The multiverse has finally stabilized, for now, but that doesn’t mean Doctor Strange’s duties are over. For after Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ends, the real trouble begins.
In the mid-credits of Sam Raimi’s Multiverse of Madness, a new figure enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When she appears, seemingly out of nowhere on a New York street corner, she comes in need of Stephen Strange’s help to prevent “incursions,” a new phenomena in which whole realities collapse.
But who is she? And is she really played by that actress? Buckle up. We’re exiting the multiverse to re-enter the Dark Dimension and learn all about Doctor Strange’s new ally... and, if the comics are any indication, his future wife.
Major spoilers ahead
What happens in the mid-credits of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?
During the mid-credits scene, Strange has seemingly accepted the partial corruption left by the Darkhold when a new figure in a purplish-pink costume enters out of nowhere.
She’s Clea, another sorceress from Marvel’s comic books. And yes, she’s played by Charlize Theron, the decorated star of movies like Monster (2003), Mad Max Fury Road (2015), and Atomic Blonde (2017). Theron’s involvement in Multiverse of Madness was previously rumored on Reddit, but never confirmed until now.
The scene itself is formulaic. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is simply walking down the street when he’s stopped by Clea, who activates a portal to the Dark Dimension. Clea warns Strange that incursions — a new concept introduced in Multiverse of Madness — are happening, and that she needs Strange’s help to prevent them.
While this scene is obviously teasing a future story, it’s unknown if it will encompass the whole MCU like how teasers for Thanos foreshadowed crossovers, or if it’s just for a third Doctor Strange movie. Either way, it’s going to be big.
Who is Clea?
Clea is a magic user who’s as powerful, if not more powerful, than Doctor Strange. In the comics she was born to dark deities: Prince Orini, the former ruler of the Dark Dimension, and Umar, sister of Dormammu, which makes Clea Dormammu’s niece (Dormammu, you may recall, was the villain of the first Doctor Strange movie).
More recently in the comics, Clea became the new Sorcerer Supreme in the aftermath of Stephen Strange’s death. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Clea first appeared in Strange Tales #126 as an unnamed silver-haired woman trapped in the Dark Dimension. Her name was officially revealed two years later, in Strange Tales #146.
She’s eventually taken in as Strange’s disciple. They fall in love and marry, though not in a traditional way. Long story short, as sorcerers their minds and souls were united in a way that’s deeper than mere wedding vows. It’s not long before the two call it quits, but because it was their souls that were bound, well, let’s just say they both took the divorce hard.
In the recent 2021 series Death of Doctor Strange, Strange is killed by his archenemy Kaecilius, which leaves the position of Sorcerer Supreme up for grabs. Clea ascends to the role and now has her own series, Strange, by writer Jed Mackay and artist Marcelo Ferreira.
What does Clea mean for the MCU?
There are several elements to consider with Clea’s arrival in the MCU.
First, there’s the matter of incursions. As explained in Multiverse of Madness, incursions are destructive events in which one reality of the multiverse collapses into another. Most of the important details are explained when the Illuminati show up, so if your theater is screaming over the shocking cameos, you might actually miss all you need to know.
Incursions are borrowed from Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 crossover Secret Wars, in which the mainstream Marvel Universe, Earth-616, blends with the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Earth-1610. This may actually signal something huge for the MCU. Now that the X-Men film and TV rights are legally owned by Disney again, it’s possible the X-Men will enter the MCU in a Secret Wars-inspired event where incursions allow universes to meld together.
As far as Clea goes, that bodes ominously for Doctor Strange. While it’s unknown how many movies are left in Benedict Cumberbatch’s contract with Marvel (and if either party is interested in renewing), the introduction of Clea means it’s possible the MCU has set up a successor should Cumberbatch wish to step away from the Doctor Strange role.
We’re already seeing precedent for this in the MCU. Chris Hemsworth is leaving his hammer behind as Thor in this summer’s Thor: Love and Thunder, and Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is taking on the mantle. If Cumberbatch decides to hang up the cape, Charlize Theron is now an obvious successor.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.