How I created the Marvel Universe (and see! I was into green energy even in the early ’80s!).
With a new series from Disney/Marvel called Earth-616 out, it’s a great opportunity to talk about how I came up with an alternate universe that became the main Marvel Universe.
When I was working at Marvel UK editing and laying out the monthly and weekly comics, and we decided to relaunch Captain Britain, the managing editor Paul Neary stipulated that he wanted our stories to take place in an alternate universe.
Paul had just put artist Alan Davis and myself as writer together as a team. Both and Alan and myself were starting out as comics creators, it was our first gig.
Privately, I believe Paul was thinking to set our tales in an alternate universe and not the ‘real’ Marvel one, as it was then, in case the whole thing went belly up, and so we could use Marvel US characters without messing up their continuity. We could always say that our stories didn’t really happen and didn’t affect anything else in what was at the time seen as the mainstream Marvel universe.
The Captain Britain relaunch was meant to mark a decisive break from the Steve Parkhouse historical Black Knight version of the character, which was his last manifestation a few years previously.
So we had the rebirth origin story depict Merlin sending the new Captain to this alternate universe deliberately, with a mission to sort it out.
But why did he do this? I had to come up with a reason.
So I came up with 616 being just one of many universes each containing different versions of Earth.
Earth 616 was the most retrograde and regressive. Wars, disease, poverty, hunger, inequality, environmental destruction, etc. And a fascist government in control of the UK. Not at all like ours, no.
Why 616? Read on.
This Earth 616 was holding back all of the others – which are all connected in a trans-dimensional string – from moving into the next evolutionary stage of development.
If you read the stories that I wrote you will find out more, and why the pan-dimensional being Saturnyne was sent to administer the evolutionary fluid to humanity to push us on to the next level – so that all Earths could be released to ascend onto the next stage of heightened consciousness.
Sometime later another writer (Chis Claremont?) postulated many Captain Britains on each alternate Earth – a Corps of them.
Even later, unbeknownst to me until recently, instead of the tiny universe we had created being a minor player in relation to the majority of the Marvel universe, the whole of the Marvel universe moved into Earth-616.
It’s ironic too, considering that 616 was only meant to be a temporary universe created partly as a precaution.
But who knows? Perhaps the universe that we inhabit is also only a temporary one created as a precaution by somebody else…
Wow. And super-weird. It is truly awesome.
Big confession. I’ve not read every Marvel comic ever written. (Who has?) So I don’t know how or when this happened and which creators were involved. There must have been an editorial decision made. A no-prize (I still got one here that Stan the Man gave me) for anyone who can tell me.
Oh yes. Why 616? Every now and then I get email from a fan asking me this, and each time I give a different reply. But pretty much all of them have to do with Alistair Crowley and the number of the beast…
(Contrary to rumours, it has little to do with a dislike of superhero comics as such, more the state of most superhero comics at the time, and I wanted to avoid any idea that a character draped in a Union Jack might be associated with fascism and nationalism. I think Alan Moore and I agreed on that point. Alan took over from me on the title. He and I often met in the office or at conventions throughout the 80s.)
Although the story by Alan in British Marvel monthly Daredevil #7 contains the first printed designation of Earth-616, I came up with the name earlier when I introduced Saturnyne, as Alan Davis corroborates.
It was in my notes but never made it into the published scripts, which often had to be cut for reasons of space. We were only allowed five or six pages per monthly story and a lot of things ended up on the cutting room floor.
Now, if only I can figure how to get some more of that evolutionary fluid. I can think of some people I’d like to give it to…