WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3, streaming now on Netflix.
Stranger Things is a love letter to the 1980s, especially to horror and sci-fi of the era, but as much as fans look for Stephen King and Lovecraftian references, there's another geek aesthetic embedded in the fabric of the series.
Since its 2016 deubt, the series' pop-culture language has been more than just Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, with callbacks to comic books of the decade. With that in mind, let's look at the comic book allusions in Season 3.
At camp, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) tinkered with his ham radio, transforming it into a device he dubs Cerebro, a reference to the apparatus that Charles Xavier uses in the X-Men comics to amplify his telepathic abilities to detect mutants around the globe.
However, Dustin uses his Cerebro to communicate with his new girlfriend, Suzie, in Utah, and ultimately help to save the day (after an endearing duet of the theme song to The NeverEnding Story, of course).
THE DC FANGIRLS
After Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) uses her psychic abilities to spy on the boys, Max (Sadie Sink) insists they should forget about them, and live their own lives. She offers Eleven a couple of comics, which are a foreign concept to El. Max holds up Green Lantern #185 and Wonder Woman #326. El opts for the latter, in which Wonder Woman visits the fictional Central American country of Tropidor, and ends up feuding with an Aztec god.
It's quite fitting because El, herself, is Hawkins' own version of Wonder Woman, and with these era-appropriate issues, it shows why Max fit in so well with the group of nerds. She may be cool and into skateboarding, but she goes on to educate her friend as to why Diana of Themyscira is one of the most badass, inspirational and independent superheroes around.
THE JEAN GREY FACTOR
Eleven isn't explicitly called Jean Grey, despite her telepathic and telekinetic powers, but in past seasons, the boys referred to her as their own Marvel Girl. That said, in Season 3, El really does come to the fore as a powerful "mutant," evidenced by how she flung the Meat Monster around, as well as the infected Billy (Dacre Montgomery).
As for Billy, once the Mind Flayer infects him, he becomes its physical avatar, converting victims into the Flayed so it could form a larger Meat Monster and try to kill El. Most of all, we see the Dark Phoenix battle in him as he keeps meeting his darker self in his mind. In the finale, El appeals to Billy's humanity, helping him to break free from his dark overlord. It's similar to when the X-Men had to appeal to Jean to turn away from the lure of the Dark Phoenix.
THE CYBORG METAL SESSION
When Dustin, Erica (Priah Ferguson), Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Thurman-Hawke) are trapped in the secret Soviet facility beneath Starcourt Mall, Dustin mentions the Russians could be transporting illicit materials, and mining such substances as Promethium. Erica is too young, and Steve oblivious, to pick up on the reference, which leads to an explanation from Dustin and surprisingly, Robin, about what that metal is.
They break down how it's the compound that makes up Cyborg's body in DC comics. Clearly, they're fans of The New Teen Titans.
Created by the Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Priah Ferguson, Cary Elwes, Jake Busey and Maya Thurman-Hawke.