The identity of the mystery fiery guy in the new Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness teaser has sparked a lot of speculation. Is it possible that Captain Marvel has gone full Binary? Is Monica Rambeau on a roll? When did the Human Torch first debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Is Sunfire resigning from the Illuminati? Is it Vulcan, and Doctor Strange 2 is really a reimagining of the War of Kings? It’s unlikely to be the final one.
However, there is one fascinating possibility: a Tony Stark who fits the tone of the film…
SUPERIOR IRON MAN
Under attack by Red Onslaught (Red Skull with some of Charles Xavier’s brain grafted on), the Scarlet Witch uses a spell to “invert” Red Skull’s brain and bring Xavier’s forward in Axis, a Marvel summer comics crossover event from 2014. Unfortunately, the spell twisted practically everyone’s morals, including some Avengers, X-Men, and a special ops team of villains on a specific mission. So Tony becomes evil, reintroduces drinking, and provides a free download of his new Extremis app to a stadium full of people.
Everyone was restored to normal once Axis finished, with the exception of Sabertooth, Havok, and Iron Man himself, who used a shield to protect himself from the reversion spell. We had a few more months of Tony being a jerk – he released his Extremis app and hooked millions of people on it, demanding a daily subscription to keep the money coming.
Iron Man was eventually de-Superiored, but only after Secret Wars, a massive reset of Marvel chronology. Superior Iron Man fought Captain America in a fistfight in the closing minutes of Earth 616, fighting over their broken relationship before Earth 1610 collided with it in the final incursion before the multiverse was destroyed.
Superior Iron Man’s armour was silver from the neck down, with silver facial buttresses framing his exposed face and hair. It was also “intended to glow…when he was upset,” according to co-creator Tom Taylor.
So, how does this Iron Man fit into a multiverse-spanning Illuminati? My theory is based on the fact that they’re all terrible guys, at least according to the trailer. Let’s have a look at the proof
It’s worth mentioning that the Illuminati in comic books have the opposite problem as most MCU antagonists. Call it the Flag-Smasher problem: in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the villains appear to be decent people for most of the tale, only to be required to do something dramatically horrific to emphasise that we’re not supposed to empathise with them. We’re constantly told in the comics that Mr Fantastic, Iron Man, Professor X, Black Bolt, and the rest are good guys, only to see them do OUTRAGEOUSLY terrible things like sending the Hulk into space because he was mind-controlled, or blowing up the DC universe (see New Avengers #18-24, “A Perfect World”). As a result, whether you’re modifying a version of them into the multiverse, it would make sense to have them be just the pits:
And it appears that they are! It’ll be difficult to portray Patrick Stewart as a nasty man because everyone likes him, but having Baron Mordo in the gang certainly helps (that’s him with the sword). And the Ultron labourers give the entire thing a horrible sense, especially if the jail where Multiversal Christine Palmer appears to be working, where America Chavez is being confined in a glass box, is also where the Illuminati conduct court.
There’s more than a scent of the Council of Reeds about this entire thing, speaking of Ultrons. From Jonathan Hickman’s iconic Fantastic Four series, The Council of Reeds is an interdimensional assembly of Reeds Richards. Doom was one of the problems that Reeds from other realms came together to address using their powerful intellects to solve problems across the multiverse. What is their solution? Capture, lobotomize, and make them labour as the Council’s underclass.
If you don’t want to go to the work of introducing the Fantastic Four’s background to flesh out this Illuminati (which they won’t, since it’s much too hard), then the man who made Ultron is the next best thing. Superior Tony is the perfect arrogant jerk to hire lobotomized replicas of one of the multiverse’s greatest villains to staff his new palace.
ZOMBIE IRON MAN?
There’s also talk that this may be a zombified version of Iron Man. Iron Man in Marvel Zombies is normally depicted with his face uncovered, and I can certainly envision an Iron Man suit lighting him up from the inside like a dorm room Snapple bottle. And, given that zombies from the What If…? episode already make an appearance in the trailer, it’s not completely out of the question. Perhaps the Illuminati use Ultrons for clerical work and zombies for combat? But, if we’re going for the crazy cameo way (and Patrick Stewart as Professor X surely qualifies), Zombie Iron Man looks to squander a chance for an in-joke like the casting of Tom Cruise.