If you’re a Marvel Comics fan in the know, then you already know that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been teasing one of the most pivotal elements of Marvel Comics lore: The Illuminati. The secret cabal of some of Marvel’s most powerful leaders (on both the hero and villain sides) has been behind some of the most fundamental world-altering (and cosmic) decisions that have happened. The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be going with the revised angle that the MCU Illuminati are similarly a council of powerful figures – with the caveat that they have come together from across the Marvel Multiverse.
Behind the scenes, Marvel fans expect to see a collection of iconic actors either return to big comic book roles they played – or even some cases of actors who were almost cast, or fan-casted as Marvel characters at some point.
With all of that possibility on the table, it’s actually a pretty deep question to ask: Who will the MCU Illuminati Be?
The first, best, and easiest guess is the one that Marvel already revealed. Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier / Prof. X from the X-Men movies is in Doctor Strange 2.
Xavier is indeed a member of the Marvel Comics Illuminati, and with Marvel Studios preparing the way for an X-Men reboot in the MCU, Stewart could be an important bridge to formally clearing out the old concept of X-Men movies, and preparing the way for something new.
There’s a clear thematic line in Multiverse of Madness examing just how good or bad a person can turn out, based on choices. The Doctor Strange 2 trailers have been heavy on showing us the “bad” versions of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Strange and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch – but what about the “good” versions?
In the first Doctor Strange 2 Super Bowl teaser, fans got into a heated debate over a line where Wanda reflects on how her power and control of a town in WandaVision marked her a villain, while Strange got labeled a hero. Fan theory has taken that a step further to say that the “Defender Strange” costume seen in the footage is a full-on variant of the character, who is a member of the Illuminati.
A version of Strange who is deemed a hero for controlling the events of the multiverse would understandably make Wanda mad – and fuel that major confrontation that seems to be fought at Illuminati headquarters.
Doctor Strange 2 has made some clear odes to Marvel’s What If…? animated series, with both a live-action “Zombie Wanda” and “Superior Strange” showing up in the footage. Well, the Multiverse of Madness poster also has a clear Easter egg call to Peggy Carter’s “Captain Carter” variant from What If…? and fans think she’ll show up as part of the Illuminati.
Like everyone else in Doctor Strange 2, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is bound to have to confront variants of himself from across the multiverse. Well, one twist that could leave Mordo’s face looking like you see above is finding out he has a more noble self that is on the Illuminati – working alongside Stephen Strange! Certain shots of the clothing on the shadowy Illuminati figures certainly seem to indicate Mordo is in the gang.
The story of Tom Cruise almost playing Iron Man is now the stuff of Marvel movie legend – and fans have been begging for it to become a reality since the first Doctor Strange 2 footage debuted.
The Illuminati are clearly seen using Ultron-style robots as their guards and enforcers: the design scheme seems to suggest the “Superior Iron Man” version of the character. Superior Iron Man in the MCU is theorized to be a Tony Stark who successfully put a “suit of armor around the world” using Ultron tech. Tom Cruise is an actor whose persona fans equate to being perfect for Superior Iron Man.
Getting Robert Downey Jr. back for another (but different) Iron Man appearance would be equally as epic.
Namor (aka The Sub-Mariner) is a major figure of Marvel Comics lore who has yet to make his presence known in the MCU. A lot of theory has been put down about how Namor could be a pivotal figure in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. If that’s the case, then Doctor Strange 2 introducing a powerful variant of Namor (and the actor playing him) may give fans a quick crash course on the character before getting to know him better.
This would be a tricky one to pull off given the massive absence of Chadwick Boseman – but it is something Marvel Studios will have to address in 2022. Before Black Panther 2 arrives with a new hero taking up the mantle, a proper ode to T’Challa can be paid.
Wesley Snipes tried and failed to get a Black Panther movie made in the 1990s – and he’s probably one of the only faces Marvel can reveal behind the mask and get resounding applause right now. T’Challa has been a key member of the Illuminati in the comics, so including Black Panther in the MCU Illuminati would be respectful.
Wesley Snipes is a Marvel movie icon who is very much still around. If Doctor Strange 2 doesn’t give him a place on the Illuminati as the Black Panther he wanted to be, playing the Blade he was would be awesome too. As Marvel has a new Blade franchise ready to launch, Snipes would be doing the same kind of good work that Patrick Stewart is, clearing the way.
Marvel’s attempt at an Inhumans TV franchise failed, but actor Anson Mount impressed a lot of fans with his performance as Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans. In the comics, Black Bolt is also a key Illuminati member – so giving Mount a big-screen spotlight would be a nice hat-tip to the actor.
Marvel Needs to get a new Fatnastic Four franchise rebooted in the MCU (via Spider-Man Home Trilogy director Jon Watts) and like Patrick Stewart or other names on this list, we still have classic Fantastic Four actor or two on hand to use in Doctor Strange 2!
Reed Richards is one of the core members of the Illuminati in the comics – arguably the most crucial one. As you can see in the picture above, there’s a good chance that we’ll get him in the MCU version. Ioan Gruffudd’s Mr. Fantastic from the 2005 film would be our best guess – keeping the theme of nodding to old Marvel Movies that are about to be rebooted in the MCU.
Then again, the official MCU Reed Richards (John Krasinski???) would blow minds.
WandaVision introduced us to Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) who was hit with Hex power that unlocked new energy base powers in Monica. Monica is set to have a big-screen debut in Captain Marvel’s sequel film The Marvel’s – but like Namor, we could see a variant of Monica full-powered as “Photon” or a variant of “Captain Marvel” who is part of the Illuminati.
Marvel fans have gone full True Detective on one particular scene of a flying, cosmic-powered fighter during the Illuminati sequence. Leading theories say it could be Monica.
Clea is Doctor Strange’s mystical love interest/wife in the comics, and fans have been waiting to see her appear in the MCU. Based on what we’ve seen of Multiverse of Madness, fans think that Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer will get a variant who became a mystic alongside Strange and serves along with him and Mordo as part of the Illuminati. A shot of McAdams in a particularly comic bookish costume seems to suggest it.
Sam Raimi is directing Doctor Strange 2 and his Spider-Man – Tobey Maguire – just made his MCU debut. With Sony and Marvel Studios having gone all-in on the concept of a live-action Spider-Verse, having Tobey be the Illuminati representative for the Spider Totem feels like perfect synergy!
Look, we just want it to happen. Nic Cage’s Ghost Rider has earned his place as a comic book movie cult classic. Marvel Studios is busy launching a whole supernatural corner of the franchise (see Moon Knight), why not have Johnny Blaze on the Illuminati representing the demonic side?
Look, Deadpool has his first MCU film in the works (with Free Guy’s Shawn Levy); Ryan Reynolds is always good for an awesome cameo, and fans already think they spotted Deadpool in an early Doctor Strange 2 poster.
Now… would the Illuminati ever let Deadpool join? That’s very debatable. A multiversal nuisance held prisoner at Illuminati HQ? That’s more likely…