The neighbor of the beast.

§ July 26th, 2022 § Filed under marvel, multiverse talk § 8 Comments

So it turns out you folks had a lot to say about their funnybook multiversal experiences. In true Progressive Ruin fashion, where YOU Are The Content™, I will do a post covering your comments, but in the meantime, lemme type a few words about Marvel’s various universes.

When I got to thinking about what my first experience was with multiverses in comics, my mind immediately gravitated towards DC. It ’twas DC what rode that parallel universe horse to exhaustion, making it a huge part of their fictional milieu. Not that Marvel didn’t fool around with parallel Earths an’ such as well (probably most notably earlier on with the Squadron Supreme. But as I reflected on this, it likely turns out my very first encounter with multiverses in comics was that very first issue of What If?. I wrote about that comic at length a few years back, so I’ll just say here that the Watcher giving a everyone a crash course on alternate realities in that book pinned down the concept for me at age 7, probably long before I was wondering why there were two Supermen in this DC comic, and why does one of them have gray temples?

There were a couple reasons why Marvel’s multiverse had come to mind recently. I mean, I’m sure in general it’s just the overall Disney-generated zeitgeist infecting pop culture at the moment, courtesy their movie/TV vectors. But I started wondering about two things.

First was “why is Marvel’s ‘main Earth’ called Earth-616?” I mean, like, why that specific number? This is something I’ve kind of wondered about since first coming across that particular designation in a 1983 Captain Britain story by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. Or rather, seeing some panel reprinted somewhere, since a U.S. reprinting wouldn’t happen ’til the mid-1990s. Here it is from the U.K. Marvel comics magazine Daredevils #7:

I was of two minds. One, that “616” was a known alternate for “666,” the most evil phone number prefix. I thought maybe “Alan Moore was making some kind of sly comment on the Marvel U.” by calling it that. My other idea was that it was simply a larger number given to Main Marvel Comics Earth, indicating it’s just an Earth, not the Earth, in contrast to DC’s “Earth One,” “Earth Two” etc.

I’ve actually wondered about that for a while, and finally sitting down to do some extensive research (i.e. looking it up on Wikipedia) it turns out…both are possibilities? Frankly, I feel like Alan Davis’s explanation that the previous writer on the feature came up with the term as, I had guessed, an implied criticism of Marvel’s superhero shenanigans, carries a little more weight. I don’t know if that writer, David Thorpe, ever used it directly in his stories or were just background he created for the series that were passed on when he left the book. Anyway, this archive of the old Marvel blog goes into detail, direct from Davis’s mouth.

Now, the second question about Marvel’s multiverse that I’d been pondering…will have to wait for Friday! Thanks for reading pals…and if you have more info or opinions about the above, please feel free to leave a comment. I always like hearing from you all.

Special thanks to Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull of Earth-Prime, for his help with this post. Also thanks to…somebody, maybe Neil Gaiman I think, for the title of this post, from whom I shamelessly stole it.

8 Responses to “The neighbor of the beast.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    “I’ve actually wondered about that for a while, and finally sitting down to do some extensive research (i.e. looking it up on Wikipedia) it turns out…both are possibilities?”

    Probably, one is the reality in our universe, but one is the reality in a universe similar to ours, just subtly different in that one specific aspect.

    I mean, if there are an infinite number of universes in the multi-verse, surely there are some that are almost exactly like ours except for some almost unnoticeable difference like that?

  • Thom H. says:

    I just want to say that Alan Davis is so good. He should be given as many mini-series to write and draw as he wants.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    I’d always heard it was the “Number of the Beast” alternate.

  • Hal Shipman says:

    To be completely contrarian, the “Number of the Beast”/666 thing took off when “The Omen” was released. I ate that stuff up, reading all of the paranoid/religious crazy stuff about people freaking out about the number sequence at the time. The first and ONLY place I remember I’ve heard about “616” being an alternate is in this specific context of Captain Britain and then cascading into Marvel as a whole.

    Is this “616” a British thing? Or did I just miss it?

  • Chris V says:

    The oldest known manuscript containing the Bible verse Revelation 13:18 actually read that the “number of the Beast is 616”. Alan Moore, being well-versed in occult lore probably knew this fact very well.
    It’s thought that there is a discrepancy between manuscripts due to the Greek version of a certain person’s name being “Neron” while the Latin version of his name would be “Nero”. Therefore, with the idea that Revelation 13:18 is invoking Gematria to disguise the author’s intent this would explain the discrepancy. Transposing “Neron” in Hebrew would add up to 666 using Gematria, while transposing “Nero” in Hebrew would add up to 616 using Gematria.

  • MisterJayEm says:

    I read somewhere — dunno where — that the number represented the year (61) and month (06) when the Fantastic Four was created and/or published and/or somesuchathing.

    But if they were doing something like that, surely they would have gone with Earth-6111 to represent FF#1’s cover date of November, 1961.

    Now I go with the simplest and most obvious origin of that number choice: the area code of Grand Rapids, MI.

    — MrJM

  • […] today, we’re back to the Marvel mutliverse! When we last met, I was talking about two specific questions that had some to mind regarding it. In that post I was […]

  • Daniel says:

    Transposing “Neron” in Akkadian adds up to “Underworld Unleashed”, which is truly, truly the abomination of desolation.