The following contains SPOILERS for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
We are here the day Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a movie that promises to show us several alternate versions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has arrived. However, the MCU franchise is itself, in its own way, part of the multiverse, as it has become a very different place from the Marvel Comics Universe that spawned it.
While most of the core elements that inspired the MCU have remained the same (the heroes and villains are all where you’d expect to find them), the movie universe has never been shy about making big changes. when he felt they were justified. Here are some of the biggest and best ways the MCU has made long-running changes to the characters and stories that came first, in chronological order.
(Almost) No secret identities
The secret identity has always been central to superhero history. Almost anyone who wore a spandex cape or costume could walk around in street clothes unnoticed because no one knew who these heroes really were. But from the end of the first MCU movie, when Tony Stark said “I am Iron Man,” a new status quo was established.
With the exception of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters haven’t tried to hide who they are. It certainly changed the way these characters interact with the world around them, and the MCU was better off for it.
The Creation of Ultron
In the comics and movies, Ultron is created by a Marvel hero trying to build a hyper-intelligence that ends up rebelling against his creator and humanity at large. However, who this creator is changes quite significantly between the two mediums. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the title villain is directed by Tony Stark with help from Bruce Banner. In the comics, it was the first Ant-Man, Hank Pym.
The main reason it didn’t make sense for Ultron to be a creation of Hank Pym in the MCU was that the The ant Man the movie hadn’t been released yet, so we didn’t know the character. But beyond that, the Hank Pym we got in the MCU didn’t necessarily feel like the kind of guy who would build Ultron. It makes much more sense for Ultron to be part of Tony Stark’s character arc.
Everything about Killmonger
Most would probably agree that, among MCU villains, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is one of the best, so much so that many are still frustrated that Michael B. Jordan’s character died in Black Panther. He has a real grievance with T’Challa and all of Wakanda, which makes him a villain you can sympathize with throughout the story. But most of the things that make Killmonger so interesting were created specifically for the MCU, not the comics.
Marvel Comics’ Killmonger was born in Wakanda, though he spent years outside of the Secret Nation. He is also not related to T’Challa in any way. This connection in the movie makes things quite personal for Killmonger and Black Panther, which adds to the drama of the whole movie.
The False Mandarin
Ok, so this one is going to be divisive. In iron man 3, the MCU introduced The Mandarin, one of the classic Iron Man villains in the comic books. From the trailers we saw early on and most of the movie itself, it looked like we might get a pretty comically accurate version of the character. Then the rug was pulled, as we learned that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was just a performance meant to confuse people. To put it bluntly, he didn’t really exist.
While many were disappointed that this Mandarin wasn’t an Asian criminal mastermind with 10 magic rings, the fact is that the traditional, comically accurate version of the character came with a lot of dated and racist baggage. Don’t use it that way in iron man 3 was the right call. The misdirection was also great because it helped hide the truth in one of the best twists the MCU has ever given us. For those who didn’t like the twist, a small “fix” was made in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. There we met the “real Mandarin”, although he didn’t go by that name and laughed that his impostor used such a stupid name.
The Snap had real consequences
Part of the reason why Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were such big deals, it’s because they brought together virtually every major character in the MCU up to that point. But the other reason was that both films had significant consequences. With only a year separating the release of the films, it took five years for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to undo the Thanos snap.
This is a big change from the comics, as the battle against Thanos and Nebula, who both controlled the Infinity Gauntlet at different times, was undone much more quickly in the comics. The snap happened, the remaining heroes mobilized, and soon after, the universe was saved. In the MCU, the Snap had lasting consequences that we still see play out in ways we never did in the comics.
Ultimate defeat of Thanos
Because of the drama that had been building for five years in the film universe, when the final showdown between our heroes and Thanos came, we had a real battle. It was total war; an army of heroes taking on Thanos’ legions. It was the moment fans had waited a decade to see.
In the comics, there was definitely a battle between the Marvel heroes and Thanos, but it’s not as big as what we got in the movies. Also, in the end, it was Nebula who defeated Thanos, not the Avengers. The end of End of Game also left us with fallen heroes, which made the whole thing more dramatic, and like the five-year time jump, it just made the whole battle feel more weighty.
The most recent adaptation of a Marvel Comics concept that we’ve seen adapted to the screen was The Illuminati, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The organization exists in an alternate universe, and as such is a somewhat different version of the group we know from the comics.
Two members of the comic book version of the group, Iron Man and Namor, have been replaced by Captain Carter (who, like his counterpart in What If…?, serves as a different version of Captain America) and Captain Marvel (although this version is Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau in this role). These are cool additions to the group that actually make more sense. In Captain Marvel’s case, she’s a member of the group with significant intergalactic experience, which the original Illuminati version lacked. They also both add some much-needed diversity, which the replacement Mordo also helps, serving him in the group’s sorcery ability.
As the Multiverse continues to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’re almost certain to see some cool new ideas sprouting from Marvel Comics. Some of these characters and concepts may look like they came straight from the comic book page, but most will likely see some changes, and that’s a whole lot more exciting.