An incredibly lucrative franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) encompasses a series of superhero films including Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The MCU films are inspired by their comic book predecessors. Because of comic book culture, the audience knows a ton about all the characters, their past, and their personalities. This gives the writers an opportunity to pay homage to the past comics in a variety of ways- and they certainly do. The movies are chock-full of easter eggs and hidden references to please fans and keep them talking about the films long after they have left the big screen.
Here are some facts you might not have known about the MCU and the surrounding mythology.
36. Some Changes Are Good
In some of the early “Marvel Ultimates” comic storylines, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver teased an incestuous relationship. Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) played around with this storyline in the Avengers: Age of Ultron, as Olsen said that this inspired the way they acted around each other in the film.
That’s interesting and all… but to be honest, I’m OK without the familial-relations in my superhero movies.
Some fans were upset that an important character from the comics was left out of the Marvel movie adaptation of The Avengers.
The Wasp, wife of Ant Man, was the one who came up with the name The Avengers. The Wasp and Ant Man were pivotal in the creation of the team, and many fans were upset that they were left out of the films.
Although it’s possible they were just left out to make their introduction in the Ant Man stand-alone movies all that much sweeter. If so, it worked: the Ant Man flicks are fantastic on their own.
Iron Man’s suit has changed with the times, but the original suit was often shown being plugged into wall sockets for regular charging.
That sounds less like a futuristic military gadget, and more like a cellphone.
Behold: all the technological advancement of the iPhone 3!
33. Wakanda Was Foretold Long Ago
The dwelling place of Black Panther, Wakanda, was mentioned in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it was not the first time the location was referred to in the Marvel universe. It was seen as a hotspot on Nick Fury’s map in Iron Man 2.
That is the kind of detail which starts to give you a sense of just how much love goes into this franchise. Iron Man 2 came out 8 years before the Black Panther movie hit in 2018.
32. “He’s Alive!”
The process that Tony Stark went through to create Ultron was a nod to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Like Victor Frankenstein, Stark strives to create “life”, with noble (if somewhat ego-driven) intentions. But just as Frankenstein’s creation finds itself cast aside by the world, and subsequently seeks revenge, so does Ultron act out violently due a to a belief that he is different from humanity. Both monsters were initially designed for good, but became corrupted along the way.
Where the characters differ, though, is in their specific motivations for destruction. Frankenstein’s creature looks for retribution on the man who created him without a purpose: his is a story, in many ways, about man’s quest for meaning—and his relationship with Victor has been said to mirror humanity’s reverence for our many gods. Meanwhile, Ultron views all of humanity as a scourge on the planet. He is driven by what he sees as moral righteousness. His existence is not lacking for meaning: if anything, he has found a purpose for himself… albeit a misguided one.
31. No Norton
Though he played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton was not cast in The Avengers because the director considered him not creative enough, and “lacking the collaborative spirit.”
I suppose Norton’s loss is Mark Ruffalo’s gain. Although it’s a little difficult to imagine that Edward Norton is lacking creative energy. After all, this is a man who has written scripts himself, and been a part of critically-acclaimed pictures like American History X… which is hardly an unoriginal movie. It seems more likely that the issue had more to do with the second criticism: “lack collaborative spirit”. After all, Norton has a reputation for tweaking screenplays while a movie is shooting. Sounds like a bit of a control-freak… which can be a little bit difficult to work with.
30. They’ve Got Stones
The Infinity Gems that power the Infinity Gauntlet can be seen throughout the Marvel films: The Tesseract is the Space Gem, Loki’s Scepter is the Mind Gem, the Aether is the Reality Gem, and the Orb is the Power Stone.
29. To-Do List
Steve Rodgers (Captain America) has a list in his notebook of cultural events/items that he needs to brush up on to acquaint himself with 21st century. The list change depending on the country where the film was shown. Check out how some of the cultural touchstones vary from place to place in the image below.
It’s a pretty fascinating peak into how pop culture translates across social spectrums. And with that in mind, you might notice that it’s only the beginning of the list which changes between countries; the last 5 items (starting with Thai food) are the same across the globe. Who knew that Pad Thai was the force for unity and agreement the world needs?
28. And Hulk Will Always Love You
Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk on the Incredible Hulk TV show from the 70s makes an appearance as Stan Lee’s security in the 2003 Hulk film and then as a bodyguard in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk.
27. Travel Essentials
When Tony Stark looks through his father Howard’s suitcase in Iron Man 2, you can see a Captain America comic book… as well as a map of the Arctic Circle where Captain America’s plane went down.
Once again, it’s worth noting that this is a split-second reference to forthcoming movie that was still years away at the time. You might be able to criticize the minds behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some things, but it can’t be said that they’re lazy or uninvested. That is serious commitment.
Comic can be seen behind the newspaper
26. Tool Time!
In Iron Man 2, when Nick Fury tells Tony Stark that they have bigger problems to worry about in the Southwest, he’s referring to the recent discovery of Thor’s hammer.
Thor and S.H.E.I.L.D agent Coulson
25. We’ll Cross that Puente When We Get To It
The New Mexico town where the first Thor movie was set is named Puente Antiguo, which means “ancient bridge” in Spanish. This is very likely a reference to the Bifrost Bridge, Thor’s connection to Asgard.
Chalk up another point for attention to detail in the MCU.
24. The Hammer is Mightier than the Pen
Michael Straczynski, writer of the Thor comic books, makes a cameo in the first Thor, as one of the men who attempts to pull Thor’s hammer out of the ground.
That gives you a sense of just how important Mjölner (the hammer’s name) really is. I mean this guy wrote the books, and even he’s not worthy. Who else could possibly stand a chance?
23. The Shirt Off His Back
The shirt that Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) hands to Thor belonged to an ex-boyfriend named Donald Blake M.D. In the original comic books, Dr. Blake was Thor’s alter-ego.
22. A Little Bird Told Me
When Thor abducts Loki in The Avengers, two ravens fly by during their argument. These ravens are thought to be Huginn and Muninn, who serve as agents of Odin in the Thor comic books.
Quoth the Raven(s), “you guys are really terrible siblings.”
21. Both the Ravens
Those same ravens can be seen perched on either side of Odin’s throne in Thor, and in its sequel, Thor: The Dark World.
Which gives me an idea. How much more impressive would our own political systems be if there were a few more birds involved. Imagine the POTUS delivering an impassioned speech from behind the desk in the Oval Office… flanked by two massive Bald Eagles, screeching him on.
Get on it, politicians!
20. Can You Smell What the Korg is Cooking?
At the beginning of Thor: The Dark World, Thor battles a big rock-based gentleman. This is Korg the Kronan who appeared in the same comic book in which Thor made his debut, Journey into Mystery #83.
20. Geraldo Rivera, Eat Your Heart Out
Odin’s vault contains several powerful relics from the past Marvel comics including the Orb of Agamotto, the Tablet of Life and Time, the Warlock’s Eye, and the Infinity Gauntlet.
19. Once Bitten
In The Avengers, after Bruce Banner falls from the sky, the security guard (played by Harry Dean Stanton) asks him nervously if he’s an alien. Which, given the circumstances, is a fair question. But it makes even more sense when you know the full context: Harry Dean Stanton played one of the crew members on the ship in Alien that was killed by the Alien.
18. Just a Fan
Tony Stark can be seen wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt in The Avengers.
It’s a solid a reference to the band’s hit song “Iron Man” which has nothing to do with the Marvel character… but is a pretty awesome song. It played over the credits in the original Iron Man movie, right after Tony declared, “I am Iron Man.”
17. If At First You Don’t Succeed
In The Avengers, Mark Ruffalo mentions a botched suicide attempt. This is a reference to a deleted scene from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton.
Poor Norton, eh? He doesn’t make the cut for the movie, but they don’t have problems alluding to the original Hulk. He must be pretty angry…
16. Feel it Siri
J.A.R.V.I.S., the name of Iron Man’s AI assistant is an acronym for “Just a Rather Very Intelligent System.”
Which is pretty cool, and makes me feel a little self-conscious about the closest thing that I have to J.A.R.V.I.S… Siri on my iPhone. I can’t even come up with a good acronym for her.
Seriously Inconsistent Robot Iphone-lady?
It doesn’t sound that great, I’ll admit.
15. How It’s Made
A partially disassembled prototype of Captain America’s shield can be seen in Tony Stark’s workshop.
14. Big Bad Oil
In all three Iron Man films, signs, buildings, and trucks can be seen bearing the logo for Roxxon Energy, which in the Marvel comics is the oil company responsible for the murder of Tony Stark’s parents.
They’ve got a pretty cool logo though! So they have that going for them.
13. Big Bank Take Little Bank
While Tony Stark is rich, he’s not the richest superhero. That honor goes to Black Panther, who is worth five times as much as Stark.
This is one of those situations (oh which there are many) when it really pays to be a literal king.
12. When the Moon Hits Your Eye
The owner of the pizza shop in 2008 The Incredible Hulk is played by Paul Soles, the voice of Bruce Banner from the 60s Hulk cartoon.
Crazy how far a guy can fall. One day you’re a massive green behemoth, conquering the world’s most dangerous supervillains… and the next you’re selling cheap pizza in a dingy shop. Sorry, former-Bruce.
11. Might As Well Call it The Titanic
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the freighter that is taken hostage at the beginning is called the “Lemurian Star,” a reference to the sunken kingdom of Lemuria, home to the Deviants in the Marvel comics. Probably bad luck to name your ship after an entire city that sunk.
10. Those Trinkets Can be Dangerous
When Red Skull finds the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger, he mentions that “the Fuhrer is too busy digging for trinkets in the desert.” This was in reference to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where Nazis dug up a trinket that (Spoilers!) ends up kind-of… you know… melting their faces off.
That “trinket” was the Ark of the Covenant. Well played, MCU producers. Add another one to the “Very Small Details” scoreboard.
9. I, Robot
When he flees from the Hydra fortress, Dr. Arnim Zola stuffs a bunch of papers into his briefcase, one of which is a blueprint for the robotic body that his character inhabits in the comic books.
By the way: That is, without a doubt, the least cool looking robotic suit a person could possibly put together. It’s almost impressive. I mean what did he think to himself?
“Hmmmmmm. The suit is almost finished, but where should I put my head? Can’t put it on top, that’s what everybody else does…
I’ve got it! What if I put it right in the centre of my chest—right where absolutely no one’s head should ever be! That way I can hunch over at all times, and I’ll look a bionic, orange Quasimodo. So cool…”
8. Fear Itself
Although he was one of the founding members of The Avengers, Hulk actually left the group shortly after their first battle (against Loki) in the comics, because he realized that his teammates were afraid of him. He stayed away for fifty years before finally returning.
7. X Marks the Spot
Brock Rumlow, the character who survives the crash of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier can be seen at the end of the film being resuscitated with two straps across his chest. This is probably a reference to his comic book character, Crossbones.
6. Royale with Cheese
Nick Fury’s grave has the quote “The path of the righteous man…” from Ezekiel 25:17, the Bible passage that Samuel L. Jackson’s Pulp Fiction character famously spouts several times in the film.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Sean Gunn plays Yondu’s second-in-command Kraglin. Sean is the brother of director James Gunn.
So yea, technically nepotism… But he plays the role well! The way he just stands there, saying nothing… This man knows how to act.
4. Once a Schemer
Sean Gunn also did all the motion capture for Rocket Raccoon and played Kirk in Gilmore Girls, two characters that had varmint-like qualities.
That’s a cool opportunity for an actor… but also sort of an insult when it’s coming from your brother, no?
“Hey Sean, you know what you would be perfect for? Acting like a raccoon on camera. It’s so easy to imagine!”
3. Space Oddities
In Guardians of the Galaxy, several notable creatures can be seen amongst the Collector’s collection including: A Chitauri soldier from The Avengers, Cosmo the dog (one of the original Guardians of the Galaxy), and Howard the Duck.
2. Not Just a Pretty Picture
A mural on the floor containing the Orb at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy depicts the four Cosmic Entities in the Marvel universe: Death, Eternity, Entropy, and Infinity. In the center of the mural are the six Soul Gems, an important plot device that weaves throughout the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
1. Don’t Mess With Mjolnir
All fans know the power of Thor’s Hammer, known as Mjolnir, which has been described as “one of the most formidable weapons known to man or god,” but most fans don’t realize it’s actually capable of creating force fields so powerful that they can destroy an entire galaxy. And that’s not all. Mjolnir is so powerful that it can travel through whole planets to return to Thor, and it can move and manipulate massive structures like the Washington Monument and the Taj Mahal. The mythical hammer can even control electromagnetic forces, and manipulate objects at a molecular level. In other words, don’t mess with Thor.