Marvel’s Phase Three has arguably been its most ambitious one yet. We’ve seen the introduction of major new players like Spider-Man and Black Panther, and we’ve also gotten the culmination of years of storytelling, like when Thanos finally attacks in Avengers: Infinity War. Part of what makes these movies so great is that every single scene is filled with references, cameos, and assorted easter eggs. You can literally return to the same movie a dozen or more times and find something new to discover each time. However, some fans are naturally going to be able to notice more than others.
No, these fans don’t have any special abilities -- they aren’t secretly Asgardian or Wakandan. Instead, they have the simplest superpower of all: they spent a lifetime reading Marvel Comics, and because the MCU is devoted to adapting these comics in a faithful way, there is plenty for the average Marvel superfan to notice. Sometimes, these are details about characters. Even a casual throwaway line in one movie may reference a character that we wouldn’t be introduced to for nearly a decade. Other times, those with a keen eye can see iconic comic book panels recreated in vivid detail on the big screen. Are you interested in discovering these secrets on your own? Don’t worry, you won’t have to spend your own lifetime reading Marvel comics. All you have to do is keep scrolling in order to finally discover 20 little things only real Marvel fans noticed in MCU’s Phase Three.
20 SHARPE MARIAH
The real secret of the MCU’s success are the great characters, and behind every great character is, of course, a great actor. Every now and then, though, great actors are behind two entirely different characters, which is the case when it comes to iconic actor Alfre Woodard.
In Captain America: Civil War, she plays the role of Miriam Sharpe. This is the woman whose son passed away in Sokovia, and she blames Iron Man for his demise. Marvel was clearly impressed with her performance and ended up giving her a much larger role as Black Mariah in Luke Cage. When you have an actor this good, who can blame them?
19 ENTER THE NOMAD
Chris Evans’ Captain America quickly became a fan-favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and became a huge hit even with the most casual fans. To those casual fans, his Infinity War appearance -- all dark and bearded -- may have just seemed like an excuse to give him a cool new look. In reality, it’s a really great easter egg for comics fans.
In the comics, even Cap reached his limit, and he became sick of American government and politics. At that point, he traded in his red, white, and blue to become the roaming hero called The Nomad. Chris Evans’ appearance in Infinity War is a great homage to this dark period in Cap’s comic life.
18 TONY AND THE GOLIATH
One of the things fans love so much about the MCU is how connected and planned out everything is, and while they didn’t have everything planned from the beginning (such as Thanos), a surprising amount of events and characters were foreshadowed. For instance, an Ant-Man and the Wasp character was mentioned way back in Iron Man 2!
In a quick line in that movie, Tony Stark tells JARVIS to get him everything “on projects Pegasus, Exodus, and Goliath.” Of course, we later find out that Bill Foster worked on Project Goliath before having a pretty colossal falling out with Hank Pym. Heck, give Iron Man 2 some credit for really great foreshadowing: it even had a visual reference to Wakanda!
17 PINK FLOYD, WE HAVE COME TO BARGAIN
If fans had to pick one word to describe the Doctor Strange movie, it was this: “trippy.” The film is filled with out of this world visuals, which is complemented by songs such as Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive.” As it turns out, the Pink Floyd appearance is a fun easter egg all by itself!
In 1968, the Floyd album "A Saucerful of Secrets" had a psychedelic cover that included a panel from the Doctor Strange comic, and the character of Strange was mentioned a year later in the song “Cymbaline.” So, Floyd were Strange fans from way back, and it’s only fitting they appear in the character’s big screen debut.
16 SOKOVIAN SECRETS
When the MCU adapts classic characters and stories, they walk a thin line between paying accurate homage to the original and still creating something new. A great example of this is the “Sokovia Accords.” And only longtime comics fans know exactly what was changed for this adaptation (and why).
In the comics, the inciting incident for the Civil War story was “The Superhero Registration Act.” This act would force all heroes to surrender their identities to the government and become paid employees, but those with secret identities resisted. Most MCU heroes don’t have secret identities, so the movie version focused only only the “you must work with world governments” aspect.
15 WATCHING THE WATCHERS
At this point, every single Marvel movie comes with a built-in game: spotting the Stan Lee cameo! After the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we got a cameo where he was on a mysterious planet and chatting with mysterious beings. To comics fans, this was his most hilarious appearance yet!
This is because he was talking to the Watchers, who are in charge of observing the universe and its most important moments. Stan Lee’s dialogue talks about all of his different cameos, highly implying that he is a Watcher who assumed human form to help watch the characters and events that have shaped the MCU.
14 SHINER ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
Spider-Man: Homecoming started with a couple of unique directing choices. First, there was the interesting (and confusing) connection to the events in the first Avengers movie. Then, we got Peter Parker’s recordings of his adventures in Captain America: Civil War, and it’s this second part that contains a really nice bit of continuity.
While most audience members were too busy laughing at his jokes to notice, this scene shows that Tony still has a shiner on his face. Look closely, and this is an injury he got from Captain America: Civil War, and it’s still there because not much time had gone by. Attention to these kinds of details is why fans really love the MCU.
13 ENTER THE... JUGGERNAUT?
Many Marvel fans were waiting with bated breath to see how the deal between Disney and Fox would end up. The reason is simple: they saw this as the only way to bridge the worlds between the MCU and franchises like Fantastic Four and X-Men. However, if you look closely, and that bridge has already been crossed!
For instance, in Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange uses the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak to try to combat Thanos. As Marvel comics fans know, Cyttorak is the dark and powerful being that powers the unstoppable Juggernaut. Thus, with a single spell, Doctor Strange makes an unlikely connection between Infinity War and Deadpool 2.
12 ICONIC SCENE
When you have a series of movies adapting comic books, it’s inevitable that some adaptations will be more literal than others. For instance, there are times when actual comic book panels are recreated on the big screen, and the best example of this occurs in Captain America: Civil War.
Eventually, Cap and Iron Man slug it out, and we have a scene where Iron Man is trying to blast Cap up close and Cap is deflecting it with his shield. This is the most famous scene from the original Civil War comic storyline, and it shows how serious Marvel is about pleasing their fans.
11 DOCTORS AND THE DARKHOLD
Fans of the MCU TV shows have been salty for a while because their storylines are pretty much never referenced in the movies. Meanwhile, movie crossover stuff happens constantly in the TV shows. For instance, a really major Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline is tied to Doctor Strange!
Most of the misadventures in Doctor Strange were caused by people trying to get The Book of Cagliostro, which has powerful dark magics inside it. It turns out that Cagliostro himself studied from The Book of Sins, also known as The Darkhold, and it was this latter book that threatened the entire world when it was discovered in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10 DOES WHATEVER A CAMEO CAN
Remember when we mentioned that Marvel sometimes reuses actors? It doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it can be a pretty obscure callback. And that’s exactly the case when it comes to the teacher who sponsors the academic decathlon that Peter Parker joins, quits, then joins again.
This bearded teacher, mostly known for his sardonic wit, is played by the same actor was in the computer lab in Hulk (and who Bruce Banner bribed with some pizza). Some fans think they may be the same character, but that’s not confirmed. If this isn’t enough, Peter’s Principal Morita is the descendant of Captain America’s war buddy Jim Morita. No wonder they still show the old Cap videos!
9 A RUNAWAYS HIT
One newer MCU show that took the world by surprise was Runaways. It was Hulu’s MCU debut and ended up being a surprisingly faithful and engaging adaptation of the classic comic series. One interesting detail that few know about, however, connects this series to Doctor Strange.
In a scene cut from Doctor Strange, we see the character Tina Minoru (albeit played by a different actor) wielding the Staff of One and preparing for combat. This staff plays a huge role in Runaways, as does Tina herself... and this cut cameo confirms there is more to her than initially meets the eye!
8 THE BILGESNIPE SPOTTED
If you like Marvel easter eggs, then Thor: Ragnarok is absolutely jam-packed with them. Some are relatively obvious, while others are really well-hidden and one of them is really easy to overlook, and it's the (possible) corpse of a bilgesnipe!
In the first Avengers movie, there is a humorous scene where Thor describes the “bilgesnipe,” a creature he thought Earth had. He says they are “huge, scaly,” and have “big antlers.” In Thor: Ragnarok, we first see Valykrie exiting her ship stumbling over the deceased body of a creature that seems to fit this definition perfectly. And now we really want to see one live and up close!
7 ETERNITY: SECRET VILLAIN?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. did a good job of hiding the big bad guy. At first, it seemed the main antagonist would be Ayesha and the Sovereign. Soon, though, we find the real villain is Ego, Peter Quill’s dad who threatened the entire universe. But was there someone else pulling his strings?
When Ego tries to recruit Star-Lord into his scheme, he touches his head. Star-Lord’s eyes fill with stars and he says “I see eternity.” This may be a reference to Eternity, a super-powerful cosmic entity from the Marvel Comics Universe. While it could just be a vague line, we like the idea that this foreshadows even more cosmic weirdness for the MCU’s future.
6 THANOS AT PEACE
Casual Marvel fans were really shook by the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Not only did we see the good guys lose (and many of them turn into dust right in front of us), but we saw Thanos genuinely happy and at peace. Sad? Sure, but hardcore fans know what this was referencing.
In the original Infinity Gauntlet comic, Thanos loses the Gauntlet and eventually gives up trying to get it. He even helps save the universe and ends up in happy retirement on his farm, and while the MCU Thanos is not likely to be finished just yet, this seeming “retirement” is a major comics callback.
5 WORSHIPING THOR AND LOKI
Do you know anyone who took one look at Chris Hemsworth and started worshiping him? As it turns out, quite a few people in the MCU do the same thing. To understand that, though, you have to have a quick pair of eyes. Oh, it helps if you better speak Korean!
In the background of a Spider-Man: Homecoming scene, you can see a building with Korean writing on it. If you take the time to translate (or read the small English text below the larger Korean writing), you’ll see it says “Korean Church of Asgard.” It makes sense, of course. Why wouldn’t someone choose to worship actual gods?
4 BETA RAY BILL CAMEO
As a character, Thor has a longer and richer history than most characters. After all, his story is a mixture of weird, cosmic mythology and classic Norse mythology, and while the MCU has only scratched the surface of his history, Thor: Ragnarok had a cameo (sort of) of one his weirdest allies.
Fans were hoping to see Beta Ray Bill in the MCU at some point. While we haven’t seen this character in the flesh, he is one of the faces on the Grandmaster’s building. Hulk’s face is also on this building, so the implication is that Beta Ray Bill was once a champion for the Grandmaster just like Hulk was.
3 MILES MORALES IN THE MCU
Arguably, the biggest addition to the Spider-Man mythology in recent years has been Miles Morales. In the comics, he is a different Spider-Man from the Ultimate Universe that eventually comes over to the main universe. Fans were hoping to see him in the MCU... but would you believe he’s already there?
It’s true. Spider-Man deals with his uncle, played by Donald Glover. Not only do we know the uncle by name (Aaron Davis), but in a deleted scene, the webbed-up uncle calls his nephew and refers to him as Miles. Of course, this overjoyed fans: it appears that Miles Morales is officially in the MCU!
2 SOUNDCLOUD SECRETS
Black Panther had some of the most memorable villains in the MCU. While Killmonger stole the show, Klaw was a villain who was as funny as he was engaging for audiences. He has a pretty funny throwaway line about the album he will drop soon on Soundcloud, but this itself is a reference to some obscure comics trivia.
At one point in the comics, Klaw’s scheming and plans had a weird sound effect: he got turned into a creature of living sound. Therefore, the MCU Klaw having a Soundcloud is both easter egg and pun, as the original character was basically a “soundcloud” on his own!
1 A “NEBULOUS” CONNECTION
As fun as it was, Avengers: Infinity War had some scenes that were tough to watch. One such scene involved Thanos with a captured Nebula. He had already torn parts of her out before and made her more like a machine over the years, and now, he used technology to separate body and machine and cause her immense pain.
Marvel fans know that this was a reference to the original Infinity Gauntlet comic. There, Thanos used the Gauntlet to attack Nebula and keep her in a state of "not-quite-alive". She eventually grabbed the Gauntlet and used it, making fans wonder if the MCU Nebula has a bigger destiny ahead of her!