Confusion is a regular feeling when reading Marvel Comics, especially with introducing the concept of the Multiverse. Now, since the 1980s, the Multiverse has expanded tenfold. When Marvel Studios proposed the idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we could never imagine what it would become fifteen years later. Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently in Phase 5, and the Multiverse is heavily featured in the projects. Even though the MCU was established at the beginning of this massive franchise, fans are still confused about what universe our superheroes are set in. This article will discuss what universe MCU is set on – Earth-616 or Earth-199999.
Marvel Cinematic Universe is definitely set on Earth-199999, despite the mixed information we’ve been getting from Marvel Studios executives and easter eggs in the Phase 5 movies. Since Thor: The Dark World, we have seen Earth-616 easter eggs that suggest that MCU is set on Earth-616. However, in 2008, Marvel released The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z, Vol. 5, where MCU is set on Earth-199999. The most recent trailer for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse presented us with Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 referencing MCU and mentioning “annoying Doctor Strange and little nerd from Earth-199999,” somewhat confirming the initial fact – MCU is set on Earth-199999.
We will discuss this topic in more depth by mentioning the differences between Earth-199999 and Earth-616, why fans got confused, and some references to the topic in the MCU’s most recent and future projects. If you are interested, stay with us until the end.
Where is Marvel Cinematic Universe set – Earth-616 or Earth-199999?
The concept of the Multiverse isn’t complicated for the die-hard fans of Marvel Comics, but the casuals will “suffer” trying to figure out what it really is about. There is Multiverse that, by definition, is a collection of alternate universes which share a universal hierarchy. Multiverse is only a part of the Omniverse, which includes everything – from every alternate universe to even DC Comic content and “our world,” referring to it as Earth-1218.
Many eras of the cosmos have been changed over millions of years, and currently, we are in the Seventh Cosmos. This goes even beyond with enormous lore that we won’t bother explaining, but it poses the question: where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe fit in all of this, especially knowing that “our world” is part of Marvel Comics somehow?
We need to mention that Earth-616 is the main universe in Marvel Comics. Most of the stories are set there, and the characters are pivotal and in the center of Marvel Comics, which was established decades ago. However, the idea of a cinematic universe in the 2000s potentially changed the fundamentals of the Marvel Comics continuity. Although Marvel rebooted and remade many of their characters and universes, they never changed the main continuity, as DC Comics did with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint.
The idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe became a reality when The Incredible Hulk was released in 2008 and truly kickstarted with the Iron Man movie the same year. Marvel executives realized that the new universe would confuse some fans and decided to make a distinction – Marvel Cinematic Universe will be set on Earth-199999. At the same time, Earth-616 will remain the main continuity for Marvel Comics.
In 2008, Marvel even released a special handbook that distinguishes each Marvel movie of the past and present and their respective universes. The handbook was supposed to cement the fundamentals of the MCU, but the recent happenings in Phase 5 confused some of the fans. Why? Let’s find out!
Why are fans confused by the mentions of Earth-616 in the MCU?
Marvel Cinematic Universe has developed massively since 2007, and the aforementioned handbook established MCU in Earth-199999. In true movie fashion, MCU projects and characters referenced many things from popular culture, including Marvel Comics. Earth-616 was mentioned a few times throughout fifteen years, and the first reference to the main universe appeared in Thor: The Dark World movie. Specifically, Professor Erik Selvig mentions parallel realities. During his speech, fans could see 616 written on the board behind the professor, which stemmed some of the rumors among the MCU fans.
However, writers quickly dismissed the rumors of MCU being on Earth-616, saying that number was a comic reference and an easter egg for the fans to see.
Years passed, Thanos’ infamous Snap happened, and one of the most epic comic book showdowns in history was immortalized on the big screen. Some heroes sacrificed themselves for the cause, but the remaining ones continued, including Peter Parker, who was really shaken by the battle with Mad Titan and the death of Tony Stark.
Spider-Man: Far From Home sees Peter Parker going to Italy with his class, where the hell breaks loose with Quentin Beck, known as Mysterio. Before going full villain, Quentin Beck mentions that he came from another universe and ended up on Earth-616, suggesting that MCU Earth is indeed 616. The fans again dismissed this notion, and we thought this was another easter egg from the Marvel executives.
However, with Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Phase 5, the Multiverse Saga kickstarted, and people got really confused. In Doctor Strange 2, we see Stephen Strange ending up in a different universe and meeting the alternate version of his lover, Christine Palmer. The esteemed doctor “labels” Stephen Strange’s universe as Earth-616 and adds that her universe was Earth-838.
This is where everything gets confusing because some Marvel executives started vaguely mentioning that MCU might be on Earth-616. More mentions of the Earth-616 setting for the MCU started resurfacing, and the initial lore of the MCU potentially got changed.
As some fans continued to be more confused about the matter, and others accepted the Universes change, the recent trailer for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse mentioned something we all wanted to hear.
It seems that Sony’s Across the Spider-Verse cleared some of the confusion among the fans
Sony’s animated success mostly lies in Miles Morales and his movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which will get two more sequels, with the first just around the corner. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales teaming up with Spider-Force, a group of Spider-Men across the Multiverse, to fight the common enemy.
The leader of the massive group of Spider-Men is Miguel O’Hara, also known as Spider-Man 2099. The Spider-Man of Earth-928 is shown as a tired and stressed individual, and when Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy meet him, he goes on a rant.
Miguel O’Hara starts his monologue slowly but ends it furiously, with mentions of two MCU characters – in his words, Doctor Strange and an annoying nerd (Spider-Man) from Earth-199999.
Now, this moment could confirm that Marvel Studios love easter eggs and references from the comics, or Miguel talks nonsense. If the comics taught us something, it’s the confusion when characters from other universes realize they aren’t Earth-616 and the main universe. It’s hilarious but also suggests that MCU cannot be set on Earth-616.
Even the franchise’s most important character, Nicholas J. Fury, isn’t the one from the Earth-616 of Marvel Comics – he is actually the version of the character from Earth-1610, the Ultimate Universe (which Miles Morales is originally part of). Changes and adaptation to the big screen are tricky, and the writers and directors need to change the source material for the story.
The changes and adaptations make different content. For that, Marvel Cinematic Universe is different from Marvel Comics, hence why it was established in 2008 that MCU is set on Earth-199999, and comics on Earth-616.