The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for six years now (wait, six years? Really? That's all?) and it's arguably been going from strength to strength, with this year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy capturing the hearts of millions.
Part of the success of those movies, though, lies in the MCU's ability to reference not only itself, but a huge, sprawling back catalog of Marvel comics. More than almost any other franchise, they've used Easter eggs to make the films more accessible - with references targeted at everyone from the most hardcore comic-book nerd, all the way through to your granddad who hasn't read a comic since 1945.
And seeing as that's part of why we love them so much, we thought we'd take another look at some of the best Easter eggs around - and bring you our favorites.
(Note, various Marvel SPOILERS abound below...)
Fin Fang Foom
One of the earliest, and coolest, Marvel cameos came in the MCU's first ever feature film - Iron Man.
You'd be hard-pressed to spot him, as he's hiding on a poster on a wall as Iron Man races past, but long-time Stark nemesis (and alien dragon monster from the planet Kakaranathara) Fin Fang Foom is totally there. Which, seeing as he's a huge green dragon, is probably about all we'll see of him on screen.
The Man in the Ice
You'd have to have sharp eyes to notice it the first time around (especially as the scene was deleted from the theatrical cut), but The Incredible Hulk was actually hiding a pretty major cameo - from Captain America.
I mean sure, he's frozen, and barely visible, but still...
The Character-Teasing S.H.I.E.L.D. Map
Remember back at the end of Iron Man 2, when Tony Stark meets up with Nick Fury? Well, that map behind them wasn't just decorative. Instead, it seems to be highlighting the location of superheroes.
And wouldn't you know it - there's one in Africa, and one in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
Black Panther and Namor: The Sub Mariner, come on down...
Tony Stark's Promotion
So, Tony Stark's generous and deeply sarcastic offer to Senator Stern in Iron Man 2? Y'know, the one where he says he's happy to take the position of Secretary of Defence?
Yeah, in the comics, he totally does. In-Joke...
The Infinity Gauntlet
Thor may not be most people's favorite Marvel movie, but it did include one of the most significant Easter eggs to date - in the form of the Infinity Gauntlet.
Blink and you'll miss it, but you can see the God-like power-granting, Thanos-inspiring, future-movie-prompting metal glove in the background as the Destroyer wakes up and totally murders two thieves.
The Real Human Torch
Sorry Fox. You may have Johnny Storm flying around (and this writer's still optimistic about Michael B. Jordan being awesome in next year's reboot) but Marvel still threw the original Torch into Captain America, during that whole future technology exhibition.
Which, seeing as he predated Cap as (Marvel's former form) Timely comics' first ever superhero, seems only fair, really.
Arnim Zola's Foreshadowing
Remember that shot of Arnim Zola through a magnifying glass in Captain America? Well, there's a reason all the mega-fans in the audience cheered - it totally set up his comic-book appearance as a body-less computer program. And, of course, this, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
Because foreshadowing's only really fun when everyone gets to be in on it in the end.
It may not seem like all that much when it appeared in The Avengers, but that scene where Coulson hands Tony a bunch of files to do with Project Pegasus (and, even more importantly, Project 42) might just be setting up one of the Marvel Universe's most explosive story-lines: Civil War.
After all, Tony building an other-worldly prison known as Project 42 (on top of what was once Project Pegasus) is a major part of the storyline in the comics.
Odin's Secret Cameo
One of our favorite sorts of cameo here at Moviepilot is the type that you don't even really notice until way after the fact.
Case in point - Odin's (sort-of) appearance in The Avengers, watching over Thor as he confronts Loki via his two legendary ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Which ties together the whole 'why didn't Odin help out during that whole massive crisis' thing. Sort of.
Sometimes, though, the greatest Easter eggs hint at characters we were never expecting to see in the first place. For instance, Ellen Brandt, the female agent in Iron Man 3?
Well, in the comics, she was originally the wife of the mysterious superhero named Man-Thing, before betraying him - acquiring that fetching facial scar in the process - and joining AIM. Which...totally fits with how her character plays out in the movie. So Man-Thing exists!
You had to wait around until Thor: The Dark World's post-credits sequence to catch it, and most people didn't really catch its meaning until Guardians of the Galaxy's release the year after, but that cocoon there?
Legendary Marvel hero Adam Warlock- who has a whole lot to do with Thanos - is almost certainly inside - seeing as Guardians director James Gunn totally confirmed it. Expect to see him turn up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
The Arrow Necklace
For everyone wondering just where Hawkeye had disappeared to during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the arrow necklace that Black Widow wore throughout the film was...arguably more confusing than anything else.
After all, Scarlett Johansson has publicly hinted that it suggests a 'close relationship' between the Widow and Hawkeye. So, keep your eyes peeled for some romance in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Those are our favorite [Marvel](channel:932254) Easter eggs - but which great ones have we missed out? Let us know below!
What do you guys think? Favorite Marvel Easter egg?