‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ top secret cameos explained (spoilers!)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. (Photo: Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection)

Warning: This post contains big spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Move over, Superman: Charlize Theron has leaped from the Fast & Furiousverse to the Marvel multiverse in a single bound. The Oscar-winning actress makes her surprise Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in a brief scene that appears in the middle of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘s credit scroll. Keeping Theron’s appearance top secret was a magic trick that would impress even Benedict Cumberbatch’s perpetually sarcastic sorcerer. But the rushed nature of the scene also leaves it a little unclear as to which MCU citizen the Mad Max: Fury Road star is playing… or what she means to Stephen Strange’s future.

Here’s how her appearance goes down: Having saved the Multiverse from a rageful Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Doctor Strange is back on his New York City home turf when his afternoon stroll is interrupted by Theron’s costumed magic-wielder. The newcomer tells Stephen that he’s inadvertently caused an “incursion” — the collision of two or more other universes. “We need to fix it — unless you’re afraid,” Theron says, as she opens a portal to another dimension. After a beat, Strange replies, “Not in the least,” and the duo leap together into the void.

With a serious incursion to fix, it’s perhaps not surprising that Theron’s sorcerer didn’t have time to introduce herself. But the film’s closing credits reveal that she’s playing Clea, who has been a Marvel Comics staple almost as long as Strange himself. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Clea made her inaugural appearance in a 1964 issue of StrangeTalesone year after Doctor Strange debuted in that same comic.

Clea in her Marvel Comics debut in a 1964 issue of Strange Tales.  (Photo: Marvel Comics)

Clea in her Marvel Comics debut in a 1964 issue of StrangeTales. (Photo: Marvel Comics)

Born to a Dark Dimension prince and the sister of Strange’s frequent nemesis, Dormammu, Clea becomes the Sorcerer Supreme of her dark realm and battles those magical obligations with her growing feelings for Stephen. The two even get married at one point, and remain connected up through Strange’s recent death, at which point Clea took over the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Not for nothing, but Cumberbatch’s Strange is currently single and ready to mingle, having watched his former girlfriend, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), walk down the aisle with another man. He also couldn’t tempt an alternate version of Christine from Earth-838 to abandon her universe for good ol’ Earth-616 where he and the rest of the MCU’s terrestrial heroes dwell. That means that romance could blossom between Stephen and Clea while they’re dealing with this pesky incursion.

Although Theron is currently busy filming Almost X, it’ll be a minute before we see Cumberbatch back in Doctor Strange’s cape. Marvel’s upcoming slate is dominated by the likes of Thor, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy, which means Stephen and Clea likely wouldn’t return until 2025 at the earliest. And Marvel fans are already eagerly anticipating that possible love connection.

But Theron’s cameo isn’t the only surprise that Marvel’s mad multiverse has in store — here are other Easter eggs from Sam Raimi’s blockbuster sequel.

Professor X marks the spot

We had a feeling Sir Patrick Stewart was playing mind games with us when he professed ignorance about who Doctor Strange was a few months ago. And, as teased, the X-Men star returned as the version of Professor Charles Xavier who lives on Earth-838, the universe where much of the action in Multiverse of Madness plays out

It’s worth noting that Xavier doesn’t appear at his school for mutants in this corner of the multiverse. Instead, he’s part of the Illuminati, a clandestine group of heroes who keep close tabs on their brethren and take action when they tip in a Dark Side direction. Joining the good professor on this council are a few other familiar Marvel faces in slightly different forms. Hayley Atwell’s super-spy Peggy Carter is back in the super-powered form of Captain Carter, a character who made her first appearance on the Disney+ animated series, What If?.

Also present is Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau — friend of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel — who in this reality became Captain Marvel herself. And then there’s Anson Mount’s Black Bolt, rescued from the obscurity of the little-watched (for good reason) TV series inhumans and gifted with what can only be described as a lungbuster of a death scene.

But there’s one face you haven’t seen before… and it’s the movie’s second-biggest casting coup after Charlize Theron.

Threat Level Fantastic

Somewhere in the multiverse, there’s an Earth where John Krasinski was Marvel’s Captain America instead of Chris Evans. TheOffice star has often talked about his failed audition to play the star-spangled Avenger, which happened around the same time that his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, missed out on playing Black Widow. In recent years, MCU stans have taken to fancasting the couple as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, the leaders of Marvel’s original super-team, the Fantastic Four.

Multiverse of Madness delivers on one-half of that promise as Krasinski appears alongside the rest of the Illuminati as Earth-838’s Reed Richards. And, not surprisingly, people are already hoping this means he’s confirmed for future adventures.

If Krasinki does suit up again, it won’t be as the 838 Richards. That’s because he and the rest of the Illuminati don’t survive their encounter with the Scarlet Witch, who dispatches each of them in gleefully gruesome fashion. (For the record, this is Stewart’s third Marvel death scene after Professor X was previously killed off in X Men: The Last Stand and again in logan.) In Mr. Fantastic’s case, he’s literally stretched past his breaking point and turned into fantastic ribbons. Where’s Agent Michael Scarn when you need him?

Third eye blind

Doctor Strange's third eye opens (Photo: Marvel Comics)

Doctor Strange’s third eye opens. (Photo: Marvel Comics)

In the sorcerer game, three eyes are better than two. The comic book version of Doctor Strange has long had a third pupil courtesy of the Eye of Agamotto, a mystical relic with the power to cut through illusions. (The MCU version was previously seen in original Doctor Strange as a home for the Time Stone, the Infinity Stone that allows users to manipulate the timestream.) Now, his cinematic counterpart — two of them, in fact — open their own third eyes during the course of Multiverse of Madness.

Only one of these Stranges uses this power for good, though, and it’s not the 616 version. En route to his final confrontation with Wanda, our Stephen crosses paths with a sinister counterpart from an incursion-destroyed world. Fueled by the Darkholda book overflowing with evil spells, this Strange is in the full throes of madness and lashes out with all the powers at his disposal, including a third eye.

Fortunately, the 616 Strange prevails in the ensuing battle, and subsequently uses the Darkhold to defeat the Scarlet Witch without any apparent consequences. But in the final shot of the film, his own third eye snaps open while he’s walking down the street and he understandably freaks the hell out… along with the audience.

Don’t worry, though: Strange hasn’t gone and broken bad. By the time Clea appears in the mid-credits scene, he’s able to open that eye on command, suggesting that he’s got it under control. For now, at least.

Hail to the Pizza Poppa, baby

It’s not a Sam Raimi comic book movie without Bruce Campbell making life difficult for its central superhero. After repeatedly messing with Tobey Maguire’s wall-crawler in Raimi’s Spider Man trilogy, the director’s evil Dead leading man now sets his sights on Doctor Strange. Campbell appears in Multiverse of Madness as the Pizza Poppa, a street corner pizza ball vendor in Earth-838. While most street food is free in that universe, you gotta pay the Poppa to sample his wares, which Strange’s traveling companion, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), learns the hard way when she and the sorcerer attempt to walk away without handing over any cash .

Understandably annoyed at the lack of compensation, the vendor starts berating the duo, leading Strange to cast a spell that turns the Pizza Poppa into the Punchdrunk Poppa as he’s repeatedly hit in the face by his own fist. It’s a homage to a classic gag from 1987’s Evil Dead 2and provides the film with a killer post-credits joke where the hex finally wears off. “It’s over,” Campbell says, referring to both the film and a callback 35 years in the making.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is playing in theaters now.

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