Warning! Contains spoilers for The Marvels While the X-Men are on their way to the MCU at some point in the future, Marvel Studios has still managed to sneak in a number of references to mutants into the ever-growing shared universe. Since 2008’s Iron Man kicked off the MCU movie timeline, has introduced hundreds of characters from the Marvel universe to help flesh out their interconnected multiverse. However, back when Marvel Studios was still fresh, they didn’t have access to significant characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Before Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, the word “mutant” could never even be said in a Marvel movie or TV show (let alone referencing the X-Men), and characters that both studios shared had access to had to be retooled for the respective universes.
However, things have changed for the better, as the Fantastic Four and X-Men rights have come into Marvel Studios’ possession. There’s no concrete news on the MCU’s X-Men movie yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Even if the X-Men haven’t been on-screen alongside the Avengers, the MCU has cleverly had a handful of nods to the beloved mutants. Marvel Studios didn’t break any of the rules binding their old legal agreement with Fox, but they have still managed to plant a number of X-Men references and Easter eggs throughout the Infinity Saga and the ongoing Multiverse Saga timeline.
15 Wolverine’s Weapon X Connects To Captain America
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The MCU’s first X-Men reference was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to Wolverine’s past in early franchise black sheep, The Incredible Hulk. In the second MCU movie, Thunderbolt Ross’s (William Hurt) plan to capture the Hulk see him give Emil Blonsky’s (Tim Roth) a modified version of the Super Serum formula, creating The Abomination. A closer look at the villain’s origin sequence reveals that the serum was produced by Stark Industries in conjunction with Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Most interestingly, the experimental program is revealed to have been called “Weapons Plus”, the same one from Marvel Comics that gave Wolverine (Weapon X) his iconic Adamantium exo-skeleton.
14 Dr Erik Selvig’s Research Reveals The Fault
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
2013’s Thor: The Dark World managed to sneak in an X-Men reference that likely didn’t get noticed by a lot of mainstream audiences. During the latter half of the Thor sequel, an absurd scene with Dr. Erik Selvig actually has an Easter egg that is one of those blink-or-you’ll-miss-it nods. As his mind isn’t all together just yet, Dr. Selvig is rambling and explaining to the other patients about celestial events that are written on his blackboard. While most of it may be gibberish to some, there is one in particular that has a connection to the Marvel Universe, and that is X-Men Easter egg the Fault.
In the comics, the Fault is tied to a major X-Men tory event. After the war between the Kree and the Shi’ar Empire, led by Vulcan (the mutant brother of Cyclops and Havok), a rift in space was created in a battle between Vulcan and Black Bolt. That breach in space then introduced the so-called Cancerverse to the Marvel Universe, which is a reality where the concept of death had been defeated. So far, the MCU has not mentioned the Cancerverse explicitly, however, the mention of The Fault did allow Marvel Studios to give the fans one of its earliest hints at the MCU Multiverse. But it also served as something related to the X-Men comics without specifically mentioning mutants.
13 The Maximoff Twins Have Special Genetics
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) & The Wakanda Files (2020)
In Marvel Comics, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are revealed to be the children of X-Men veteran villain Magneto. Obviously that wasn’t possible in the MCU, given Fox’s ownership of the necessary character rights, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be mutants. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the twins – played by Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson – were introduced as Hydra guinea pigs as part of experiments on the Mind Stone. Many test subjects were killed, but Wanda and Pietro survived, gaining extraordinary superpowers they would debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron a year later.
The mystery of why they weren’t killed and instead gained powers came in 2021’s Wakanda Files – an in-universe book written by Shuri, which explained that the Maximoffs had genetic markers that suggested latent superpowers. In other words, they were as close to mutants as the MCU could ever say.
12 Mysterious Lightning Strikes In The 1970s Hint At Storm
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Avengers: Endgame became a heavy time-travel story as the remaining heroes went back in time to borrow Infinity Stones in order to undo Thanos’ actions in Avengers: Infinity War. After a hiccup with getting the Tesseract, Iron Man and Captain America travel to the 1970s in order to obtain more Pym Particles. But it’s also to borrow the Tesseract from a different time period. During Steve’s journey, he almost encounters Peggy Carter, who had passed away from old age in the present during Captain America: Civil War.
As Steve avoids being seen, he overhears Peggy talking with another agent about “Braddock’s unit” (a Captain Britain reference) being stopped by lightning strikes. But Peggy goes on to say that it’s not the lightning strikes they’re looking at, after having reviewed the weather projections, alluding to one of the most popular X-Men of all time: Storm. While the MCU got to name-drop Captain Britain himself, it does seem that they also teased Ororo Munroe’s existence.
11 Mutant Sanctuary Madripoor Comes To The MCU
Falcon & The Winter Soldier (2021)
One of the locations in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is Madripoor, which is somewhere in the Indonesian Archipelago of Southeast Asia. The MCU depiction of the location gave it the history of having been a pirate, criminal, and outlaw sanctuary since the 1800s. However, the Madripoor X-Men connection is undeniable, as it’s a location that has appeared in various X-Men stories. One of the notable Madripoor-based X-men stories saw Wolverine tryd to hide from the world and make a new identity when society believed all mutants to be dead. Perhaps there are several mutants who live there currently that the MCU may revisit down the line.
10 Evan Peters’ Quicksilver Returns… Sort Of
While Aaron Taylor-Johnson played Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pietro Maximoff sadly didn’t last beyond his first film. As Quicksilver took a literal bullet for Hawkeye, Wanda lost her one remaining family member, which became a big part of her journey. However, in the Fox X-Men Universe, Evan Peters played a version of Pietro with no ties to the Avengers. But after Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Peters’s Quicksilver got acknowledged in the MCU, sort of. During WandaVision season 1, episode 5, “On a Very Special Episode…,” Peters makes a surprise appearance in Wanda’s manipulated Westview as a “recast” version of Quicksilver.
Even though Peters playing Quicksilver meant something more to the audience than Wanda, it turned out that he wasn’t actually taking over for Taylor-Johnson. It was a bait-and-switch, and one not all fans appreciated. Rather than being the real Quicksilver, he was actually revealed to be an imposter who had been put under a spell by the Katheryn Hahn’s Agatha Harkness. In reality, he was an aspiring actor by the name of Ralph Bohner. It was disappointing to some fans that this wasn’t the MCU bringing Peters’ version of the character into canon. However, it was still neat of WandaVision to use it as a wink to the audience from the X-Men movies.
9 Professor Charles Xavier Joins The Illuminati
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Even though Evan Peter’s “Quicksilver” turned out to be a controversial bait-and-switch, it wouldn’t be long before a real mutant showed up in the MCU. Thanks to the creation of the Multiverse, audiences have seen alternate universes within the MCU. As revealed in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, some clearly already contain mutants. This is how the MCU introduced its first confirmed on-screen mutant – Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X) of Earth 838.
Unlike the WandaVision Quicksilver appearance, this is confirmed to be the same Professor X who founded the X-Men and vowed to find a way to bring peace between humanity and mutantkind. It should be noted that he doesn’t implicitly say the word “mutant,” but shots of the X-Mansion were cheekily included in early Doctor Strange 2 trailers. This Charles Xavier is a member of Earth 838’s Illuminati, and to make doubly sure audiences know he is indeed Professor X, the famous X-Men 97 intro riff plays when he makes his appearance. He’s even riding in the same yellow hoverchair made famous by the original animated series in the ’90s.
The Charles Xavier of Earth 838 is shown to have the same incredible telepathic abilities as his comic-book and Fox movies counterpart. Sadly, his powers aren’t on par with the Scarlet Witch, however, and Wanda makes short work of Professor X by psychically snapping his neck. It’s fitting that Professor X would be the first mutant to appear in the MCU, being the founder of the original X-Men. Whether the MCU Earth 616 has its own Charles Xavier isn’t yet known. However, as of Ms. Marvel, the MCU does have its first Earth-616 mutant, without any Multiverse variants or Agatha Harkness trickery to be seen.
8 Kamala Khan’s Gene Analysis Results Make Her A Mutant
Ms. Marvel (2022)
In the finale of Ms. Marvel, the oft-speculated origin of Kamala Khan’s powers was finally revealed – and she’s a mutant. In Episode 6 of the Disney+ series, Kamala has Bruno investigate her origin and, most importantly, her genetics. What he says when he delivers his findings could possibly be one of the most important moments in the MCU so far. He tells Kamala he’s spotted something that makes her different from her family, “like a mutation.” It’s the first time a character in the MCU has used the M-word and confirmed that mutants exist in the MCU.
Now, this choice of words could have been deliberate fan bait. Marvel has been accused of doing this before, such as when Evan Peters showed up as “Quicksilver” in Wandavision. As if to make sure audiences knew the studio had learned its lesson, however, when the Kamala-Mutant reveal is made, the same X-Men 97 riff that appeared alongside Professor X in Doctor Strange 2 is played. This is almost as clear an indication possible that Kamala’s mutation is the same kind that earns one entry into Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (if such a place exists in the MCU yet).
This isn’t only significant because it introduced its first official mutant. In the comics, Kamala Khan is an Inhuman. Ms. Marvel’s Inhuman origins have always been pretty central to her character, too. It was one thing for the Ms. Marvel MCU series to break away from her being an Inhuman, but it’s another step entirely to retcon a distinctly non-mutant character into a potential X-Man. Inhumans and Mutants are different in the comics, so much so that the hypocrisy of anti-mutant sentiment not extending to Inhumans is a theme of more than one book. Marvel even tried using Inhumans to downplay the prominence of the X-Men in popularity, back before Disney/Marvel Studios owned the license to the property. Kamala Khan making the jump from Inhuman to mutant is perhaps their biggest break from comic-book canon yet. It also opens the door for other characters being granted mutanthood within the MCU that never possessed an X-Gene in the comic books.
7 Hulk Always Had Latent Superhero Genetics
Like the Maximoff twins and Ms. Marvel before him, Hulk was revealed to have genetic markers that made his superhero origin possible years after his debut. In She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode 1, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner reveals that he and his cousin Jennifer Walters share “a rare combination of genetic factors” allowing their bodies to synthesize Gamma radiation. That in turn suggested that those genetic anomalies were the reason they survived exposure to Gamma radiation. In other words, they possessed a mutant gene that meant they didn’t die during their transformations in Hulks.
6 Wait, Wolverine Exists Already In The MCU?!
The MCU dropped several Wolverine hints in other MCU projects prior to the announcement of his return in Deadpool 3. Most notably, an Easter egg in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law saw a news headline mention a man with metal claws taking part in a bar-room brawl. While metal claws could reference a number of Marvel characters, its appearance so close to the Hugh Jackman Deadpool 3 reveal means there’s a strong chance it was a reference to Logan himself.
Later in the same season, Nikki Ramos (Ginger Gonzaga) jumped out from behind a wall, with makeup brushes between her fingers, and saying “snikt.” For all Wolverine fans, that sound effect links directly to Marvel Comics’ berserker when he extends his claws. Quite how Nikki knew the reference is unclear, even with She-Hulk’s fourth wall and universe-breaking finale.
5 She-Hulk Directly Asking K.E.V.I.N. For The X-Men
4 She-Hulk (2022)
In the She-Hulk finale, Jen just flat out asks K.E.V.I.N. when viewers will be getting an X-Men movie in the MCU. Echoing Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige’s words on the matter, the K.E.V.I.N. robot responds with, “I cannot tell you that.” The implication here is that there is an X-Men movie on the way, but for now, audiences will need to be content with its release date remaining a mystery. While this was a 4th wall break (K.E.V.I.N. doesn’t exist within the MCU itself, after all), it’s still one of the most overt acknowledgements of the MCU’s glaring lack of X-Men so far.
3 Namor Is A Mutant
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
One rather subtle X-Men reference in the MCU can be found in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, when it’s revealed by Namor himself that the reason for his incredible powers and winged feet is the fact that Namor is a mutant. When Namor’s mother was pregnant with him, she consumed the sacred herb that allowed the Talokan people to live their lives underwater, safe from the surface world. Combined with the intervention of the Talokan gods, the result was that Namor became a mutant – stronger, faster, and more capable than any other Talokan. Namor was never a member of the X-Men, but he did encounter them throughout the comics. Moreover, with such a major character like Namor being revealed to be a mutant, there’s an even stronger foundation in the MCU for the X-Men to finally make their debut.
2 Kelsey Grammer’s Beast Returns (Again)
The Marvels (2023)
Sir Patrick Stewart’s cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was shocking, but Kelsey Grammer’s return in The Marvels was even more world-changing. Beast turned up in The Marvels‘ post-credit scene, after Monica Rambeau is trapped in the wrong reality, suggesting she may have actually landed in the Fox X-Men universe. The Illuminati’s Professor Xavier was something of a stand-alone, and there were no further hints of the X-Men in his universe other than speculation, but Beast was clearly part of an established X-Men team. His computer monitor had the old X-Men logo, the door to his lab was the same X design as the original movies, and he mentioned giving “Charles” an update.
Most importantly, The Marvels‘ Beast cameo seems to be the belated explanation for how the X-Men could come to the MCU: an incursion event could smash the two realities together. For now, they remain separate, but Monica Rambeau’s future presumably must include the appearance of multiple original X-Men movie actors.
1 Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Is Coming to The MCU
Deadpool 3 (2024)
The first movie to feature X-Men characters is coming at the end of MCU Phase 5 or the start of Phase 6 — Deadpool 3. Deadpool 3 has an July 26 2024 release date and is confirmed to be part of the MCU canon. The exact story is tightly under wraps – it could be that the MCU Deadpool is a variant of the Fox version, or the Fox Wade Wilson is traveling the Multiverse. The Fox X-Men universe could be a target on Kang the Conqueror’s Multiverse Incursion hit list before Avengers: Secret Wars. There is one confirmed Deadpool 3 casting that bears a lot of weight for the status of Mutantkind in the MCU though: Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman have confirmed that the latter is returning to play Wolverine in Deadpool 3.