The arrival of Charles Xavier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was perhaps the most poorly guarded secret in Hollywood. Months before the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the film’s Super Bowl trailer featured Patrick Stewart’s unmistakable voice. Subsequent teasers showed Professor X’s iconic yellow hoverchair from X-Men: The Animated Series. Stewart even showed up at the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles.
But the question remains, what does Professor X’s return mean for the MCU at large? Doctor Strange 2 doesn’t reveal much — the word Mutants doesn’t even come up — but one easy-to-miss detail could reveal what’s next for Xavier and his school for gifted youngsters. Intrigued? Let’s dive in. (And in case this wasn’t obvious, spoilers ahead.)
Professor X in Doctor Strange 2
As you hopefully know by now, Professor X shows up as the apparent leader of the Illuminati about halfway through Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. At the time, Strange and his new ally America Chavez are stranded in another reality only to be arrested by this secret team of powerful superheroes.
Alongside Stewart’s X-Men character, we also meet Captain Carter (Haley Atwell), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), and Reed Richards (John Krasinski). There’s a ton to unpack here and I swear we’re going to be diving into all these characters in future articles on Inverse, but for now, I need you to focus on everyone’s favorite telepathic bald man.
Sadly, like the rest of his fellow Illuminati, Professor X doesn’t get much screentime. After a scene of canon-building exposition, he and his teammates face off against the Scarlet Witch, who steamrolls Charles and the rest of them without breaking a sweat.
As quickly as he arrived in the MCU, Professor X is dead. Or is he? One clue hidden in Doctor Strange 2 could reveal Marvel’s bigger plan for Charles and his X-Men.
The X-Men and the MCU
When Patrick Stewart first appears in Doctor Strange 2, his entrance is emphasized by the unmistakable sound of the X-Men: The Animated Series theme song. Except, that’s apparently not where the music comes from — sort of.
Stick around for the movie’s credits, and you may notice the song is actually credited as the theme for Marvel’s upcoming series X-Men ‘97. Set to debut in 2023, X-Men ‘97 appears to be a continuation of the original cartoon but is now under the direction of Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige.
We don’t know much about X-Men ‘97, including whether it will be considered part of MCU canon or exist as a standalone story. However, this one tiny detail suggests Marvel is already building a bridge between its movies and the upcoming cartoon.
If that’s the case, then maybe the version of the X-Men we eventually see in the MCU will be based on the Animated Series, not the Fox movies. For fans of characters who never got their due in the films (like Gambit, for instance), this might be the best possible outcome.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters now.