Marvel Universe

From Academic Kids

The Marvel Universe is the fictional shared setting where most of the comic stories published by Marvel Comics take place.

Contents

History

Though the concept of a shared universe was not new or unique to comics in 1961, writer/editor Stan Lee, together with several artists including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, created a series of titles where events in one book would have repercussions in another title and serialized stories would show characters grow and change. Headline characters in one title would make cameo or guest appearances in other books. Eventually many of the leading heroes assembled into a team known as The Avengers. This was not the first time that Marvel's characters had interacted with one another—Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch had been rivals in Marvel's "Golden Age"—but it was the first time that a comic book publisher's characters seemed to share a world. The Marvel Universe was also notable for setting its central titles in New York City. Care was taken to portray the city and the world as realistically as possible with the presence of superhumans affecting the common citizens in various ways.

Over time, a few Marvel Comics writers lobbied Marvel editors to incorporate the idea of a multiverse; this plot device allows one to create several fictional universes which normally do not overlap. What happens on Earth in the main Marvel Universe would normally have no effect on what happens on a parallel Earth in another Marvel-created universe. However, storywriters would have the creative ability to write stories in which people from one such universe would visit this alternate universe. When characters from one universe meet characters from another universe that they normally do not interact with, this is termed a crossover.

Several Marvel Comics writers wanted to do a crossover with DC Comics's Justice League of America, the superhero team featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and others. However, at this time inter-company crossovers were not being done. As such, writer Roy Thomas introduced the Squadron Supreme, a group of superheroes from an alternate universe that effectively were the Justice League. There were very close analogues to many of the primary DC superheroes, but since they were given different names and costumes (yet astonishingly similar backstories) Marvel Comics could maintain plausible deniability. This was one of the industry's biggest in-jokes. However, the writers of the storylines containing the Squadron Supreme did not take the characters as a joke, and they treated these characters with great respect; they effectively allowed Marvel writers to write JLA stories. In 1986, Marvel published a Squadron Supreme 12 issue maxi-series, written by Mark Gruenwald, that was groundbreaking for its time, and is considered a predecessor to similar comics such as Watchmen and Kingdom Come.

In 1982, Marvel published the mini-series Contest of Champions, in which all of the major heroes in existence at the time were gathered together to deal with one threat. This was Marvel's first miniseries. Each issue contained biographical information on many major costumed characters; these biographies were a precursor to Marvel's series of reference material, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which followed shortly on the heels of Contest of Champions.

In 1986, in honor of Marvel Comics' 25th anniversary, then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter launched the largely-unsuccessful New Universe line of comics. The New Universe was intended to be a more realistic, self-contained superhero universe, but due to a combination of a lack of editorial support and a general disinterest on the part of the readers, the line was cancelled after three years.

Over the years, as the number of titles published increased and the volume of past stories accumulated, it became increasingly difficult to maintain internal consistency and continuity. In order to continue publishing stories of its most popular characters, maintaining the status quo became necessary. Change and growth for characters was replaced with the illusion of change. Unlike its main rival DC Comics, Marvel has never engaged in a drastic reboot of their continuity. Minor attempts have been made in recent years to produce stories more accessible for neophyte readers such as the Heroes Reborn titles, which occurred in a pocket universe where many of the major Marvel heroes were exiled for a year.

A greater attempt has been made with the Ultimate titles; this series of titles is in a universe unrelated to the main Marvel continuity, and essentially is starting the entire Marvel Universe over again, from scratch. Ongoing "Ultimate" comics now exist for the X-Men, the Avengers (in the form of the Ultimates), Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. Sales of these titles are strong, and indications are that Marvel will continue to expand the line, effectively creating two Marvel Universes existing concurrently.

In 2002, a study was done of the interactions between characters in the Marvel Universe (Alberich, R., Miro-Julia, J. & Rosselló, F. Marvel Universe looks almost like a real social network. [1] (http://www.nature.com/nsu/020218/020218-17.html)[2] (http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/cond-mat/0202174)) which revealed that the Marvel Universe shares some non-random features with the social networks of collaborating scientists or co-starring movie actors. This pattern developed without deliberate coordination among the various writers over the years. The most socially networked character in the Marvel Universe is Captain America.

Concepts

The central concept of the Marvel Universe is that it is just like the real world, except that superheroes (and supervillains) exist. It is more than just that, however. The Marvel Universe includes examples of most major science fiction and fantasy concepts, and writers keep adding more continuously. Further, these concepts are often (though not always) developed in ways that don't contradict each other, but instead form a unified background. This concept is fairly rare; another example of a fictional universe that seeks to use all types of fantastic elements is the DC Universe.

Earth in the Marvel Universe has all the features of the real one: same countries, same personalities (politicians, movie stars, etc.), same historical events (World War II, etc.), and so on. However, it also adds fictional ones, such as countries like Wakanda or Genosha, and countless characters and organizations. It must be noted that, due to the fact that Marvel's publishers do not want to allow their characters to age, the setting of the stories has to be updated every few years; Marvel's major heroes were created in the 60's, but the heroes have only been allowed to age about a decade in that time. Unlike DC Comics, who uses the idea that interference with time by villains caused reality to reboot a few times, Marvel simply assumes that the stories happen in the space of years instead of decades. Thus, the events of previous stories are considered to have happened a certain number of years prior to the publishing date of the current issue. Where stories reference real-life historic events, these references are later ignored or rewritten to suit current sensibilities. For example, the origins of Iron Man and Professor X were recently changed to refer to armed conflict in Afghanistan, where they had originally referred to southeast Asia and the Korean War.

Marvel's major heroes (the ones most of the important events are connected to) are the ones created from 1961 to 1963, during Marvel's "Silver Age": Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and Nick Fury. Unlike the DC Universe, few of Marvel's 1940s characters have become major characters in modern publications; Captain America is a major character, and to a lesser extent his contemporary, the Sub-Mariner, is as well, primarily due to the fact that both of these characters were reintroduced to readers and to the Marvel Universe during the 1960s. The Avengers and the X-Men are also major players, although the memberships of both groups have often changed to include otherwise minor characters. The Avengers have included most of Marvel's major heroes as members at one time or another. The X-Men contains some of Marvel's most popular characters, such as Wolverine, though individually they are not as influential and did not come into prominence until the 1980s.

Most of the superhumans in Marvel's Earth owe their powers to the Celestials, cosmic entities who visited Earth one million years ago and experimented on our prehistoric ancestors (a process they also carried out on several other planets). This resulted in the creation of two hidden races, the godlike Eternals and the genetically unstable Deviants, in addition to giving some humans an "x-factor" in their genes, which sometimes activates naturally, resulting in sometimes superpowered, sometimes disfigured individuals called mutants. Others require other factors (such as radiation) for their powers to come forth. These powers are usually random; rarely do two people have the exact same set of powers. It is not clear why the Celestials did this, although it is known that they continue to observe humanity's evolution. (A Marvel series called Earth X explored one possible reason—superhumans are meant to protect a Celestial that is "growing" inside Earth—but this series repeatedly contradicts previously established Marvel continuity). The majority of the public is unaware of what may cause superhuman powers.

A degree of paranoid fear against mutants exists due to stories of mutants being a race or even a species (Homo superior or Homo sapiens superior) that is evolving and is meant to replace normal humans. This has caused organizations to form to deal with the problem, who can be divided into three camps: those who seek peaceful coexistence between mutants and normal humans (the X-Men and their affiliated groups), those who seek to control or eliminate humans to give mutants safety or dominance (Magneto and his followers, as well as other mutants such as Apocalypse), and those who seek to regulate or eliminate mutants in favor of humans (anti-mutant individuals and groups such as the Sentinels and the Phalanx).

Other possible origins for superhuman powers include: magic, genetic manipulation or bionic implants. Some heroes and villains have no powers at all but depend instead on hand-to-hand combat training or advanced technological equipment. In the Marvel Universe, technology is slightly more advanced than in the real world, though most of the really advanced devices (such as powered armor and death rays) are too expensive for the common citizen, and are usually in the hands of organizations like the government, or powerful criminal organizations such as HYDRA. One major company producing these devices is Stark International, owned by Anthony Stark (Iron Man). It has been suggested that this increase in scientific levels was due to time travelers meddling with history, in particular Kang the Conqueror, who is known to have influenced the robotics industry in the past.

Marvel tries to explain most superpowers scientifically, usually through the use of pseudoscientific concepts, such as:

  • Psionic Energy, which is assumed to be an invisible, unknown form of energy generated by all living brains that has the ability to manipulate other forms of matter and energy.
  • The Quantum Field, an invisible field of electromagnetic energy that extends through most dimensions and can be tapped for almost infinite amounts of energy. This field is the structure that supports the universe, and manipulating it could alter space itself.
  • Extradimensional Space: dimensions that can be tapped in order to pull mass from them (to add to objects on Earth) or taken away from those objects and be stored in those "pocket dimensions" to be retrieved later. This is how characters like the Hulk can grow and shrink with no visible absorption of mass. (Note also that many giant-sized characters have the secret ability to manipulate gravity to handle their increased weight.) The change in mass can be in the form of a density change instead, allowing a character to become harder or incorporeal. Travel into other dimensions can also be used as a way to "teleport" by re-entering the Earth dimension at a different point.
  • The Darkforce is an unknown, dark substance from another dimension (known simply as the Darkforce Dimension) that can be summoned and manipulated in many ways: to create impenetrable darkness, to solidify it in various forms, and (most notably) to absorb the "life energy" from living beings (not all users can use all these effects). The Darkforce can be also be used to travel to and from its home dimension, but this is dangerous to all except those with Darkforce powers. Some believe that the Darkforce is sentient and sometimes has an evil influence on those who use it.
  • The Living Light is the opposite of the Darkforce: a form of energy that resembles light and also comes from its own dimension, but has healing effects on living beings (except ones made of darkness or Darkforce.) It is unknown if it might be sentient.
  • The Power Cosmic is a force that can alter reality, allowing the user to do whatever he/she wants (including breaking the laws of physics) only being limited by how much cosmic energy the character can tap at a time. It seems to be part of the universe itself, and is mostly used by Cosmic Entities.

Magic also appears to be like a form of energy, except that it can defy the laws of physics naturally. However, it does have rules of its own to follow, which vary with the method of invocation, usually in the form of spoken spells. It appears to be present in everything, even living beings. All humans in the Marvel Universe have the ability to use magic, but only if properly trained. Most people are unaware that magic actually works. In addition, powerful magical beings from other dimensions have created specific, extremely powerful magical spells that they allow to be used (often indiscriminately) by those sorcerers who invoke their names. Every 100 years, a contest is held to elect the Sorcerer Supreme, whose job is to keep the universe safe from magical menaces. The current Sorcerer Supreme is Doctor Strange.

Cosmology

Cosmic

Many magical creatures exist in the Marvel Universe, both those from known mythologies and made-up ones. The "gods" of this universe are actually super strong, immortal human-like races from other dimensions who visited Earth in ancient times, and became the basis of many legends. However, they were forced to stop meddling with humanity (at least openly) by The Celestials, and most people today believe them to be fictional. Most of them have been revealed to be the descedants of the ancient terrestrial Goddess Gaia.

The Marvel Universe also contains hundreds of intelligent alien races. Earth has interacted with many of them due to the fact that a major "hyperspace warp" happens to exist in our solar system. The three major space empires are the Kree, who rule the "Kree Galaxy" (actually the Greater Magellanic Cloud, a mini-galaxy that orbits ours); the Skrulls, who rule the Skrull Galaxy (the Andromeda Galaxy); and the Shi'ar, who rule the Shi'ar Galaxy (no known real-world counterpart). The three are often in direct or indirect conflict, which occasionally involve Earth people; in particular, the Kree and Skrulls are ancient enemies, and the Kree-Skrull War has involved humans on several occasions.

Above all other beings in the Marvel Universe are the cosmic entities, beings of unbelievably great levels of power (the weakest can destroy planets) who exist to perform duties that maintain the existence of the universe. Most do not care at all about "lesser beings" such as humans, and as a consequence their acts can occasionally be dangerous to mortals.

The highest ranking known being in the Marvel Universe is the Living Tribunal, a trio of entities in the body of a giant golden man with a disembodied, three-faced head that floats above his body. The three faces, one, "Revenge," is half-cloaked, another, "Necessity," is fully cloaked, and a third, "Equity," in uncloaked; it is this third face and voice with which he usually speaks. The Living Tribunal passes judgment on crises that endanger the multiverse. It has been said that there is one who ranks above them, the One Above All (not to be confused with the leader of the Celestials, who also bears the same name), whose will he seeks to carry out. This being, supposedly the God of the Marvel Universe, has never been fully described or displayed, and most likely never will be. (During the crossover, DC vs. Marvel, the Blue Brother was intended to be the One Above All by writers until the idea was nixed by higher-ups)

Dimensions

Realities like the Microverse, Darkforce Dimension and Mojoverse, are dimensions with different worlds that reside in the Marvel Universe.

Temporal

Another noteworthy feature of the Marvel Universe is that time "branches out" creating new alternate realities when certain important events happen. Those realities can also spawn realities of their own. There exists hundreds, probably thousands of such realities. It is unknown why this happens, though a warp known as the Nexus of All Realities exists in a swamp in the Florida of the main Marvel Universe (known as Earth-616). For the most part this does not matter, as most beings are unaware that this occurs, or even that their universes were recently "born" from another. However, organizations exist that try to monitor or manipulate the various realities. These include the Captain Britain Corps, the Time Variance Authority, and Kang the Conqueror's forces. See Continuities, below.

Places

Certain places, some of which exist in real-life and some of which are fictional, figure prominently in the Marvel Universe:


Artifacts

Some items have been created specifically for the Marvel Universe and carry immense powers:

  • Ultimate Nullifier
  • Infinity Gems/Infinity Gauntlet-Six gems that grant their owner supreme power over Mind, Power, Soul, Time, Space, and Reality
  • Cosmic Cube
  • Cosmic Egg
  • Mjolnir
  • M'Kraan Crystal - The "nexus of realities". By entering the crystal, the user can enter any universe they wish. The protector of the crystal is singular in all universes, with the same memories in each, which suggests that the reality immediately surrounding the crystal is anchored in place.
  • Adamantium
  • Carbonadium

Continuities

The action of most Marvel Comics titles takes place in a continuity known as Earth-616. Note that in Marvel Comics, the concept of a continuity is not the same as "dimension" or "universe"; for example, characters like Mephisto and Dormammu hail from alternate dimensions and the Celestials from another universe, but they all nevertheless belong to Earth-616. A continuity should also not be confused with an imprint; for example, while the titles of some imprints, such as Ultimate Marvel, take place in a different continuity, some or all publications in other imprints, such as Epic Comics, Marvel MAX, and Marvel UK, take place within the Earth-616 continuity.

Other continuities besides Earth-616 include:


Crossovers and major events

See also

External links

pt:Universo Marvel fr:Univers_Marvel

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