Following the exceptional movie that is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, every MCU fan’s desire to learn about the franchise’s multiverse grows bigger than ever. Fans of Marvel Comics in particular have a question that’s been bugging their minds.
This goes without saying but this article contains spoilers for the newest Doctor Strange film. I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers but just in case.
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Steven Strange meets a mysterious girl named America Chavez (exhaust your America dad jokes now please). America has the power to travel between universes but lacks the ability to control it.
Doctor Strange, America Chavez and Earth – 838’s Christine Palmer
Soon the two travel across the multiverse with no sure-fire way to get back to Steven’s own universe. They eventually find themselves trapped in Universe – 838. They meet this universe’s Christine Palmer (Steven’s partner/love interest in the first movie). She tells them (among other things I can’t say) that the universe Steven comes from is designated as Universe – 616.
The main universe in the Marvel Comics is also Universe – 616. So what’s the deal? Which one’s the real 616?
Who Officially Designates Numbers For The Universes?
The Captain Britain Corps (yes, first America and now Britain, spare me the humor) is the group that’s officially assigned to number every universe in Marvel’s multiverse. Their designation is what the “official” numbers for the universes are. We can safely assume that any universe designations written in any of the official Marvel lore books or guides are designated by the Captain Britain Corps.
Has The MCU Ever Gotten A Designated Number Before Dr. Palmer’s Statement?
Yes, In the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z (2008) Vol. 3, it is stated on page 139 that the Iron Man movie from 2008 is designated as Earth – 199999.
But within the MCU itself, the term “616” has been thrown around 2 times before 838’s Christine Palmer said it. Here’s when they happened:
- In Thor: The Dark World we see Dr. Eric Selvig in a mental institution recovering from the events of the first Avengers movie. He’s seen giving a lecture of sorts to the other patients about… you guessed it, the multiverse! And we actually see the words “616 universe” scribbled on his chalkboard (see image), referring to what he calls their universe.
This claim can be debunked by the fact that there’s really no way for Dr. Selvig to know that their universe was called 616. It was just a random number he picked to name our universe. In fiction, we call these Easter eggs.
- In Spider-Man: Far from Home, we hear the 616 designation once again. This time from Quentin Beck (Mysterio). In the movie, he claims to be from the Earth – 833 which he failed to save. And now he’s in the so-called Earth – 616 to prevent what happened in 833 from happening there.
This one’s also easy to debunk as we find out later in the movie that Beck was simply trying to trick people into thinking he was a multiverse-traversing hero but was actually just a former Stark Industries employee from the MCU’s universe. This is, once again, simply an Easter egg.
Theories On Why The MCU and Main Marvel Comic Universe Are Both Called 616
There are several theories on rationalizing whether or not the MCU is actually universe – 616 or not. Here are two of what seems to be the most accepted ones.
1. The “Injustice” Theory
The Two Supermen with opposing moral views duking it out
As stated earlier, the official Universe-Namers are the Captain Britain Corps. But no one’s stopping everyone else who doesn’t know this from assigning their own names for the Universes.
If you’ve watched the DC’s animated Injustice film released in 2021, something similar happens. Long story short, two versions of Superman from parallel universes meet. Both of them claimed that their universe is Universe 1. This is because the chances of a universe, that knows of the multiverse, naming itself “1” or “the first” or anything in that vein is pretty high.
Similar to that, people in Marvel have come up with names for different universes since they don’t know of the official Captain Britain Corps Designations.
2. Disney/Marvel Simply Wants To Call The MCU 616 Since The Number Is Familiar To Fans / Its An Easter Egg
This one’s a lot more meta, but it’s also easier to get. The producers simply wanted to get in some fan service and make people go like “Hey, I get that reference.”
Whatever the case, the official designator for the MCU remains to be Earth – 199999
Here’s some news on the latest Marvel film in the works: The Thunderbolts