History of term
The term was first used in "Rough Justice", a story credited to both Alan Moore and Alan Davis published in July 1983 by Marvel UK in the anthology comic The Daredevils (and was later reprinted in the Captain Britain trade paperback). Saturnyne uses the term to differentiate Brian Braddock, the Captain Britain of the regular Marvel Comics universe, from the other members of the Captain Britain Corps, each of which inhabit different universes. The designation was later used by the American branch of Marvel Comics in the Excalibur title, which frequently referenced Captain Britain's early UK-published adventures. This comic was written by Chris Claremont, who had created Captain Britain, and pencilled by Alan Davis, the artist on the UK-published series. Davis later had a run as both writer and artist on the book.
Alan Moore is usually credited with creating the term. However, Alan Davis has stated that the designation of Earth 616 was actually first made by Dave Thorpe, the previous writer of the UK-published Captain Britain stories.
A difference of opinion exists regarding the selection of the number 616. In 2005, Moore's son-in-law John Reppion (married to Moore's daughter Leah Moore) stated on an Internet message board that the number 616 was arbitrarily chosen by Moore, saying it "was just a random number of no significance chosen because people always seemed to be talking about 'earth 2' or 'earth 4' but never any higher numbers." However, Davis has said that it comes from 616, a variation on the Number of the Beast, picked because Thorpe "wasn't a fan of the modern superhero genre" and expressed this in his stories, "such as recording his opinion of the Marvel Universe with the designation 616."
In the climaxes of the "Goblin Nation" and "Spider-Verse" storylines in Superior Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man, respectively, it is revealed that Marvel 2099/Earth-928 is the same universe as 616, dubbed as Earth-616 circa 2099.
References to Earth-616
Most references to Earth-616 appear in Marvel UK titles, in Excalibur, or in Marvel reference texts such as the guide to Alternate Universes (2005). In addition, there are a number of other references to Earth-616:
- In Marvel 1602 #6 (March 2004), Uatu the Watcher refers to the universe as Earth-616.
- In Marvel Knights 4 #15 (April 2005), Earth-616 is mentioned.
- In Uncanny X-Men #462 (September 2005), an alteration in reality of Earth-616 causes trans-temporal devastation, and Saturnyne attempts to destroy that particular temporal continuity to "cauterize the wound".
- In Iron Man: Fatal Frontier #10 Dr Doom mentions that they are in either Earth-616 or in Earth-615.
- In all issues of Deadpool Kills Deadpool (July 2013), the story centers around the timeline of Earth-616 Deadpool rather that any of the alternate universe versions.
There has been at least one attempt within Marvel canon to change the designation of Earth-616. In the final story arc of X-Man (issues #71-74), writer Steven Grant began to refer to the planet as "Earth 611" due to the destruction of several other Earths (which were all apparently "higher on the list" of the multiverse than the Marvel Earth) by a godlike entity. This change, an allusion to the events of DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, was not adopted by other writers.
In other media
In a superhero themed episode of NCIS, an excused suspect states "Why on Earth 616 would I know?". The actor pronounces each digit, referring to "Earth six one six".
In the film Thor: The Dark World, Erik Selvig is portrayed as being somewhat mentally unstable and in his time at a mental hospital he draws a number of diagrams and equations on a blackboard. Near the center of all of this, the words '616 universe' can be seen underlined.
I can tell you for sure that those of us actually working on the books virtually never use the term — and I kind of wince inside whenever I hear somebody use it. It just sounds so stupid to my ear, and so counter to the kind of mindset we try to foster in regard to the stories we create and the thinking we try to employ.— Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort
I never use it, I hate the term pure and simple and agree with Tom’s assessment of it. I can’t remember ever hearing it in the office and only really see it used online for the most part. I think the term really came into vogue when the Ultimate Universe came into prominence, but in my world, the language and distinctions are simple, there is the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe. Anything other than that reeks of all that DC Earth 1, Earth 2, Earth Prime stuff which I’ve never really taken to, but then again, I got into DC when they got rid of all that stuff so it was from and for a different era than my own.— Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada
- Babos, John (August 6, 2011). "Marvel’s New Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales: A Significant And Safe Leap Forward". Comic Nexus.
- Earth 616, Tom Brevoort's blog at Marvel.com, May 29, 2007
- "The '616' universe". MooreReppion.com Board. Archived from the original on 2006-03-20.
- "Newsarama.com: New Joe Fridays - Week 44, A Weekly Q&A with Joe Quesada".