A Brief History Of The Microverse, The Tiniest And Craziest Corner Of The Marvel Universe

As folks head out to the theater this weekend to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, they will be treated to yet another pocket of the Marvel universe that the MCU has barely touched upon: the tiny dimension known as the Microverse. Though renamed the Quantum Realm for the film franchise, the basic structure remains the same. At the end of the day, it turns out the universe is just a series of nesting dolls. It's galaxies all the way down, man.

What is the Microverse?

It sounds like the home of MicroMachines. But within the Marvel lore, the Microverse is a dimension residing within our own. It is naked to both the human eye and that of our technology. As such, the Microverse can only be accessed by shrinking down to the subatomic level using Pym Particles or another shrinking device. Once the traveler's body reaches a certain mass, they can pass through the nexus and into the tiny universe hiding in plain sight.

However, all is not what it appears with the Microverse. Also known as Sub-Atomica, the galaxy is not a natural creation but the final chapter in a saga involving aliens, time travel, prophecy, and war. You know, just typical superhero comic book stuff.

When Was the Microverse Created? 

Roughly fifteen thousand years from now, the Earth has suffered cataclysmic change and been lost to the ages. In its stead, humans have spread across the galaxy, evolving into separate species in ways alarmingly similar to the species of H.G. Wells novel, The Time Machine. When the warlike Haaman (also spelled Haamin) return from beyond the edges of known space, the conquer the peaceful Ithacons.

Driven from their ancestral homes, the Ithacons were on the verge of extinction when their leader Prince Wayfinder discovered a legendary sword. Known as the Sword in the Star, the sentient piece of elegant warfare helped Prince Wayfinder and his refugees flee to the distant past. 65 million years ago. But the Ithacons new home was plagued by deadly dinosaurs. In an act of godlike power, the Sword in the Star sacrificed itself to create the Microverse, finally fulfilling a prophecy that the Ithacons would one day find a home.

After settling into the Microverse, the denizens quickly learned the Sword in the Star had given its life force to hold creation together. Now known as the Enigma Force, this sentient mystical energy field spends the millennia utilizing Space Magic™ to astrally project the consciousness of the Time Traveler to protect the Microverse and help it survive hostile forces. More on them later.

Also, there were already other planets, species, and civilizations within the Microverse because why not?

A Brief History of the Microverse

Created by Ray Cummins and Syd Shores in 1943 for Captain America Comics #26, the history of the Microverse is long and confusing. To cut down confusion, this section will only hit the highlights.

For centuries, the people of the Microverse's Homeworld thrived. During these years, many advances were made in technology, giving rise a highly advanced society governed by a monarchy. Then, around one thousand years ago, the son of Homeworld's regent-rulers was chosen for a special mission to explore the extent of the Microverse. His name was Arcturus Rann. Over the next thousand years, Rann's ship hurtled across space while its commander slumbered inside in suspended animation. There was just one problem: while Rann's conscious mind was asleep, his subconscious was connecting with the Enigma Force to change him irrevocably.

This is where the Time Travelers come in. 99.999% of them are just astral projections of Arcturus Rann. Since omni-dimensional creatures care not for things such as "time," these echoes of Rann were strung throughout the Microverse timeline. Some went so far as to set up a religion in the name of his parents as mysterious Shadow Priests.

Once Rann returned from his extended sabbatical, he discovered that in his absence the devious Baron Karza had murdered the royal couple and usurped the throne of Homeworld. Karza immediately had Rann imprisoned. Only with the help of fellow royals Prince Acroyear, Princess Marionette, and the insectoid-warrior Bug was Rann able to escape. When all hope seemed lost and that Homeworld would be under the tyrannical thumb of Baron Karza forever, Rann called his Shadow Priest echoes back into himself, and with the power of the Enigma Force, was able to vanquish his former teacher and avenge the deaths of his royal parents. From there, Rann joined forces with Acroyear, Marionette, and Bug for form the Micronauts.

Major Players in the Microverse

Prince Wayfinder: The Moses of the Microverse. He pulled a sword from a star (which may have been Galactus) and used it to lead his people to the promised land. Born 15,000 years in the future, Wayfinder would lead the Ithacons to pre-historic Earth using the Sword, before finally expelling the remnants of its power to create the dimension known as the Microverse.

Arcturus Rann: The son of Homeworld's ruling regents, Arcturus Rann spent 1,000 years in suspended animation while flying across the Microverse galaxy. While he slept, Rann made contact with the Enigma Force that binds the Microverse's creation together. Accessing Rann's tiny human mind, the Enigma Force created echoes of Rann to spread throughout time in order to keep history on the right track. These echoes would become known as the Time Traveler.

Baron Karza: As the head scientist of Homeworld, Baron Karza was one of Arcturus Rann's tutors. The Baron even assisted his student in preparing to study the cosmos. But somewhere along the way, Karza became a bad seed. Using his technological creations, Karza first subjugated Homeworld, and then more of the Microverse's inhabited planets. Some of his creations included Body Banks which kept the rich and powerful pliant with the promise of eternal life, and Dog Soldiers to keep the teeming masses oppressed. Karza was eventually defeated by Arcturus Rann and the rest of the Micronauts.

Prince Acroyear: Captured by Baron Karza's forces, Prince Acroyear was sent to the Body Pits to live out his days as a gladiator. The crowned prince of the Microverse planet Spartak, Acroyear had risen up in rebellion and was betrayed by his own brother. Acroyear is discovered in the Body Pits by fellow prisoner Arcturus Rann and joins up to become part of the superhero team known as the Micronauts.

Princess Marionette: The daughter of the current slain rulers of Homeworld, Mari and her brother Prince Argon joined the rebellion to help free their people from enslavement. However, the uprising was doomed to failure. Prince Argon was killed and Princess Mari was sent to the Body Pits to fight in gladiatorial combat. It was Mari who put into motion the escape plan that would eventually lead to her meeting fellow inmates and future teammates Arcturus Rann, Prince Acroyear, and the warrior known as Bug.

Bug: A member of the Insectivorid species from the Microverse planet Kaliklak, Bug was imprisoned in the Body Pits for unspecified crimes. A master thief, a charismatic leader, and a shameless flirt, Bug quickly became part of the resistance to overthrow Baron Karza and free the political prisoners from gladiatorial death matches. During the daring escape plan, Bug joined up with Arcturus Rann, Princess Mar, and Prince Acroyear to form the Micronauts.

Biotron: Arcturus Rann's faithful robotic servant. During their 1,000 year journey, Biotron ran reconnaissance, kept the ship running, and became telepathically linked to Rann.

Prince Shaitan: The brother of Prince Acroyear, Shaitan betrayed his people and joined forces with Baron Karza to subjugate the people of the planet Spartak.

Queen Pearla: Ruler of the planet Mirwood, Pearla and her late father the King were tricked by Doctor Doom into believing he was a benevolent sorcerer-scientist. The rulers granted Doom a place in their court, only for him to use their resources to create a device to help him usurp the throne. Pearla and her father were only restored to power with the help of the Fantastic Four and Ant-Man.

Psycho-Man: Marvel's first point-of-contact with the Microverse came in the form of Pyscho-Man, a scientist from a group of planets controlled by a technocracy, Psycho-Man came into contact with the Earth goddess Nox. Subsequently, he realized there was a universe beyond the Microverse. As their planets had become overcrowded, Psycho-Man created a way to increase the size of his people and invaded Earth. Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, and the Inhumans were all tapped to put Psycho-Man back in the dimension he came from.

Major Places in the Microverse

Homeworld: The planet created by Prince Wayfinder using the energy of the Sword in the Star.

Kaliklak: Home planet of several sentient insectoid species, including the Insectivorids and the Reptos.  

K'ai: One of the most ancient worlds in the Microverse, K'ai was once home to a highly advanced society that has all but disappeared from the historical record. An apocalyptic event decimated the planet, leaving the remnants of civilization cowering in a Dark Age. Over the millennia, the inhabitants of K'ai have learned magic, shunning technology.

Spartak: A rocky planet inhospitable to most life, it was the planet of origin for the Acroyear species until its destruction. A semi-sentient planet, the Spartak "Worldmind" sacrificed itself in order to help destroy Baron Karza.

Tok: Home to the race of Lizard Men, Queen Pearla invades the planet prior to Doctor Doom's arrival. Using that animosity to his advantage, Doom offered to align himself with the people of Tok.

Why is It Called the Quantum Realm in the MCU?

When Marvel introduced Micronauts #1 in 1979, the comic was a joint production with the Japanese toyline known as the Micromen. Characters such as Arcturus Rann, Princess Mari, and Baron Karza were based on robotic action figures that had been in existence under other names since the mid-1970s. For example, Baron Karza was based on the Microman toy Jeeg from 1975. Since Marvel created the characters themselves, the Micronauts were able to keep having adventures until 1986 even though the toy line folded by 1980.

However, the phrases "Microverse" and "Micronauts" reverted back to their parent company when the comic run ended. This meant Disney couldn't use the term in their films. Any comics since the end of the Micronauts run have referred to the dimension as Inner Space. Before the Micronauts, the realm was known as Sub-Atomica. The phrase "Quantum Realm" was chosen by Ant-Man science advisor Dr. Spyridon Michalakis.