[WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Doctor Strange]
The grooviest, most psychedelic blockbuster that Marvel has ever produced is finally here, and in in terms of easter eggs and references to the comic book source material, Doctor Strange did not disappoint. In fact, it’s likely that even die hard fans didn’t manage to catch each and every comic reference on display – likely by the design of the filmmakers.
If the devoted faithful are going to be missing some major namedrops, cameos, or comic book adaptations, then it stands to reason it may all fly by the average viewer. To prevent that from happening, we’re breaking down each and every easter egg and hidden detail so fans have something to look forward to on repeat viewings – not to mention get their first hints at where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is headed next.
Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our look at Doctor Strange: Every Easter Egg & Marvel Secret.
24. ‘Christine Palmer’
As gifted a doctor as Stephen Strange may be, he still needs some medical help when he’s the one who needs to be operated on. The honor goes to Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a colleague, friend, and former love of Stephen Strange who has clearly put their romance behind them – refusing to date coworkers due to her “Strange Policy.” For those diving into the character’s comic book history, the source material may not be a perfect match, because Christine is actually a combination of two different characters.
There is a character in Marvel Comics known as ‘Christine Palmer,’ but she’s the star of her very own solo “Night Nurse” comic book series. Though that version of the superhero-healing nurse has little ties to Doctor Strange, the prior version, ‘Linda Carter’ (not that Lynda Carter) has plenty. In fact, one famous scene between Linda and Stephen is recreated almost completely in the film, with Christine subbing in for Linda.
23. Avengers Tower
It’s taken a beating in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Tony Stark’s gleaming monument to his superhero days still stands in downtown Manhattan. The Avengers Tower is impossible to miss, thanks to its unmistakable design and glowing blue ‘A’, so audiences actually have a few chances to spot it decorating the New York skyline. First, when Stephen Strange’s life’s story begins in New York, and later when he returns through the Sanctum Sanctorum.
After the opening surgeries cut to an establishing shot of Manhattan the tower is particularly hard to miss. But when the Mirror Dimension begins folding in on itself like Inception on steroids, The Avengers Tower can be seen shifting in on itself along with the rest of the Manhattan skyscrapers.
22. Dr. Nicodemus West
He may not have gotten a complimentary introduction – incorrectly diagnosing a patient as braindead and attempting to harvest their organs – but luckily for Dr. Nick West (Michael Stuhlbarg), New York’s most brilliant surgeon steps in just in time to prevent catastrophe. While Stephen dismisses ‘Nick’ as unqualified compared to his own talents, Christine defends him – and she should, since Marvel fans know that he isn’t a man to be underestimated.
In the comics, ‘Dr. Nicodemus West’ was also the surgeon responsible for saving Stephen Strange’s hands, eventually distraught that he failed to preserve the surgeon’s gifts and contributions to the world. He followed behind Strange to find similar salvation at Kamar-Taj, training in the mystic arts before also returning to New york City. But… we’re betting that’s not going to be a major plotline in sequels.
21. An Air Force Colonel With a Broken Back
As Dr. Strange is making his way to a speaking engagement (way over the speed limit), he takes a call regarding potential surgeries from ‘Nurse Billy.’ He dismisses most of them as less than ideal for his talents or mission (an elderly woman could ruin his ‘perfect record’), but one sounds quite familiar to Marvel movie fans. The patient in question is “a 35 year-old Air Force colonel who crushed his spine” in a suit of experimental armor – and that’s all fans need to hear to know what’s being hinted at.
The patient in question is obviously meant to be taken as Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who suffered the same injury during the events of Captain America: Civil War… or one of the other soldiers the military has been using to recreate Stark’s technology (a lot less exciting). It’s still not outright stated, letting those who don’t make the connection assume it’s just another example of the U.S. military trying to replicate Tony Stark’s suit.
20. A Future Defenders Villain is Born?
Even Marvel fans will be forgiven for letting this one slip by without truly grasping the significance. Among the other surgery candidates pitched to Dr. Strange is “a 22 year-old female with an electronic implant in her brain to control schizophrenia – struck by lightning” – a strange case, obviously, and one that was immediately injected with even more meaning by those hungry for conspiracies and rumors. The real secret of that case, according to some? That the woman in question was actually Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, tweaking her origin story before her solo film.
Now, the problem with that theory is that… well, it has absolutely nothing in common with Captain Marvel. In all honesty, the 68-year-old female with advanced brain stem glioma is only slightly more of a departure. It’s still possible that Marvel is planning a complete overhaul of Carol Danvers’ character, mental state and alien powers, but we also broke down our theory that this patient is Marvel villain Typhoid Mary, a character introduced as part of Frank Miller’s New York populated by Daredevil, Kingpin, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
19. Pink Floyd
Doctor Strange is as psychedelic as a modern blockbuster movie can get, so it stands to reason that the soundtrack should reflect it – and no, we’re not referring to Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good.” It’s the music that plays as Stephen Strange gives in to his desire for speed, moments before that desire costs him his life’s work. The song is Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive,” whose groovy strums fit in perfectly with the more ‘galactic’ elements of the story – but it’s no coincidence they were given a shout-out in the film.
It was actually the band that provided the first tribute to Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, including artwork from “Doctor Strange” comics on the cover of their album “A Saucerful of Secrets” recorded in 1968.
18. What’s in a Name
Dr. Strange’s descent from a brilliant surgeon to a venomous wreck is hard to watch, and the distance he’s fallen is driven home by more than just pushing away the people who care about him (or the one person who does, at least). The audience gets a chance to see Strange’s attempts at simply spelling out his own name, with his fingers so badly damaged the writing comes out looking like that of a small child. And it looks familiar to comic book fans.
The scene is lifted right out of “Strange,” a limited comic series by J. Michael Straczynski, Samm Barnes, and Brandon Peterson that re-imagined Doctor Strange’s origin. There are a ton of images and scenes pulled from the comic for the film, from Strange’s hospitalization to his rehabilitation, and this sign of his frustration.
17. Master Hamir (& His Hand)
When Stephen is first invited into Kamar-Taj by Mordo, he mistakes an elderly man for the aforementioned Ancient One, before being introduced to the real deal. The man in question is later revealed to be Master Hamir, another practitioner of the mystic arts whose skills show that you don’t need hands to pull off magic. Aside from covering Marvel’s running Empire Strikes Back joke of having a character lose their hand in every Phase 2 film, Master Hamir is yet another character pulled from the source material.
His role in the comics is admittedly a larger one, operating as the Ancient One’s most loyal and devoted servant, even taking over for him as the caretaker of Kamar-Taj. Ready for an added twist? The keeper of the book who helps Strange in his teaching, Wong, is Hamir’s son.
16. ‘It’s The Wifi Password’
It’s one of the film’s most surprising gags, potentially spoiled in the trailers. As Stephen Strange settles into his Kamar-Taj bedroom, he’s handed a piece of scroll by Mordo, with a single word printed on it: shamballa. Now, to fans of the Marvel Universe, that’s a substantial namedrop. The comic books drew from the real world teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu, and several other faiths and cultures, which describe shamballa/shamballah/shambhala as a perfect, mystical kingdom. It’s believed that this is also the idea behind the concept of Shangri-La, essentially the highest, most ideal and pure form of existence.
It’s also a pivotal location in J.M. DeMatteis and Dan Green’s comic “Into Shamballa,” in which Doctor Strange travels to the kingdom and faces a choice: usher in a Golden Age for the world, but sacrifice most humans to achieve it. You can guess his decision, and at any rate, the city only holds a sentimental meaning for The Ancient One in the MCU, selected as Kamar-Taj’s wifi password.
15. Staff of the Living Tribunal
As Strange begins his martial arts training at the hands of Mordo, the audience is introduced to another concept fairly central in the fiction’s take on magic. For spells or forces that are too powerful for a single sorcerer to maintain, physical objects are imbued with the energy instead, allowing the sorcerers to use that energy without needing to channel it. He rattles off a few examples, and more are introduced over the course of the film – opening the door to plenty more easter eggs for comic fans.
The first is “The Staff of the Living Tribunal,” launching out from a single stick into a glowing staff of powerful energy. In the Marvel Universe, it’s not an existing artifact, but a nod to The Living Tribunal, an actual cosmic figure. Without delving too deeply into the ever-changing fiction of the Tribunal, he exist as an embodiment of the Multiverse itself, maintaining balance on a cosmic scale. The three-faced being is a design we would love to see adapted to film, but for now, fans would do best to appreciate the namedrop.
14. Vaulting Boots of Valtorr
The next artifact mentioned by Mordo are the “Vaulting Boots of Valtorr” which he then demonstrates in combat by essentially running through the air, with magical charms appearing beneath each footfall. Now, unfortunately we can’t explain why somebody with essentially the gift of flight wouldn’t be using that during every single scene that followed. But what we can explain where the name comes from – and it’s as close to a flat-out joke as the movie comes for the most die hard comic fans.
The actual existence of ‘Valtorr’ isn’t even all that important, since even fans would have a hard time explaining Valtorr’s role in the mythology. But every reader will know the name, since Stephen Strange’s cry to “the vapors of Valtorr” is one you don’t soon forget. The basic idea is that Valtorr is a mystical entity, able to command vapors (gases, like smoke) to aid Strange when needed. Not a whole lot to do with boots or vaulting, but a playful wink to the fans.
13. The Book of Cagliostro
The tome of magical spells that begins the entire story of the film is The Book of Cagliostro, a guide to manipulating time, and connecting to the dark energies of the Dark Dimension (where Dormammu lies). The book is pulled directly from the comics, but bears a few notable links to the Marvel Cinematic Universe already. Obviously, it was written by an Italian sorcerer name Cagliostro, a man born in 1743, but who pursued a mastery of the Dark Arts that would allow him to live centuries into the future.
By studying the teachings in ‘The Book of Sins’ – also know as The Darkhold, an object used in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – he learned now to achieve immortality. A war with Dracula (who previously possessed the book) came next, followed soon after by teaching a time traveling Doctor Doom the dark arts. If you’re noticing how insane his life’s story really is, then you know just how many powerful spells can be found in his autobiography.
12. Daniel Drumm
Since the audience is being introduced to the entire concept of sorcery along with Stephen Strange, the identities of the other students and masters serving under The Ancient One aren’t actually explored. But if you assumed that most of them have a name and story in Marvel history, you would be right. Chief among them is Daniel Drumm, briefly seen speaking with The Ancient One before returning to guard the New York Sanctum. Unfortunately, his role in the film is cut short when Kaecilius and his zealots arrive and kill him (getting their first look at Strange).
While he’s Master Drumm in the film universe, the comics actually focused a bit more on his brother, Jericho. Or as he’s better known to Marvel magic fans, ‘Brother Voodoo.’ In his original story, Daniel remained in his native Haiti to learn local magic while his brother traveled to earn himself a college education. But when Daniel ended up entangled with, then killed by a local villain, his brother Daniel answered the call, taking up his mission and nickname. So what does that mean for the MCU? Well, Daniel may not be completely gone, since he often accompanies his brother in spectral form.
11. Trust Magic, Not Axes
After the Cloak of Levitation has fastened itself to Strange, it shows it can do a whole lot more than flutter – it can even disagree with the Sorcerer wearing it… by force. As Kaecilius closes in, Strange tries to run for the biggest, baddest weapon he can find: an axe hung on a nearby wall. The cloak is one step ahead, having identified the perfect tool to halt Kaecilius in his tracks and clearly not resting until its master gets the message.
As satisfying a gag as it is to see Benedict Cumberbatch strain against his own cloak, it’s also a bit of a wink to “Doctor Strange” comic readers who know of the sorcerer’s affinity for the particular type of weapon he was first drawn to. Axes have become something of a signature weapon – or one of a few – whenever Strange’s magical powers have been cut off at the source. In one way, it’s a lesson the cloak taught him: axes are a great idea, but only as a last resort.
10. Taking ‘The Oath’
Even if Dr. Christine Palmer isn’t officially given the name of Night Nurse in this particular film (she may wind up competing with Rosario Dawson’s nurse in Marvel’s Netflix universe), readers were probably struck with a serious case of déjà vu when Strange sought Christine’s help as he was bleeding to death. What followed was an unforgettable scene, as Christine operated on the dying Strange while he, himself offered advice as an astral projection. A memorable scene… and one torn almost entirely from the comic book page.
The story in question is that of Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s “The Oath,” a story in which Strange is brought to Night Nurse with a gunshot wound, and appears to offer his assistance. It’s every bit as terrifying to the one being helped on the page as it is on the screen, but the movie version soon finds himself battling the astral projection of a zealot. A big change, but a fantastic easter egg for the fans.
9. Stan Lee Cameo
When the battle between Strange and the zealots spills out into New York City, the mandatory cameo of Marvel creator Stan Lee features the comic icon riding a passing bus, taking in some reading material with amusement and awe. The cameo is funny in the ‘Stan Lee oblivious to his creations battling beside him’ kind of way, but the book he’s reading doubles down on the inside joked.
The book is Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of Perception,” and its subject matter is a perfect fit for the mindbending fiction of Strange as a whole. Chronicling a single afternoon in a mescaline trip, Huxley’s essay explores hallucinations while under the drug’s influence, explaining why Lee is so astounded at the descriptions – while appearing in a film just as off-the-wall.
8. Wand of Watoomb
When Kaecilius is revealed to be making his final assault on the Hong Kong Sanctum, it’s Wong who leads the defense, proclaiming that no zealot would enter the building with the remaining sorcerers defending it. To make his stand, he selects a magical artifact that is never named – but to those who know the “Strange” comics, it’s unmistakable: the Wand of Watoomb.
It’s every bit as iconic a magical artifact as any other that appears in the film, and fits its usual appearance of a simple staff adorned with demon heads on both ends. The wand, like most other artifacts in the movie, can perform a host of abilities. Its specialty is using incoming mystical attacks to generate shields, or launch counter attacks, so we can only assume Wong put it to good use before his untimely death (pun absolutely intended).
7. Tina Minoru’s Staff of One
Not every magical cameo is hard to miss – and not every character wielding it as throwaway either. As Wong gathers the troops for a final defense of the Hong Kong Sanctum, another unnamed sorcerer can be seen in the group that soon forms. The staff she carries was featured prominently in some marketing, but in the film, it’s shown already closed into a single ring. Fortunately, the weapon, and character, and connections to the larger MCU are clear to any fan of the “Strange” universe. The weapon is the Staff of One, and its wielder is none other than Tina Minoru.
In the comics, Minoru would actually turn to the dark side, sending her daughter, Nico into the superhero group called the Runaways (soon to be another Marvel TV show). The Staff of One would pass to Nico, making the most of its special abilities to perform any spell at a spoken word… but once uttered and performed, that spell could never be used again. She doesn’t show up in the actual fight, but that might be for the best: Dormammu was terrified of the Staff, so the fight would have been won before Strange even arrived.
6. Ditko’s Dimension
Strange’s trips into the many dimensions of Marvel’s Multiverse, be they physical or mental, are psychedelic to the point that many viewers may lose focus. But one aesthetic detail that IS easy to spot is the fabric that makes up the Dark Dimension, looking almost like human physiology as traditionally depicted in science fiction films. Whether DNA strands, muscle fibers or neurons firing, the massive tubes connecting to round objects in technicolor, the similarities here suggest the literal fabric of another plane of existence.
To comic book fans, it’s a sight they’ve seen before, torn from the pages of artist Steve Ditko. Ditko’s trippy visuals are put to good use throughout the film’s trips into other dimensions, lending itself to the movie’s ‘groovy’ vibes. But these features are a clear shout-out to the man who helped the comic book hero chart a course into an unexplored corner of comic book craziness.
5. Benedict’s Double Duty
Just as it seems that the fight has been completely lost, with the Sanctums destroyed, and Dormammu consuming Earth, Strange has an idea – a solution to the problem that gives Dormammu a nasty surprise in the form of… shudder… an equal match. But if it seemed like the argument between Strange and Dormammu was particularly frustrating or circular, there’s a good reason for it: Benedict Cumberbatch is playing both parts.
That’s right, apparently Cumberbatch’s acting skill have become so refined, he’s no longer satisfied with playing just one side of a scene. But in reality, the actor floated the idea to director Scott Derrickson, wishing to perform the motion capture for the massive cosmic face of the supervillain. The idea of Dormammu taking a physical form just to converse with Strange – and it, therefore, reflecting Strange himself – worked for the director, and a different actor was found to supply the voice.
4. The Mindless Ones
As further proof that no comic book fan should look away for a split second, even when it seems a villain is simply being wiped from existence, lest they miss a massive easter egg, we give you the Mindless Ones. Essentially boogeymen of the Marvel Universe, these beings are of unknown origin, and have threatened all of existence from their first steps on the interdimensional scene.
Depicted as ashy, grey/black hulks with a single glowing red eye, the Mindless Ones have been contained behind a mystical barrier by Dormammu since he first encountered them, the strength of which is directly tied to his own power. It’s a long term risk: take out Dormammu, risk the Mindless Ones escaping and destroying everything. So, what’s this got to do with Doctor Strange? Keep an eye on Kaecilius and his zealots as Dormammu ends their mission, and you may catch a glimpse of the Mindless Ones as designed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
3. Another Infinity Stone
Hey, remember Thanos?! It may have been easy to forget the purple skinned alien menace due to Strange’s dealing with a purplish dimensional menace, but the coming Infinity War is still the biggest overall plot of the Marvel Universe. No Marvel fan needs to be brought up to speed on the Infinity Stones sought by Thanos with which to adorn his infamous gauntlet, and the Marvel films so far have revealed them one by one – including Strange. It’s obviously an unceremonious reveal, with Wong offhandedly commenting that the Eye of Agamotto pendant is actually an Infinity Stone.
That being said, fans didn’t need the confirmation to see the signs. Of the remaining Infinity Stones, it seemed that the Time Gem – granting power over time itself, decay, and the age of a targeted object or person – was a perfect match for the Eye of Agamotto, Only one remains, but we’re already more concerned about the attack clearly coming to the sorcerers all over again, since it’s only a matter of time until Thanos comes knocking.
2. An Asgardian in Need
After being teased by the studio, audiences got to see the first of two post-credits stinger scenes in Strange, in which the title sorcerer is visited in his New York Sanctum by the god of thunder, Thor. The matter being discussed is Thor’s brother Loki, apparently as much on the radar of the mystical community as the military one following his Avengers shenanigans. Fortunately, Strange decides to help once realizing how the presence of Thor and Loki fit into the overall story of the upcoming Thor: Raganarok.
Thor and Loki are only on Earth to find their missing, exiled father, Odin. It’s a simple solution for Strange, ruling that the sooner the Asgardians leave Earth alone the better, lending his help in finding Odin somewhere in the streets of New York City (something to look forward to in Thor 3).
1. Mordo’s New Mission
The final post-credits scene holds just as much significance for the future of the Marvel Universe, too. But where Thor and Strange plant seeds for Thor’s film and the coming team-ups, the appearance of Mordo has a much more sinister tinge. Having tracked down the man known as ‘Pangborn’ who first used the magic of Kamar-Taj to heal his spine, and nothing else, Mordo states his new realization: that magic is not meant to result in selfish rewards for the sorcerer, but a greater service.
His final judgment is that there are just too many sorcerers in the world, and the punishment is apparently to get rid of them one by one. It’s the first sign of Mordo genuinely turning from hero to villain, and if his future in the MCU is similar to that of the comics, then he’s poised to become Strange’s greatest adversary before long.
So there you have it, our breakdown of each and every easter egg, Marvel connection, and comic book reference in Doctor Strange. If you’ve spotted anything we’ve missed, or have questions unanswered, let us know in the comments!