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The Beginner’s Guide to the Marvel Multiverse

Marvel has been in the spotlight quite a bit these past few years with its rise of cinematic movies and TV shows.  Heroes like the Avengers, Daredevil, and Spider-Man have gained a lot of attention from both die-hard fans and those casually interested in superheroes. Marvel has also revolutionized superhero movies, and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.

But Marvel’s history goes back much further than just movies. And it has a lot of alternate stories, timelines, and universes. So, we’re going to cover some basics about the Marvel Multiverse.

What is the Marvel Multiverse?

Somewhat similar to the DC Multiverse, the Marvel Multiverse is a collection of alternate universes. Some of these universes are the result of stories told in different mediums or are the result of the creators rebooting origin stories to more modern times (e.g. Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ultimate Timeline).

But unlike the DC Multiverse, the alternate universes in Marvel also come more from branching off of key moments in the timeline, compared to DC’s various parallel dimensions. In the Marvel Multiverse, other realities often appear as a result of time travel. Not all of the alternate realities are an entire independent universe, but often relate more to the parent reality. Some of these alternate realities are splintered off of other realities and have a more parasitical relationship.

Also in Marvel Multiverse, the concept of a continuity, or universe, is not the same as a dimension. For example, demons like Mephisto and gods like Thor can hail from other dimensions, but still belong to the main Marvel timeline, Earth-616.

Unlike DC, Marvel has a ton of alternate universes.  A few popular alternate universes include:

  • Earth-7642: The universe where Marvel and DC characters co-exist. So, you potentially could have Ironman and Batman battle out, or Superman going up against Thanos.
  • Earth-1610: This is the Ultimate Universe, where many of the Marvel characters got reinvented for the modern age. Example titles include Ultimate Spider-Man and the Ultimate X-Men
  • Earth-199999: The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes all of the recent Marvel live-action movies and TV series. Example titles include Agents of Shield, The Avengers, and The Defenders.
  • Earth-2149: This is the Marvel Zombies Universe, where a zombie virus turned all of the costumed heroes into evil, flesh-eating zombies.
  • Earth-928: This the Marvel 2099 Universe, which takes place in an alternate future of Earth-616. It has futuristic incarnations of the Marvel heroes, villains, teams, etc.

History

The Marvel Multiverse didn’t appear until a while after Marvel comics had been in existence. The concept of the Multiverse began with the issues of Captain Britain. It was then established as being protected by Merlyn, and each universe its own protector, its own version of Captain Britain and a Sorcerer Supreme at all times.

As years passed, many writers played around with, developed, and reshaped the Multiverse, particularly in titles such as Exiles, X-Men, and the Ultimate Fantastic Four. Different iterations of Spider-Man also played around a lot with different dimensions and universes.

Keep in mind also that whenever there were time-traveling characters, new universes were often created as these characters ended up making their home times alternate timelines. For example, X-Men has several different timelines due to the actions of Rachel Summers, Cable, and Bishop, our time-traveling mutants.

Where to Start

This one is a bit tricky since the alternate universes in Marvel don’t seem to interact quite as much as the DC ones, although teams like the Fantastic Four and the Exiles like to do a lot of universe hopping.

If you want to start at the beginning of the concept of the Marvel Multiverse, check out the issues of Captain Britain, since that was where the concept fully started. If you want to go the very beginning where it was first mentioned, check out Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion” sequence, whose main characters were the inspiration for the Captain Britain Corps.

Otherwise, you can look at multiple titles that deal with alternate timelines such as The Amazing Spider-Girl where Gwen Stacy gets spider powers instead of Peter. Or try any of the Ultimate titles, and the Exiles series. If you regularly watch the Avengers movies, you’re actually taking part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is another alternate universe.

If you want to get an extensive list of alternate universes, you can get Marvel’s Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes.

Fun Trivia

  • Like DC, Marvel has a timeline where the Nazis won the war.
  • Currently, there are thousands of alternate universes in Marvel. And the list keeps growing.
  • There’s an alternate universe dedicated to Spider-Ham and various other anthropomorphic animal parodies of Marvel heroes.

The most common method to name an unnamed alternate universe is to take numbers from the publication date of the issue featuring the universe’s first appearance.

For timelines of some of these universes, don’t forget to check out our Marvel page!

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