Who Is Black Widow's Ursa Major (& Is He Really The MCU's First Mutant?) – Screen Rant

Olivier Richters claimed his Black Widow character is Ursa Major, the MCU’s first mutant. But who’s Ursa, and is he truly the first mutant in the MCU?
Warning! This post contains spoilers for Black Widow
The Black Widow movie teased a future appearance of Ursa Major, a lesser-known mutant from the Marvel comics. Although Ursa Major, played by Olivier Richters, only has a brief appearance alongside David Harbor’s Red Guardian, there are plenty of clues about who the character is for those in the know. The comic book character has a long history with Marvel which gives hints as to where his live-action outing might take him.
Having tied off a lot of loose ends with Avengers: Endgame and the end of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 4 has been keen to set up a healthy list of future properties. WandaVision teased another member of The Marvels and hinted at the possibility of the Agents of Atlas, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier introduced U.S. Agent and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, and Loki has brought Kang into the MCU. Black Widow itself has set up Yelena as a new Black Widow, as well as bringing in Red Guardian and Taskmaster, so Ursa Major is just one more to add to the list.
Related: What If Black Widow Had Released In Phase 2 or 3? How The MCU Would Change
The MCU has been short on mutant characters throughout its run because the rights to the X-Men (and the term “mutant”) were owned by Fox. That changed in 2019 when Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and regained the rights to the mutant intellectual properties. What this will mean for other mutant characters will be seen throughout Phase 4, but Ursa’s presence in Black Widow sets up the possibility of certain super teams and storylines.
First appearing in Incredible Hulk issue #258 in 1981, Ursa Major was born Mikhail Ursus. Around this time, the MCU’s Soviet Union had been killing all mutants upon their discovery, and when Ursa’s mutant powers emerged, he was abandoned in the mountains. He survived, presumably owing to the fact that his powers enable him to turn into a giant bear who was eventually shown to be strong enough to survive a fight with Hulk.
He was eventually taken in by a scientist who had persuaded the Soviets that controlling superhumans was better than killing them and established a school for mutants. Becoming a part of the (inventively named) Russian supergroup the Soviet Super-Soldiers, he initially worked for the Soviet government before the group vowed to become independent rather than blindly follow orders. After eventually leaving the group, he became a part of another Russian supergroup, the Winter Guard.
When in human form, Ursa Major is already a large, strong man. When he uses his mutant abilities to transform into a brown bear, he gains several additional benefits. These change slightly between different comic writers but include super-strength, increased speed (up to 45mph), and increased stamina. If he remains in bear form for too long, it begins to have a negative effect on his intelligence and he begins to lose control.
Related: Black Widow’s Red Guardian Contradicts Zemo’s Goals In Falcon & Winter Soldier
Within Black Widow, Olivier Richters’ portrayal of Ursa Major doesn’t get a lot of screen time. When Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova are heading to break Red Guardian out of prison, Ursa is the final prisoner to challenge Red Guardian to an arm-wrestling test of strength while he is getting a tattoo. Ursa calls out Red Guardian on his story of fighting Captain America, pointing out that Steve Rogers was still frozen in ice at the time he says it happened. Red Guardian responds by asking him if he is calling him a liar about having fought Captain America, referring to the character as Ursa, breaking his arm, and then teasing him by saying, “Aw. Look at the big bear. Gonna cry, little girl?
From this limited view, it seems that the MCU might be staying extremely close to the character’s comic book portrayal. As Ursa’s super strength is only manifested in bear-form, it makes sense that Red Guardian (a super soldier) is able to best him in the arm-wrestling match. While Ursa is not shown transforming into a bear within the Black Widow movie, Marvel is presumably reserving that reveal for his own future outing.
Ursa and Red Guardian appear to have a history together, which suggests that they could have served on the same team before. In the comics, the Winter Guard were formed in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union rendered the Soviet Super-Soldiers team obsolete and both Red Guardian and Ursa Major were key members. Ursa Major was later seen in a Russian gulag, apparently on trumped-up treason charges, which parallels his appearance in Russia’s Seventh Circle Prison in Black Widow. When the Russian government sought to reform the Winter Guard, they offered Ursa a full pardon as part of getting the team back together. This would match up with theories that Red Guardian will be returning as part of the Winter Guard in the future of the MCU, and suggests that Ursa Major will be by his side.
Audiences had already begun theorizing that Olivier Richters’ character was the ursine mutant from the comics. However, Richters caused a stir when he revealed via Instagram post that this was indeed the case and announced that he would be the first mutant to appear in the MCU. This is a complex claim that requires some examination.
Related: Black Widow: What All Of Red Guardian’s Tattoos Mean
While, owing to Fox owning the rights, the X-Men and Deadpool properties that contain mutants are not part of the canon MCU, two mutants from the comics have appeared in the franchise before Richters’ Ursa Major. These are the Maximoff twins, Wanda and Pietro. In the original comics, their powers came from mutations and, in some iterations, they were the children of Magneto. However, their origin story was changed for the movies so that their powers were awakened by the Mind Stone instead to skirt any legal rights issues with Fox. Since then, the comics have retconned their origins so that they are no longer mutants.
So, while mutant characters have been adapted from the comics into the Marvel Cinematic Universe before Black Widow, they were not represented as mutants within the MCU. Therefore, Olivier Richters’ claim is technically correct, and he does indeed hold the honor of portraying the first true mutant within the MCU.
Next: Black Widow Ending Explained: How It Connects To The Wider MCU
Faefyx Collington (They/Them) is a freelance features writer for Screen Rant. They’re a British writer of both fiction and non-fiction, focussing on science fiction, fantasy, and mystery for the former and on culture, gender, and current affairs for the latter. Never content to settle to one thing, Faefyx is also a co-host and producer of the podcast and video series “Unramblings,” and can occasionally be found making music around the internet as well. Having acquired degrees on both sides of the Atlantic, Fyx has settled (for the moment) in the southern United States where they live with their spouse and an entirely appropriate number of cats.

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