Who’d win in a fight between Superman and Spawn? How the f*ck old is Cable? And what in the holy hell is a Megatron? When the tough questions arise, Panels on Pages will gather the facts, but it’s up to the PoP!ulation to draw its own conclusions. So come on… Riddle Me This.
The designation of “616″ came about in the early ’80s and was the brain child of either Alan Moore or Dave Thorpe, depending upon who you ask. Either way, it was in Chris Claremont’s Excalibur that it truly became popularized and came to represent an official branding of the core Marvel universe. That was three decades ago, however; in the time since that designation, how many continuity sidesteps have taken place?
- 1986: Jean Grey is found to be alive, never having become the Phoenix in the first place
- 1995: Legion tavels back in time to kill Magneto, accidentally creating the Age of Apocalypse
- 1996-1998: Teenage Tony Stark is brought to the present to be Iron Man and sacrifices himself in the battle with Onslaught, only to have him return as adult Tony
- 2001-2002: Kang the Conqueror conquers Earth
- 2004: Jean Grey uses the power of the Phoenix to travel back to the present and nudge Scott and Emma into keeping the school running, after closing it down led to the future timeline seen in Here Comes Tomorrow
- 2005-2006: In the wake of the House of M, reality is reset but M-Day has left almost all of the mutant population powerless or dead
- 2007-2008: Peter Parker makes a deal with Mephisto, saving his Aunt’s life but in the process rewriting his own history
- 2010-2012: Children’s Crusade sees Scott Lang brought back to life
- 2010-2011: During the Chaos War, reality is in part rewritten with some previously dead characters once again among the living
- 2012: The original X-Men journey to the present
Granted, some of these items may be of no consequence in the long run, but let’s consider the most glaring example. Peter Parker’s deal with the devil not only saved his Aunt May’s life, it altered every aspect of his history; from his marriage to his unmasking to his organic webshooters. If the Peter Parker at the beginning of One More Day was existing within the 616, then as of the story’s end, we simply HAVE to be reading about an alternate Earth, as we are no longer reading about the linear progression of the previous Earth’s continuity. Which means that every story we’ve read since then, in every title across the Marvel Universe, has taken place in this “alternate” reality as well.
With that said, every single retcon and act of temporal voodoo can very easily be considered a similar divergence from the previous timeline. OMD is just the easiest point to argue. Hell, what about sliding timeline retcons such as which war Punisher fought in or how Tony Stark sustained his injuries?
So what does this all mean? It means that every time the record skips, we have reason to believe we’ve moved a click further away from our starting point. The above is a far from conclusive list of retcons and time travel events – such as pulling Captain Marvel from the past or revealing Bucky to be alive – so even if we can’t count each and every item I’ve listed, it’s still fairly safe to say there have been at least ten major events to take us on divergent paths over the years.
By that logic, this Earth where Sentry is dead, Magneto’s a hero, and Otto Octavius is Spider-Man is – at best – Earth-626.
Will this be the path to Marvel’s own “Crisis” one day? Will a Justice-Society-of-America-like group of older “classic” Avengers step through a dimensional rift at some point to reveal the truth? Riddle me this, PoP!ulation… IS THIS still the 616?