My thoughts, reactions, and questions while watching ‘The Sandman’ TV series

When the TV series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s legendary graphic novel series, The Sandman, premiered in early August on Netflix, several friends alerted me to the fact that a reel librarian is one of the main characters. As I was a newbie to The Sandman realm (but already a firm fan and reader of Neil Gaiman’s writing, a seeming contradiction that is possible, as I explain), I decided to live-tweet my reactions while I watched each episode of The Sandman series. The first season of this series included 10 main episodes, and then dropped a bonus eleventh episode a couple of weeks later. And in this post, I have collected my thoughts, reactions, and questions I had while watching the TV series.

To prep for the series, I listened to Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest podcast, “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Sandman,” which served as a good intro for the main characters and themes. I particularly appreciated that Tom is a hard-core fan of The Sandman, whereas Lorenzo is a newbie like me, so I felt seen –and not silly or shamed — in not being familiar already with the Sandman realm.

Here is a trailer for The Sandman series via Netflix:

The Sandman | Official Trailer | Netflix” video uploaded by Netflix, Standard YouTube License

My thoughts and reactions for each episode

I structured each episode’s reactions as its own thread on my Reel Librarians Twitter account, so you should be able to read through the entire thread in each embedded tweet below. (And if you’re not on Twitter, it may work out best to click the date on each Twitter thread and open in an incognito window to view.)

Episode 1, “Sleep of the Just”

Episode 1 was adapted from The Sandman #1 (“Sleep of the Just”).

Episode 2, “Imperfect Hosts”

Episode 2 was adapted from The Sandman #2 (“Imperfect Hosts”).

Episode 3, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”

Episode 3 was adapted from The Sandman #3 (“Dream a Little Dream of Me”).

Episode 4, “A Hope in Hell”

Episode 4 was adapted from The Sandman #4 (“A Hope in Hell”) and #5 (“Passengers”).

Episode 5, “24/7”

Episode 5 was adapted from The Sandman #6 (“24 Hours”) and #7 (“Sound and Fury”).

Episode 6, “The Sound of Her Wings”

This was my favorite episode!!

Episode 6 was adapted from The Sandman #8 (“The Sound of Her Wings”) and #13 (“Men of Good Fortune”).

Episode 7, “The Doll’s House”

Episode 7 was adapted from The Sandman #10 (“The Doll’s House”) and #11 (“Moving In”).

Episode 8, “Playing House”

Episode 8 was adapted from The Sandman #12 (“Playing House”) and #15 (“Into the Night”).

Episode 9, “Collectors”

Episode 9 was adapted from The Sandman #14 (“Collectors”).

Episode 10, “Lost Hearts”

Episode 10 was adapted from The Sandman #14 (“Collectors”) and #16 (“Lost Hearts”)

Episode 11, “Dream of a Thousand Cats / Calliope”

This bonus episode was adapted from The Sandman #18 (“Dream of a Thousand Cats”) and #17 (“Calliope”)

Random reflections on the first season

Diverse casting

I really appreciated the diverse casting in this series! Reflecting back, my favorite performances and characters all happened to be Black women:

  • Lucienne, the librarian of The Dreaming, played by Vivienne Acheampong. Loved EVERYTHING about this portrayal and character, the actor, the costume, the little elf ears, everything.
  • Death, Dream’s big sister, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste with a seemingly effortless balance of gravitas, warmth, and lightness. Such a compelling a character and performance.
  • Rosemary, a small but memorable character in Episode 4, “A Hope in Hell,” played by Sarah Niles with such empathy.
Lucienne Sandman GIF
Lucienne Sandman GIF via Tenor.com

Strong runners-up acting honors to Mason Alexander Park as Desire — so magnetic! — and Tom Sturridge as Dream, who really does seem perfect for this role.

I also loved Hob (played by Ferdinand Kingsley), Johanna Constantine (played by Jenna Coleman, in a covetous trench coat), and how the Fates were portrayed (Nina Wadia as Fate Mother, Souad Faress as Fate Crone, and Dinita Gohil as Fate Maiden).

I also loved reading that many characters were gender-swapped in the series (Lucienne for Lucien in the comics, Johanna Constantine for John Constantine in the comics), and/or played by actors of different ethnicities (Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker, to name a few). Representation matters and adds so much more depth to the writing, the acting, as well as the viewing experience.

Listen to your librarians

Reviewing my Twitter threads, I definitely highlighted the theme across multiple episodes of needing to listen to librarians! Many characters (but not always Dream!) recognized the value of Lucienne, the ever-faithful and ever-wise counsel — and often the voice of reason. ❤ Whenever Dream didn’t listen to Lucienne, he regretted it. This is a life lesson, y’all: Listen to your librarians!

My favorite scene overall was in Episode 2, “Imperfect Hosts,” when Lucienne shared that she had stayed even when all the words in the books in the library had gone. This was such a poignant exchange.

Lucienne: Sometime after you left, all the books in the library became bound volumes of blank paper. The next day, the whole library was gone. I never found it again.

Dream: And yet you remained while others fled. The royal librarian of an abandoned kingdom.

Lucienne: I never felt abandoned. I knew you would return.

Fave episode

My favorite episode overall was Episode 6, “The Sound of Her Wings,” as it was a perfectly timed breather of an episode between the arcs of the first half and the VERY intense and unsettling story arc of the second half. Both Hob’s pure joy and Death’s warm empathy made me cry, but in different ways.

I Know Death GIF
I Know Death GIF via Tenor.com

First half vs. second half

Overall, I enjoyed the first half of the series more than the second half. The first half was packed with powerhouse actors (Charles Dance, Joely Richardson, Gwendoline Christie, etc.), while the second half’s production values (and acting overall) didn’t feel on the same level. However, the series overall still kept me hooked.

And the bonus episode was a stroke of genius, as I loved the introduction of the animated segment! I hope they continue mixing in animation!

All are welcome here

I felt the TV series did a good job welcoming newbies to the Sandman realm, as well as explaining major concepts, like Dream’s narration explaining the Dreaming at the beginning of Episode 1. It felt like the entire first half of the series was more of a prologue and helping establish characters and themes. Perhaps that’s also why I enjoyed the first half more, as I was happily exploring the realm?

Voiceover as character development?

Although voice narration can bug me when it’s overused and unnecessary, I quite liked the voice narration from Dream throughout this series. I think it worked because Dream is a thinker and seems to be always in his head, so the voice narration felt more like character development; we were able to have a window into his thoughts and musings and outlook on life and dreams.

Continuing the conversation

After watching the TV series, I agreed to purchase The Sandman graphic novel series, so my husband — who has been a reader of The Sandman comics from the beginning — was very excited! It’s on back order, so it will have to wait a while before I am able to compare the Lucien librarian character in the comics with the Lucienne librarian character in the series.

Did you watch The Sandman series? Are you a veteran of the graphic novels, or a newbie like me? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

  • The Sandman (Comic Book).” Wikipedia, 22 Aug. 2022. Accessed 23 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • The Sandman (TV Series).” Wikipedia, 23 Aug. 2022. Accessed 23 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • The Sandman. Created by Neil Gaiman, David S. Goyer, and Allan Heinberg. Perf. Tom Sturridge, Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, David Thewlis, Jenna Coleman, Gwendolyn Christie, Kirby Howell-Baptiste. Netflix, 2022. Based on the graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman.

A round-up of library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in MCU’s Phase Four TV series (so far)

Phase four, round two, of our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians!

We are wrapping up our summer with our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians! I have written a lot about library scenes in various Marvel movies on this site, so this summer, I decided to go back through all the Marvel movies, this time in phase order, and make sure I watched, reviewed, and analyzed them all for any library, archives, and reel librarian scenes. Thank you for joining me as I finish cataloging all the library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in the MCU (so far):

Because Phase Four introduced TV series, and is therefore considerably larger than previous phases, I split Phase Four into two separate posts, a post for the Phase Four movies, and this final post (for now) for the Phase Four TV series.

There were a LOT more library, archives, and research-related scenes in the Phase Four TV series than I originally anticipated, so this is a super(hero)-sized post to finish out our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians summer. Feels appropriate, right? 😉

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*


WandaVision (Jan.-Mar. 2021)


WandaVision premiered as the first MCU TV series at the beginning of 2021 and has 9 episodes total. In this series, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are living in the suburbs, trying to act “normal” and conceal their powers. The series also features Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. Kat Dennings and Randall Park return as Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, respectively. WandaVision is a high-concept series, with each episode’s look and feel reflecting popular TV shows of different eras (i.e.g, the first episode looks like 1950s sitcoms, the second episode transitions into 1960s sitcoms, etc.). The series is set three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and its plot and ending directly lead into the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie, which also features Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch.

There is a squint-and-you’ll-miss-it reel librarian sighting in this series, as well as a few book-focused research scenes. The Westview Public Library is also the setting for a couple of key scenes.

Episode 2, “Don’t Touch That Dial”


At 6 minutes into this episode, which is all about wanting to fit in, Vision says, “There’s a gathering of the neighborhood watch at the public library.” Cut to 11:40 minutes, and we see Vision walking up the stairs to the library.

Vision: Pardon me, is this the neighborhood watch meeting?

Norm: Oh, hiya Vision, didn’t expect to see you here. This is sort of a “members only” type deal.

The neighborhood watch meeting is taking place in a central table in the middle of the library, and we see bookcases and a large card catalog along the walls, as well as microfiche readers. The interior of the library looks to be octagonal, with an open upper level supported by columns; this octagonal shape seems to be at (architectural) odds with the flat exterior of the library building.

Behind Norm’s head, there’s what looks to be a reference counter, and a woman with dark hair walks behind the counter, which indicates to me that she’s a reel librarian. This character goes unmentioned in the episode’s cast list but helps solidify the library setting, so she ends up a (nominal) Information Provider.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Vision sits down at the center table, saying he’ll “be as quiet as a church mouse.” It dawns on him, finally, that the “neighborhood watch” meeting is actually cover for guys to get together and gossip! Vision then tries a stick of gum — again, trying to fit in — but the gum gets stuck in his internal gears, which has hilarious consequences in the latter half of the episode.

The library scene ends at 14:34 minutes, lasting a total of 3 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 3, “Now in Color”


This episode is set in the 1970s, and at 2 minutes into the episode, Vision comes out of the Westview Public Library in an establishing shot in the episode’s intro titles. The very next frame is a closeup of Vision reading a book about pregnancy while he’s walking. This visual continuation seems to suggest that this is a book Vision just checked out of the library, but there’s also no call number on this book. (Also, the front and back covers of the book seem to be the same, which is odd, isn’t it? Could this be another, very subtle hint that Vision and Wanda don’t actually fit in with everyone else? Also, does this red book cover remind you of the red book cover for Rosemary’s Baby? An unsettling thought!)

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


At 5 minutes into the episode, Vision is reading another baby book in the nursery, a book entitled The Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book.

By the way, this is a real book which had many editions published from 1948 through 1977. Y’all knew I would look that up, right? 😉

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


Just 2 minutes later, Wanda experiences pregnancy pain, and asks Vision, “Do any of your books talk about this?”

Vision is ready with a new book from their home library, this time The New Complete Medical and Health Encyclopedia — remember when you kept encyclopedias at home?! — which is also a real book that went through many editions published by J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company. Vision looks up Braxton Hicks contractions.

Using a medical and health encyclopedia at home
Using a medical and health encyclopedia at home

Episode 9, “The Series Finale”


At 8 minutes into the finale, Wanda and Agatha have a showdown, and Agatha shares the prophecy in the Darkhold, revealing that there’s an entire chapter devoted to the Scarlet Witch: “Your power exceeds that of the sorcerer supreme. It’s your destiny to destroy the world.” (Put a pin in that for the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie!) Agatha describes the Darkhold as “the book of the damned.”

Closeup of the Darkhold book and the Scarlet Witch
Closeup of the Darkhold book and the Scarlet Witch

At 16 minutes into the episode, the townspeople confront Wanda in the town square, while The Vision (all in white) picks a fight with Vision and throws him through the public library’s windows.

The interior of the library looks to be the same octagonal set as seen in the previous episode, but we can see updates to the library, including a different card catalog along one wall (looks to be a boxier shape, like from the 1970s?), and a bulletin board to the right of the front door. This library bulletin board was my FAVORITE bit of this whole scene, as it’s SO cheesy — with a bee illustration and the phrase “The Library is the place to ‘bee'” — and SO true-to-life for a public library! I have created bulletin boards like this. In the gallery below, you can see the bulletin board and the library card catalog.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


While this new Vision states that “my mission is to destroy the Vision,” it really seems to be about destroying the public library!

After all the destruction, I enjoyed that the two Visions then engaged in a philosophical debate and thought experiment whilst in a library; it felt fitting that The Vision restored his knowledge while in a place of knowledge.

This library fight scene ends at 20:56, lasting for 5 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The final scene in the series features Wanda with the Darkhold — the “book of the damned” — and in her Scarlet Witch costume. This scene will get referenced again in the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie.


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Mar.-Apr. 2021)


In this TV series, which has 6 episodes, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) return and team up against the Flag Smashers and the Power Broker. Carl Lumbly has a memorable role as Isaiah Bradley, the first Black Captain America. Daniel Brühl returns as Helmut Zemo. This TV series is set six months after Steve Rogers handed the Captain America shield to Sam at the end of the Avengers: Endgame (2019) movie. This series delves into issues of racism in the U.S., and what it means and feels like to be both a Black man and Captain America.

There are no official libraries in this series, but there is an interesting example of a private library in a prison, as well as the related field of curation and museum exhibits that I felt was interesting to share.

Episode 1, “New World Order”


At 12 mins into this episode, Sam Wilson speaks at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum’s exhibit for Captain America.

Episode 3, “Power Broker”


At 7:15 minutes in to this episode, Sam and Bucky are going to see Zemo, who is in a private prison cell.

Bucky: What’s the book you’re reading?

Zemo: Machiavelli.

Zemo then picks up the book — which is laying beside a cluster of books in a private prison library of sorts — revealing a hidden key card, which helps him break out of prison.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 6, “One World, One People”


At the end of the finale, at 41 minutes, Sam takes Isiah Bradley to the Smithsonian Museum, where he reveals a new section of the Captain America exhibit that spotlights Bradley and the other Black American men who were in the Super Soldiers program.

Isiah Bradley exhibit at the Smithsonian
Isiah Bradley exhibit at the Smithsonian

Loki (Season 1, June-July 2021)


Tom Hiddleston returns to steal the small screen as Loki in this TV series, which has 6 episodes. After stealing the Tesseract during the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), an alternate version of Loki winds up in trouble with the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) recruits Loki to help him track down another Loki variant and help fix the “Sacred Timeline.” The series co-stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Sophia Di Martino, Richard E. Grant, and Jonathan Majors.

We see the TVA’s archives quite a few times in this series, as well as the archivist in one episode!

Episode 1, “Glorious Purpose”


The credits of the first episode feature closeups of case files from the archives, dictionaries and notes, as well as “Archive” labels on card catalog drawers. It just makes sense that we see evidence of the archives in the first episode, as the TVA is the ultimate bureaucracy, right? This means lots of paper and filing clerks and archives!

Episode 2, “The Variant”


At 17:56 minutes into this episode, Mobius engages Loki in a research project in the archives, to help figure out how to catch the Loki variant. Our first glimpse of the archives reveals seemingly endless rows and levels of archives and bookcases. (IMDb’s Filming & Production page for this episode lists the Atlanta Marriott Marquis as the filming location for the TVA Headquarters, and photos of this hotel look like the backdrop for the archives. My guess is that they CGI’d all the bookcases and files visible in the background. And the letter combinations visible in the signage (and elevator) clearly signify an advanced classification system.)

Mobius: I need you to go over each and every one of the variants case files, and then give me your… how do I put it? Your unique Loki perspective. And who knows? Maybe there’s something that we missed.

Loki: Well, you’re idiots. I suspect you probably missed a lot.

Mobius: That’s why I’m lucky I got ya for a little bit longer. Let me park ya at this desk, and don’t be afraid to really lean into this work.

Loki [looking at the mountain of documents]: Oh my goodness.

A person in the background, who is dressed in a suit and tie, then shushes Loki, and Loki turns around and shushes them back! The shusher is credited as “Archives Shusher” (Zele Avradopoulos) in the cast list.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Loki, tired of doing research, tries to trick the Archivist (Dayna Beilenson) into giving him classified files. Let’s see how that turned out for him!

The Archivist, a White woman, is seated at her own station, cocooned within a low wall of glass partitions. Looking very no-nonsense in a tie and cardigan with pulled-back hair and 1950s glasses, she is typing away as Loki approaches.

Loki: Hi. Hello?

Archivist: [No answer, keeps typing]

Loki: Hello? [finally dings the bell on her desk]

Archivist: Can I help you?

Loki: Yes, I’m on some important TVA business. Follow-up to a field mission. You know how it goes. We redlined near the Apez, and well, it’s never good.

Archivist: [No reaction.]

Loki: I’d like all files pertaining to the creation of the TVA, please.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. I’d like all files pertaining to the beginning of time then.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. The end of time.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. What files can I have?

Archivist [goes to the stacks and hands him a file]: Happy reading.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Lessons learned?

  1. Take archivists seriously when they say something is classified.
  2. The archivist’s glare is as chilling as a librarian’s.
  3. Don’t mess with archivists, y’all!

And lo and behold, by actually engaging in the research process and studying the archival files, Loki discovers the answer to how to find the variant Loki!

It’s also interesting to note that the closeup of a document reveals a file number and more evidence of an advanced classification system. I don’t know what this classification system is or what it signifies, but I can tell you it’s not Dewey or Library of Congress (LC). Wait… is this how non-librarians view library call numbers, as undecipherable combinations of letters and numbers?! Oh no! 😉

File number and archival classification system
File number and archival classification system

This archives scene ends at 21:26, so this scene lasts 4 1/2 minutes.

Loki takes his discovery to Mobius, and they test out the theory, that the Loki variant is hiding in apocalypses. After they prove the theory correct, at 27:43 minutes, Mobius says they need to figure out how many apocalypses there are. Cue a return to the archives!

Loki and Mobius review archives of apocalypses
Loki and Mobius review archives of apocalypses

And at 31:50 minutes into the episode, Mobius returns again to the archives, inspired by something Loki says. He pulls out a packet of Kablooie gum from an old case file, an anachronism in another timeline. This archival clue leads them to research the gum and cross-reference apocalyptic events. Ahhh, the research process! (What goes unsaid is how classification systems and keywords help make this kind of cross-referencing possible in the first place. Archivists, librarians, and catalogers worldwide say you’re welcome. 😉 )

Mobius: All we got to do is cross-reference that with every apocalyptic event.  I’m gonna a give you half, have a competition, see who wins.

Loki: Found it!

Mobius: You’re gonna take my job if I’m not careful.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene ends at 33:09, lasting just under a minute and a half. Altogether, archival research dominates the episode… although the word “archives” or “archivist” is never stated out loud.

The credits also replay the bell scene from the archives!

Episode 4, “The Nexus Event”


There’s a short scene in the archives in this episode.

At 30:50 minutes into the episode, Mobius becomes suspicious of his friend and mentor Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and steals her TemPad mobile device. He then goes to a quiet corner of the archives to search the device’s contents. Obviously, the archives is where you go when you don’t expect to see anyone else!

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The information he discovers on the TemPad, that the TVA workers all used to be variants, directly impacts the rest of the series. This scene ends at 32:14.

Episode 5, “Journey into Mystery”


Miss Minutes, voiced by Tara Strong, is not an official archivist (she’s more like a marketing spokesperson or mascot?), but she does undertake archival research in this episode.

At 9:40 minutes into the episode, Renslayer and Sylvie (a Loki variant) interact with Miss Minutes.

Renslayer: Miss Minutes, I need you to remote access a series of restricted files from the archives.

Minutes: Oooh doggy! On what?

Renslayer: The beginning of time. The founding of the TVA.

Minutes: Right away.

The animated archives look like a wheel. I think it’s interesting to contrast this scene with the previous scene with the uncooperative archivist.

However helpful Miss Minutes seems, Sylvie becomes suspicious of how long the search is taking — and indeed, this archival quest is a ruse to capture Sylvie! The scene ends at 11:26 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Later in the episode, at 29:12 minutes, Renslayer asks Miss Minutes for the files from the beginning of time, this time for real.

Episode 6, “For All Time. Always.”


Once again, the archives is an important setting, including in the final shots of the finale.

At 39:01 minutes into the episode, Loki is back in the TVA after being betrayed by Sylvia, and he runs through the archives. Computer screens in the background show how the timeline is splintering. Mobius and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) are also standing in the archives, panicked by the splintering timelines.

Mobius: That’s what, 63 new branches in this unit alone?

Hunter B-15: Does he want us to just let them all branch?

Loki [running up to them]: We freed the timeline!

[…]

Mobius: What’s your name?

Hunter B-15: Boots on the ground now. Archives.

The final shot of the series pans over the archives, this time with a statue of Kang. All reality, as this Loki knows it, has changed.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

It’s also significant that the final word of the series is “Archives,” yet it’s the first time the word “archives” is spoken aloud in the series.

The final shot of the credits has a closeup of a stamp, and atop an archival document, the stamp reads: “Loki will return in Season 2.”

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

As Pop Archives summarizes:

Unfortunately, they don’t refer to the massive archive as an archives until the last minute of the last episode of season one. […]

That being said, records and files are everywhere in season one, including the closing credits of every episode. They are the bread and butter of the TVA, but they’re also a thematic tool. […]

Records and archival collections as the truth or a truth is entirely based on how you approach the postmodernist theory behind constructed narratives and the inherent power of the archives to facilitate those narratives.

Samantha Cross, “Archives on TV: Loki,” Pop Archives, 24 June 2022

What If…? (Season 1, Aug.-Oct. 2021)


This animated series, another first for the MCU, explores what would happen if pivotal moments from the MCU happened differently. This series, which has 9 episodes, is set after the multiverse concept is established in Loki‘s first season. Jeffrey Wright narrates the series as the Watcher. A few episodes feature libraries or archives.

Episode 2, “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?”


In this episode and alternate reality, T’Challa is Star-Lord, and he leads the Ravagers to Knowhere in order to challenge the Collector, who oversees a vast collection (a personal archive or library?) of valuable and dangerous objects. At 15:23 minutes into this episode, T’Challa asks Howard the Duck where the “Embers of Genesis” are located, and we learn about a mini-library of Elvish literature! (LOTR and MCU fans unite! 😉 )

T’Challa / Star-Lord: Do you know where I can find them?

Howard the Duck: Cosmic flora, down the hall, take a Louie at the first giants, a hard Ralph at the Kronans, you’re gonna see a sign for Elvish literature. Ignore that, total snooze.

I’m not counting this as an official library or archives, but I thought it was a funny aside!

Tell me again about the Elvish literature
Tell me again about the Elvish literature

Episode 3, “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”


In this episode, Natasha Romanoff (voiced by Lake Bell) is trying to figure out who or what is killing off the (potential) members of the Avengers.

At 18:29 minutes into the episode, Romanoff has broken into a public library in Manassas, Virginia, after the library has closed. (Note: There are several public library branches in Manassas, but the design of this animated library seems to most closely resemble the Manassas Park City Library branch.) All the lights are off as Natasha uses a library computer to try and log into the Avengers online system.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Agent Coulson [voice over the cell phone]: Why do you need my password?

Natasha: I need to get into the Avengers Initiative files, but I’m locked out of the system… and wanted for murder.

Natasha hears a noise and looks over her shoulder down an aisle of bookcases. An invisible foe attacks her, and they fight in the stacks. Natasha manages to call Nick Fury and calls out a clue, “It’s all about hope!”

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene in the public library ends at 20:18 minutes, so the scene lasts less than two minutes.

Episode 4, “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”

In this episode, Dr. Strange tries to prevent Christine’s death, which takes him on a journey to the Lost Library of Cagliostro.

At 4:17 minutes into the episode, we see a version of a scene in Doctor Strange (2016), in which reel librarian Wong (voiced by Benedict Wong) warns Strange (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) about the Eye of Agamotto, which was discovered by Cagliostro, and its power to manipulate time. In this version, we see the Ancient One (rather than Mordo) in the Kamar-Taj library!

An animated look at the Kamar-Taj Library!
An animated look at the Kamar-Taj Library!

At 5:20 minutes, we revisit Wong and Strange back in the New York sanctuary, as Strange mourns the second anniversary of Christine’s death. Again, Wong serves as a voice of reason, warning Strange not to “do something reckless.”

Almost 6 minutes later, at 11:04 minutes, the Ancient One echoes Wong’s warnings:

Ancient One: The greatest sorcerers of the past could not reverse an Absolute Point.

Strange: You don’t know that. Books have been lost. Libraries destroyed.

Strange doesn’t listen. Less than a minute later, at 11:57 minutes, we see that Strange’s journey has led him to a jungle, where he meets a stranger, a Black man. This character is voiced by Nigerian actor Ike Amadi.

Strange: I’m looking for the Lost Library of Cagliostro. Library? Hello? You know, books? Reading? Knowledge?

[No answer, as the stranger walks away, and Strange follows him.]

Strange: Where can I find Cagliostro?

Stranger: Maybe here, maybe there, maybe nowhere.

Strange: Please tell me you’re not Cagliostro.

Stranger: The name’s O’Bengh, librarian for the books of Cagliostro.

O'Bengh introduces himself as a librarian
O’Bengh introduces himself as a librarian

They arrive at the Lost Library of Cagliostro, and what a sight this library is to behold! A cherry tree grows in the center, and a few books hang from chains along the ceiling (visually intriguing but very impractical). Strange refers to these as “the lost books.” (My spouse wondered if the Book of Vishanti was there, hah!) We also see bookcases lining the back walls of the large room.

O’Bengh: How long will you be staying here?

Strange: As long as it takes.

One of the books that Strange consults, a book on time manipulation, states that you can “gain the power through the absorption of other beings.” Strange ultimately rejects O’Bengh and the library, saying, “The library isn’t enough. Those beings have what I need.” Despite another librarian’s warnings (and first aid help), Strange continues on his destructive path of battling monsters and absorbing their powers.

Eventually, Strange returns to the library and finds O’Bengh on his deathbed.

Strange: O’Bengh, what happened to you?

O’Bengh: Time. Put that away [the Eye of Agamotto]. You used magic to remain frozen for centuries. I chose to live. Even in our world, death is part of the plan. Maybe the other Strange will [accept death].”

In this closeup, it’s clear that O’Bengh has one blue eye and one brown eye (this rare genetic phenomenon is called heterochromia).

O'Bengh on his deathbed
O’Bengh on his deathbed

This Lost Library of Cagliostro scene ends at 20 minutes into the episode, lasting 8 minutes total.

Strange’s actions have disastrous consequences back in the alternate reality’s New York sanctuary with Wong. At 22:17 minutes, Wong, as usual, gets straight to the point.

Wong: Ok, wait, so the fabric of reality is breaking, and only you can stop it because you are causing it.

Strange: Let’s be honest, we’ve been through weirder.

Wong: Do you want to stop him?

Strange: At the very least, to save you.

At this point, my spouse shouted out:

He’s not wrong. Without Wong, there is no MCU!

Both Wong and O’Bengh serve primarily as Information Providers, as they provide information (and warnings) to Strange and the viewers. I would also argue that both also serve as Comic Relief, as they both display senses of humor (Wong refers to the bathroom as “the little sorcerer’s room” while O’Bengh calls Strange “Sorcerer Armani.”)

Is O’Bengh indeed Cagliostro? Burkely Hermann, in this thoughtful analysis post of this episode, states that this is implied. Hermann also brings up some interesting points to reflect on with this reel librarian portrayal:

It is disconcerting the number of roles he [O’Bengh] takes on in the episode: an all-knowing person, a medic, and a sorcerer, to name the three most prominent. Archives in Fiction (AIF) makes a good point that while the space was beautifully rendered, it is “utterly impractical” and argued that the episode has the subtext that “librarians are magic” or that they are “expected to work miracles.” In response to AIF saying that they since when anyone calls “us” (archivists, librarians) miracle workers, even if it comes “from a good place,” saying that there is “really nothing miraculous about the work we put into making things findable,” I said that that perspective makes sense.

Burkely Hermann, “Doctor Strange’s quest for power and the Black sorcerer-librarian,” Pop Culture Library Review, 12 Oct. 2021.

Episode 5, “What If… Zombies?!”


Benedict Wong has no lines (other than grunts) in this episode, but I had to include a look at Zombie Wong!!!

Zombie Wong first shows up at 3:39 minutes into the episode, and (SPOILER), he gets his head chopped off by a portal at 4:11 minutes.

Zombie Wong
Zombie Wong

Episode 7, “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?”


Although there is no library in this episode, there is a running gag in this episode about Thor’s so-called study group and how “knowledge is magic.”

At the end of this episode, at 28:50 minutes, Captain Marvel flies down to Thor and hands him a tablet full of info about humans, in order to help Thor save face in front of his mother, Frigga. It’s interesting to note what resources made the cut!

Thor, here’s the information you requested on human civilizations, and I loaded a few documentaries, PBS specials, NPR podcasts.

Knowledge is magic, indeed. Marvel provides Thor a table full of info about human civilization.
Knowledge is magic, indeed. Marvel provides Thor a table full of info about human civilization.

Episode 8, “What If… Ultron Won?”


In this episode, Natasha Romanoff and Hawkeye team up to try and figure out a way to stop Ultron. This journey takes them to the KGB Archives, while the Watches watches them and agonizes about whether or not to intervene. The KGB Archives are housed in a vast warehouse of seemingly never-ending rows of bookshelves and file boxes. No archivist is ever seen, or even mentioned.

At 10:54 minutes into the episode, Natasha and Hawkeye arrive at the archives.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Watcher: One last hope.

Natasha: Welcome to the KGB archives.

Hawkeye: Your country ever heard of PDFs?

Natasha: Hard copies are harder to steal, easier to destroy. But code, code is slippery, and it never dies.

Hawkeye: So, where do we start?

Natasha: Just pick a box.

[Pause here to scream into the void while I go all capsy. NO!!! Any kind of library or archival material is organized according to a system, a classification system, and there would be finding aids or signs or SOMETHING to help explain that system and where things are generally located. This archives warehouse looks VERY organized, by the way, with every file labeled within each box, so there’s no reason to think that there wouldn’t be a system for these archives. “Just pick a box” is NOT a system, and the time these two waste going through random boxes makes me want to scream for an archivist!]

They also mention the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie as they’re walking down the shelves of archives. (Read here at Pop Archives about how annoying it is that Raiders of the Lost Ark has helped create everlasting public confusion between archaeologists and archivists).

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The Watcher spies the exact file they need and debates on whether or not to intervene. The scene also includes an archives ladder, plus an Easter egg where they find the Red Guardian’s shield (a connection back to Black Widow).

Hawkeye finally has had enough.

Sorry to break it to you, Natasha, but the Death Star plans are not in the main computer.

Star Wars and MCU crossover alert! This is referencing the archives adventure plot of Rogue One! 😀

Conveniently for reasons of PLOT, Natasha then immediately finds the Zola file. The Watcher is relieved, whilst archivists and librarians collectively roll our eyes at this purposefully (and needlessly) frustrating archives scene.

This archives scene ends at 14:06 and lasts 3 minutes total.


Hawkeye (Nov.-Dec. 2021)


In this TV series, which is set post-Blip, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) reluctantly teams up with the young Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to confront enemies from his past. Will Hawkeye be able to make it back to his family in time for Christmas? The series, which has 6 episodes, co-stars Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova (the new Black Widow), Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (Kingpin), Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez (Echho), and Zahn McClarnon as William Lopez.

I could not see any library or archives scenes in this entire TV series. There are a few research scenes, but they all entail Kate utilizing Bishop Security’s private database of security and criminal intel.


Moon Knight (Mar.-May 2022)


In this series, which includes 6 episodes, Oscar Isaac plays three different men, who are all distinct identities, or alters, stemming from a dissociative identity disorder (DID): Marc Spector / Moon Knight, Steven Grant / Mr. Knight, and Jake Lockley. The TV series co-stars May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly (the first Arab superhero in the MCU!), F. Murray Abraham as the voice of Khonshu, Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, and Gaspard Ulliel as Anton Mogart. The mystery plot of the series involves Egyptian gods and their human avatars.

Similar to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series, there are no official libraries or archives in this series, but there ARE several interesting examples of private libraries, as well as related (but distinctly different) fields of archaeology and museums that I thought would be interesting to share.

Episode 1, “The Goldfish Problem”


As the series begins, Steven Grant wakes up in bed, and we can spy bookcase shelves behind him — and those bookcases are arranged haphazardly (perhaps also an external reflection of his splintered mind?).

We also learn that Steven works at the British Museum in London, in the gift shop, although he not-so-secretly wishes he were a tour guide at the museum. He clearly knows more about Egyptology than the tour guides, as evidenced when he chats with a little girl at the museum.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Note: The British Museum and the British Library used to be united, but the British Library separated from the Museum in 1973. However, the British Museum continued to host the Library in its iconic Reading Room (the architectural inspiration behind the Library of Congress Reading Room, as seen here) until 1997. Therefore, I’m NOT counting this location as a library, as the British Museum and the British Library are separate entities now.

Confused yet? Even more confusingly, the actual external location used in this series for the British Museum was actually the National Gallery. Staff members wear uniforms with “National Art Gallery” printed on them, but there is no such place. London has the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, but only the British Museum has Egyptian artifacts. WHEW. Y’all still with me? 😉

At 10 minutes into the episode, we witness how Steven uses reading as a tactic to stay awake. He listens to an app (“Welcome to staying awake! … Bored with puzzles? Try a book!”), and he reads about Egyptian gods, highlighting passages in books. That’s how he knows more than the tour guides at the museum! This reading and research montage lasts under a minute.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 2, “Summon the Suit”


At 12:30 minutes into this episode, Steven is walking through a storage unit facility (archives of personal lives?), and the automatic lights click off. My spouse remarked how these lights echoed the automatic lights coming on in the archives scene in Captain Marvel.

Dramatic lighting in the archives scenes in Captain Marvel (2019)
Click the arrows to slide and compare the automatic lights in the storage facility in Moon Knight (left) versus the archives in Captain Marvel (right)

At 15:44 minutes, Steven brings Layla back to his apartment. We see many more bookcases, with books stacked everywhere, even on the floor. Steven also has card catalog drawers along one back wall, as well as a library ladder!

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 3, “The Friendly Type”


In this episode, we learn more about Layla’s dad, who was an archaeologist. Again, just to be clear, archaeology and archives are NOT the same thing. (Sam @ Pop Archives delves more into this misconception here in this post.)

But I found this quote interesting. Less than 2 minutes into the episode, Layla’s forger friend, Lagaro (Barbara Rosenblat), quips:

Archaeology. One big mess of obsessive bookworms.

Also, later in the episode at 26:30 minutes, Layla has a brief exchange with Anton Mogart (Gaspard Ulliel, who tragically died in a ski accident this year) about the nature of private collections of cultural artifacts.

Anton: I hope you understand this is more than a collection to me. Preserving history is a responsibility I take very seriously.

Layla: A self-appointed responsibility that you alone are able to enjoy, no?

BINGO. I love that Layla is calling out his privilege here. Anton describes this kind of private collecting in a way that probably sounds similar to how an archivist could describe their work. But most archival collections are meant to be shared with the public — even if that public has to make appointments in order to view or use the collections — and not hidden away for just one person to enjoy. If you’re an archivist and reading this post, please leave a comment and share your perspective on this scene!

Episode 5, “Asylum”


At 3:53 minutes into this penultimate episode, Ethan Hawke is portraying a psychiatrist who is trying to explain trauma and its effects to Steven. And he mentions a library in this explanation!

Harrow: The struggling mind will often build places to seek shelter for different aspects of the self from our most traumatic memories. It’s called just an organizing principle, ok? Some people, they see a castle right? Somebody else will see a name, or a library.

Steven: Or…a psych ward?

Harrow also has a bookcase in his office, and most of the books are white or neutral-colored. Is it just my (biased) librarian perspective, or do you find it suspicious when people match their books with their decor? (Side note: PLEASE never go to a library and ask a librarian or staff member for “you know, the book with the blue cover.” We do NOT organize books by color, and we do not make note of the color of a cover in an item record in the library catalog. We do sometimes make funny book displays, like “Books with Blue Covers,” though, when we’re feeling snarky. 😉 ) In the screenshot below, you can also see colored stickers on some of the book spines, which makes me think these books props came from a real library.

A personal library in a doctor's office
A personal library in a doctor’s office

Ms. Marvel (June-July 2022)


In this TV series, which includes 6 episodes and occurs post-Blip, we get to know Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a 16-year-old fangirl of the Avengers — and specifically Captain Marvel — who navigates the complications of daily life as a Pakistani-American as well as her own superpowers that develop after she puts on a mysterious bangle that used to belong to her great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat). The series co-stars Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan, Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan, Matt Lintz as Bruno Carrelli, Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia Bahadir, Rish Shah as Kamran, Nimra Bucha as Najma, and Aramis Knight as Kareem / Red Dagger. This series is based on the graphic novel series by G. Willow Wilson, and the ending of this TV series directly sets up the plot of the upcoming movie, The Marvels.

This TV series has scenes set in and around the school library. Confusedly, the guidance counselor’s office seems to be INSIDE the school library (???), but I’m not counting the guidance counselor character as a reel librarian.

Episode 1, “Generation Why”


At 5 minutes into the first episode, we get a closeup of the school sign, which reads Coles Academic High School. The real-life inspiration behind this high school is the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School, located on Coles Street in Jersey City, NJ. The McNair HS even issued a press release about how proud they are to be connected with this series!

It has been a point of pride to be a real-life example of the various identities that this history-making character and story represents.

McNair Academic Brought to Life as ‘Coles Academic’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” press release, Jersey City Public Schools, 3 June 2022.
Coles Academic High School plaque
Coles Academic High School plaque

You can also see “G. Willow Wilson” included as the first name on the Coles Academic sign. Wilson wrote the original Ms. Marvel comics, and also has a cameo on the series!

Onto another Wilson reference… at 7 minutes, we get our first glimpse of the school library and the office for the guidance counselor, Mr. Wilson (Jordan Firstman). Mr. Wilson is trying to be super cool and chill, but the teens obviously view him as a lame poser. Through the blinds of the guidance counselor’s office, we can see library shelves, and what looks like a common room with other offices? This school library’s layout seems really confusing! Also, note the cheesy inspirational sign on the back of the office door (“You Can Totally Do This”), as you will see more inspirational posters in upcoming scenes in this office!

Is the guidance counselor's office inside the school library?
Is the guidance counselor’s office inside the school library?

The guidance counseling session lasts 2 minutes.

Episode 2, “Crushed”


At 20:30 minutes into this episode, Bruno has a session with the guidance counselor. This time, the blinds are up, so we can see more clearly the library bookcases along the back and side walls, along with tables in the open area. Several students are using the school library space and browsing books on the shelves. (Click on the first screenshot in the gallery below to view the inspirational poster in this scene, which has a cat hanging off a tree branch below the words “Hang in there!”)

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene lasts under 2 minutes.

Episode 4, “Seeing Red”


At 19:39 minutes into this episode, which is set in Pakistan, we enter the hideout of the Red Daggers, where we see their private library and collection of artifacts. I’m not counting this as an official library, but I thought it served as an interesting and different example of a private library.

We also see this private library again at 31:34 minutes, when Kamala is training with the Red Daggers.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 6, “No Normal”


In this finale episode, Kamala and her friends hide out at the high school and create a plan for how to deal with the law enforcement officers who are coming for them. (Fair warning, there is a “trigger warning” at the beginning of this episode, as it is EXTREMELY disturbing to view cops tracking down and shooting at kids in a school.)

At 15:42 minutes into the episode, Kamala’s brother, Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), grabs a fire extinguisher in the school library. Call numbers are visible on the book spines.

A closeup of school library call numbers and a fire extinguisher
A closeup of school library call numbers and a fire extinguisher

At 21:28 minutes, Kamala and Kamran run through the library and hide in the guidance counselor’s office. Kamala is able to calm Kamran down, and they almost kiss before Bruno interrupts them. Kamala and Kamran escape out the back of the counselor’s office, where we see more bookcases and books with call numbers in a back room. It’s unclear if this back room is a storage room or a browsable extension of the school library? (Also, note the corner of one more inspirational poster in the guidance counselor’s office, with the words “Get Ready for College!”). Bruno distracts the cops by dancing in the library. The scene ends at 23:15 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Because of the additional back room glimpse, the guidance counselor’s office seems to be located in the MIDDLE of the school library. Is he supposed to be both the school’s librarian and the guidance counselor? Mr. Wilson is never seen doing anything other than counseling, so I’m still not listing him as a reel librarian. I don’t understand this set design. My best guess is that if this is a real school location, that they used the actual school librarian’s office and just turned it into the guidance counselor’s office, in order to save money and space.

Phase Four TV series yet to come

These TV series have not yet been released, or fully released:

  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (the first episode aired Aug. 18 and is currently scheduled to run for 9 episodes through Oct. 13th — and I’m waiting to watch this series until I can binge-watch the entire series, and I’m crossing my fingers for some law library scenes!)
  • Untitled Halloween special (scheduled to premiere Oct. 2022)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (scheduled to premiere Dec. 2022)

Last month, Marvel provided updates about Phase Four and revealed more detailed plans for Phase Five and Phase Six.

These TV series are currently scheduled to be part of Phase Five:

  • What If… ?, season 2
  • Secret Invasion
  • Echo
  • Loki, season 2
  • Ironheart
  • Agatha: Coven of Chaos
  • Daredevil: Born Again
  • Note: No additional updates on Armor Wars or a follow-up Wakanda series

Since this post is going live before Phase Four officially finishes, I will revisit the completed Phase Four TV series at a later date. Until then… the Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians is a wrap! 😀

Keeping score

PHASE ONE:

  • 6 movies
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes
    • The Incredible Hulk – university library
    • Thor – public library
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE TWO:

  • 6 movies
  • 1/6 library or archives scenes
    • Thor: The Dark World – college library
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE THREE:

  • 11 movies
  • 3/11 library or archives scenes
    • Doctor Strange – Kamar-Taj library
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming – school library
    • Captain Marvel – U.S. Air Force archives
  • 3/11 reel librarian sightings – all Wong!
    • Doctor Strange
    • Avengers: Infinity War
    • Avengers: Endgame

Note: Except for Doctor Strange, the movies in this phase either included a library or archives but had no corresponding librarian or archivist — or vice versa, with a reel librarian never seen in a library.

PHASE FOUR (THUS FAR):

  • 6 movies + 7 TV series (thus far)
  • 6/13 library or archives scenes
    • Eternals – archives
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Kamar-Taj Library
    • WandaVision – public library in 3 episodes
    • Loki – archives in 3 episodes
    • What If…? – public library in 1 episode, Kamar-Taj Library and the Lost Library of Cagliostro in 1 episode, archives in 1 episode
    • Ms. Marvel – school library in 3 episodes
  • 6/13 reel librarian sightings
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Wong cameo
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home – Wong cameo
    • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Wong as a main character
    • Wanda Vision – public librarian in an uncredited cameo in 1 episode
    • Loki – archivist in 1 episode
    • What If… ? – Wong and O’Bengh

Half of the Phase Four movies and TV series included a library or archives scene and/or reel librarians. It definitely helps that Wong is such a fan favorite!

OVERALL (THUS FAR):

  • 29 movies + 7 TV series (thus far)
  • 14/36 library or archives scenes (39%)
  • 12/36 reel librarian sightings (33%)

Ultimately, a third or more of the MCU movies and TV series included a library or archives scene and/or reel librarians.

Sources used

  • British Library.” Wikipedia, 20 July 2022. Accessed 21 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Cross, Samantha. “Archives on TV: Loki.” Pop Archives, 24 June 2022.
  • Cross, Samantha. “They’re Digging in the Wrong Place: The Influence of Indiana Jones on the Archives.” Pop Archives, 7 Jan. 2019.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Created by Malcolm Spellman. Perf. Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Erin Kellyman, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “New World Order” (1.1, 19 Mar. 2021), “Power Broker” (1.3, 2 Apr. 2021); “One World, One People” (1.6, 23 Apr. 2021).
  • Hawkeye. Perf. Jeremy Rinner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
  • Hermann, Burkely. “Doctor Strange’s Quest for Power and the Black Sorcerer-Librarian.” Pop Culture Library Review, 12 Oct. 2021.
  • Keane, Sean. “Marvel Cinematic Universe: All the Phase 5 and 6 Release Dates Revealed.” CNET, 31 July 2022.
  • Loki. Created by Michael Waldron. Perf. Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “Glorious Purpose” (1.1, 9 Jun. 2021); “The Variant” (1.2, 16 Jun. 2021); “The Nexus Event” (1.4, 30 Jun. 2021); “Journey into Mystery” (1.5, 7 Jul. 2021); “For All Time. Always” (1.6, 14 Jul. 2021).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Five.” Wikipedia, 21 Aug. 2022. Accessed 22 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Four.” Wikipedia, 7 Aug. 2022. Accessed 8 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • McNair Academic Brought to Life as ‘Coles Academic’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” (press release). Jersey City Public Schools, 3 June 2022.
  • Moon Knight. Created by Doug Moench. Perf. Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, F. Murray Abraham. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2022.
    • Episodes: “The Goldfish Problem” (1.1, 30 Mar. 2022); “Summon the Suit” (1.2, 6 Apr. 2022); “The Friendly Type” (1.3, 13 Apr. 2022); “Asylum” (1.5, 27 Apr. 2022).
  • Ms. Marvel. Created by Bisha K. Ali. Perf. Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Rish Shah. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2022.
    • Episodes: “Generation Why” (1.1, 8 Jun. 2022); “Crushed” (1.2, 15 Jun. 2022); “Seeing Red” (1.4, 29 Jun. 2022); “No Norma: (1.6, 13 Jul. 2022).
  • Simons, Roxy. “‘Moon Knight’ Filming Locations: Where in London was the Marvel Show Shot?Newsweek, 6 Apr. 2022.
  • WandaVision. Created by Jac Schaeffer. Perf. Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “Don’t Touch That Dial” (1.2, 15 Jan. 2021), “Now in Color” (1.3, 22 Jan. 2021), “The Series Finale” (1.9, 5 Mar. 2021).
  • What If…? Perf. Jeffrey Wright, Chadwick Boseman, Jeremy Renner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lake Bell, Benedict Wong. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” (1.2, 11 Aug. 2021); “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” (1.3, 25 Aug. 2021); “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” (1.4, 1 Sep. 2021); “What If… Zombies?!” (1.5, 8 Sep. 2021); “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?” (1.7, 22 Sep. 2021); “What If… Ultron Won?” (1.8, 6 Oct. 2021).

A round-up of library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in MCU’s Phase Four movies (so far)

Phase four, round one, of our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians!

We are continuing this summer with our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians. I’ve written a lot about library scenes in various Marvel movies on this site, so I am finally going back through all the Marvel movies, this time in phase order, and making sure I’ve watched, reviewed, and analyzed them all for any library, archives, and reel librarian scenes. So please join me as I wind my librarian way through the MCU! Browse the Phase One round-up, here for the Phase Two round-up, and here for the Phase Three round-up. Phase Four commences the Multiverse Saga.

And because Phase Four introduces TV series and is considerably larger than previous phases, I am splitting Phase Four into two separate posts, a post for the Phase Four movies, and another post for the Phase Four TV series. Let’s start with the Phase Four movies, shall we?

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*

Black Widow (2021)

No official library scene, but there is an interesting private library in this movie that I want to highlight.

Black Widow is the sole stand-alone movie for Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Set in 2016, it continues after the main plot of Captain America: Civil War. We also get introduced to Natasha’s sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), her father-figure, Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian (David Harbour), and her mother-figure,  Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz).

Halfway through the film, Natasha, Yelena, and Alexei arrive at Melina’s home in the country. Although there is no official library in this movie, we do see the extensive private library that lines the inside of Melina’s home — which makes sense, as Melina is a brilliant scientist.

While standing in front of a bookcase, Natasha has a heart-to-heart with Melina, and they discuss Natasha’s birth mother. Natasha spies a photo album on one of the shelves, and the album is full of (staged) family photos from their time in the U.S.

Melina: I’ve always found it best not to look into the past.

Natasha: Then why did you save this?

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

This is the first Asian-led movie of the MCU — definitely overdue! In this movie, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) confronts his past while getting drawn back into the Ten Rings organization. Benedict Wong reprises his role as fan favorite Wong (“I always bet on Asian!”), and Ben Kingsley reprises his role from Iron Man 3 (2013). Tony Leung anchors the movie with his multi-layered portrayal of Wenwu, the leader of the Ten Rings.

Wong is back in the library!

We finally get to see Wong back in a library, which I am still assuming is the Kamar-Taj Library, which happens in a mid-credits scene after Wong comes through a portal to take Shang-Chi and Katy (Awkwafina) back to Kamar-Taj. We also get to see holograms of Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner joining in as they study the Ten Rings. This is also when we get to hear Wong say, “They don’t match any artifacts from our codex,” a line that made me geek out into a deep dive in my first impressions post of the movie.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Wenwu’s private library

Although not an official library, I did want to mention that we get to see another private library in this movie — or perhaps best described as a personal archives?

At 3 minutes into the movie, we get our first glimpse of Wenwu in his office and private library, and everything looks tidy and organized.

Wenwu’s private library looks neat and tidy at first

Cut to 50 minutes into the movie, and Wenwu’s private library is spilling everywhere and very messy, which reflects the state of his mind and obsession to set free the spirit of his beloved dead wife. He explains that “I was sitting here, deep in my research,” while he shows Shang-Chi and Katy the clues and maps he has gathered for Ta Lo, the mythical land his wife came from.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

And 30 minutes after that scene, we see Wenwu again in his library, and he has another vision of his wife. This sets in motion the final battle between Wenwu and his son Shang-Chi in Ta Lo.

In this private library, Wenwu continues his obsession over his dead wife
In his private library, Wenwu continues his obsession over his dead wife

You can read additional details here in this prior post:

First impressions: Wong’s cameos in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ (2021)

Eternals (2021)

Upon rewatching Eternals, I’m going to argue that it includes an archive. Hear me out!

In this movie, we meet the Eternals, immortal beings with superpowers who arrived on Earth thousands of years ago. Created by the Celestials, the Eternals (Salma Hayek as Ajak; Gemma Chan as Sersi; Angelina Jolie as Thena; Richard Madden as Ikaris; Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo; Lia McHugh as Sprite; Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos; Lauren Ridloff as Makkari; Barry Keoghan as Druig; and Don Lee as Gilgamesh) reunite to battle the Deviants.

At one hour into the movie, Sersi is communicating with the Celestial being called Arishem.

Sersi: Why don’t I remember any of this?

Arishem: Because your memories are erased and reset after each emergence. They are stored here.

Sersi: Why do you keep them? [the memory crystals]

Arishem: I keep them in order to study the Deviants. I created the Deviants, Sersi, for the same purpose I created you.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

That wide shot of the wall of memory crystals was included in the original trailer, and at that point, it looked like a forest to me. Watching this movie, this shot serves to visually emphasize how many times these Eternals have been reset. Their memories have been “stored,” as Arishem puts it, but you could use the word “archived.” And what a vast archives collection it is!

And here’s a quick bit about how at 1 hour and 30 minutes into the movie, the Celestials revisit their ship, and find Makkari waiting for them. Phastos exclaims, “Is that a sarcophagus in my lab?!” I mused that you could think of the contents of that room — a jumble of books, paintings, statues, a throne, and yes, a sarcophagus — as like an archives of human existence on Earth? But ultimately, it’s really just a junk room, disorganized and complete with junk food wrappers! One man’s junk is another man’s treasure… 😉

Makkari's junk room
Makkari’s junk room

Makkari’s junk room also reminded me of the “Room of Requirement” from the Harry Potter series… any other impressions? Please comment and share!

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

In this movie, we see the aftermath from the ending of Spider-Man: Far From Home, when Mysterio exposed Spider-Man’s identity. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) then goes to Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to try and fix everything, but the spell goes wrong and causes the Multiverse to split, which brings back villains and past versions of Spider-Man.

Wong (Benedict Wong) also shows up for a brief cameo at the beginning of the movie, long enough to warn Peter and Doctor Strange about the spell… that they then immediately cast after he leaves. Here was my “first impressions” tweet after I first watched the movie at our regional drive-in:

At 57 minutes into the movie, we follow Spider-Man’s leaps through dimensions of reality, with different locations flashing onscreen for seconds. At first glance, I thought there was a clip of bookcases, or perhaps shelves of a bookstore in a local mall. Upon a second look, and a closer pause, it turned out to be shelves at a clothing store, with what looks like purses on an end-cap. (I’m including this non-library aside to demonstrate that yes, I have been thorough in my rewatching of every MCU movie and TV series! 😉 ) See the screenshot below:

Spider-Man leaps through a clothing store, not a library or a bookstore
Spider-Man leaps through a clothing store, not a library or a bookstore

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

In this movie, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), along with multiverse versions of himself, battles Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in order to protect America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager with the power to punch through the multiverse.

Benedict Wong returns as beloved reel librarian (and Sorceror Supreme!) Wong, and has several action scenes. The movie’s plot of good versus evil is embodied within two books: the Book of Vishanti and the Darkhold.

You can read additional details here in this prior post:

First impressions: 18 thoughts and questions I had about Wong while watching ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (2022)

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

No library scene.

In this movie, directed by Taika Waititi, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) returns to the MCU, this time as the Mighty Thor! There’s more to the movie — like Christian Bale starring as Gorr the God Butcher in a completely different movie within this movie (sarcasm alert) — but Jane as the Mighty Thor is the main reason to see this movie, in my opinion.

I was able to catch Thor: Love and Thunder at the drive-in. Although there is no library scene, a few books are key factors:

  1. Dr. Jane Foster’s book called The Foster Theory gets a closeup onscreen
  2. Jane reads up on Mjolnir in a couple of Norse mythology books, which leads her to New Asgard, where she becomes the Mighty Thor.

As this online article explains:

Well, as we come to find in “Love and Thunder,” Jane finally managed to take all of her findings and turn them into a book titled “The Foster Theory” which is referenced several times in the film. The notes that Thor recovered for Jane help to craft this book and turn Jane into a world-renowned scientist, offering a bit more richness to her character arc. It truly filled in some gaps that existed ever since Jane disappeared following the events of “Thor: The Dark World.”

Ryan Scott, “The Coolest Easter Eggs In Thor: Love And Thunder,” SlashFilm.com, 8 July 2022

And this article sums up the importance of how and why Mjolnir communicated to Jane through those mythology books:

With Jane sick with stage four cancer, Mjolnir communicated with her telepathically, leading her to scour the books on Viking mythology. This led Jane to New Asgard, where the broken pieces of Mjolnir were held. […] Jane’s arrival in New Asgard woke up Mjolnir, allowing it to reform to transform Jane into Mighty Thor. It was waiting for Jane all along, somehow sensing her hopelessness and knowing that she was struggling with her cancer diagnosis.

Mae Abdulbaki, “Why Mjolnir Chose Jane As The New Thor,” ScreenRant.com, 7 July 2022

Phase Four movies yet to be released:

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Nov. 2022)

Last month, Marvel provided updates about Phase Four and revealed more detailed plans for Phase Five and Phase Six. They announced that the final movie in Phase Four would be Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which will be released this fall. The other upcoming movies, including Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (currently scheduled for Feb. 2023), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (currently scheduled for May 2023), The Marvels (currently scheduled for July 2023), and Blade (currently scheduled for Oct. 2023), among others, will be part of Phase Five. Fantastic Four (currently scheduled for Nov. 2024) will be included in Phase Six.

Since this post is going live before Phase Four finishes, I will revisit the completed Phase Four at a later date. Until then…

The Avengers will return…

… in our next regular post!  We will continue our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians for Phase Four TV series in the next post. Stay tuned!

Keeping score

PHASE ONE:

  • 6 movies
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes (The Incredible Hulk – university library, Thor – public library)
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE TWO:

  • 6 movies
  • 1/6 library or archives scenes (Thor: The Dark World – college library)
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE THREE:

  • 11 movies
  • 3/11 library or archives scenes (Doctor Strange – Kamar-Taj library, Spider-Man: Homecoming – school library, Captain Marvel – U.S. Air Force archives)
  • 3/11 reel librarian sightings (Doctor StrangeAvengers: Infinity WarAvengers: Endgame – all Wong!)

Note: Except for Doctor Strange, the movies in this phase either included a library or archives but had no corresponding librarian or archivist, or vice versa, with a reel librarian never seen in a library.

Phase Four (thus far):

  • 6 movies (thus far)
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes (Eternals – archives, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Kamar-Taj Library)
  • 3/6 reel librarian sightings (Wong in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness)

OVERALL (THUS FAR):

  • 29 movies
  • 8/29 library or archives scenes
  • 6/29 reel librarian sightings

Sources used

First impressions: 18 thoughts and questions I had about Wong while watching ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (2022)

It’s the WongVerse, and we’re just living in it.

This is another post in my “first impressions” series of posts, which focus on current films that include reel librarians and/or library or archives scenes that I have watched in theaters. The resulting “first impressions” posts are necessarily less detailed, as I don’t have the luxury of rewatching scenes and taking notes in the movie theater, but I do take notes as soon as I can after watching the film.

This spring, I was able to watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at our nearby drive-in theater, Rodeo Drive-In. Sorry it has taken me so long to get this post together; real-life complications got in the way, y’all, and as my husband advised, “Multiverse of mind, embrace the chaos.” 😉 And it is interesting to note that it is actually good timing this “first impressions” post got delayed because this movie will soon be available for streaming via Disney+, on June 22, so you can watch (or re-watch) the movie very soon!

Below again is the trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, to set the stage for the film’s plot and main characters of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wong (Benedict Wong), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Official Trailer” video uploaded by Marvel Entertainment, Standard YouTube License

***SPOILER ALERTS BELOW***

1. Did Wong ever get invited to Tony Stark’s wedding?

Hear me out, I swear this random question will make soon make sense. Near the beginning of the movie, Strange attends Christine’s wedding, without Wong by his side. That made me wonder if Wong ever got invited to Tony Stark’s wedding? This connects back to a scene in Avengers: Infinity War (2018):

Wong then ultimately defeats Cull Obsidian by transporting him to a snowy region/planet and then severs off the villain’s arm when closing the portal. It’s nice to see Wong victorious in battle in this movie, especially considering his previous battle at the end of Doctor Strangewhich I went into detail in last week’s post. Stark is so impressed with Wong’s quick thinking and magical skillz that he shouts, “Wong, you’re invited to the wedding!” (We had learned earlier that Tony and Pepper are recently engaged.)

Jennifer Snoek-Brown, “First impressions: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’,” Reel Librarians, 2 May 2018

We never did learn that cliffhanger question in that movie, if Wong ever got to go to Tony and Pepper’s wedding. And why wasn’t Wong invited to this wedding? Obviously, as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) showed, Wong would make an excellent guest. 😉

2. Wong looks bad-ass wielding a sword.

Wong is ALWAYS a bad-ass, of course, but it was cool to get to see him literally in action. In the initial fight scene with Wong, Strange, and America Chavez battling Gargantos (a big eyeball, squid-like monster variant of Shuma-Gorath), Wong wields a lasso and a sword. Plus, we get a closeup view of Wong’s costume, which we had gotten a sneak peek of when his action figure came out earlier this year:

Left: Screenshot of Wong fighting Gargantos in Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness (2022) ; Right: Photo of the Wong action figure I purchased this spring, which shows the costume and sword that Wong has in the movie.

3. There are books kept secret from the Kamar-Taj librarian?!

When Wong and Strange debrief with Chavez after they dispatch Gargantos, they start talking about the Book of Vishanti. Wong explains how he found out about this book:

You find out there’s a secret book you get when you become Sorcerer Supreme.

So that means that when Wong was the Kamar-Taj librarian, back in 2016’s Doctor Strange, he DID NOT yet know about all the books in that library’s collection!

4. How many languages can Wong speak?

There was also a brief bit in this scene with Chavez where she and Wong start speaking Spanish to each other, much to the annoyance of Strange. (But everything seems to annoy Strange, doesn’t it?) It just makes me wonder how many languages Wong speaks… and how good he is at everything he does! #TeamWong #WongVerse

You can see the clip of their Spanish conversation here.

5. Once again, Wong is the Supreme Researcher.

Wong invites Chavez to Kamar-Taj to help keep her safe from Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. And once again, Wong proves how he is the Supreme Researcher, as he then provides the exposition about the Scarlet Witch and the prophecy:

The Scarlet Witch is a being of unfathomable magic. She can re-write Reality as she chooses, and is prophesied to either rule or annihilate the cosmos.

Wong also explains about the Darkhold vs. the Book of Vishanti. Essentially, it’s the story of good vs. evil, embodied within books. Darkhold contains spells of black magic and represents the evil, whereas the Book of Vishanti contains spells of white magic and represents the good.

And who better than to explain about books than Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme and (former? current?) Kamar-Taj librarian?! He also was on exposition duty in previous Marvel movies, including Doctor Strange (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).

Wong primarily serves the role of an Information Provider, but at this point you could argue he’s grown into an Atypical character, which are reel librarian “portrayals [that] go beyond stereotypical constraints.”

6. Are we seeing the missing book from the Kamar-Taj library in this movie?

Could either the Book of Vishanti or the Darkhold be the missing library book from the Kamar-Taj library’s “forbidden section,” as glimpsed in Doctor Strange (2016)? I would suspect it is likely the Darkhold, rather than the Book of Vishanti, because Wong only found out about the latter when he became Sorcerer Supreme (see #3 above).

Ryan Arey from ScreenCrush also theorizes it’s the Darkhold that went missing from the Kamar-Taj library:

DOCTOR STRANGE in the Multiverse of Madness: EASTER EGGS and Breakdown: Every Marvel Cameo” video uploaded by ScreenCrush, Standard YouTube License.

7. Wong is also a man of action.

When Wanda the Scarlet Witch attacks Kamar-Taj, Wong wastes no time in snapping into commander-in-chief mode — he IS the Sorcerer Supreme, after all! — and shouting orders to the students:

Kamar-Taj must now become a fortress. Stop the teaching, arm the students.

[…]

Defensive positions, now!

[…]

Fortify your minds!

8. Reel librarian Wong helps destroy a book!

Yep, (former?) reel librarian Wong helps destroy a book. But not just any book. The Darkhold, the book of dark magic, the book of evil. Do the ends justify the means?

Wong tries to save Chavez from the Scarlet Witch, but he ends up getting blasted by Wanda and banging his head and passing out. When he wakes to finds himself tied up, he spies one of the students, Sara (Sheila Atim), sneaking her way into the room. He tries to stop Sara.

Sara: I need to destroy the book.

Wong: No, it cannot be you!

The Darkhold does gets destroyed in this scene. I know that the Darkhold and the Book of Vishanti serve as this movie’s MacGuffins, but if we’re not going to get to see the Kamar-Taj library again, then at least we’re getting a Wong story focused around books!

9. Did the Kamar-Taj library get destroyed?

We see Kamar-Taj in rubble after the Scarlet Witch blasts it to pieces. Did the Kamar-Taj library get destroyed, or is it still intact? Is there a new librarian? Where is the library located within the monastery? Inquiring minds want to know!

Here’s a quick look behind-the-scenes of destroying Kamar-Taj:

Doctor Strange multiverse of madness || Behind the scene of destroying Kamar-Taj” video uploaded by SilverLake Entertainment, Standard YouTube License

10. One of Wong’s superpowers is his humanity.

One of Wong’s greatest strengths, or superpowers — and a big reason why I think he’s become a fan favorite — is his humanity and belief in people. But this superpower can also be manipulated.

Although the Darkhold gets destroyed, Wanda figures out that Wong must know about more the Darkhold. (Because he’s the librarian and knows everything, right? Kinda slow there, eh, Wanda?!) Wong says that she will have to kill him to get that knowledge. But Wanda has also already figured out about Wong’s humanity — and that his humanity can be manipulated — so she threatens to kill the other students, including the Rintrah (a green-skinned minotaur that was part of Marvel’s Build-A-Figure marketing ploy with Wong’s action figure).

Of course, Wanda’s evil ploy works, and Wong confesses that the Darkhold that got destroyed was a copy, and the original is at Wundagore Mountain. (Did anyone else hear this first as Wandacore? Sorry, I don’t read the comics, so I was unfamiliar with it.)

Here’s a quick video that explains the significance of Wundagore Mountain:

Wundagore Mountain Is Pretty Significant | Doctor Strange 2” video uploaded by Geek Culture Clips, Standard YouTube License

11. A library of one?

So although we don’t get to see the Kamar-Taj library again — no, I’m NOT letting that go, such a wasted opportunity in a storyline about forbidden books! — we do get a scene of the Gap Junction, “a plane between universes” where Strange hid the Book of Vishanti.

Screenshot of the Book of Vishanti from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Screenshot of the Book of Vishanti from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, taken from this YouTube video

Essentially, this serves as a library of one, right? Riiiiiiiiiight. 😉

12. Wong still has his sense of humor.

After Wanda throws Wong off a cliff on Wundagore (RUDE!), he uses his lasso to climb back up. He also picks off one of the guard monsters to help distract them for Zombie Strange.

When Zombie Strange shows up, Wong quips:

I don’t even want to know.

Never change, Wong. Never change. 😀

13. Wong is wrong!

Wong is… wrong?! I know. I was shocked, too.

When Zombie Strange is trying to rescue America Chavez while simultaneously battling Wanda, Wong conjures up a cage to contain Wanda (ever helpful, our Wong). Zombie Strange hesitates between untying Chavez or usurping her magical powers (and therefore killing her) in order to beat Wanda once and for all.

Wong urges him to do the latter:

It’s the only way!

But Wong is wrong.

The only way forward is for Strange to save Chavez, so she can finally believe in her true power and and wield it to save herself.

Honestly, I thought this was a pretty cheap and manipulative use of Wong in this movie. (And don’t get me started with the cheap and manipulative use of Wanda and her motivations and lack of agency in this movie!) They showed Wong’s humanity when he gave up the secret of the Darkhold to help save the Kamar-Taj students, but then they flipped the script — and Wong’s personality — at the end in order to make room for Zombie Strange to show his ultimate humanity and character growth. (That was an odd sentence to write. It’s a weird storyline with lots of characters, y’all!) It didn’t have to be either/or; both Wong and Zombie Strange could have had cinematic space to show their humanity.

14. Strange is finally Wong’s right-hand man.

There’s a running gag throughout the movie that Strange can’t be bothered to bow to Wong, even though Wong is the Sorcerer Supreme. (Shades of White supremacy, anyone?) But at the end, Strange finally does bow to Wong, showing his respect. About time!

Throughout my analysis post of Doctor Strange (2016), I kept pointing out how many times Wong is visually shown to be Strange’s right-hand man (note: he stands on Strange’s right side, which reflects opposite onscreen), which fits his role in that movie as a supporting player. But Wong has grown as a character — and as a fan favorite! — and is now the Sorcerer Supreme, at least in this universe. Therefore, Strange is now Wong’s right-hand man, and it’s fitting that he finally accepts that. Again, about time! 🙂

Strange bows to Wong in this screenshot from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, taken from this YouTube video

15. Is Wong a Nexus being?

At the end of the movie, Strange asks Wong a question.

Strange: Are you happy?

Wong: That’s an interesting question. Sometimes I do wonder about my other lives. But I’m still grateful of this one. Even with its own tribulations.

Wong sounds very wise here, being grateful and content for this life in this universe. But although we see many variants of Dr. Strange in this movie, we never see variants of Wong, even though Wong references “my other lives” in this brief exchange. In the other universes we see, the Dr. Strange variant is also the one serving as Sorcerer Supreme. But in this reality, Wong serves as Sorcerer Supreme, not Strange.

That got me thinking… could Wong be a Nexus Being?

A Nexus Being is someone who exists in all parallel worlds of the Multiverse, serving as anchors to that reality. America Chavez proves to be a Nexus Being in this movie, because she can travel between worlds, and she always remains herself. It is my understanding that the Scarlet Witch is a Nexus Being in the comics… but because this movie’s plot depended on there being variants of Wanda, doesn’t that mean that she isn’t a Nexus Being in the movie versions? If I have misunderstood this, leave a comment!

This Screen Rant article ponders the question of Wong being a Nexus Being:

As his appearances have grown more frequent, Wong has also become more powerful than audiences had ever seen him before, perhaps indicating that the sorcerer is dealing with a larger power that he is perhaps unaware of. Given that he will no doubt accompany Dr. Strange on his multiversal exploits, it may be revealed that the beloved character has been a Nexus being all along.

Jordan Iacobucci, “MCU: 10 Characters That Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Could Reveal To Be Nexus Beings,” ScreenRant.com, 29 April 2022

If Wong does end up being a Nexus Being, that would be AWESOME. And befitting one of the most beloved reel librarian characters ever.

16. Wong shows up when you need him.

The opposite of a bad penny (turning up when no one wants you), Wong turns up exactly when you need him. Or rather… when the plot needs him! That’s why he’s often used for exposition, to explain things in order to move the plot forward.

Here’s the way my husband put it:

Wong shows up when you need him. Not like “deus ex machina,” but like “sorcerer and the script.” It’s like plot armor!

Wong, the true hero of the MCU, in a screenshot from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Wong, the true hero of the MCU, in a screenshot from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, taken from this YouTube video

I agree with this article that argues that Wong is “the real one holding it all together” in this movie:

Despite what you may have been led to believe, the hero of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not Benedict Cumberbatch’s [Stephen] Strange. At least, he isn’t the real one holding it all together. Sure, he may get top billing on all the posters where he towers above everyone else. However, the real protector of all that is good across the various multiverses has proven time and time again to actually be the reliable Wong. He is the true Sorcerer Supreme, the protector of the New York Sanctum, and the dedicated librarian of Kamar-Taj.

Chase Hutchinson, “Benedict Wong Is the Real Hero of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’,” Collider, 6 May 2022

17. Why is Wong so popular?

Obviously, I am just one of millions of fans who love Wong. I think the way Wong’s character was rewritten for the screen (which I go into more detail here in this “Perspectives about Wong’s reel librarian character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” post); Wong’s humanity; and also, actor Benedict Wong’s humor and screen presence, have all helped make Wong a firm fan favorite.

Below are a couple of other perspectives on why Wong is so popular.

The secret is probably Benedict Wong, the actor chosen to portray the character. Fans seem to love this character, one that was once a dull stereotype and a reminder of a more unpleasant age. Thanks to a new take and a stellar casting choice, Wong has become the universe-hopping fixed point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wong is everywhere and nobody is complaining, in fact, they want more. Let this once-minor character continue to outgrow his start and become as important and iconic to the MCU as Steve or Tony. He’s earned it.

Joshua Kristian McCoy, “MCU: Why Is Wong In Everything?,” GameRant.com, 4 June 2022

And straight from Benedict Wong himself:

So, we created this no-nonsense, midfield general librarian with hints of Roy Keane [former Manchester United player] in there. This character has progressed now, and I found out when [director] Sam Raimi was on a conference call and talking me through the story. Here was this legend. He said, ‘Of course, you’re going to be the Sorcerer Supreme,’ and as this geek, it’s so great what they’ve done with the character and how he stands toe-to-toe with Doctor Strange.

Benedict Wong, as quoted in “Marvel Fans Are Loving Wong’s Dominance in Phase 4” by Aaron Perine, ComicBook.com, 18 May 2022

18. It’s the WongVerse, and we’re just living in it.

Wong has so rapidly become a fan favorite, it’s really the #WongVerse now! Benedict Wong has appeared thus far in 7 MCU movies and series… and counting:

Plus, Benedict Wong is credited to appear in at least one episode of the upcoming TV series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. So we will see Wong again… and not a moment too soon!


So there’s my round-up of random thoughts, questions, and first impressions I had while watching Wong and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). What other thoughts, questions, theories, and observations did you have? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

Libraries and archives with ‘Soul’

“Shhhhhh! Oh yeah, that’s good.”

To my American readers or those with American friends or family, I wish you all an (early) Happy Thanksgiving on Thursday and a Native American Heritage Day on Friday. It is also Native American Heritage Month here in the U.S. For my post this holiday week, I’m analyzing a film that focuses on, like the name reveals, the soul: Disney/Pixar’s 2020 film, Soul. This animated movie features a diverse voice cast, including Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner, Tina Fey as 22, Rachel House as Terry, Questlove as Curley, and Angela Bassett as Dorothea Williams. The film earned two Oscars, for Original Score (featuring the musical genius of Jon Batiste) and Best Animated Feature Film. This movie does not technically feature a librarian, landing it in the Class V category, but it includes a library scene as well as a different kind of archives.

Co-written and co-directed by Pete Docter (who also directed 2001’s Monsters, Inc., 2009’s Up, and 2015’s Inside Out), Soul‘s themes explore determinism, often contrasted with “free will,” and what helps shape individual personalities and characteristics. The plot focuses on Joe Gardner, a Black jazz musician and teacher who dies before his “big break” playing with jazz legend Dorothea Williams; in an effort to return to his body in time to realize his jazz-playing dreams, he mentors 22, a soul who resists every opportunity to develop a “spark” and complete the process of being born. There’s more to it than that, and here’s a trailer to provide more context:

Disney and Pixar’s Soul | Official Trailer | Disney+” video uploaded by Pixar, Standard YouTube License

Library scene

At 27 minutes into the movie, Joe takes 22 to the Hall of Everything, in an effort to inspire 22’s “spark.” They walk into a library space — which is totally empty, by the way (sigh) — filled with the outlines of bookcases, a dropped ceiling with fluorescent lights, rolling carts, and a desk with a computer and a hanging sign labeled “Information.” My favorite detail? That the rolling carts have items in them waiting to be shelved. But with no librarian there… who’s going to shelve them?! 😉

Joe tries to inspire a librarian spark, in this screenshot from Soul (2020)
Joe tries to inspire a librarian spark, in this screenshot from Soul (2020)

Joe: How about a librarian? They’re cool.

22: Yes, amazing. Who wouldn’t like working at a thankless job you’re always in danger of losing due to budget cuts? Though I do like the idea of randomly shushing people.

Joe: Oh, obviously, this —

22: Shhhhhh! Oh yeah, that’s good.

Shushing in the library scene in Soul (2020)
Shushing in the library scene in Soul (2020)

This scene lasts about 10 seconds total. And what an emotional ride those 10 seconds were for me!

At the beginning of this scene, I felt like this:

By the end of this scene, I felt like this:

Screenshot from Soul (2020): "You cut deep, Joe."
Screenshot from Soul (2020)

I am feeling @bethforbooks here:

The archives of souls

Although there is no actual librarian in Soul, we do get to see the archives… of souls! Terry, who is very clearly referred to in the film as the accountant, is trying to figure out why the count of souls is off.

At 18 minutes into the movie, Terry zips off to the archives of souls — which is shown as a vast universe of file cabinet drawers — and starts at the A’s to doublecheck each file and soul, in order to find the one soul unaccounted for.

Terry the accountant digs into the soul archives in Soul (2020)
Terry the accountant digs into the soul archives in Soul (2020)

The archives in Soul reminded me of the archives in Blade Runner 2049 (2017), which I analyzed in this 2018 post. The color palettes are very different, as are the angles, but the vastness of the archival spaces feel similar in scale to me. Below is a side-by-side comparison:

Screenshot from 'Blade Runner 2049' (2017)
Comparing the archives in Soul (left) with Blade Runner 2049 (right)

We check in with Terry the accountant a couple more times throughout the movie:

  • 43:32 minutes: Terry has made it to the G’s in the archives. “You’re out there somewhere, little soul, and I’m gonna find you.”
  • 49:49 minutes: Terry holds up Joe Gardner’s file and exclaims, “Found him! See that, everybody! Who figured out why the count’s off?!

And speaking of souls and how we form our personalities… I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anyone that I do actually picture a card catalog drawer when I think of my own brain. When I have to access a memory or piece of knowledge, I mentally picture flipping through the card catalog of my brain, much like Terry flipping through the archives of souls. And… now we’ve come full circle. 😉

Have you watched Soul? What were your thoughts of the devastating way that 22 summed up the librarian profession? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

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