By now Marvel movie fans have come to expect not only a worthwhile adventure from the studio’s superhero films, but a significant dose of comic book nods, references to the decades of Marvel history, as well as teases and hints of what’s still to come. Promising to bring a longstanding Avengers foe to the big screen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, writer/director Joss Whedon did not disappoint.
Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our list of Avengers: Age of Ultron trivia, so read at your own risk.
Hawkeye’s New Threads
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken more than a few leads from Marvel Comics’ ‘Ultimate’ universe, particularly as it applies to the Avengers. But where the super-team’s initial film saw Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) pull his costume almost entirely from the Ultimate variant, Age of Ultron sees him sport a new look, pulling influences from his original purple outfit, as well as his time spent under the moniker of ‘Ronin.’
The upgrade allowing Cap to retrieve his shield with the use of magnets may seem like movie magic, but it actually dates back to the original comics, in which a similar trick was used, again crafted by Tony Stark for his star-spangled ally.
Grand Central Monument
The signature statue of New York’s Grand Central Station, “Transportation” designed by French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan unfortunately met its demise (or at least the likeness of Greek God Hermes) when crashed into by a Chitauri Leviathan during Avengers‘ Battle of New York. Age of Ultron reveals Avengers Tower to be newly constructed, along with Grand Central’s statue – now depicting a tribute to the first responders who came to their city’s aid.
Dr. Helen Cho
The brilliant Helen Cho may take the spotlight in the film -both for her advances in human healing as well as the melding of human tissue with artificial intelligence – but in the comics, it’s her son Amadeus who plays a pivotal role. As an incredibly brilliant young mathematician, Amadeus ended up devoting his powers to the side of Marvel’s greatest heroes, though his presence in the MCU seems a long shot for now.
Stan Lee Cameo
As always, legendary Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee supplies a cameo, this time as a veteran looking to test his drinking prowess with 1,000 year old Asgardian liquor. The booze proves too much for the man, but he does get to shout out his signature catchphrase: “Excelsior!”
Fans of Thor‘s brother and regular nuisance, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) will recognize that Age of Ultron marks the first time that the god of thunder appears without his brother in tow – having shared the screen in Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World. Even more startling is the fact that Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is nowhere to be seen, marking the first time Tony Stark has appeared without her in five Marvel movies.
During the Avengers’ ‘wrap party,’ Sam Wilson a.k.a. ‘Falcon’ (Anthony Mackie) tells Steve he doesn’t mind being left out of the superhero action, since the ‘missing persons case’ is keeping him busy. Those who saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier can surmise who he’s referring to: Bucky Barnes, disappearing before the film’s close, with Steve intent on tracking his old friend down.
‘If She Be Worthy’
When the crowds at San Diego Comic-Con got an early peek at how the Avengers spend their downtime – attempting to prove they are ‘worthy’ of picking up Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir – it was Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) who passed, claiming “that’s not a question I need answered.” Funnily enough, an alternate comic timeline (Earth-23223) saw Thor killed, ushering in Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse. It was in that disaster that Black Widow was found worthy of the hammer, becoming the new goddess of thunder.
Not long after Joss Whedon revealed that he would include Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in Avengers 2, Bryan Singer revealed that he would also include the speedster in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The confusion was kept at bay thanks to only one version using his superhero moniker, but the strangest twist is that Evan Peters and Aaron Taylor-Johnson shared the screen as comic book geeks in Kick-Ass years before both brought Quicksilver to life in the movies.
The nation of Wakanda – home to Black Panther – is only mentioned briefly by name, but enough hints are dropped for those familiar with the comic book history. In the comics, Wakanda’s greatest asset was vibranium, a top-quality metal that eventually caught the attention of Howard Stark, who would become good friends with the country’s ruler, King T’Chaka. Given that, more sense can be made of the brief interaction between Steve and Tony, discussing the Starks’ history with the region.
Ulysses Klaw/Klaue (played by Andy Serkis) is yet another character connected to Wakanda and T’Chaka – hinted at in his Avengers 2 appearance. First there was the casual mention of how he managed to acquire so much vibranium from Wakanda, then his admission that the effort had ‘cost him’ (likely the brand of ‘Thief’ on his neck). Finally there is Ultron’s maiming blow to Klaw’s hand (and the claw necklace Serkis wears). In the comics, Klaw murdered King T’Chaka and eventually replaced his own mangled hand with a – you guessed it – claw, which used vibranium and sound wave technology to make Klaw a formidable super villain. These are clear seed for the future Black Panther movie.
Empire Strikes Back
With Phase Two acting as the Empire Strikes Back of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, as Kevin Feige puts it, the collective love for Star Wars means that every film in this phase – every film – features a character having their hand or arm removed. Gamora takes off Groot’s in Guardians of the Galaxy, Bucky had his arm replaced in The Winter Soldier, Thor faked the loss of a hand in The Dark World, and Klaw acts as this film’s Skywalker stand-in.
When Ultron first reveals himself to Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, he does so draped in red cloth. It’s an odd choice, and soon cast aside, but it’s likely a nod to the Marvel villain known as ‘Crimson Cowl’ – the first disguise adopted by Ultron in the comics (fun fact: the Crimson Cowl name would later be adopted by Justine Hammer, daughter to Iron Man 2 antagonist Justin Hammer).
The Roy Thomas Players
During Cap’s own Scarlet Witch-induced vision of a reunion with Peggy Carter, the band supplying the musical backing can be seen for a split second, revealing them to be ‘The Roy Thomas Players,’ a reference to comic writer Roy Thomas, who co-created and updated several heroes and villains, including everything from Ultron and Vision to Yellowjacket and Adam Warlock.
Betty & Veronica
When Tony Stark tells Jarvis that the time has come to send in ‘Veronica’ to bring down a raging Hulk, fans realize the name is actually a codeword for the better-known Hulkbuster armor. Why Veronica? Consider that Betty Ross was the only woman in Bruce Banner’s life to actually be kind to him, and the Hulkbuster is the only thing capable of stopping him. The Archie Comics reference only seems fitting.
Dr. Geoffrey Crawford
It’s hard to know if this is a bona fide easter egg or simply a fortuitous coincidence, but during the Hulk/Hulkbuster fight, the green menace is smashed into a delivery truck, scattering boxes across the street. The name on the truck – Crawford – is shown prominently twice, and may be a reference to Dr. Geoffrey Crawford, Bruce Banner’s mentor (who would later go on to copy his powers and become the villain Ravage).
Even comic fans may have been taken by surprise to find that Hawkeye had a family in hiding, but knowing how much the “Ultimates” variation of the superteam has shaped the MCU, it probably should have been predicted. In the “Ultimates,” Laura Barton is, in fact, Clint’s wife, along with their three children. In the movie, the third child is a boy, named Nathaniel after Natasha Romanoff, where the comics had them with another daughter, named Nicole after her godfather Nick Fury.
It’s Been a Long Day
When Tony gets a surprise visit from Nick Fury in the Bartons’ barn, he explains that the assembled heroes have had a long day – “like, Eugene O’Neill long.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright may not be widely known by modern audiences, but the line is likely a reference to his play “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” following an American family through… well, a particularly trying day.
His Girl, Friday
When Tony is searching for a new A.I. to load into his armor for the final fight (since JARVIS has been used to create Vision) he selects ‘F.R.I.D.A.Y.’ for the job (voiced by Kerry Condon). The classic film His Girl Friday (1940) has been mentioned by writer/director Joss Whedon as an influence for a number of his heroines, so it’s no surprise to see the name given to Tony’s ‘new girl.’ The A.I. is also based on a minor one from the comics, named for the same film.
Marvel made no secret of the fact that they would be departing from the comic book origins of Ultron (specifically, removing Ant-Man Hank Pym from the equation). Even so, there is another large nod to the original Ultron, in the form of Jocasta – another program glimpsed when Tony loads up F.R.I.D.A.Y. before the final fight. In the comics, Jocasta was built as a bride for Ultron, and blessed with the ‘life essence’ of Wasp a.k.a. Janet van Dyne.
When Ultron is ruminating with The Twins about the irony of his creation at Stark’s hands, he posits the theory that people tend to create what they most fear: Those seeking peace make machines of war, people make (little people?…. Children!) and invaders create avengers. The line is likely a subtle nod to the WWII superhero team known as The Invaders, consisting of Captain America, Bucky, Human Torch, Torch’s sidekick Toro, and Namor. As comic fans know, The Invaders were the precursor of the modern Avengers.
Loyal Launch Technician
Who says acts of heroism have to be grand to be meaningful? During the HYDRA reveal in The Winter Soldier, one member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team makes his loyalties known, refusing to launch the trio of attack ships knowing he may be executed as a result. The ‘Launch Technician’ (played by Aaron Himelstein) made his way into Fury’s good books with the act, as he’s prominently featured aboard the commandeered Helicarrier in Age of Ultron.
Vision’s decision to rescue Scarlet Witch during the film’s climactic battle wasn’t a romantic one, but the love affair shared between the two in the pages of Marvel Comics meant that every fan saw the act as something more than simple heroism. Just how far the studio intends to take this version of the relationship remains to be seen.
The New Avengers
With Avengers Tower holding too many bad memories, and Tony Stark seemingly parting ways with the team for the moment, audiences are given a look at the “New Avengers Base” in upstate New York. The word “new” here is obviously a statement of fact, but it may also be an overt reference to Cap’s New Avengers, the comic title used to distinguish the next wave of heroes from the original roster. Whether the name will stick… we’ll have to wait and see.
Post-Credits Infinity Gauntlet
The Mad Titan, Thanos once again returns to be teased at The Avengers‘ conclusion, putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and setting out to, presumably, collect the Infinity Stones himself. The mythology behind the gauntlet and stones are still being uncovered by the film’s characters, but Thor’s vision is the closest to the comic book version of the weapon we have yet seen.
Those are all the easter eggs, bits of comic book trivia, and subtle references fans can look out for on repeat viewings of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but if you have any that have been missed, please share them in the comments (we can always update.
If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Age of Ultron Spoilers Discussion.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Spider-Man on July 28, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Black Panther on July 6 2018, Captain Marvel on November 2 2018, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019 and Inhumans on July 12, 2019.