What Is the Multiverse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

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Marvel multiverse

Credit: Marvel (all components)

Ah, the Marvel multiverse. Comic books love to use this device after they’ve exhausted time travel, clones, and every other plot device. To give credit to Marvel Comics, however, its multiverse has allowed its creators to create endless variations on popular characters and scenarios, including beloved favorites, like the Ultimate Universe‘s Miles Morales.

The multiverse is a relatively new concept in the MCU, however, so let’s get exploring. So, just what is the multiverse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

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What the multiverse is comprised of

What is the concept of the multiverse?

Marvel multiverse
Credit: Marvel Studios

The multiverse is a real-world scientific theory that hypothetically states that our universe exists as one of many universes. The concept dates back centuries and philosophers and scientists alike have pondered the idea of the “many worlds” or multiverse, theory.

To explain it incredibly briefly and without expertise, the theory hypothesizes that there could be infinite variations of our universe, where every eventuality you can imagine has occurred. For example, there could be one universe where every human is an insect. Equally, there could be a universe where Doctor Strange and the rest of the MCU is real, due to the laws of physics and nature working differently there.

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What is the multiverse theory?

Doctor Strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

The multiverse theory links to the concept of a parallel universe. Crucially, this idea has become a huge part of pop culture and has been seen in shows such as Family Guy, as well as in other science fiction classics like Rick and Morty and Doctor Who.

We certainly don’t claim to be physicists, so if you want to know the complexities of the multiverse theory, we highly recommend you read accredited scientific journals on the matter. The concepts involve complex ideas like String Theory, eternal inflation, extra dimensions, dark matter, and the big bang, which we are definitely not qualified to explain.

In terms of the science fiction interpretation of the multiverse theory, however, companies such as Marvel have used the concept of multiple universes, including the notion of the ‘pocket universe‘ for decades.

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How many multiverses are there?

marvel multiverse
Credit: Marvel Comics

In the Marvel universe, there are seemingly infinite universes that can only be explored by magical scholars like Doctor Strange. However, scientists such as Reed Richards / Mr Fantastic have also been shown to explore the endless multiverse through their knowledge of quantum mechanics, big bang theory, and string theory.

In the real world, some physicists believe that there could indeed be infinite worlds. However, some also feel that this claim is overblown and that the multiverse may not be as endless as we think. For our purposes when discussing Marvel, however, it’s pretty darn endless.

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How is the multiverse related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

What is the nature of the multiverse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

WandaVision finale
Credit: Marvel Studios

The multiverse is a plot point that has been used in Marvel comics for decades, sometimes in major ways such as in the Secret Wars event, which saw the “main” universe and Ultimate Universe combine into one.

In terms of the MCU multiverse, we still haven’t been formally introduced to it. This is all set to change when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness finally releases in 2022. This film will see the Marvel multiverse take front and centre position, as Doctor Strange and co may have to deal with Marvel characters from an entirely new universe!

For now, however, the multiverse is just a theory and pure science fiction.

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How can the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually support a multiverse?

Marvel multiverse
Credit: Marvel Studios

The MCU has wisely taken its time when introducing the Marvel multiverse. We’ve only seen hints so far in the form of chalk drawings from characters like physicist Dr. Erik Selvig in the Thor movies. However, WandaVision seemingly opened up renewed hope for the multiverse by casting Evan Peters as Pietro Maximoff.

For those who don’t know, Pietro/Peter was played by Peters throughout the Fox X-Men movies. Casting Peters was a sure-fire sign to Marvel fans that alternate universe heroes were coming. Many were stoked to consider that this is how the MCU could explain returning heroes such as Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).

But no, sadly Peters was simply brought on to play an actor who is pretending to be Pietro on behalf of villain Agatha Harkness. This was a major let down for fans who thought this could be the way to introduce the multiverse.

In terms of how the MCU will support the multiverse, it’s likely to take a page out of both the Marvel Comics and the DC universe. Both Marvel and DC (and even the DC films) have created extensive multiverses. For those who don’t recall, Zack Synder’s Batman vs Superman (2016) hints at a future multiverse plot involving the Flash.

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Marvel R-rated
Credit: Fox

How is the multiverse related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Marvel multiverse
Credit: Marvel

All is not lost, however. We know that the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will (obviously) feature the “alternate reality” concept. However, it isn’t just the Doctor Strange sequel that will explore the Marvel multiverse. The animated Disney+ series What If? will also tell new stories from across the multiverse.

Such stories will see Peggy Carter become an alternate version of Captain America known as Captain Britain. The Captain America character will also be used in another alternate universe scenario to bring the iconic Marvel Zombies into the MCU.

Hopefully, we’ll also see multiverse versions of Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and maybe even an MCU version of the Secret Wars event. It’s also worth noting that the upcoming movie Spider-Man: No Way Home looks to focus on the multiverse. Alfred Molina from the Sam Raimi trilogy and Jamie Foxx from the Amazing Spider-Man series are set to return as Doc Ock and Electro respectively. There’s even rumor that the movie will contain three Spider-Man: Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield.

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What are the most important alternate worlds in the Marvel multiverse?

Who is the most powerful character in the DC multiverse including the negative universes?

Henry Cavill as Superman
Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s not just the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has a multiverse, however. Marvel‘s competitor DC comics has also used the concept for many years, introducing several alternate versions of classic characters like Superman, Batman, and Lex Luthor.

In terms of the most powerful character, Superman is always a contender for his near-limitless power. However, Doomsday is also a major player in the DC multiverse and is notable for killing the Man of Steel in the iconic Death of Superman comic.

However, if you ask the good folks over at Fortress of Solitude, an obscure character known as the Presence is easily the most powerful character across the DC multiverse. Furthermore, expanding our reach to the Watchman universe, Doctor Manhattan is certainly a contender for the strongest DC character.

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What is the coolest earth in the DC comics multiverse?

Marvel multiverse
Credit: Marvel / DC

The coolest earth in the DC multiverse is up for debate, but we can’t help but appreciate the DCeased universe, an alternate timeline not dissimilar to the Marvel Zombies event. Here, the DC heroes must contend with the Anti-Life equation virus, which turns people into Zombie-like creatures. This virus is spread by Cyborg and it soon turns the entire universe into a dystopic hellscape!

However, as hardcore Marvel fans, we’ve also got to point out the Amalgam universe, which is a crossover between Marvel and DC. This crazy universe takes a classic Marvel comics character and combines them with their relevant DC counterpart! As such, you get heroes such as Super Soldier: a fusion of Superman and Captain America, Dark Claw: who is Wolverine and Batman, and Spider-Boy: a fusion of Spider-Man and Superboy.

Needless to say, this universe is pretty wild and also super cool!

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What are the most important alternate worlds in the Marvel multiverse?

Marvel Zombies
Credit: Marvel Comics

The Marvel multiverse is most notable for the main timeline (Earth 616) and the “Ultimate Universe“. The Ultimate series was created to allow Marvel’s writers an opportunity to write new stories about classic characters without the baggage of years of continuity. These versions tended to be a little more edgy and dark. The Peter Parker of the Ultimate universe even ended up being killed by the Green Goblin and replaced by Miles Morales! This universe eventually merged with Earth 616 during the Secret Wars event.

Marvel comics also introduced a horrific parallel earth where the world had been taken over by super-powered zombies. Doctor Strange, Captain America, and almost every other Avenger, X-Man, and Inhuman found themselves infected by the zombie plague. This universe even came into contact with the Ultimate Reed Richards and very nearly infected another Marvel universe! The Marvel Zombies have proven popular and have returned several times since.

You can’t talk about the Marvel multiverse without talking about House of M and What If? House of M features Wanda Maximoff having a breakdown and altering the Marvel universe in the process. What If? on the other hand, is an anthology series that allows the writers to create Marvel comics unbound by continuity. There are several classic titles that ponder alternate events such as “What if Iron Man had been a traitor?” and “What If? Age of Ultron“.

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What are the major characters associated with the Marvel multiverse?

How many characters are in the Marvel Universe?

Avengers Assemble
Credit: Marvel Studios

We don’t need to tell you that there is a heck of a lot of characters in both the Marvel Studio created movies and the comics. Each Marvel movie has introduced a handful of new characters, nearly all of whom came together in the event movies Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. MCU characters range from iconic original Avengers such as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and Black Widow to newer heroes like the Winter Soldier and Black Panther.

All of these Marvel Cinematic Universe characters have their roots in the Marvel comic book canon and many pay homage to their comic origins, whether through their design, character journeys, or relationships with other characters. For example, Captain America remains best buds with Bucky Barnes, even though their relationship is updated to be more of a mutual friendship than the paternal “hero – sidekick” relationship of the comics.

As with all superhero movies, the MCU also contains a vast array of baddies. However, it has had somewhat of a history of unceremoniously killing them off in their first movie, so many of them aren’t likely to reappear! Characters that stand out include the iconic villains of the Avengers movies: Loki, Ultron, and Thanos. However, we’ve also seen excellent supervillains in solo movies such as the Red Skull, Hela, and Mysterio. Additionally, Disney+ has given us some cracking new baddies in the form of Agatha Harkness, John Walker/Captain America, and Flag Smasher/Karli Morgenthau.

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How many characters does Marvel Entertainment own?

daredevil charlie cox
Credit: Marvel / Disney / Netflix

Marvel Comics has full access to the entire library of Marvel characters. However, Marvel Studios could only have Cap shout “AVENGERS Assemble“, as for the longest time, it didn’t own the rights to other properties such as the X-Men, Defenders, Fantastic Four, and even Spider-Man. These are major players in the Marvel universe, but Disney slowly managed to acquire the rights to them over the years.

Fortunately, this means that Wolverine, Luke Cage, and the Silver Surfer can now stand alongside Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange and Captain America and the MCU multiverse might go a long way to explaining how they are introduced. It’s been rumored for quite some time that the X-Men may have something to do with Marvel‘s multiverse as Disney may wish to reuse actors from the Fox series (though the aforementioned Peters controversy somewhat calls this theory into question). However, it still totally makes sense for Disney to use past “Marvel legacy movies” as the template for a “Marvel Cinematic Multiverse“.

So, the next time there’s a major superhero crossover, we might see multiverse favorites like Tobey Maguire, Ryan Reynolds, and Hugh Jackman on the front line! At least in theory. 

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What are the major characters associated with the Marvel multiverse?

Scarlet Witch in WandaVision's finale
Credit: Marvel Studios

Right now, it’s all about Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch. The two stars of the upcoming 2022 movie are set to play a major role in the implementation of the MCU multiverse. Who else has the magical powers capable of tearing open universes and traveling back in time?

The time-traveling antics of Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the Avengers in Avengers: Endgame (2019) already set up multiple timelines and different versions of the same characters. Now we’re ready to take the next step and see Kevin Feige and company take us on some truly wild rides into unknown territory.

We can’t wait to potentially see returning fan-favorites like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, as well as all-new takes on classic Marvel characters in the brand new multiverse.

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