A Guide to the Maddening Marvel Multiverse!
The MCU is jumping into the Multiverse with the sequel to Doctor Strange. This is a wise move considering they laid the groundwork in Avengers 4. When you mess with time you can really screw things up. There is no reason why Marvel can't use this to explore new realms while remaining as grounded as the MCU comic films strive to be. Using alternate realities as plot devices doesn't come without risk though. Thankfully Marvel Films really seems to take care when constructing their narratives both big and small and have proved that they can successfully craft solid stories that play out over multiple phases. This is very important if you are going to use these cosmic concepts. Marvel has a wealth of great characters who have never been on film but Earth is small and it wouldn't make sense to continue to try and shoehorn these people into a world that already exists. One way to incorporate is to use the multiverse.
To really understand what the Marvel Multiverse is and why MCU creators would title a film Madness in the Multiverse we have to quickly define some things. These terms are not unique but in combination they make up the Marvel Megaverse. I have some theories on what we will be seeing in Dr Strange's sequel and I suspect the source material for this film with be part of the Eternity Saga but my goal here is an overview of the concept and to list some books you might want to consider.
The Marvel Multiverse isn't simply a collection of alternate realities. It is more like an organization where locations, times and constructs exist under a hierarchy whereby some are more important than others. There are worlds withing worlds as the Watcher says in What if 1. Dr. Strange experiences this when he first meets Eternity in the Silver Age. We have seen these things play out in comics and even on film. So what is the multiverse according to Marvel? It is important to ask this because we often think of DC when we think of a comic multiverse but Marvel has a rich history too. The Marvel multiverse is the combination of multiple concepts that all play out together, define each other and establish new avenues for storytelling.
This comic is important in that is establishes a critical rule. If you access different points in time you will cause a ripple effect. You cannot get around this, every attempt to do so creates unavoidable problems and paradoxes. Even trying to go back and erase your past exploits cannot undue the harm. The Ancient One agreed to give up the stone only due to the Hulk's theory that returning the stones to the exact same moment would circumvent the formation of a new timeline. I am not sure he was correct.
In Marvel comics these locations are designated with letter and number combinations. This concept is credited to Alan Moore who first used the term E-616 in the UK Daredevils series. There are many, many known worlds but the total amount is limitless despite modern stories that have played with the notion of finite world numbers. At Marvel alternate worlds are designated with the letter E.
E- ( enter number sequence here )
Marvel's prime universe is E-616
The Omniverse is really the top of the ladder when dealing with physical beings in the Marvel Universe and Beyond! See notes on the First Firmament below. All the concepts stated above fall under the umbrella of the Omniverse and it is policed. Everything falls under the Omni umbrella including DC and all other realities.
The complete organization of all existence within the Omniverse.
( Pocket universes and dimensions )
Worlds and realities that exist inside others are labeled as such. Key ones include, Counter Earth, The Negative Zone and the Microverse/Quantum Realm as well as Asgard. Pockets can act as portals to to other locations and times, again as seen by Doctor Strange when he first meets Eternity by entering his amulet. Even objects can be pocket locations like the Soul Gem.
Dimensions also represent voids within the Multiverse not actually alternate universes. These dimensional locals are part of the fabric that makes up the structure. They actually bind together and connect the realities and worlds of the Multiverse! Think of these areas like the strands of gas that connects galaxies.
Notable Dark Dimensions; Dimension Z, Nightmare Realm, Hel, Limbo
The Quantum Realm
Previously the Microverse, the Quantum Realm first appeared here:
NOTE: The Microverse first appeared in Micronauts 1 but Marvel no longer owns the rights to the name.
The Negative Zone
First appearance: FF 51
First comic appearance:
First Marvel appearance is in JIM 85
First Limbo ( Otherplace )
Other Limbo pocket realms; Avengers 2, Spider-Boy Team-Up 1, ASM 368
These events are the convergence of two worlds or designations of the Marvel Multiverse, the most important being the collision of the Ultimate and 616 universes. These events occur when two alternate realities collide destroying both unless one Earth is intentionally destroyed so one can live on.
First Incursion, first appearance of the Library of Worlds.
This book is about as important a modern Marvel comic as there is. It is the first appearance of an incursion as defined by Dr. Doom in his quest to extinguish the all seeing Beyonders. To create his reality he must kill the Molecule Man, a being who does not change versions from universe to universe. You all know this event leads to Secret Wars which leads to Marvel's current state.
See New Avengers 44, Secret Wars and this book
( shows incursion on cover for further reading )
The events just prior to Secret Wars and the incursion are critical to the formation of the Blue Marvel's Ultimates.
The incursions are a modern development for Marvel but they appeared to occur here when Dormammu fights Eternity at the conclusion of the Eternity Saga!
DETERMINING THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE MARVEL MULTIVERSE AND OMNIVERSE
This is no easy task because we are talking about a concept that wasn't defined until What if 1 by the Watcher. But the Watcher is not all knowing when it comes to the multiverse. He knows the rules and the structure but he is not omnipotent as proven in Quasar 31
First appearance of E-616 ( not named until Dardevils 1 )
Not only is this the first appearance of Ravonna, the one entity that humanizes Kang the Conqueror but is sometimes noted as the first appearance of the Marvel Multiverse. This is not totally accurate because the future Kang is from is just part of Kang's timeline. Though he says that that he has subdued many worlds, these worlds are not seen. Only Kang's future is seen and the future is never set in stone and in this case, not a designated universe.
First appearance of Avalon, Tir na nOg ( Otherworld )
First appearance of the Time Traveler Prestor Jon
Really this is the first appearance of the Omniverse because Avalon exists outside of the multiverse and is the eventual base of operations ( Starlight Citadel ) for Merlyn, protector of the multiverse. Avalon is only part of Otherworld but it is the most important part.
Here is a map for reference.
First appearance of Dormammu and the Dark Dimension
In this issue Dr Strange is sent to face his greatest enemy for the first time and while he learns that worlds exist within worlds, the dark dimension is also only one aspect of a greater structure. Simply put, it is very hard to define a first appearance for the multiverse, rather we can better pinpoint individual firsts form certain terms stated above.
This Lee/Ditko epic is a mind altering romp through the Multiverse. While parts were inspiration for Dormammu's Dark Dimension in Doctor Stange's inaugural film, that location was NOT really a different world but the space between worlds. In this long arc, the Doctor must flee Baron Mordo who was given a power boost by Dormammu. The demon get around his agreement with Strange not to attack Earth by helping Mordo do it. Over matched Strange escapes to the multiverse ( unnamed ) to seek Eternity. This would be a great way to utilize Mordo and Dormammu again in the Strange film sequel.
First appearance of Eternity
I would be surprised if Eternity wasn't featured in upcoming Marvel Phases, Outside of The Eternity Saga this cosmic force also had a major connection to Korvac so it is possible Eternity shows up elsewhere.
OBJECTS AND OTHER PLACES OF NOTE:
The Blood Pool
First appearance, Tomb of Dracula 15
First appearance: X-Men 107
Nexus of all Realities
First appearance: Adv into Fear 13
First appearance, Marvel Premiere 1
NOTE: There is another Counter Earth created by Franklin Richards. It first appeared here and is classified as a pocket universe
MORE BOOKS AND CHARACTERS OF IMPORTANCE AND PROTECTORS OF THE MULTIVERSE
Not only does this feature a possible plot for the movie but once Eternity is freed from Nightmare's prison he goes on to give valuable insight into the structure of the Marvel universe.
One Above All ( Creator of the Omniverse ) ( Not an Eternal )
First appearance, Fantastic Four 511 ( Jack Kirby? )
First Appearance, Captain Britain 1
First appearance of New Costume, Mighty Marvel Super-Heroes 377
First US Appearance with new costume, Captain America 308
NOTE: Captain Marvel loses his costume in the last issue of Hulk Comic ( UK ) and is transported to another realm by Merlin to help protect the Multiverse. 377 is the continuation of that important story.
The Captain Britain Corps AKA The Corps
First Appearance, Mighty World of Marvel 13
If you have seen any other book listed as the first they are incorrect. The Corps did not assemble until Merlin's faked death and subsequent funeral.
Merlyn/Merlin ( Nexus Being )
First appearance or Merlin, Young Allies 11
So we have a Multiverse movie coming and a Black Knight film. You cannot have the Black Knight without Merlin and Merlin is the chief protector of the Multiverse. He also bestows Braddock with the power that makes him Captain Britain. Now the Merlyn/Merlin thing is a little weird so check this out too!
NOTE: Moore started referring to Merlin as Merlyn when Moore started writing him. Though the same person Merlin is refereed to as the Camelot Merlin and Merlyn is generally considered the Otherworld character.
NOTE: Namor 62 gives an alternate origin for Merlin that is worth a look. If we get an Atlantis/Wakanda war on film this book could be key for various reasons.
First appearance: Excalibur 45
The Phoenix Force
First appearance X-Men 100
The Starlight Citadel
First appearance, Daredevils 1
First Appearance, Hulk Comics 57
The Living Tribunal
First appearance, Strange Tales 157
The Living tribunal is the only authority that governs Eternity.
First appearance, Mighty World of Marvel Vol. 2 issue 7
First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes 380
First appearance, Captain Britain 1 Vol. 1
First appearance of the Beyonders
The Beyonders are a race of intelligent, nearly omnipotent beings. Like DC's Monitors they exist outside the constraints of the multiverse but they do interfere and even create pocket universes and engage in other nefarious exercises.
Updated here it is important to note that we do not learn until New Avengers 33 that the Beyonders have limitations too, like the Watcher. In their case they are trapped in linear time meaning they seek to experiment on the Multiverse but cannot travel through time to do so.
First appearance of Professor W's X-Men world and Nocturne ( Exiles Member )
This book lead to the Exiles creation, the Exiles first appeared here:
The First Firmament
First appearance, Ultimates ( 2017 issue 5 cameo, 6 full and origin )
When Marvel tried to rework the concepts surrounding the multiverse they did a pretty good job, expanding upon past ideas and creating a character in the First Firmament who is truly tragic and terrifying. His existence has gone largely unnoticed by speculators. Now I am not saying he shows up in a film but he did create the Celestial and
Aspirants ( the Celestial counterparts )
NOTE: The Aspirants ans First Firmament were mentioned and the Aspirants were seen but unnamed here:
First full appearance of the Aspirants, Godkiller Armor
First appearance and first full of the First Firmament
You cannot have the Marvel universe or any universe for that matter without this recent creation from Al Ewing. To further protect the Multiverse a new team was assembled consisting of;
First appearance of the Eternity Watch
Members: Psi-Hawk, Ego Galactus, Infinaut, Shaper of Worlds
Note: These characters made their individual firsts elsewhere.
Everything else you need is here
Here is some starter reference material, this is my no means a comprehensive listing for Marvel universes but it is a handy reference.
Also many of the books mentioned in this article have been highlighted in previous True Firsts. Now everything is in one place.
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