When Marvel’s Black Widow hit theaters and Disney+ last week, it snuck in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first mutant in the form of Ursa Major, member of Russian mutant team the Winter Guard–at least if actor Olivier Richters’ Instagram post is accurate (via Uproxx).
After Natasha Romanoff’s peaceful, if false, life in Ohio is upset so that she and her adoptive sister can be trained as an assassins, their mission-father Alexei Shostakov ends up in a Russian gulag where we find him effortlessly arm-wrestling (and maiming) a giant man he refers to as Ursa.
The post features Richters flexing alongside a gallery of comic book shots of Ursa Major, who has the ability to turn into a bear. In the comics, Ursa Major is a mutant like the X-Men, New Mutants, and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
“Marvel’s Black Widow is out. After two years, I can finally tell who my character is as stated on the IMDB: Ursa Major,” Richters wrote in the post. “The first mutant (X-Men) to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. … Ursa is part of the Winter Guard, noted for being ‘Russia’s answer to the Avengers.’ His power transforms him into an incredible bear, transcending The Hulk in size. Ursa appears many times in the comics fightning [sic] Wolverine and The Hulk. When production on set told me who I really was in Black Widow I let some tears in my hotel room, because my movie dream became true: being a official comic super Hero. I can only hope Marvel will bring back Ursa in full form.”
Richters appears to have edited the post slightly to remove the words “the first” and the X-Men parenthetical.
While this post officially confirms Richter’s role as Ursa Major in the MCU, whether or not he’s a mutant is a lot more complicated. Until Disney acquired Fox’s library of movies and television shows and the related rights 2018, the licensing rights to the X-Men and mutants belonged to Fox and were out of Marvel’s hands, forcing Marvel Studios to focus on then-less-popular characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.
With the X-Men back in Marvel’s house, mutants can join the MCU anytime. This seems, however, like something Marvel would want to do with more fanfare. Further, Marvel Studios has used mutants before–Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, are mutants in the Marvel comics. Wanda is one of the most powerful mutants, too, with the ability to manipulate reality itself. For the MCU, however, she received her powers through experiments by Hydra using the Infinity stones that would later populate Thanos’ golden glove.
Quicksilver even appeared in both the MCU (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and in Fox’s X-Men series (played by Evan Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men Apocalypse, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix). WandaVision played with this duality in one of the most hotly-debated Marvel cameos yet.
In other words, while Ursa Major is historically a mutant, it’s impossible to say just yet whether or not the X-Gene is flowing through his veins.