Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’s new trailer is beautiful, and it’s also kicked a very nerdy hornets’ nest. How? Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of 2099, tosses off a casual line about how annoying Doctor Strange and “the little nerd back on Earth-199999” were. He’s talking about Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
And yeah, if we were trying to safeguard the multiverse, we’d be pretty mad at Peter Parker and Stephen Strange for mucking it up for two whole movies. But by referring to the MCU’s setting as “Earth-199999,” Miguel has thrown down a gauntlet of technically epic proportions. Because the MCU would like you to think it doesn’t take place on Earth-199999, and reader, we must resist that at all costs.
Wait, Earth-199999 is… the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
To make sense of its many multiverses, Marvel Comics began ordering them with number designations in the 1980s, claiming “Earth-616” for the main setting. Since 2008’s The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Marvel Comics has designated the world in which the MCU films take place as Earth-199999. But lately Marvel Studios has firmly disagreed.
Instead, for two movies, the MCU has insisted that they are Earth-616 — a clerical technicality from which forum wars are born.
Sony Pictures fired the first shot in the Earth-616 war in a stray line in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio — who falsely claims to have traveled between multiverses — refers to the MCU’s Earth as Earth-616. Of course, the easiest (and most correct) explanation of this is that Mysterio was a fraud, the line is just an Easter egg for fans, and it’s just a coincidence that he happened to pick the name of the main Marvel Comics universe.
Unfortunately for fans of disambiguation, Marvel Studios doubled down on the idea in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, in which the titular Doctor visits Earth-838. There, that universe’s version of his old flame, Dr. Christine Palmer, tells him that his home universe is designated Earth-616.
In response, nerds across the web have, to paraphrase Nick Fury, recognized that the MCU decided to designate itself Earht-616, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, they elected to ignore it. From Ms. Marvel’s lead actress herself to the editors behind the Marvel Database, people will not have it.
Thankfully, Across the Spider-Verse’s new trailer sets the record straight — which it gets to do as the biggest multiverse movie so far, and the best Spider-Man movie.
Of course, for the moment, none of this really matters. But as the multiverse ramps up, and Kang’s story keeps getting more complicated, it’s possible Marvel will have to start being a little more specific with which Earth is which. And for the sake of the mental health of everyone who writes about these settings, please. Let Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios have different numbers.