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Is Marvel’s What If…? Connected to Doctor Strange 2?

This is going to be the weirdest Marvel movie yet.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange looking serious in the Multiverse of Madness trailer

With less than 3 months to go until the release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, rumors are running wild about what cameos and surprises we’ll see in the MCU’s next big-screen installment. In addition to the possibility that X-Men, the Illuminati, and characters from Loki will show up, there are now some clues that Doctor Strange 2 will be connected to Disney+’s multiversal animated series What If…?

What If…? explores different possible realities in Marvel’s multiverse, asking, for instance, what would happen if T’Challa became Star Lord instead of Peter Quill, or if Thor didn’t grow up with Loki. Although the series seemed like an anthology of one-offs at the time (I mean, come on, “Party Thor?”), it now looks like Marvel planned to integrate it into the rest of the MCU all along. Here are the biggest clues we’ve found so far that What If…? characters and storylines will make an appearance in Doctor Strange 2!

Doctor Strange Supreme

Evil Doctor Strange in What If...? and the Multiverse of Madness trailer.

In episode 4, “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” Strange is confronted with a sinister variant of himself, one who has spent hundreds of years trying to prevent Christine Palmer’s death in a car accident. This variant’s centuries of absorbing other beings in order to gain their power, coupled with the unresolved emotional anguish of losing the woman he loves, has twisted him into an evil version of himself called Doctor Strange Supreme.

Our first clue that What If…? would tie into Multiverse of Madness came in the teaser trailer, when we saw Strange land in some kind of multiversal vortex, finding a double of himself who bears a remarkable resemblance to Strange Supreme. What’s going to happen when the two Stranges meet? Will it bear any resemblance to their violent confrontation in What If…? We already know there’s going to be more than two versions of Strange, but we don’t know how it’ll all play out.

Captain Carter’s Shield

Captain Carter and her shield fragment on the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness poster.

This clue can’t be found in the trailer itself, but an Internet’s worth of fans pored over the movie’s poster and found a gigantic What If…? connection. In the poster, Strange is surrounded by what look like shards of broken glass (possibly echoing the broken watch face in the trailer, which in turn calls the shattered Sacred Timeline to mind), and in the shards, you can see various characters and props. In the lower right-hand corner of the poster, one shard has what looks like Captain America’s vibranium shield … except it displays a Union Jack instead of an American flag.

Anyone who watched What If…? will immediately recognize this shield as the one carried by Captain Carter, the Captain America variant who came into being in a universe in which Steve Rogers was injured and Peggy Carter took the super-soldier serum in his place. Does this mean that Hayley Atwell is returning to the MCU to play a live-action Captain Carter?

Right now, it’s difficult to say. It’s possible that Captain Carter could be a member of the Illuminati, or she may make a cameo appearance elsewhere in the movie. One thing we know for sure is that her shield’s presence on the movie poster is no accident.

Shuma-Gorath/Gargantos

Captain Carter vs. Gargantos/Shuma-Gorath and the monster's appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Speaking of Captain Carter, remember how she got from the 1940s to the 21st century in What If…? If you need a refresher, in episode 1, ” What If…Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?” a giant tentacle monster emerges from the tesseract when Red Skull tries to win WWII by summoning a demon. When Captain Carter fights the monster back inside, she gets sucked in herself. Then, she emerges 70 years later to head up the Avengers and, later, the Guardians of the Multiverse. Later, we see the tentacle monster again, when Doctor Strange absorbs its power in episode 4.

When the episode aired, fans recognized the monster as Shuma-Gorath (renamed Gargantos because of a copyright issue), and we saw the monster again in the Multiverse of Madness teaser trailer. At the time, it seemed like Marvel was just reusing a popular monster that fans would recognize from the original Doctor Strange comics. Now that we know there’s a Captain Carter connection, though, we can speculate on what deeper significance Gargantos might have. Where does the monster come from in the movie, since in “our” universe, the tesseract has been destroyed? Is Captain Carter going to come with it?

Zombie Strange and Wanda

Zombie Doctor Strange?

Of all the possible What If…? connections, this one might be the least expected.

Episode 5, “What If…Zombies!?” is exactly that: the Marvel universe is taken over by zombies. The survivors fight the zombies as they try to find a cure, but things don’t look very hopeful for them when the episode ends. The episode was an adaptation of the Marvel Zombies comics and felt to many fans like one of the sillier (though still really fun) episodes of What If…? I’m not sure if anyone was expecting the zombie hordes to make their way into the live-action world of the MCU.

But it looks like they have! In the What If…? episode, one of the scariest zombies is Zombie Wanda, since she retains her powers even after succumbing to the zombie virus. In the Multiverse of Madness trailer, we see a very quick shot of what looks for all the world like Zombie Wanda wielding chaos magic. It’s hard to tell for sure, though.

However, we have other, clearer shots of what looks like Zombie Strange. First, we see him staring at his hand as it disintegrates, and then we see him levitating and growing extra arms that look black, skeletal, and very dead. It’s not clear whether this is “our” Strange or a variant, or whether he’s the same type of zombie as the zombies in What If…?, but the connection is definitely there.

An Animated Segment?

Doctor Strange and America Chavez fall upside down through a portal into an animated world.

This last possible connection is definitely the weirdest. In the second trailer, we see Strange and America Chavez falling through a portal between realities. The moment flashes by incredibly quickly in the trailer, but if you look closely at the still below, you’ll see that the reality they’re entering seems to be animated. Yes, as in a cartoon.

What!? What on Earth(s) is going on here? Bringing elements of What If…? into the MCU is one thing, but having animated realities in the multiverse is taking it to the next level.

Are there more What If…? connections in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness? We’ll find out when it premieres on May 6!

(images: Marvel Entertainment)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and watches Marvel movies. You can check out more of her writing at linktr.ee/juliaglassman, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.