[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Captain America: Civil War]
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to grow even larger with the addition of Black Panther and a new Spider-Man, not to mention the arrival of one of Marvel Comics’ greatest villains in Infinity War (not the finished title), the task faced by Captain America: Civil War is a unique one. In short, wrapping up the story of Captain America while calling on, essentially, the entire Avengers team to round out the action. And that means a lot of fan service and comic book easter eggs.
As always, these hidden references or clever pulls from the comic book page range from obvious to shockingly subtle. But to make sure that no fan (be they hardcore or casual) misses out on any of the filmmakers’ work, we’ve run down each and every allusion, reference, inside joke, or comic book detail contained in the film’s running time.
Needless to say, there will be plenty of SPOILERS in our list of Captain America: Civil War: Every Easter Egg & Hidden Detail.
36. Thanos Actor Cameo
Cap and his team dispatch multiple goons in the opening Lagos chase and fight sequences, but one of the enemies taken down by Widow is even more powerful than fans may realize. The ‘Hero Merc’ (the one holding the vial) is played by none other than Damon Poitier – and even if you don’t know his name, you know his face – or more accurately, his grin. Poitier supplied the first appearance of Thanos the Mad Titan in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers. And although he was later replaced by Josh Brolin (since the cameo was merely a tease), he got his chance to shine in the Marvel Universe once again (albeit briefly).
Although the film doesn’t actually spell it out, those who remember The Winter Soldier as if it was yesterday will appreciate the full reveal of Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo). Having appeared as a HYDRA agent in-hiding among S.H.I.E.L.D., and surviving the destruction of the Triskellion (but with serious burns as a result), Civil War finally sees him adopt his role as the famous villain of Captain America, ‘Crossbones.’
Falcon actor Anthony Mackie may have been disappointed that his own Avengers costume wasn’t the red colored supersuit from the comics, but it’s his character’s other trademark that finally gets some justice on the big screen. When the team needs a bit more reconnaissance in the opening Lagos scene, Falcon deploys a drone to do the scouting. The name of the drone is eventually revealed to be Redwing – the same name of the hero’s flesh-and-blood falcon from the comics. Apparently, even in a movie world where magic is commonplace, a bird sharing a telepathic link with a flying Avenger is too much of a stretch.
33. Community Cameo
Having given small roles to other Community alums, Daniel Pudi (as a flabbergasted S.H.I.E.L.D. technician in The Winter Soldier) and DC Pierson (the Apple store employee interrupting Natasha and Steve), it’s finally Jim Rash’s turn.
The unruly dean from the Russo Brothers’ NBC comedy series appears here as an annoying MIT faculty member, not-so-delicately asking Tony Stark for some research money of his own – to create a self-cooking hot dog.
32. Double Duty in The MCU
When Tony makes a speedy exit from the aforementioned Dean of M.I.T., he runs into a woman (Alfre Woodard) slyly waiting to catch him alone. While Tony expects an assassination attempt, he gets a guilt trip instead, as the woman, ‘Miriam’ works for the State Department, and had a son who was killed in Sokovia during the Ultron climax.
Actors and actresses aren’t usually allowed to play different characters in the MCU, but with Alfre Woodard nabbing the part apparently after Downey recommended her, nobody checked to notice she’s also playing ‘Mariah Dillard’ in the Luke Cage Netflix series. Whether Downey recommended her as a result of him sharing the screen with her in Heart and Souls (1993) cannot be confirmed or denied!
31. Miriam… Sharpe?
There’s also a hidden meaning in her character’s name, and although it’s not spoken aloud, the credits confirm she is a woman named ‘Miriam.’ Almost certainly a reference to Miriam Sharpe, one of the most outspoken supporters of the Superhero Registration Act from the “Civil War” comics arc. Sharpe lashes out at Tony and eventually takes to media coverage about the threats posed by superheroes, holding tony Stark responsible for setting all of the events in motion (no matter how accurate she may be).
In the comics, it’s her small child killed in the inciting incident, not a grown son like the Miriam of the film. But even if her character plays a much smaller role on the big screen, the comic diehards will appreciate yet another beat from the comics making the jump.
30. Baron Zemo
There may not be a true “villain” in the movie – at least, not in the way most audience members would expect – but there is a man who sets some (all?) of the events in motion. His name is Colonel Helmutt Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), and although the name will ring a ton of bells for Marvel fans as yet another Cap villain, the version here has little, if anything in common with the famous Baron Zemo.
However, his name, ‘Helmut’ is likely a nod to the Zemo closely tied to Loki in the “Thor” series of Marvel’s “Ultimates” universe. Of course, there’s always time for Helmut Zemo to become Baron Zemo down the line.
29. Colonel Vasily Karpov
Thanks to a flashback sequence, fans get to see the man who helped mold Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier not once, but twice. Vasily Karpov (Gene Farber) is the Soviet officer who oversees the HYDRA program, just as he was in the comics. Here, he meets his end at the hands of Zemo, but in the comics, he actually lived out his life using the brainwashed Bucky as his personal bodyguard. Why? Because he’s been embarrased in front of his troops by Cap during World War II, and loved seeing his former sidekick turned into a lapdog.
The mental conditioning used to turn James “Bucky” Buchanan into a mindless killing machine is still a little unclear, but what we do know is how the Soviet/HYDRA forces actually prepared him to accept a new mission. The process involves a handful of random words spoken in sequence, with none of them really carrying any significance… unless you dig a bit deeper. The words “one, nine” and “seventeen” may be allusions to the year Bucky was born (1917), with the word “freight car” meant to conjure the location of his ‘death.’
It’s entirely possible that “homecoming” is simply used in the sequence for the obvious comfort it brings (a twisted bit of irony), but since it has also become the subtitle of Tom Holland’s first Spider-Man movie, it’s hard to believe it’s a total coincidence here.
27. Vision’s New Look
One guaranteed laugh in the theater is the entrance of Vision, taking a unique approach to feeling a bit more casual while not fighting crime, but relaxing in the New Avengers compound. He’s still got some learning to do when it comes to using doors, but his fashion is on point: trying to blend in in the worst way possible, sporting attire pulled straight from the 1940s. The costume designer spent plenty of time trying to figure out what an android would consider everyday clothing, but in the end, went with the fashion used when a similar story was being told in the pages of Marvel Comics.
The shirts, sweaters and, yes, ascots hearken back to Vision’s comic exploits, and his love of chess is also translated, since a gameboard is placed prominently when Tony first arrives to unveil the Sokovia Accords.
26. The Sokovia Accords
As yet another remnant of the more wide-sweeping legislation that drove events of the “Civil War” comics, there is at least some lip service paid to the original ‘Superhuman Registration Act’ put forward to end anonymous superheroics. In the comics, it was a successor to the Mutant Registration Act made famous in the X-Men universe (but that didn’t cover those who acquired powers after their birth).
25. Absentee Avengers
When Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) is making his case for why The Avengers can no longer operate without monitoring or supervision, he points out that simply losing weapons of mass destruction is a serious problem. But the super-team has already done the same, unable to say where either Thor (Chris Hemsworth) or Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are at the moment.
It could simply be that the Hulk has remained hidden and Thor isn’t bothering with this rash squabble, but there’s also a chance that it’s a reference to Thor: Ragnarok, the god of thunder’s next film (guest starring Banner), that is apparently set alongside the events of Civil War.
24. I’ve Heard This Speech Before…
With the off-screen death of Peggy Carter comes her funeral, where Steve Rogers finally learns what any Marvel Comics fan already does: Sharon Carter (Emily Vancamp) shares the name for a reason. In her eulogy for “Aunt Peggy,” Sharon offers a saying and philosophy that she learned from the founder of S.H.I.E.L.D…. one that any fan of Cap should remember from the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man” #537.
23. A Budding Romance
It doesn’t take long for Sharon Carter to step up as Steve’s greatest ally on the inside, keeping him up to date on the investigation into Bucky, and even delivering his confiscated equipment. It’s then the pair share their first kiss, and while it may seem a bit out of place, it’s been suggested there are more scenes of the two together that were left on the cutting room floor.
22. You Lost Me At “Bucharest”
When the audience actually catches up to Bucky Barnes (minus the surveillance footage that wasn’t really him) he’s living in secret in Bucharest, just trying to keep anyone from recognizing him (given his very public role in The Winter Soldier). The location is just one of several European hubs around (and in which) the movie takes place, but it’s no coincidence or randomly chosen. Actor Sebastian Stan was born in Romania before coming to America, so the directors offered him the chance to return home – even if it was just thanks to movie magic.
21. Bast & Sekhmet
After King T’Chaka has been killed, his son informs Widow that the Wakandan idea of the afterlife is a unique one: lost souls are greeted by “Bast and Sekhmet,” and set free into a vast green plain where they can run as they please. For those who don’t know the figures being referenced, they actually go all the way back to ancient Egypt, with Bast/Baast/Bastet a cat goddess, and Sekhmet her parallel lioness goddess.
In the “Black Panther” comics the hero carrying the mantle of Black Panther draws from these deities frequently (even taking physical cat form), but the wording used here implies the Wakandans see human beings as cats at heart – an interesting idea that may be explored in the character’s upcoming solo film.
20. The Dora Milaje
When King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is released from custody, Widow is waiting to meet him – a fact that doesn’t go over well with a woman accompanying the African ruler. Fans of the comics will recognize the unnamed female as most likely a member of the Dora Milaje, the personal bodyguards of the Wakandan king.
In the comics, the women were the daughters of each tribe in the country, offered up as the most superior example of their own culture and community to not only protect the king, but seek to become his queen. It’s hard to believe that a modern Black Panther movie would adapt that storyline completely, but seeing one fierce, bald woman – whom T’Challa acknowledges would give Widow a run for her money – is the best kind of detail for fans to catch.
19. D(eck) 23
Although Disney has kept its iconic animated characters out of the Marvel Universe, the studio is not above a little subliminal marketing. When James “Bucky” Barnes is placed in containment, after finally being chased down, his holding cell (chamber?) bears some pretty significant markings. Specifically, the chamber is apparently taken from Deck 23, with “D” and “23” placed prominently on the side facing the camera for most of the scene.
Casual fans may not recognize the overt reference to Disney’s annual D23 event in which the studio’s upcoming films are unveiled and detailed but those who have stood in line to be part of the celebration certainly will.
18. Everett Ross
Fans of actor Martin Freeman were disappointed to see that his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a much smaller one than would be expected from the Sherlock and The Hobbit star, but his character isn’t random. Although ‘Everett Ross’ mainly serves to tough-talk the likes of James “Bucky” Barnes and Steve Rogers, his comic book counterpart has become one of the Black Panther’s most trusted American allies. When his placement at the U.S. State Department required him to accompany foreign diplomats visiting America, his path crossed with T’Challa, being instantly recruited for some of the hero’s riskiest missions (usually providing the comic relief – here’s hoping that’s the plan for Black Panther).
During one of the few moments that Steve and Bucky get to actually reminisce about the better years, the conversation eventually turns to a former romantic interest of Bucky: Dolores, better know as ‘Dot.’
It’s probably best not to look too closely at this one, but it may be a playful reference to Marvel’s Agent Carter, in which a character definitely was named Dot (Bridget Regan). Considering the path her character was eventually revealed to be walking, a romance with Bucky, however, seems…. oddly fitting.
16. Webbed Shield
When Tony commits to bringing Cap and his fellow runaways in peacefully, he lets Widow know that he has a plan to add a weapon to their arsenal. The weapon is Spider-Man, and while Tony’s reasons for feeling the boy would be vital in the fight aren’t entirely clear, he does prove effective at webbing-up Cap and his vibranium shield throughout the fight.
After Spidey got his own upgraded suit from Tony Stark in the “Civil War” comic, he also used his Spidey sense and webshooters to keep Cap’s shield from him. But just like in the movie, his edge evaporated relatively quickly.
15. Arrested Development Shared Universe?
The Russo Brothers are leading Marvel’s movie universe now, but they got a major break into the TV industry with their work in the FOX series Arrested Development. The pair were recruited to direct the pilot episode of the series, setting the tone of the show’s offbeat comedy and family dynamics – winning them an Emmy for their work on the episode. The Bluth family may be a far cry from Marvel’s heroes, but their one-of-a-kind vehicle can be spotted during the movie’s airprot fight sequence. Keep your eyes peeled on the background when Ant-Man shows up with a miniature truck for ammunition, and you’ll spot the unmistakeable paint job easily.
14. Catching a Ride
Scott Lang might be starstruck when he first gets recruited by Captain America, but once the action kicks off, he shows why a miniature man is valuable in a fight. The most daring attack comes with the help of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), as Scott Lang is sent towards Iron Man on the tip of an arrow.
It’s a clever way to get a man inside the armor wreaking havoc, and it’s a tactic taken right from the cover of “The Avengers” #223. The costumes and fights might be different from comic to screen, but you can’t dispute the claim made on the issue’s cover: when Ant-Man and Hawkeye join forces, “somebody’s gonna get it!”
The unveiling of Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) special power may have taken casual moviegoers by surprise, but it’s a skill that comic readers had hoped might one day make an appearance in the MCU. What gets small can get big – really big.
Although Scott doesn’t take up the name ‘Giant Man’ in the movies like he has in the comics, the ability to increase in size as well as decrease is an official tool in his bag of tricks. How much it will factor into his own sequel, Ant-Man and The Wasp remains to be seen.
12. Director on Set
Not long after Tony winds up on the losing end of the airport battle (for Rhodey, anyway) he gets some crucial information from FRIDAY: that the power blackout and rampage of Bucky was no accident, since the psychiatrist who was supposed to report was found dead in a bathtub.
The real doctor – ‘Theo Broussard’ – was impersonated by Zemo, but the photos and footage of Broussard are actually those of Joe Russo, one of the film’s directors (who previously appeared as Nick Fury’s personal physician in The Winter Soldier).
11. His Girl, Friday
Another easter egg is delivered almost completely in passing, when Tony Stark decides to go sass-for-sass with his new A.I., FRIDAY. When asking if the A.I. has run facial recognition on Zemo, he replies with “what do I look like?” Since she doesn’t ‘look’ like anything, Tony replies that he figured she was a redhead.
The most obvious meaning is that he’s simply thinking of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), given that the pair has separated since we last saw them, but for fans of the comics, FRIDAY’s holographic projection really did sport red hair. It may be the same joke/subtext at work in both places, but it’s a neat reference all the same.
10. The Raft
What superhero adventure is complete without a prison for the superhuman? Sadly, once Cap’s New Avengers get taken down following the airport battle, they get to see the underwater facility known as ‘The Raft’ up close, and personal.
It was a very different prison which played a serious role in the comic book version of “Civil War” (specifically Negative Zone Prison Alpha – housed in an alien universe) but there is a version of ‘The Raft’ seen in the pages of Marvel Comics. Even if it’s just an island near Ryker’s Island, not a hidden facility in what looks to be the middle of the ocean this round.
9. “The Futurist”
When the former Avengers have been imprisoned on The Raft, Tony Stark’s visit is greeted with mock applause from Clint Barton. Alerting his fellow cellmates that ‘The Futurist’ has arrived, Clint is taking a clear shot at Stark’s ego, claimed knowledge of where the future is headed, and seeing what outcomes are most likely (since things have started going much, much worse than he imagined).
8. “Hey, Manchurian Candidate”
Less an easter egg, and more of an explanation here: when Tony and Steve have established a truce at the Siberian HYDRA facility, their friendly conversation is a bit hard to carry with Bucky’s gun trained on Stark throughout. The former enemy brushes off Bucky’s suspicions by telling him he can put the gun down, referring to him as “Manchurian Candidate.”
The reference may be lost on younger audiences, but it’s a nod to the film (and novel) of the same name, in which yet another unsuspecting young man is brainwashed into becoming an assassin as part of a Communist conspiracy.
7. “I Could Do This All Day”
Considering how far Steve Rogers has come from his first appearance as a scrawny, sickly, wannabe soldier, and fans can be forgiven for not remembering his first fight in an alley behind a movie theater. As a bigger, stronger bully beat him bloody, Steve replied that he didn’t known when to give up – that he “could do this all day.”
The same line gets repeated near the end of Civil War, when the bully has become Tony Stark. And in this case, it’s Steve who’s now getting the chance to stick up for his friend Bucky, not the other way around.
6. Familiar Image
Nearly every Marvel movie has recreated some scenes, if not exact panels from the comics from which they were adapted – most notably, when Cap and Bucky first meet in The Winter Soldier, recreating the iconic slamming of Bucky’s metal fist into Cap’s shield.
Civil War adapts just as iconic an image – used in Marvel’s original “Civil War” comic series. Fans can debate the physics, but you won’t have trouble spotting the recreation, since the film focused squarely in on the image for a good amount of time (in slow motion).
5. Another Arm Lost
Yes, the Star Wars references keep on coming. With Spider-Man bringing up Empire Strikes Back on screen, it’s no surprise that Civil War makes good on the promise that every Marvel movie in the studio’s previous phase would feature a traumatic nod to The Empire Strikes Back.
In short, that each film would feature a character losing their hand or arm like Luke Skywalker did. Thor ‘lost’ his hand in The Dark World, Killian lost his in Iron Man 3, Ulysses Klaw lost his arm in Age of Ultron, and now after having lost his arm decades earlier, Bucky once again loses his replacement limb – thanks to a blast from Iron Man. Will the cycle ever stop?
4. A Learning Computer(ized Suit)
When Tony Stark is getting beaten by Cap in their final dust-up, Tony Stark has no other way to get the upper hand than to call upon his A.I. co-pilot, FRIDAY. With Steve unleashing a flurry of blows after seeing his friend’s arm blown off (again), FRIDAY tracks his movements and attacks, allowing Tony to turn the fight instantly.
The movie doesn’t imply that Stark has actually been predicting his allies’ styles before this event, but the armor’s analysis is yet another callback to the comic showdown, when Stark revealed his own armor could monitor and analyze fight patterns.
3. Stan Lee Cameo
He’s a mandatory element of any movie set in the MCU, and as always, Stan Lee makes a memorable cameo near the end of the Civil War. Appearing as a delivery man bringing Tony Stark one final message from Steve Rogers (and a phone, should a job requiring his Avengers resurface), Lee may have made his most lasting impact on the movie universe, mispronouncing the billionaire’s name – to the delight of Rhodey – as “Tony Stank.”
2. A Glimpse of Wakanda
The movie ends on a somber note, and Bucky’s fate (for the immediate future, at least) isn’t as glorious a return to action as Cap’s. Instead, he makes the choice to go back into deep freeze. But with the Siberian tech no longer available, Bucky and Steve head to the cutting edge facilities of Wakanda, the home country of Black Panther himself. In the comics, it’s Wakanda that produces the most advanced and sophisticated of future technologies, but the new medicine and sciences haven’t replaced the country’s traditions. New structures stand shoulder to shoulder with ancient panther carvings – and in one of the movie’s post credit sequences, fans can catch a glimpse of one massive panther statue breaking through the mist (Black Panther can’t get here soon enough!).
1. The Spidey Signal
It may not be an earth-shattering tease of the next Marvel movie on the way, but the post-credits scene returns to the Queens apartment of Peter Parker and his Aunt May, with Peter getting used to the new webshooters that Tony Stark gifted him.
The audience is kept in the dark about the shooter’s special design until the final moments of the scene where it becomes instantly evident: Spidey now has his Spider Signal. Although, it will hopefully ONLY be used as it was in the comics, to light dark spaces and occasionally blind an enemy.
Those are the easter eggs, secrets and tiny touches we spotted in Civil War, but be sure to let us know which ones we’ve overlooked, and we’ll keep updating the list as more and more secrets are uncovered. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Captain America: Civil War episode of the Total Geekall podcast.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.