This article contains Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse spoilers.
Sony is giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for its money, and much like there’s no stopping the ever-expanding multiverse, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has weaved a complex web of Spider-People into the lives of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld).
While Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (SSU) struggles to find where it fits alongside the MCU, Across the Spider-Verse brings us one step closer to a unified Spider-Family. We’re a far cry from those feuds between Disney and Sony – where it looked like Tom Holland’s wall-crawling hero would be annexed – but that doesn’t mean both sides are quite agreeing on everything.
The MCU in the Spider-Verse
Giving us more realities than Everything Everywhere All at Once, Across the Spider-Verse was a whistle-top tour of the various Earths. Alongside fan-favorites like the LEGO Earth-13122, there’s Gwen’s reality where Peter Parker became the Lizard (Earth-65), Miles’ evil doppelgänger playing Prowler in Earth-42, and more obscure locales like the one with Peter Parkedcar (Earth-53931). There’s also a mention of the MCU continuity, but that’s where things get complicated.
For a while now, we’ve been told the MCU continuity established in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man has been Earth-616, with it first being referenced by Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) in Thor: The Dark World. Apart from the odd dip into the likes of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Earth-838, it’s where most of our adventures take place. But according to Across the Spider-Verse continuity, that’s not Earth-616 at all.
When Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Issac) chastises Gwen for stopping the canon event of Captain Singh’s death in Earth-50101, he rages, “And don’t even get me started on Dr. Strange and the little nerd back on Earth-199999.” It’s a reference to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) asking Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a memory spell back in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
We all know how that went down, with the backfiring spell inadvertently letting the Sinister Six (well, five) in from various dimensions and giving us a who’s who of returning favorites from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider-Man movies. We’re yet to fully see the repercussions of Strange’s meddling in the MCU, but according to Across the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man 2099 and the Spider Society are well aware of that botched job.
Wait, Is the MCU Earth-199999?
Calling the MCU Earth-199999 is sure to cause some confusion. A deep cut into the history of the MCU first referred to its continuity as Earth-199999 in the 2008 Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z: Vol. 5. This was to avoid confusion with the Earth of Marvel Comics being called Earth-616 at that point. Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) referred to this reality as Earth-616 in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but with him being a fraudster, it was accepted this could be a lie.
MCU overlord Kevin Feige has tried to solidify 616 as the actual designation, and in Multiverse of Madness, it was canonized as gospel by Earth-838’s Christine Palmer (Amy Adams). This has caused a division in the ranks, with actors and internet fans alike refusing to acknowledge Earth-616.
The Marvel Fandom Wiki won’t budge from referring to Earth-199999, while Ms. Marvel’s Iman Vellani is particularly vocal on the issue. Speaking to Elite Daily, the comic superfan explained, “Every time I talk to Kevin, we have this argument where I say, ‘The MCU is not 616.’ He’s like, ‘It is because I said so.’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s 199999.’ He hates it. So, we keep having this argument.”
Vellani was steadfast in her 199999 support on the Ms. Marvel red carpet and added (via The Direct), “I’d like to say, [the comics are] 616. I don’t believe that the MCU is 616. As much as Kevin Feige can make us think that it’s 616, it is 199999.” As Feige has been wary of officially confirming Sony’s Spider-Man movies in the MCU, Across the Spider-Verse’s throwaway comment feels like something of a middle finger to him.
It seems that even those at the top are struggling to keep eight legs on the Spider-Verse, as 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse said Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson) came from Earth-616. Given that Holland’s junior hero is supposedly the Parker of that reality, it’s clear someone is getting their realities wrong.
All of this could’ve been solved if Across the Spider-Verse had made good on those teases that Holland would be stopping by as Peter. Instead, we got an equally confusing return of Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis – possibly setting prowler in the MCU. As we head into Beyond the Spider-Verse, we’ll have to wait and see if the animated Spider-Verse could fit into the MCU or whether it’ll be kept as its own entity. Who knew one minor line could cause more holes than The Spot?