Marvel Just Retconned Doctor Strange 2's Multiverse Reveal, Claims Fans

By Gillian Blum Updated:
Rachel McAdams, Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness, timeline

The newest trailer for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse includes a reference to the MCU as being Earth-199999, despite the MCU having claimed the Earth-616 designation, most notably in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Earth-616 has always been the designation for the main Marvel Comics universe, helping differentiate it from, for instance, the Ultimate comics on Earth-1610 or Marvel 1602 on Earth-311. This was even brought up in multiple MCU projects like Doctor Strange 2, especially with the Multiverse Saga evolving so heavily.

The entire point of universe designations is to help the reader or audience understand which versions of characters are being depicted, and it gets complicated when those designation numbers become important to the plot.

Marvel Comics had established the MCU as Earth-199999, helping separate it from the comics and reinforcing that the two will tell different stories with different variants of characters.

The MCU's Alternate Universe Confusion

The Direct Image

In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio actually called the MCU Earth-616, but given he was making up his Multiversal origin, fans considered that to simply be a fun comics reference for those who know that 616 is actually the comics-verse. 

Interestingly, before that in 2018, Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse designated Peter B. Parker’s origin universe as being Earth-616.

But, in a blink-and-you-miss-it reference in Loki, and a much more prominent piece of dialogue in Doctor Strange 2, the MCU designated itself as Earth-616.

Christine Palmer in
Marvel Studios

Several fans argued that the Multiverse of Madness designation was, like the Mysterio explanation, simply a reference for comics fans as Christine Palmer described her own personal designation system.

However, others interpreted this as an official classification of the MCU as Earth-616, which contradicts decades of comics continuity, including the established Earth-199999 number for the MCU.

Essentially, designation numbers becoming plot points simply makes confusing the mechanism designed to help audiences differentiate one universe from another. Luckily, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse seems to be clearing some things up.

The MCU Gets 199999 Back!

Miguel O'Hara in the
Sony Pictures

In the April 4 trailer for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac) not only references the events of Spider-Man: No Way Homeas it was rumored the movie would — but also re-labels the MCU as Earth-199999, its longtime universe designation.

Spider-Man 2099 references the MCU by telling Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy "And don’t even me get started on Doctor Strange and the little nerd back on Earth-199999," about midway through the trailer. Importantly, this contradicts the designating of the MCU as Earth-616 in projects like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was already a divisive revelation for fans.

Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy in the
Sony Pictures

It seems that the MCU is continuing to be officially designated as Earth-199999, though Christine Palmer chose 616 for her personal record and designation system, in a nice reference for comics fans.

Many took to Twitter to share their excitement, glad to see the confusing MCU designation issue beginning to be cleared up in Across the Spider-Verse.

@1Sir_Drake explained that the retconning of the MCU as 199999 allows the cinematic universe to once again occur "in the comics' multiverse," as it did before the Earth-616 designation was brought up.

"which to me sounds more like a retcon than anything. Back when the MCU took place in the comics' multiverse up until Loki made it impossible, thus moving it into its own multiverse and opening up the opportunity for it to be called 616"

@Boter_Koter1 was glad to see Marvel abandon what they called "the absolute stupidity of calling the mcu 616:"

"I see this as a way to recon the absolute stupidity of calling the mcu 616, in 'far from home' it felt intentional, like a way to prove at the beginning that mysterio was full of shit. But in 'multiverse of madness' they confirmed it, which was so fucking stupid"

And, @DorianCantu expressed excitement over the 199999 designation being brought back, as the 616 one "alienat[ed] new fans for the sake of a cheeky reference:"

"FINALLY they reestablish that the MCU is Earth-199999 and not 616. That was such a big issue I had with the 'MoM' writers, they tried to retcon it as the real 616 not knowing that it and the comics exist in the same multiverse, alienating new fans for the sake of a cheeky reference"

But What About Peter B. Parker?

While the trailer does clear up the confusion about the MCU being given the longtime universe designation for Marvel's comic stories, it does not address Peter B. Parker's origin universe also being called Earth-616 back in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

There are a couple of ways to explain this away without breaking continuity, though.

First, the film included nothing major that directly contradicted the comics. This means it is entirely plausible — albeit unlikely — that Peter B. Parker is the comics version of Peter, many years down the road.

The beauty of comics is that time passes incredibly slowly, and continuities can last decades without the stories either seeming to fit so much in a short amount of time or seeming to move at a snail's pace. As such, it could be that Peter B. Parker is in fact 616-Peter Parker, in a story that the comics timeline hasn't, and potentially will never, catch up to.

The biggest argument against this, however, is the danger of being in another universe for a long time, as presented in Into the Spider-Verse. That danger has not been a major problem in Marvel Comics' Multiversal stories. But, the joy of infinite universes in a Multiverse is that maybe only Miles Morales' universe, as seen in the Spider-Verse films, poses that danger to Multiversal travelers.

Another way to explain it is simply as a retcon. The Spider-Verse franchise has modeled itself — both from an artistic lens and a storytelling lens — off of the comics industry. With slow frame rates to give a panel-like perspective, to poppy animation with bright colors, and even thought bubbles, Into the Spider-Verse utilized various tools that are typically associated with comics to tell its story.

As such, the movies could implement another comics storytelling tool, the retcon. Sometimes, things change just for change's sake. Perhaps, the Spider-Verse films will keep with comics tradition and just retcon Peter B. Parker's universe designation number, and clear up the confusion once and for all.

However, one way or another, this will likely need to be explained or retconned away somehow, somewhere, in order for continuity to line up, as the inclusion of the MCU as Earth-199999 in Across the Spider-Verse implies one single Multiverse for the MCU, Spider-Verse films, and comics.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse hits theaters on June 2.

Release Date
June 02, 2023
- About The Author: Gillian Blum
Gillian Blum has been a writer at The Direct since 2022, reporting primarily from New York City. Though she covers news from across the entertainment industry, Gillian has a particular focus on Marvel and DC, including comics, movies, and television shows. She also commonly reports on Percy Jackson, Invincible, and other similar franchises.