Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse trailer scene

Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ trailer reignites a Marvel lore debate over ‘Earth 616’

According to ‘Across the Spider-Verse,’ the MCU doesn’t take place on Earth-616—a major point of contention among Marvel Comics fans.

 

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

When Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness referred to the main MCU setting as “Earth-616,” this throwaway reference was like nails on a chalkboard to Marvel lore-heads. Now, the new trailer for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has struck back.

Thanks to the confusing volume of alternate universes in Marvel canon, the comics traditionally give each universe a serial number, with Earth-616 as the primary comic book timeline. So far, so good.

The writers of Doctor Strange 2 probably thought it made sense to use the same number in the MCU, as a fun little Easter egg for fans. What they didn’t account for is that many Marvel fans have strong feelings about canonical divides between Earth-616 and the MCU, whose main heroes often have different personalities, backstories, and relationships. (Also, the X-Men don’t exist in the MCU.)

This inside-baseball complaint is contentious enough that Kamala Khan actress (and vocal Marvel nerd) Iman Vellani brought it up at the Ms. Marvel premiere last year, saying she disagreed with Kevin Feige’s Earth-616 label because the main MCU setting should actually be Earth-199999:

While the MCU has now branched out into multiple timelines, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (belonging to a separate franchise) remains the gold standard for multiverse storytelling. So it’s no surprise to see the sequel Across the Spider-Verse weigh in on this debate.

In the new trailer, Miles Morales encounters more Spider-Man variants from other universes, including the new Spidey team leader Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac). When they first meet, Miguel makes a snide remark that’s clearly a reference to Tom Holland’s MCU Spider-Man: “Don’t even get me started on Doctor Strange and the little nerd back on Earth-199999.”

Depending on your attitude to the Earth-616/MCU debate, this is either an insufferable thing to care about or a satisfying dig at Kevin Feige’s ongoing insistence that these timelines are one and the same. It also makes sense for the Spidey audience to be particularly invested, because there’s a contingent of Spider-Man comic book fans who hate the MCU’s interpretation of Peter Parker.

In addition to hijacking elements of Miles Morales’ comic book origins (i.e. his school and best friend) when rebooting Peter Parker, the MCU erases Peter’s working-class background and the sociopolitical subtext that entails. Some fans also object to the MCU’s emphasis on Tony Stark as Peter’s idol and mentor, including the fact that he arms Peter with an Iron Man-like super-suit. So far, the MCU hasn’t allowed Peter to grow up, positioning him as a naive teen who craves guidance from a series of father figures. It’s a different role from Peter’s typical characterization in the comics, where he tends to be more confident and independent.

So while Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is still massively popular among mainstream viewers, that Earth-616 vs. Earth-199999 distinction is important to a lot of Spidey comics fans. And Across the Spider-Verse has made its position very clear.

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