The Thor trilogy secretly introduced the idea of the multiverse into the MCU well ahead of it being important in Ant-Man and, possibly, Avengers: Endgame. Through Phases 2 and 3, Marvel Studios has grown increasingly interested in the multiverse concept. This scientific theory has two strands to it; on the one hand, it covers the idea that history branches out, creating alternate timelines like the Mirror Universe in Star Trek. On the other, it posits that while we are three-dimensional creatures, there are other planes of existence. To date, the MCU has predominantly been interested in the latter, which explains the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Dark Dimension in Doctor Strange.
The movies have actually been building up to this for quite some time. In fact, the first reference to the multiverse was in 2011's Thor; in the post-credits scene, Erik Selvig described the Bifrost as "a gate to another dimension," suggesting that Marvel originally intended every one of the Nine Realms to be in a different dimension. That idea was quietly dropped, though; presumably, the retcon explanation Selvig was simply mistaken about this point.
But look closely, and the Thor trilogy did indeed lay the foundations for the multiverse in the MCU. It just pulled it off in a very subtle, very smart way. Here's how Marvel's been building the Quantum Realm and beyond up all along.
- This Page: How Thor Established The Multiverse
- Page 2: The Multiverse In Avengers: Endgame & The MCU's Future
Thor: The Dark World Mentioned 616 Universe And The Nexus Of All Reality
One key scene in Thor: The Dark World sees Doctor Erik Selvig, the noted astrophysicist now consigned to a mental institution, jotting notes on a chalkboard. It's a popular scene, involving a much-loved Stan Lee cameo, but the notes on the board are particularly interesting. Some of them are lifted from real-world science, especially from the theories of quantum mechanics, but others are comic-book specific. Crucially, many point towards a multiverse:
- 616 Universe: In the comics, this is the traditional designation given to the Marvel Universe to distinguish it from all other realities. It was first used by The Daredevils #7 back in 1983, and was applied by the Omniversal Majestrix, Queen of a dimension known as Otherworld.
- The Nexus of All Realities: This is a location in the Florida Everglades where parallel worlds sometimes intersect. It's commonly associated with the Man-Thing, who acts as its guardian.
- The Fault: This is a rip in the fabric of the universe, which served as a gateway to a twisted alternate dimension known as the Cancerverse.
- The Crossroads: Something of a deep cut into Marvel lore, the Crossroads is a gateway dimension through which other worlds can be accessed. It was introduced in Incredible Hulk #300 (1984) and later
Assuming Selvig's notes are correct, a lot of major Marvel multiverse ideas are established parts of the MCU lore.
Thor: Ragnarok Also Introduced The Man-Thing
Thor: Ragnarok added a new element to this, confirming the existence of the cosmic being known as the Man-Thing. According to Kevin Feige, the film's biggest Easter eggs were on the side of the Sakaaran Palace. The side was emblazoned with carvings of the Grandmaster's previous champions - and one of them was the Man-Thing, a character created in a partnership between Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Garry Conway, and Gray Morrow back in 1971.
Dr. Theodore "Ted" Sallis was a scientist attempting to recreate the super-soldier serum, but he wound up pursued by A.I.M.; rather than allow the sole sample of the formula to fall into A.I.M.'s hands, he injected himself with it, and fled into the nearby swamp. The serum left him vulnerable to mystical energies that surrounded the Everglades, and he was transformed into the monstrous Man-Thing. The substance of his body was eaten away be vegetation; though he retains the semblance of humanity, in truth he is now a whole new life-form. The Man-Thing became guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, a breach in the fabric of time and space that binds all the various dimensions together.
Curiously enough, Thor: Ragnarok wasn't the first reference to the Man-Thing in the wider MCU. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, a weary Maria Hill reflected that she was tired of being asked incessant questions by Congress. "Who or what is a Man-Thing," she quoted as an indication of the type of questions she was fielding. While that indicated the Man-Thing existed in the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok evidenced that it looked like the classic comic book equivalent, and was indeed able to traverse the dimensions (by going to Sakaar) - meaning he may also have accessed the Nexus of All Realities.
Page 2 of 2: The Multiverse In The MCU
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019