The famous post-credits scene trend has always been a staple of the MCU as every entry in the franchise - aside from Avengers: Endgame - delivers fans at least one special surprise for sticking around. Over the years these have included jaw-dropping twists, hilarious moments, and shocking character debuts.
Although this variety has existed for years, the latest Phase 4 outings have all followed a very similar formula, at least when it comes to the big screen.
MCU's Phase 4 Post-Credit Streak Explained
Throughout the last five movies in the MCU's Phase 4, Marvel Studios has demonstrated a strange trend with its mid-credits/post-credits scenes. From Eternals to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, every stinger introduces a major character - usually making their franchise debut - who has almost no bearing over the movie itself and has not been seen before the tag.
Generally, these scenes are placed to set up a future project, just as post-credits stingers always have. Although the concept of featuring almost completely new characters had only been done sparingly in past phases, and yet has now been used in all but one of the Phase 4 blockbusters - the exception being Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Check out the post-credits scenes of every Phase 4 movie that introduced an entirely new character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe below:
Although Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Valentina ultimately made her MCU debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, her appearance in Black Widow's post-credits scene was originally poised to be her first. During the original Phase 4 slate, prior to the pandemic, Scarlett Johansson's solo spy outing kickstarted the saga and was followed by Sam and Bucky's buddy cop adventures.
While Black Widow was almost part of this new character trend, it truly began with Eternals through Harry Styles' Eros, aka Starfox, and Patton Oswalt's Pip the Troll. The duo popped up on the Domo in the mid-credits scene to offer help to the traveling Eternals, marking their surprise first appearance in the MCU.
The post-credits stinger even doubled up on this trend as Mahershala Ali's Blade made an off-screen vocal cameo - technically marking his first MCU appearance - to simply say "Sure you're ready for that, Mr. Whitman?" As of now, the vampire hunter is not expected to be seen until his solo outing releases in September 2024.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Although Eddie Brock and Venom have been seen before in Sony's Spider-Man Universe, the No Way Home post-credits scene marked his first MCU role. The character also had no bearing over the story and was quickly pulled back to his own universe, despite having expressed interest in Tom Holland's Spider-Man, leaving only a trace of his alien symbiote behind for a future project.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
After a whole host of Multiversal adventures and the revelation of the third eye on Doctor Strange's forehead, fans were introduced to Charlize Theron's sorceress Clea - who is expected to play into Doctor Strange 3. The magical duo is now off on a mission to stop an incursion caused by Strange and is expected to begin a romantic entanglement down the line.
Thor: Love and Thunder
After a God-fuelled adventure across the pantheons, Thor 4 delivered one last surprise introduction in the mid-credits as Zeus revealed his son Hercules, played by Brett Goldstein. Having been previously name-dropped by Thor, this marked the character's MCU debut and the beginning of what will likely be a long tenure.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Most recently, Phase 4 concluded with another occurrence of this trend as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever introduced T'Challa and Nakia's son. Currently, Toussaint, aka T'Challa Jr., is just six years old, but audiences expect that one day he will go on to become the Black Panther and King of Wakanda.
How the Infinity Saga Used Post-Credits Scenes Differently
By comparison, the Infinity Saga seldom used its post-credits scenes to tease a previously un-introduced character who had not been connected to the actual story of the movie. While Phase 4 has just completed a five-movie streak of this trend, the longest occurrence in the last saga was across just two entries with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.
While Nick Fury may not have been directly connected to Iron Man, although he has a connection through SHIELD's involvement, his introduction in the post-credits stinger was vital, not just to the future of the MCU, but even Iron Man 2 which he went on to take a starring role in opposite Robert Downey Jr.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 took advantage of this trend once again to tease Chris Hemsworth's Thor as Agent Coulson arrived in New Mexico to the sight of Mjolnir. And although the God of Thunder may not have been directly relevant to the movie itself, this scene was more to tease where Clark Gregg's agent would be going next.
After the Avengers assembled for the first time and the threat of Loki had been handled, fans were treated to a quick shot of the Mad Titan Thanos, the man who had been behind the entire invasion. In many ways, this scene was essential to set the direction of the MCU and establish where this overarching story was going.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver made a quick appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier's post-credits scene as they were shown to be imprisoned under HYDRA experimentation to hint at their role in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Although neither the twins of Baron Von Strucker were related to the political thriller sequel itself, this helped show HYDRA's reach, which was a major theme of the movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy
In a more hilarious introduction, Guardians of the Galaxy's post-credits scene showcased Howard the Duck - who may soon be in for an MCU comeback - for the first time. While this does follow the usual pattern of this trend, it wasn't quite the same as other cases since the Duck never seemed intended for a major role like other characters were.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Adam Warlock may not have appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 but his cocoon did, and now that tease is finally paying off as Will Poulter debuts as the golden hero in Vol. 3 six years later. However, as Warlock was a direct product of the Sovereign and their plan to take revenge on the Guardians, it could be argued to actually have a strong connection to the plot.
Avengers: Infinity War
Similarly, Captain Marvel did not appear in Avengers: Infinity War but her logo certainly did ahead of her solo debut and role in Endgame. This scene certainly had little relation to Infinity War's actual storyline as neither Carol Danvers nor Nick Fury was involved, with this mainly serving to set up the final Phase 3 entries.
Spider-Man: Far From Home - J. Jonah Jameson
Spider-Man: Far From Home closed out Phase 3 with one of the most jaw-dropping post-credits scenes ever as Peter Parker's identity was revealed to the world by none other than J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson. The one-two punch of this shocking twist combined with Simmons' return made for a true shocker.
Why the MCU's Phase 4 Post-Credits Scenes Are a Downgrade
Looking at the bulk of Marvel Studios' post-credits scenes, they tend to involve characters who had already been introduced in the MCU or featured in the movie. However, Phase 4 has instead made a point of consistently focusing its stingers on shocking new characters or actor introductions.
Granted, this concept can work well in certain cases - such as with the reveal of T'Challa's son in Wakanda Forever as it ties nicely to the themes of his legacy throughout the flick. But this trend being used so consistently means fans are now left expecting to meet a new character after the credits roll.
Many may argue Marvel Studios is doing this for pure fan service, but this does match the overall theme of Phase 4. The beginning of the Multiverse Saga has been all about building out the MCU's new roster that will be essential for the years to come. These post-credits scenes are a means to further accelerate this process, bringing in characters who may be tougher to place elsewhere.
However, this ultimately results in fans having little connection to these characters or excitement to see them again. For one, Love and Thunder set the stage for Hercules to face off with Thor, but non-comic readers will have no idea just how exciting that match-up could be nor any concept of his strength, skill, or character.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is playing now in theatres worldwide.