Is it possible to map the Marvel Universe?
A question crossed my desk, one of those I have considered and always put out of my mind because it’s so inconvenient to comic writers: How would you map your favorite superhero Universe if you wanted to place them in relationship to each other? In particular, the questioner wanted me to explain the relationship between different locations in the Marvel Universe. Do they have correlations in our Universe?
Like most things Marvel, it’s complicated to place things exactly where they might be on a map in our Universe. Usually, no one is giving it that kind of thought. Let’s see what we can do.
New York City
Nice town, like eight or nine million people live there. Really great food. Very noisy subway. Also serves as the economic capital of the world.
Brooklyn: the childhood home of Steven Rogers and Bucky Barnes in 1924. Brooklyn was the site of “Project Brooklyn” where Rogers would receive the super-soldier serum and vita-ray treatment which would turn him into Captain America. Agent Carter would spend time in Brooklyn, New York.
Manhattan: One of SHIELD’s headquarters was in New York City. Nick Fury had a safehouse there as well. Manhattan also serves as the future home of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum at 177A Bleecker Street. The Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City is one of the three bases of the Masters of the Mystic Arts alongside the London Sanctum and the Hong Kong Sanctum. Spider-Man web-slings and attends school in Manhattan.
Midtown Manhattan was the site of the Battle of New York where the Avengers and SHIELD staved off the Chitauri Invasion of Earth. The former Stark Tower and where the Avengers fought the Chitauri while S.H.I.E.L.D. considered nuking the Avengers can also be found there. This is also where the Netflix version of the Defenders do their street-level crime fighting; a great deal of it in Harlem, Chinatown and Hell’s Kitchen.
Los Angeles was the home of the primary Stark Industry Headquarters and research facility in California and the new Avengers facility was filmed in Atlanta but its actual location remains a closely guarded secret.
Washington D.C. was the site of the Triskelion which served as the primary headquarters for S.H.I.E.L.D. It was located on Theodore Roosevelt Island, on the Potomac River between Washington, D.C. and Virginia. It was damaged after an Insight Helicarrier crashed there during the HYDRA Uprising. The site was later abandoned after being compromised.
- Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. was the name of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret operation of studying the Tesseract. The studying was done in the top secret subterranean research facility located in an unspecified location in the Mojave Desert. The facility was run by S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s director Nick Fury. In the comics, this facility was much more interesting being a research center for unusual metahumans, alien technology and the workplace of Wendell Vaughn before he became Quasar. (Which sadly does not happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe)
- Somewhere in Eastern Europe (presumably to not have to explain to any nation’s leaders why they were dropping parts of their cities in their stories.) I imagine somewhere near Bosnia and Herzegovina and leave it at that.
- Novi Grad (a completely fictional city) was capital city of Sokovia, until its destruction during the Battle of Sokovia against Ultron.
- Wakanda, officially known as the Kingdom of Wakanda, is an isolationist country located in Africa. Wakanda, whose advanced technology allowed them to resist colonization by outside powers.
- Wakanda is ruled by the heir of the title of Black Panther and is the only known source of the extraterrestrial metal Vibranium. Wakanda’s technology level exceeds most of the technologies used on the Marvel Earth due to their study and application of vibranium. Such technology affords them with a level of economic prosperity enjoyed by few nations.
I have covered a bit of Wakanda and the Black Panther on Quora in the articles:
- If vibranium is the strongest metal in the universe, how could it be cut to make Captain America’s shield and Black Panther’s suit?
- Could a Vibranium mask be used to protect the public from Black Bolt’s destructive voice?
- Who would win in a fight: Black Panther or Batman?
This list doesn’t cover every single place on Marvel Earth that has appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only the ones I thought were interesting.
The Nine Worlds
The Marvel Cinematic Universe treats the magically defined Asgard and its relationship to the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil and Thor mythology (which in the comics have been said to be actual other dimensions) as the Nine Realms connected by the technology of the Rainbow Bridge and a nebulously defined cosmic structure dubbed Yggdrasil.
- Since the realm of Asgard and the Asgardians are defined as a species of interstellar beings who protect and reside over the Nine Worlds, they are part of the galactic community in excellent standing with most worlds.
- However, they have problematic relationships with Jotunheim, a planet of giant humanoids whose planetary environment has been disrupted since the loss of the legendary Cask of Winters.
- Helheim which is rumored to be showing up in Thor: Ragnarök as its leader Hela wages war on Asgard because she believes Odin is dead and wants to annex Asgard as her own.
- The Guardians of the Galaxy introduced us to a variety of extraterrestrial worlds which comprise the cosmic part of the Marvel Universe.
- The Nine Realms are presumably part of our own Galaxy but the rest of the locations were never mapped with any degree of accuracy. It appears starships used by the Kree and related species have sufficient fuel to cross the implied vast interstellar (or even intergalactic distances) presumably via a combinations of wormholes or warp drives.
- No location references are ever mentioned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is because the comic information regarding these locations has rarely been cleaned up enough for an astronomer to map the Marvel Universe effectively.
- The only real references will likely come from comics and will be mentioned for completeness.
- In the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Kree Empire is mentioned in Guardians of the Galaxy and in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- While we have never been to the Kree homeworld of Hala, we do hear from them in the Guardians of the Galaxy as the peace agreement with the planet Xander caused rioting throughout the Kree Empire.
- The peace was after a thousand year war presumably one the Kree wanted to continue having since they were rioting because of the peace treaty.
- In the comics: The Kree, are a fictional scientifically and technologically advanced militaristic alien race. They are native to the planet Hala in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The Kree made their first comic appearance in Fantastic Four #65 (August 1967) (Wikipedia)
- The Kree-Skrull War: In the comics, the Kree become known to Earth when the Kree and their mortal shape-changing enemies the Skrull fight to determine who would gain control of Earth (and its extremely variable genetic material capable of producing metahumans).
- The Large Magellanic Cloud is outside the Milky Way Galaxy (where we live) about 160,000 light years away. This is a huge distance. The distance across our own galaxy is only 100,000 light years! This means literally the Kree and their associated species are capable of intergalactic travel with relative ease.
- In the MCU: The Xandarians and the Nova Empire are a benevolent hegemony of associated worlds which, under the leadership of the Xandar homeworld, managed to hold off the militaristic Kree Empire for a thousand years.
- This conflict is known as the Kree Empire-Nova Empire War. Xandar is located in the Andromeda Galaxy at the Eclipsing Binary Star M31V J00442326+4127082. Xandar orbits around three suns.
- The Xandarian battle with the Kree Empire was never clearly defined as to where it had occurred. We are left in the dark as to whether it was in the Greater Magellanic Cloud, the Andromeda Galaxy or somewhere else entirely. Unlike the comic version of this planet, the Nova Corps are a cadre of pilots who function as police/military operatives in their home galaxy.
- In the comics: the homeworld of Xandar resides in the Andromeda Galaxy over two million light years away. This would make Xandar even further away from us than the Kree homeworld, Hala, whose location in the Magallenic Cloud makes them neighborly by comparison!
- The Nova Corps are a group of interstellar police officers empowered by the Nova Corps with extraordinary physical and energy manipulating capabilities lead by the Xandarian World-Mind.
- In the MCU: The Kyln is a prison where Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot were held after their capture by the Nova Corps. The facility was run by the Nova Corps and its location, like so many things in the MCU is never clearly defined. It is presumably inside or at the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy away from civilized folk.
- In the comics the Kyln is much more interesting. It is the ultimate super-prison where the worst of the galaxy’s criminal element find themselves. It is powered by a matter-antimatter discontinuity in the galactic substance called the Big Crunch.
- The Kyln was an inescapable, intergalactic prison known to hold very powerful prisoners inside. The scope and level of containment is unknown, but it has demonstrated the capability of holding thousands of very dangerous biological entities and cosmic Elder Gods. Prisoners are exclusively recipients of the Death Penalty, since in most cases inmates survive there less than 3 years.
- The Kyln was destroyed after the Annihilation Wave used the Big Crunch to enter the positive matter Universe from the Negative Zone. The location of the Kyln was listed as the Verge Galaxy whose location is unknown to Humans.
- Knowhere is a mining colony located inside the severed head of a Celestial, home of The Collector‘s museum and the bar, Boot of Jemiah. First seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy, it is the site of sleazy reprobates who hide from the authorities who can’t be bothered to police the region of space site inhabits.
- Knowhere is a popular spot with pirates, criminals, and traders interested in the rare exotic materials capable of being found inside of the head of Celestial, a being of incredible age and unknown capacities. The Collector made his base there because of its potential to reveal secrets which might increase his power or cachet among his immortal brethren.
- Knowhere appears as vast a moon which has supported a mining interest for decades with no sign of stopping. It’s location is unknown to Humans. It’s distance from other landmarks is unknown but given the capacities of Kree and Nova Empire ships it is reachable, if you know where it is.
- In the comics, Knowhere feels more amazing because it also acts as an intergalactic teleportation hub capable of teleporting a person anywhere and anywhen in the Universe (if you know how to calculate the temporal component) using the Continuum Cortex built into the brain stem of the Celestial.
- Knowhere’s location in the canon comic Universe is listed as the edge of the Universe. It is a site for pilgrims and scientists who want to see the edge of the Universe, though it unknown how they would get there given the distance involved.
- Who decapitated this Celestial and its former identity are unknown in the MCU or the canon comic Marvel Universe: Which Celestial’s head is “Knowhere”? Nowhere’s first appearance was in Nova #8 (2008).
- A planet, within the Kree influence which was used to recruit units to fill the ranks of Kree military forces. Sakarr, at least of what we can see of it in clips from Thor: Ragnarök, appears to have the wreckage of hundreds of ships from a variety of worlds whose crew are forced to engage in gladiatorial combat.
- The native Sakaarans are a sentient insectoid race native to the planet which they share with a large number of stranded individuals of many different species.
- It appears Doctor Banner and Thor have been kidnapped from Earth and forced to engage in the Sakarran gladiatorial events for the gambling pleasure of the Grandmaster, another Elder of the Universe, like the Collector.
- Sakarr in the comics first appeared in Incredible Hulk #92 (2006) as the beginning of the most famous Hulk story in recent history, the World War Hulk Saga.
This is by no means a complete geographic map of every place that is interesting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If there’s someplace you want to know more about, let me know and I will look into it.
A map of Marvel’s businesses from EmpireFlippers for those of you seeking to know a bit about the business topology of the Marvel Universe.
More fun in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- SPOILER ALERT] Out of the six, which Infinity stones does Thanos already have in his possession?
- How does the Infinity Gauntlet work?
- What powers does the mind gem give the Vision? Can he control people the way Loki did with the scepter?
- Why was Vision able to lift Thor’s hammer in Avengers Age of Ultron?
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.