With the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios has brought a close to a decade of long-form cinematic storytelling, while also simultaneously setting up the next decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the process. Of course, with half of the Avengers vanishing into non-existence at the end of Infinity War, the story is far from finished and fans will be spending the next year speculating over how the remaining heroes (as well as some not-yet-introduced ones, judging by that final post-credits scene) might reverse the terrible fate Thanos has wrought.
Of course, a new MCU movie also means new Easter eggs, and Infinity War has a number of great callbacks to old Marvel Comics and pop culture as a whole. Here are the 20 hidden details you may not have noticed the first time through.
20. “Perfect Balance”
Thanos is a big advocate of balancing the universal scales, as it were – so much so that he actually keeps to his word and wipes out half of all life at the end of Infinity War. Unsurprisingly, the notion of perfect balance is brought up quite a bit in Infinity War and even plays out in ways that have nothing to do with superhero genocide, such as the fact that Corvus Glave stabs Vision early on in the film and Vision returns the favor later on. But even the film’s poster reflects this theme, as we see Iron Man holding his arms out as if he’s trying to keep everything in balance and the fact that the poster has 24 characters on it. Why is this significant? Well, exactly half of these characters die, while the other half live. Thanos wills it so!
19. Silver Surfer Not Available? The Hulk Will Have To Do
Much like with Captain America: Civil War a couple of years ago, Infinity War makes a number of significant changes in the transition from comic book to film. One of the biggest and necessary changes is the fact that Silver Surfer does not play into events. In the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, the Silver Surfer plays a very important role and is actually the first hero Thanos seeks out once he collects all the Infinity Gems/Stones. Thanos easily defeats the herald of Galactus and sends him hurtling towards Earth, where he crashes into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum and warns the Sorcerer Supreme that “Thanos is coming.”
Since Silver Surfer is still licensed to Fox and thus unavailable to Marvel Studios (though that may soon change depending on if that Disney/Fox merger goes through), his role was replaced by Bruce Banner/Hulk, who crashes into Strange’s home and gives him the same warning. You could even say that the Hulk “surfs” in on a Bifrost beam, if you call flailing unconscious through space surfing.
18. Eccentric Uncle Morgan
Infinity War picks up from where Spider-Man: Homecoming left off with Tony Stark’s relationship with Pepper Potts. Now engaged and in the midst of planning their wedding, Tony confesses to Pepper that he hopes they will have a child someday and mentions that they could name their kid after her eccentric uncle, Morgan. Morgan, as it turns out, is a character from the comics, albeit with a bit of a different relation to Tony.
Introduced in Tales of Suspense #68 (1965) by Al Hartley and Jack Kirby, Morgan Stark is actually Tony’s cousin and is framed as the counter to Tony. Whereas Tony is born rich and is a self-made billionaire, Morgan was born rich but ended up losing it all, to the point where he tries to sell out his own cousin to help cover his debts. Tony ends up forgiving him, but let’s just go ahead and assume that Morgan Potts is a slightly better class of person if Tony wants to name his own kid after him.
17. Mephisto = Ebony Maw
Another character who plays a major role in the Infinity Gauntlet storyline that couldn’t be used by Marvel is Mephisto. Originally a chief foe of Silver Surfer who has since gone on to become one of the Marvel Universe’s biggest villains, Mephisto essentially serves as Thanos’ lackey during the Infinity Gauntlet series (but only because he is secretly plotting to steal the Gauntlet for himself). In Infinity War, Thanos’ lieutenant from the Black Order, Ebony Maw, essentially occupies the same role as Mephisto, only without the whole backstabbing part.
Maw even goes so far as to repeat an exact line of Mephisto’s from the comics, when he tells Thanos that “my humble personage bows before your grandeur.” It’s too bad Ebony Maw is dispatched rather quickly by Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange, as “Squidward the Space Wizard” is easily the best Child of Thanos featured in Infinity War.
16. The Cauldron of the Cosmos
When Tony Stark enters the Sanctum Sanctorum to be briefed on the Thanos threat, he quickly gets on Doctor Strange’s bad side (probably something to do with the fact that both are kind of egotistical jerks). Things are only made worse when Tony leans on an artifact in the room, which Strange quickly informs him is the Cauldron of the Cosmos, as if Stark should know the significance of what he’s doing. It’s pretty obvious that the Cauldron is important in comic lore, but how?
Well, it’s an artifact that Strange has had in his possession since the early days of The Defenders, though unlike other items such as the Eye of Agarmotto, the Cauldron of the Cosmos really doesn’t have much use besides letting Strange relax and meditate. The Cauldron allows him to view different realities and timelines, though it does have some practical use as well, such as powerful scrying abilities and acting as Strange’s own sort of cosmic Alexa, able to access information quickly when called upon.
15. Doctor Strange: Birthday Entertainer Supreme
Luckily for Tony Stark, he’s able to hold his own against Doctor Strange in the insults department and lands a pretty clever one when he asks, “What is your job exactly, except to make balloon animals?” While no doubt meant to draw attention to the fact that Strange’s get-up makes him look like an eccentric magician who might perform tricks at a children’s birthday parties, it’s also a callback to the very real skit Doctor Strange actor Benedict Cumberbatch performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! back around the time the Doctor Strange movie was in theaters.
In that bit, Strange is invited to Kimmel’s home but instead of battling demons, Kimmel hires him to entertain a kids birthday party. Strange initially refuses, until he finds out that there’s $150 in it for him and proceeds to start making balloon animals for the kids. The skit ends with one of the kids insulting Strange’s balloon animal skills, prompting the Sorcerer Supreme to teleport him to a demonic dimension. In other words, Doctor Strange basically left a kid to die a horrible death in another dimension, but don’t think on it too hard – he’s still one of the good guys (we hope)!
14. Squidward Maw
When Ebony Maw comes to New York to try and take the Time Stone from Doctor Strange, Tony Stark gets a nice dig against him when he tells him, “God away, Squidward. Earth is closed!” For those unfamiliar with the brilliance of the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants, this is a nod to the character Squidward Tentacles, Spongebob’s irritable next door neighbor whom Spongebob believes is one of his best friends. Squidward is kind of a jerk, which is something that can also be said of Ebony Maw, but clearly Tony made the connection due to Maw’s face resembling Squidward’s big, oddly-shaped one.
13. Return of the Zune
One of the best gags in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was easily the Zune MP3 player gifted to Peter and the Milano crew, giving them access to over 300 new classic tunes in the process. We get our first taste of what the Cool Mix Vol. 3 will sound like during the Guardians’ introduction scene in Infinity War, as they are singing along to the song “The Rubberband Man” by The Spinners (fun fact: the track was featured during the mud wrestling scene in Stripes (1981)). Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear any other songs on the Zune but assuming Star-Lord (and every Guardian not named Rocket) are brought back from the dead in Avengers 4, we’re sure to hear more by the time Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 rolls around in 2020.
12. Nomad In All But Name
While Infinity War kind of renders the events of Civil War meaningless in the fact that Thanos and the threat he poses to the universe is a strong uniting force that brings the Avengers back together rather easily, the fallout of those events can still be seen and felt throughout. We see Tony Stark struggle to give Steve Rogers a call, though he surely would have if New York City hadn’t been attacked right as we was trying to dial his number. Speaking of Steve, it looks like he’s adopted the Nomad mantle in the two years he’s been working in the shadows as leader of the “Secret Avengers.”
He still doesn’t have his famous shield, has stripped his uniform of all its colorful flag references, and has even grown a glorious beard to help differentiate himself from his former title. That being said, it’s clear that his closest allies still view him as Captain America, as he’s repeatedly referred to as “Cap.” Still, Steve Rogers has effectively become the Nomad, a.k.a. the “man without a country,” thus leaving the Captain America title up for grabs.
Say, what was Hawkeye up to again?
11. Funke Easter Egg
Long before they hit the big time in Hollywood by directing both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its sequel Civil War, Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo were best known for their work on acclaimed TV comedies such as Community, Happy Endings, and Arrested Development. In particular, Arrested Development was the brother’s true breakout, as they won an Emmy for their work on the series pilot and the 14 subsequent episodes directed between the two of them.
As such, the two have made no secret of the fact that they still have close ties to that series, as evidenced by the Arrested Development Easter egg in Captain America: Civil War (the Bluth family’s stair car is present during the big airport fight scene). Well, Infinity War continues this tradition by featuring a cameo from David Cross’ Tobia Funke. Once almost a part of the Blue Man Group, Tobias appears, covered in blue paint, as a part of the Collector’s collection during the scene on Knowhere.
During the same Knowhere scene, Thanos is shown interrogating the Collector in an effort to find the Reality Stone. While this ends up all being part of an illusion set up by Thanos to trick the Guardians of the Galaxy, the titan’s faux interrogation scene actually includes a clever nod to the 2000 British crime movie Snatch. Benicio del Toro, who plays the Collector, was also in Snatch, playing diamond thief Franky “Four-Fingers.” In the film’s opening scene, Franky and his gang break into a diamond company, where Franky, on the hunt for a gigantic 86-carat diamond, proceeds to keep asking people, “Where is the stone?” In a bit of a role reversal, Thanos poses the same question to del Toro’s character while trying to get him to give up the Reality Stone.
9. Reality-Bending Attacks
Thanos puts the beat down on pretty much every Avenger to some degree throughout Infinity War, but his most creative and visually-striking attack comes during the Knowhere scene where, Reality Stone newly in-Gauntlet, Thanos turns Mantis’ body into ribbons and Drax into brick-like stones. The pair thankfully recover from these horrifying body alterations, but the attacks themselves come right from the source material. In Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos pulls the same moves on Nebula and Starfox, a.k.a. Eros.
8. Thanos Vs. Bubbles
In one of the film’s most emotionally poignant scenes, Gamora is captured by Thanos and begs Peter Quill to fulfill the promise he swore on his mother’s life he’d uphold: to kill Gamora if she were to ever be captured by her father. Ultimately, he aims his blaster at Gamora and pulls the trigger, only to find that his gun now fires harmless bubbles thanks to a cruel trick Thanos plays with the use of the Reality Stone.
While you might think that the bubbles are there to draw attention to Star-Lord’s weapons kinda resembling water guns, it could also be a callback to the beloved 2000 fighting game, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Thanos was a playable character on the game’s roster and for some reason, his attacks all had bubble animations on them. It’s a confounding detail to be sure, but at least now we know that it’s because Thanos must have been wielding the Reality Stone in the game!
7. The White Wolf
Building upon an Easter egg first introduced in Black Panther, we find out that T’Challa now refers to Bucky Barnes as the “White Wolf.” This is significant because in the comics, this is the name given to an outsider stranded in Wakanda, but also signifies the person raised to eventually become the Black Panther’s most trusted soldier. The White Wolf also becomes the head of the Wakandan secret police service. Assuming Bucky comes back from the dead in Avengers 4, he now has a couple of different possible future careers lined up, in that he could stay in Wakanda by T’Challa’s side or become the new Captain America (or go back to being a brainwashed Hydra agent, who knows?).
6. Vormir … Really??
There was a ton of fan speculation leading up to the release of Infinity War as to the whereabouts of the final Infinity Stone, the Soul Stone. There were dozens of popular theories bouncing around, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who correctly guessed that the stone would be on the planet Vormir, with the Red Skull of all people acting as its gatekeeper. Vormir is an incredibly obscure planet in the Marvel Universe, home to a race called the Vorms who travel from planet to planet feasting off its lifeforms.
In an interesting tie to the Guardians of the Galaxy, the history of the Vorms is recounted in Avengers #124 (1974), which also contained the first appearance of Mantis. Fittingly, the very next issue, Avengers #125, marked the first time the Avengers fought Thanos, as part of a crossover story with Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel series.
5. Flash Gordon
In addition to Doctor Strange, Tony Stark is paired with another arrogant, hot-headed male hero in the form of Star-Lord, whom Stark refers to dismissively at one point as “Flash Gordon.” Star-Lord, a child of the 80s, takes the comparison as a compliment, but what Tony may not have realized is just how closely Peter Quill’s origin story resembles that of Flash Gordon’s.
Like Quill, Gordon is a human who blasts off from Earth into unknown space, only to eventually become a hero and take down an evil alien despot. Unfortunately, Peter Quill really doesn’t do Flash Gordon or humanity in general proud in Infinity War, as he sabotages his team’s efforts to steal the Infinity Gauntlet off of Thanos when he loses his cool after learning about Gamora’s death and essentially dooms half of all life in the universe in the process. Way to go, Star-Prince.
4. And My Axe!
Although Thor is at his funniest in both Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War, the God of Thunder sure has been put through the ringer as of late. As he sadly recounts to Rocket, Thor’s entire family is now dead and he also lost an eye and his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, for good measure. Fortunately, Thor thrives on adversity and picks himself right back up to try and go another round with Thanos, venturing to Nidavellir to convince the blacksmith Eitri to forge him a new weapon capable of killing the Mad Titan.
The new weapon, dubbed Stormbreaker, is similar to the hammer/axe hybrid Thor used in the Ultimate Universe and the name of the weapon is a reference to the hammer that Odin himself has Eitri forge for Beta Ray Bill after the latter proved he was worthy of wielding Mjolnir. Because why have one all-powerful Hammer of the Gods when you can have two?
3. Vision’s New Look
The Avengers come so close to putting a halt to Thanos before he can acquire all six Infinity Stones, with Scarlet Witch going so far as to destroy the Mind Stone (and Vision in the process) so that the Mad Titan can’t get his greedy giant hands on it. Unfortunately, Thanos easily remedies this setback by reversing time and ripping the Mind Stone from Vision’s head, rendering the hero colorless and down for the count.
However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Vision this way, as his muted palette bears a resemblance to his appearance in John Byrne’s late 80s/early 90s run on Avengers West Coast. In that arc, Vision is captured and subsequently dismantled by distrustful government forces. When he’s reassembled, Vision is pale and has lost his emotional attachments to humanity. Could this be a clue to where we’ll see Vision go next in Avengers 4 (assuming he’s not dead, of course)?
2. Thanos the Farmer
At one point in the film, Thanos claims that after he accomplishes his mission of wiping out half of all life, he’ll retire and smile upon a grateful universe. True to his word, this is exactly what Thanos does in the final scene of Infinity War, as we see him resting in a cabin overlooking a peaceful-looking valley somewhere with a big, self-satisfied grin on his face.
As it turns out, this is similar to the way the Infinity Gauntlet story closes out, as Thanos settles down for life as a farmer after Adam Warlock and the rest of the Avengers manage to reverse his genocidal actions. We have no idea what’s in store for Thanos next, but we doubt he’s going to be able to relish his “good deed” for long once the Avengers figure out how to undo what he has done.
1. Captain Marvel
Alright, so this is an Easter egg that would only go over the most casual fan’s heads, but it’s so prominent that it’s worth mentioning all the same. In Infinity War’s post-credits scene, Nick Fury manages to send out a distress signal on some sort of pager device just before he fades into nothingness along with half of the universe. The pager responds with a logo that belongs to Captain Marvel, a character who has not yet been properly introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but who will be played by Brie Larson in her own movie next year.
With Captain Marvel both taking place prior to Infinity War and releasing before Avengers 4, it’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll discover why Carol Danvers is so important in reversing what Thanos has done but until such time, we’re at a bit of a loss as to what role she’ll play in the coming second act of this war.