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Wait, There Was a Mutant in Black Widow?

Black Widow and X-Men mutant comics character Ursa Major

Black Widow actor has revealed that his character is a mutant out of Marvel Comics, now appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s some confusion as to whether he is “the first” mutant, however.

***Minor spoilers for Black Widow ahead***

Dutch actor Olivier Richters has a brief role in Black Widow as “Ursa,” an enormous prisoner who has an unfortunate arm-wrestling incident with David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov (aka Red Guardian) in a Russian prison. Red Guardian brutally and graphically snaps Ursa’s arm in a scene that’s half-comedic, half absurdly gross.

That’s the only inclusion of the character therein, but on Instagram, Richters suggested the role is part of something much bigger. He says the character is Ursa Major, also known as Mikhail Uriokovitch Ursus or “Great Bear.” In Marvel Comics, Major is a Soviet-born human mutant with the ability to transform himself into a massive anthropomorphic bear who’s strong enough to fight the Hulk. He’s a sometime member of the Winter Guard, aka “Russia’s answer to the Avengers.”

In the comics, Major has also been part of the Black Widow Ops Program and at one point was imprisoned in a gulag, so his inclusion here feels like a particularly apt Easter egg. Fans were surprised, however, when Richters confirmed via Instagram who his character was, and this immediately generated a lot of speculation as to what the big bear might mean for the MCU.

It’s worth noting that there’s currently a boatload of headlines saying that Richters claimed his character was “the first mutant” to appear in the MCU, which set off alarm klaxons as to whether this meant we’d be seeing officially recognized mutants and X-Men sooner rather than later. Now that the Fox-owned X-men properties are officially under Marvel Studios’ umbrella, we know there are plans for them in the works, but the MCU proper still has not uttered the word “mutant” onscreen yet.

IGN, Gamesradar, and many others quote Richters as having initially written, “After two years I can finally tell who my character is: Ursa Major: the first mutant (X-Men) to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

As of the moment, Richters’ post now reads, “After two years I can finally tell who my character is: Ursa Major 🐻: mutant (X-Men) that appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” The wording of “the first mutant” has been removed. It’s likely he was told to edit the post by Marvel Studios or did so himself, not having expected to generate wall-to-wall international headlines with his word selection.

I hope Richters isn’t in trouble, because his post is wonderfully earnest. Richters includes many pictures of the character from the comics and went on to explain Major’s abilities, then wrote, “When production on set told me who I really was in Black Widow I let some tears in my hotel room, because my movie dream became true: being a official comic super Hero. I can only hope Marvel will bring back Ursa in full form 💪🐻.”


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A post shared by Olivier Richters (@thedutchgiant)

Richters seems born to play a superhuman. According to his Instagram bio, he is the “Tallest actor and bodybuilder in the world,” standing at 7’2ft and weighing in at 342 pounds. I have to admit that when I saw Richters onscreen, I assumed his bearing was all computer-generated. Now I’m crossing fingers that when the MCU really does decide to go full mutant, they’ll bring back Ursa Major in all his muscly glory.

A few things could be happening here. Technically, if Richters was told that he was playing Ursa Major, then he may have also been told he’s the first mutant to be onscreen in a time when Marvel can start calling people mutants. English isn’t his first language and he may not have realized that the initial statement came across as making a major declaration of MCU intent rather than a technicality of the character’s appearance.

The fact that the wording was changed indicates Marvel Studios did not intend for this to be some sort of big reveal. But we can still get excited that we’re edging ever closer into mutated MCU territory.

(image: Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.