Now that Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness is streaming on Disney Plus, new audiences are meeting Clea, the current Sorcerer Supreme in comic books and Strange's ex-wife, played by none other than Charlize Theron in one of the film's two post-credits stinger scenes (the one that's not a reference to Evil Dead II).
As we stated, Clea has taken up the mantle of Earth's magical protector following the recent death of the former Sorcerer Supreme (and Clea's ex-husband) Stephen Strange, putting the decades-old Marvel Comics hero in her biggest spotlight yet.
And along with that comic book profile comes another big jump in Clea's place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If you just saw the film and you're wondering why superstar actor Charlize Theron just appeared decked out in purple armor, don't worry. There's a lot more to it than Marvel Studios just having a weird thing for teasing purple characters at the end of their movies (remember The Avengers?)
That violet-themed thaumaturge is more than just the current comic book Sorcerer Supreme, and she's got a lot more history to boot ... or should we say, to shoulder pad.
So it's time to give you what you came for...
Clea's Marvel Comics history
Created by none other than Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1964's Strange Tales #126, Clea started out as the prerequisite comic book damsel in distress of the era. The Faltinian (Faltines are extra-dimensional energy beings born from pure magic) daughter of Prince Orini (the son of Olnar, former wizard-king of the Dark Dimension) and Umar (the sister of long-time Doctor Strange villain Dormammu from the first film), Clea was raised by her father after Dormmamu banished her mother to another dimension and grew up worshiping the ancient entity but never knew he was her uncle.
Clea would first meet Doctor Strange when he traveled to the Dark Dimension at the behest of the Ancient One as Dormammu was planning one of his many conquests of Earth. Clea tried to convince Strange not to fight Dormammu. Dormammu saw her fraternizing with Strange as a betrayal and imprisoned Clea but then needed the Strange's help to fend off an enemy who had broken free of Dormammu's control. To repay Doctor Strange, the ruler of the Dark Dimension freed Clea and promised not to invade Earth.
Clea would be caught in a tug of war between Dormammu and Strange more than a few times before Strange decided that the safest place for her would be Earth. Unfortunately, her arrival on Earth meant the loss of her powers and she took to studying in the Sanctum Santorum. Strange took her on as an apprentice once he became the Sorcerer Supreme and during Clea's discipleship, their romantic feelings for one another grew.
Clea would join Stephen on adventures with the superhero 'non-team' the Defenders and in his own solo title. In 1974's Doctor Strange #1, she was captured by Silver Dagger, a former Cardinal of the Catholic Church who was driven mad by the Darkhold (yes, that Darkhold). This encounter would make Stephen and Clea even closer (but in a weird way as Strange needed to cohabit her body to defeat Silver Dagger). However, over time Clea began to doubt that her love for Strange was greater than that of another of his love-interests Morgana Blessing (1974's Doctor Strange #53). And with the seeming disappearance of Dormammu, she returned to the Dark Dimension in order to save it.
Clea comes into her own
It wasn't as simple as just going home to claim the throne. Clea had to join the rebellion against her mother Umar. Clea would win the battle with the help of the "Flames of Regency" around her head and become the ruler of the Dark Dimension, banishing both Umar and Orini to another dimension in the aftermath of 1974's Doctor Strange #73.
Clea asked Strange to join her but he declined because of his loyalty to Earth. Despite living on two separate dimensional planes, they would marry in 1987's Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #3, their souls now bonded together forever. They weren't legally married (since Clea isn't actually human) but each wore a mystical ring that looked like two but was actually one split in half.
Dormammu would return (as he always does) to take control of the Dark Dimension and imprison Clea. Strange is lured to the Dark Dimension to help her and Dormammu is defeated when Umar makes her return and it's revealed that she is in a relationship with Baron Mordo (1987's Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #24). Clea leaves Umar and Mordo in control of the Dark Dimension and heads back to Earth with Strange.
But some time later Clea would return to the Dark Dimension when a Faltinean named Flyx, claiming to be her cousin, appeared to tell her that Umar and Mordo had betrayed her trust. It would turn out that Flyx is actually Dormammu and he had taken Umar and Mordo's power for himself to establish himself as the ruler of the Dark Dimension (Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #48-49). Clea would remain there to lead the rebellion against him (2007's New Avengers Illuminati #4) and would eventually rise to become the Sorcerer Supreme of the Dark Dimension.
Doctor Strange dies and Clea becomes Earth's Sorcerer Supreme
Unfortunately, being in a long-distance two-dimensional relationship wasn't working for either Clea or Strange, and Strange's relationships with other women while she was in the Dark Dimension broke Clea's heart. She would ask Stephen for a divorce in 2013's Fearless Defenders #9. They would not officially annul their marriage but remain friends.
Later, a deal Strange made with Mephisto in exchange for his help would force the two to lose all memory of their time together or significance to each other (2018's Doctor Strange #17). But the deal would be broken when Strange died in 2021's appropriately titled The Death of Doctor Strange.
Clea would track down the murderer and say her goodbyes to Stephen but not before he left her the tools of the Sorcerer Supreme the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation. Clea is given the title of Sorcerer Supreme by Stephen (Death of Doctor Strange #2) and decides to take the last name Strange in Stephen's honor.
She is now the star of the new ongoing series Strange (she keeps his surname as a tribute to him), which just debuted in March.
However, her first order of business as Earth's new Sorcerer Supreme - resurrect Stephen Strange while protecting Earth in a current ongoing storyline.
What are Clea's superpowers?
Like most magical-based comic book characters, Clea's powers are vast and often don't follow a set of established rules. Writers can and so come up with abilities as a story requires.
She's both a magic-based being as well as trained and versed in sorcery and the casting of magical spells like Doctor Strange.
In other words, if Doctor Strange can do it, likely Clea can too.
However, as the ruler of the Dark Dimension, Clea has been often adorned with "The Flames of Regency" around her head, which is a corona of mystic flame not unlike Ghost Rider but without the skeleton thing.
Lately, however, the flames have gotten more pronounced engulfing her entire head and face.
And like most superheroes in the Marvel Universe, she's also a trained hand-to-hand combatant and since he's an extra-dimensional being has greater strength, endurance, and resilience than a human being.
And since she's played by Theron, she can probably kick ass.
Clea in the MCU
So who is Charlize Theron's Clea? That's a little early to say given her MCU onscreen time is like 15 seconds in one of Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness's two post-credits scenes.
But it's probably safe to say Theron didn't sign up to be the damsel-in-distress/low-powered disciple of Doctor Strange ala her early years. So a warlord-wizard and likely Sorcerer Supreme of the Dark Dimension and equal to Strange leading a rebellion against her uncle Dormammu is our best guess.
Reading between the lines, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reads as something of a send-off to Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer and closure to her and Strange's romantic relationship, so expect the sparks to fly between Strange and Clea when we see them together next.
And, of course, Clea is another powerful female superhero to join the MCU's ever-growing ranks played by a surprise A-list star.
Want to know more about the history of characters and story points in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Then check out our guides to:
- America Chavez - the Marvel Comics history of Doctor Strange 2's powerful new teen hero
- The Illuminati - the Marvel comics history of the super-secret superhero society
- How the Marvel Universe became a Multiverse and got the name "Earth-616"
- Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch has a new Marvel comic book status quo
- The best Wanda Maximoff - Scarlet Witch stories of all time
- The Darkhold - Marvel's book of dark magic explained
- Gargantos - the Doctor Strange 2 monster's complicated Marvel history explained