The Marvel Comics universe has quite a hierarchy of cosmic entities. There are beings like Eternity, which comprises almost all of existence, and Galactus, the Devourer of worlds. Many have shown up in the MCU already, like the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok, and the Watchers in the What If…? series on Disney+. Now, after a “blink and ya miss it” appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it looks like we can add yet another character to the list of MCU cosmic entities—Marvel’s Living Tribunal.
You can briefly glimpse the shape of the Living Tribunal’s three giant yellow heads in the film as Stephen Strange and America Chavez crash through multiple worlds. But if you’re not familiar with this all-powerful entity, created by Stan Lee for a Doctor Strange story in Strange Tales back in 1967, and you’re saying “the Living what now?,” then we’ve got a rundown of the basics of this godlike being for you. And just in time, because the Living Tribunal may have a large role to play in the MCU going forward.
Who Is the Living Tribunal, Marvel’s Three Faces of Justice?
The Living Tribunal is one of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Multiverse. Essentially, its role is to safeguard the Multiverse from an imbalance of magical forces. It also judges each separate universe, hence the name. If the Living Tribunal deems a Marvel universe, or a world within a universe, as not worth saving, he metes out judgment by collapsing a star or making it go supernova. Sometimes, when an entire universe is corrupt, it can will it out of existence.
But what does Marvel’s Living Tribunal look like? The Tribunal manifests itself as a giant golden humanoid with three faces, each representing the three sides of its personality. Its front face, which is where the Tribunal speaks, represents equity. The completely hooded face on its right side represents necessity, and the half-hooded face on its left expresses just revenge. All the Living Tribunal’s three distinct voices must agree on a verdict before it can act. There is also a fourth side, which is a total void. The Tribunal has suggested the cosmic entity called the Stranger was once part of him, and the void represents his absence.
Marvel’s Most Powerful Entity and Protector of the Multiverse
The first Marvel hero to encounter the Living Tribunal was Doctor Strange, way back in 1967. Since then, it has appeared before the Fantastic Four, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Quasar, and several other characters and teams. It is the only power in existence that can nullify the combined Infinity Stones should it wish to. There is only one version of the Tribunal in the entire Multiverse. Although, it can exist in different realities at once. How many realities? It once teamed up with DC Comics’ Spectre to save both the Marvel and DC Multiverses from destruction in the DC vs. Marvel event series. So, the Living Tribunal is kind of a big deal and incredibly powerful.
The Living Tribunal in the MCU’s Doctor Strange 2 and Beyond
So why this Living Tribunal tease in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Well, if someone is messing with the realities of Marvel’s multiverse, then the Living Tribunal may appear down the line to make a judgment upon them. Assuming Wanda Maximoff lived (a safe assumption), the Living Tribunal might have some words for her. And for Stephen Strange.
Avengers: Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed that the Tribunal nearly appeared in that film, to render judgment on Thanos. Interestingly, that original Living Tribunal introduction would have also involved Doctor Strange. But the idea does speak to the MCU’s Doctor Strange already having awareness of this cosmic entity.
We also know Mordo bore a weapon named “The Staff of the Living Tribunal” in the first Doctor Strange film. Additionally, a statue with three heads teased the MCU’s Living Tribunal in Loki. We don’t quite know what all of these pieces mean, but we do know they make for strong indications the Living Tribunal has a bigger role to play in future MCU projects. Beyond that, we’re going to have to wait and see what happens. But we highly doubt this appearance will be the all-powerful being’s last in the MCU.
Originally published April 22, 2022.