Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Finally Gives The MCU An Official Designation

Arguably the most anticipated blockbuster of the summer has arrived in the form of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been teeing up the ball for this one for some time, with the multiverse being ripped wide open by Stephen Strange in this one, opening up truly limitless possibilities for the future. A whole lot happens in director Sam Raimi's wild, magical ride but amidst the madness, something rather important happened: the MCU was given an official in-universe designation, and we should probably talk about it and why it's seemingly quite important.

Warning: spoilers ahead for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Proceed with caution.

The moment in question

One key scene teased quite a bit in the trailers for the movie was the meeting of Doctor Strange and the Illuminati, a very powerful group within the pages of Marvel Comics who have been brought to life in live-action for the very first time. Whilst Doctor Strange and America Chavez were being held captive in this alternate universe waiting to meet the group, that universe's Christine Palmer, in talking to Strange, reveals that he comes from a reality designated as Earth-616 within the multiverse, whereas they are currently on Earth-838. While we meet several versions of Strange throughout the film, the one being talked to here is the one we've been following since 2016's "Doctor Strange," meaning that the core MCU as we've come to know it is referred to within the expansive multiverse as Earth-616.

While we don't explore all that many universes thoroughly in the movie, it's quite clear that not every universe has powerful beings who are aware of the multiverse being real — let alone people that have explored it and studied it. So the odds of this designation coming up with the average Joe within the multiverse are slim. Yet, it does give Marvel (as well as fans) a way to keep things straight as the multiverse continues to expand. It also offers direct ties to the world of Marvel Comics in a pretty significant way.

The history of Earth-616

Much in the same way that the MCU didn't always have a multiverse to explore, mainstream comics didn't either. While the concept had been introduced previously, the idea really started to take off for Marvel Comics in the '70s. The idea of the multiverse becomes quite appealing when you have decades' worth of interconnected stories and are trying to find new ways to keep things fresh. The whole idea of designations within the larger multiverse truly comes from 1983's "The Daredevils," a Marvel book that was only published in the U.K. written by the legendary Alan Moore, with art by Alan Davis and pencils by none other than Frank Miller. A murder's row of comic book talent.

It is in the pages of this storyline that the Earth-616 designation first appears to describe the main Earth within Marvel Comics. This designation has stuck over the years to describe the center of all that occurs within the publisher's various storylines. There are other major universes, such as the "Ultimate" universe, which is where Miles Morales first came to be, for example. But 616 is at the center of it all and the fact that the "main" universe within the MCU now carries that same designation is not at all insignificant.

One interesting thing to note is that years before the MCU became a gigantic, all-consuming media behemoth, it was referred to as Earth-199999. Right around the time that "Iron Man" came out back in 2008, the "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z, Vol. 5" hit shelves and, in that book, what we would come to know as the MCU was referred to as Earth-199999. But that designation hasn't been used in the films and it seems now to be obsolete, given the information that Christine Palmer provides on-screen in "Multiverse of Madness."

We've heard this before in the MCU

Astute fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may well be aware that this isn't the first time that we've heard the Earth-616 designation. It first got a name-drop by Mysterio/Quentin Beck in 2019's "Spider-Man: Far From Home." Before the big reveal in that film, Beck positions himself as someone from another version of Earth who has wound up in our universe as a result of an ongoing battle with beings called Elementals. He uses Earth-616 to describe the main MCU universe as well. However, we come to learn that Beck is actually just one heck of an illusionist and has made the whole thing up. So, how do we explain his use of this designation at that time?

One thing worth taking into account is that director Jon Watts told back in 2019 that "There's no Earth-616. Earth-616 is the comics' version of it." Now, what we can extract from that a few years removed is likely that, at the time, this was not meant to be an official designation and was more of an Easter egg for fans. Nothing more, nothing less. The only thing we then have to reconcile is the in-universe name drop from Mysterio. Honestly, there isn't a great explanation for that other than him getting peculiarly lucky by naming it correctly. Call it a cosmic fluke. In any case, the comics and the movies now share something very important as the core universes within the massive multiverse both share the same name.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is in theaters now.