A Marvel secret origin: where the films are set

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Book cover: the secret origin of Earth 616

Just over 30 minutes into the movie Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio tells Spider-Man that we live in a multiverse. “This is Earth dimension 616. I’m from Earth 833.”

Hoo boy, as Stan Lee used to say. I got a thrill when I heard this. Because I invented Earth 616, which is where most of Marvel’s films and stories are set.

Sheesh. For, at the time of writing, the total worldwide box office revenue for Marvel Cinematic Universe films is US$ 22.56bn, four times more than DC Comics’ superhero films.

The Marvel universe is one of the most successful cultural phenomena of recent times.

Marvel’s stories and pantheon of characters exist within a ‘multiverse’ consisting of multiple universes, and the principal one is called Earth-616. Most of the films, TV series and comic books take place within this version of the universe.

The universe was created by me, David Thorpe, when I was writing Captain Britain in the early 1980s while editing comics for Marvel UK.

Originally intended as an alternative universe, it subsequently became the main one for Marvel’s stories.

I thought I would write a book about it, and I have.

You can buy it here.

It’s the story of its origin and meaning, and discussion of my other comics projects. In the process I talk about how I came to work for Marvel and what it was like, the golden comics scene in Britain in the 1980s when Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore rose to fame, the importance of alternate realities and secret identities, the reasons for the appeal and success of superheroes and the Marvel universe, and I relate fascinating anecdotes about Marvel and other comics creators and top literary authors of graphic novels I subsequently commissioned and edited.

The book is called The Secret Origin of Marvel’s Earth-616 (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) or Alternate Universes and Why To Make Them and it will be published later this year.

Follow me to find out when. What follows is an extract from the foreword:

There’s a story on the Internet that I don’t like superheroes. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’re aspirational. They’re inspirational. And these days you can’t get away from them.

As a child I decided I wanted to work for Marvel Comics one day. And would you believe it, I did – in the early ’80s, in the London Bullpen, although I was more like a lamb than a bull and we didn’t use pens, they were so old school, we had a modern golfball typesetter.

I edited comics and penned a few tales about Captain Britain. I invented a few crazy characters that, in the Marvel way, took on a life of their own.

And an alternate universe. And the concept of the Marvel multiverse.

How was anybody to know at the time that by this universe, Earth 616, despite the best intentions of its creators, would go on to become the main Marvel universe, in which most of its stories take place. And many other universes within the multiverse have since mushroomed and continue to do so.

This book tells how that universe – and the idea of alternate universes within Marvel – came to be – because of the crucial role of Marvel Comics and superheroes in my life. Think that’s sad? Then you need to read the book to discover the truth.

‘Cause along the way I reflect on why so many people love superheroes, and on the vital importance of alternate universes and secret identities to me – and perhaps to you, even if you don’t know it.

I also reveal some other interesting stories about the inspiration for Earth 616.

If it changed my life for the better it might change yours. I hope so.

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