cast of characters. So, let’s hope that Mount’s return points out to the Inhumans joining the MCU soon. And with the Multiverse being canon, we can pretend the failed series happened in another timeline and just bring the beloved characters for a new story.
Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four
For a long time, fans of the MCU had wished John Krasinski would take the mantle of Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four. Well, it happened! Even if only for a cameo, Krasinski is currently the only official Reed Richards in the MCU. Now, we can cross our fingers that the actor also plays the Earth-616 version of the hero once the Fantastic Four film gets back on track. Besides Reed, the Fantastic Four is also composed initially of the Thing/Ben Grimm, the Invisible Woman/Susan Storm Richards, and the Human Torch/Johnny Storm. After Reed marries Susan, the couple also has two superpowered children, Franklin and Valeria. That’s worth mentioning because the Earth-838 version of Reed Richards tells Wanda that he’s married and a father. So, if Earth-838 can have the whole Fantastic Four family, we can only hope the same happens in Earth-616.