Professor X In The MCU Or Michael Keaton Back In The Cowl? The Internet Has Thoughts, But I'm Not Sure They're Fair

Patrick Stewart and Michael Keaton
(Image credit: Fox/Warner Bros.)

Last night, during Super Bowl Sunday, Marvel fans were graced with the new trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The footage teased a truly trippy and creepy adventure for the titular sorcerer as well as cameos from some familiar faces. The biggest that caught viewers’ eyes (or actually, their ears) was a purported appearance from Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X. Since this tease, many have been comparing the cameo to Michael Keaton redonning Batman’s cowl in Warner Bros. and DC’s The Flash. So far, many seem more impressed with the former, but I’m not so sure the comparisons are totally fair. 

In the Doctor Strange trailer, Patrick Stewart’s voice is seemingly heard when Benedict Cumberbatch’s hero is brought before a council of beings (which could be Marvel’s Illuminati). Viewers also spotted what’s believed to have been the character’s shoulder. The moment was brief, sure, but it was still more than enough to get fans excited for what’s to come. It also, however, spurred the aforementioned comparisons, and fans on Twitter have been saying plenty:

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Many fans would probably agree that the X-Men actor’s assumed return is indeed a big deal. Yet it may not be comparable with Michael Keaton’s reprisal of Batman for a few reasons. The biggest is arguably the difference in the ages of the fanbases for these respective versions of the comic book heroes. One Twitter user was quick to point this out: 

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This is definitely a fair point, as the newer generation (which tends to make a lot of noise on social media) is likely more familiar with the X-Men movies and of course, the MCU as a whole. Patrick Stewart’s tenure as his character only ended back in 2017 whereas it’s been 30 years since the Batman star last suited up and took to the streets of Gotham City. Another fan also mentioned the fact that this Dark Knight’s prime was in the ‘80s while commenting on the comparisons: 

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Though both films have received their share of hype here and there (Flash was well-received during DC FanDome), the difference in the ages of the fanbase are definitely worth pointing out. When weighing in on the discussion, one Twitter fan provided a simple response to the reason for the hype surrounding Professor X: 

Bc people under 40 care about Patrick Stewart

It’s also worth noting that the Multiverse of Madness trailer had the hype of the Super Bowl surrounding it. Studios like Marvel can perform well without a massive event backing it, but dropping a trailer around one of the biggest television events of the year can certainly help get more eyes on a production.

Though I’d say the hype levels for Michael Keaton and Patrick Stewart’s respective appearances aren’t quite comparable, I’m definitely looking forward to both. I do skew on the younger end of the fandom, I enjoy Keaton’s take on the Dark Knight and look forward to him returning in The Flash and also HBO Max’s Batgirl movie. And seriously, instead of jumping to ask the question of which appearance is getting more attention, can we just appreciate the fact that we live in a time in which both of these things are possible?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the next new Marvel movie, arrives in theaters on May 6. Meanwhile, The Flash races to the big screen on November 4. Both are two of the biggest 2022 movie releases.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.