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Whenever we talk about different realities/universes in the Marvel multiverse, they are always referred to by a designation of "Earth" followed by some number. The standard Marvel comics universe is Earth-616. The Marvel ultimate universe is Earth-1610. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Earth-199999. But all of these "Earths" involve planets other than Earth, and species other than humans. We have the "gods" of Asgard, we have the Kree, Thanos, Skrulls, Chitauri, etc. So why does Marvel refer to "Earth-616", rather than "Universe-616"?

I'm asking about the real-world reason, here. For example, did the first alternate-universe storyline in Marvel history take place before any alien planets or species were introduced into Marvel's comics? That would make sense, but I doubt it's true, so what's the real reason?

marked as duplicate by Möoz, Jenayah, Machavity, Ward, Bellatrix Oct 5 '18 at 2:30

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  • 2
    Because we (as do the comic's creators) live on Earth? – Skooba May 18 '16 at 13:00
  • yes, but not all the characters in the Marvel universe's do. – Paul L May 18 '16 at 13:01
  • 1
    Because we Earthlings are very self-centered and most of the stories we write are about characters on the same(-ish) planet as us. – Ixrec May 18 '16 at 13:02
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    Because the overwhelming majority of these stories take place on Earth, with characters born or originating from Earth. – Valorum May 18 '16 at 13:03

The numbering first occured in-story in 1983 in the Captain Britain franchise. No definite reason was ever given for the term, but the numbering caught on as a way to differentiate the many Marvel continuities. Sometimes the "earth" numbering is a real-world formality and the universe in question is better known under other names such as "ultraverse" to signify the continuity of an "ultraverse" franchise that Marvel bought.

  • While this is (currently) the accepted answer, it seems to explain why a number was used, not why "Earth-Pi" instead of "Universe-Pi". – RDFozz Oct 5 '18 at 2:04

Most of the stories being told are about events happening not just in alternate universes, but on alternate Earths.

  • The early stories involving (for example) the Squadron Supreme, or the alternate Earth where Reed Richards became the Thing, were all indeed set on Earth, not some other world.
  • Most (certainly not all, but most) of the stories in What If took place on Earth.
  • Age of Apocalypse? Primarily (if not exclusively) set on Earth.
  • The various Marvel TV shows and animated series predating the MCU - again, mostly set on Earth.
  • Even with the MCU, especially taking the Netflix shows into account, primarily set on Earth (the Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy movies being notable exceptions).

It's also true (as noted in another answer) that DC had been using Earth-whatever (1, 2, 3, S, X, 4, C, C-) since the early 1960s, making that a natural nomenclature for Marvel to pick up.

Noting that DC originally used the terminology, and that DC had more than one SF writer in the early 1960s, one might be surprised that they wouldn't have gone less local with the terminology. However, again, most of the Earth-1/Earth-2 stories took place on Earth.

One could suppose a "Chekhov's gun" issue being involved. If you refer to Universe-1, the reader is likely to expect the story to not take place entirely on Earth.

A final note: I'm not sure when the terms "Marvel Universe" and "DC Universe" became common. Honestly, I expect it trickled in from SF fandom, where most if not all works by an author might be seen to take place in the same universe (and where "on the same Earth" would be silly, since few of those works might have been placed on Earth). I honestly can't recall how the separate realities were referenced in, say, the 1970s (and yes, I was collecting comics then). So, using "Universe" instead of "Earth" may simply note have been thought of at the time.


It originated, at least to a degree, as a sort of parody on Earth-1 and Earth-2 of Da Concurrent, I mean if there are different universes, there could be a lot more than (5)2.

  • Any sources on that, or is this just a guess? – Gallifreyan Jan 14 '17 at 16:00

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