Multiverse Superhero Stories Make No Sense For One Huge Reason

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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For better or for worse, we live in an era when multiverse superhero movies have gone mainstream. Some of them are pretty bad (Quantumania comes to mind), and some of them are mind-blowing (like Everything Everywhere All At Once). However, one core aspect of these types of films is that regular characters give their planet strange designations instead of just calling it “Earth.”

Universes With Designations Are Weird

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Are you wondering what we’re talking about and what it has to do with your favorite multiverse superhero film? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a great example of this. The MCU liberally plucks and adapts storylines from the mainstream comic universe which was later labeled the “616 universe” as a way to differentiate it from the many alternate timelines that we see.

That naming convention has now infected the MCU’s multiverse superhero films. For example, in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, we are introduced to Dr. Christine Palmer, who is very aware of the existence of other realities. Accordingly, she refers to her reality as “Earth 838.”

The Arrowverse

Marvel isn’t the only company pumping out multiverse stories that are guilty of this superhero naming sin. For example, the CW show Arrow helped spawn an entire universe (creatively dubbed the “Arrowverse”) of connected shows whose characters made frequent trips into other realities/dimensions/timelines. This was especially true of The Flash, as we see when our titular hero (who is from Earth-1, incidentally) encounters a multiversal monster of himself with a crazy story: he pitted all his planet’s remaining meta-humans against each other in a giant battle royale. This evil speedster referred to himself as being from Earth-19.

Every Reality Should Be Called “Earth-1” Within That Reality

Now that you have a better idea of the multiverse superhero naming trope I’m talking about, here’s the problem. Even in a world where people have tangible proof of the existence of other universes, it’s utterly unrealistic that characters would refer to their own planet as anything other than Earth-1. If you doubt that, consider this: if we discovered a parallel reality today and its inhabitants called your reality “Earth-2” or maybe “Earth-200,” wouldn’t you be just the least bit annoyed?

Earth-1 Sounds Like The Most Important

The average person is driven by motivated self-interest and an overinflated sense of self-importance. And even in worlds full of holier-than-thou superheroes, I’m willing to bet the average person would always refer to themselves as being from Earth-1. In fact–and this is the real cause for your annoyance in that little thought exercise up there–the average person would also be contemptuous of anyone else who was arrogant enough to say they are the ones from Earth-1 (which invariably sounds like it would be the first or otherwise best timeline).

The Watcher Can Do Whatever He Wants

Before anyone yells at me, I get that it makes sense for writers, fans, and maybe even beings like The Watcher to need and use special designations for alternate realities. That doesn’t change the fact that average characters of those timelines willingly calling their own planet by an arbitrary number is a superhero trope that is both overused and unimportant. 

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