After playing a major role in Ant-Man and the Wasp, the microscopic Quantum Realm seems poised to become a huge part the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Thanos wreaked havoc on a grand cosmic scale in Avengers: Infinity War, this sub-atomic dimension could provide the key to defeating the Mad Titan and has already attracted a strange mix of heroes. Even though it's been featured in three Marvel Studios movies, the psychedelic, ever-changing realm is still largely unexplored. While every trip into the Quantum Realm is still a journey into mystery, we've already learned some astonishing facts about the mysterious reality. Even though it's been around for decades, we still don't know everything about the Microverse, the Quantum Realm's comic book counterpart, either.
Now, CBR is unraveling the mysteries of the Marvel's Quantum Realm and the Microverse. In this list, we'll be taking a deep dive into everything we know about the MCU's sub-atomic realm and how it might set up the future of Marvel's movies. We'll also be exploring the history of the Microverse, including major stories involving major Marvel heroes and villains in the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and Thanos. Even though they don't share the same name, these inner-verses still have a number of striking similarities. By bridging the trippy, mystical worlds of Doctor Strange with the impossibly high-tech, science-based world of Ant-Man, the secrets of the Quantum Realm tie the MCU together on a foundational level, and this weird little world could be the unlikely key to defeating Thanos in Avengers 4.
20 WASP WAS TRAPPED THERE
In the MCU, the first Wasp, Michelle Pfeiffer's Janet van Dyne, was trapped in the Quantum Realm for 31 years after she shrunk to a microscopic size to disarm a missile. While she eventually returned to Earth after years trapped in the sub-atomic world, Janet's comic book counterpart went through a similar experience in the Marvel Universe.
The Wasp seemingly perished in the 2009 crossover Secret Invasion. However, the Skrull's alien weapon and a blast of Thor's lightning actually sent her into the Microverse. When she resurfaced a few years later in 2012's Avengers #32, by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Mayhew and Brandon Peterson, she'd been fighting the Microverse-conquering Lord Gouzar. With her fellow Avengers, she finally defeated the tyrant Gouzar and went home.
19 THE QUANTUM REALM CHANGES PEOPLE
When Janet van Dyne fell into the Quantum Realm, she was a regular human in a size-changing supersuit. However, Janet's prolonged exposure to Quantum Energy gave her superpowers. While the full extent of her powers is unknown, the original Wasp has healing abilities that allowed her to stabilize herself or others who've been exposed to Quantum Energy.
After getting "entangled" with Scott Lang, Janet even showed some limited telepathic abilities.
After a brief exposure to Quantum Energy, Hannah John-Kamen's Ghost started phasing in and out of reality. Since she was a child, Ava Starr struggled to control her Quantum-based phasing abilities. While a hi-tech S.H.I.E.L.D. suit helped, Janet's abilities were the only thing that could contain the Quantum Energy throughout Ghost before it became fatal.
18 THE ORIGINAL PLANET HULK
Long before he became a gladiator in outer space, the Hulk was the star of Marvel's first major comic book story about the Microverse. In 1971's Incredible Hulk #140, by Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison and Herb Trimpe, Psyklop, a one-eyed alien villain, used a shrink ray to send Hulk into the Microverse. In that sub-atomic world, the Hulk quickly became the hero of its green-skinned residents and fell in love with their leader, Princess Jarella.
Even though the couple was engaged, their love was doomed. When Empress of K'ai left her kingdom, she perished saving a young girl's life in 1976's Incredible Hulk #205, by Len Wein and Trimpe. Although the Hulk visited the Microverse a few more times, Jarella only had momentary resurrections.
17 THE QUANTUM REALM'S HIDDEN HINTS
When the Quantum Realm is on screen, it's defined by shifting psychedelic patterns that can overwhelm the senses. With strobe-like flashes of vibrant colors, this cinematic kaleidoscope is the perfect place to hide a glimpse of the MCU's future. In 2015's Ant-Man, director Peyton Reed inserted a blink-and-miss-it outline of the Wasp that most fans didn't catch until the movie's home release.
Reed hid some more hints in Ant-Man and the Wasp's Quantum Realm sequences.
He said that the scenes "laid the groundwork" for the MCU's future, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige added that some of the hints were only in a single frame of film. Some fans have already claimed to see Thanos, Dormammu, or Iron Man in the Quantum Realm's clouds.
16 THE QUANTUM VOID
The Quantum Realm is another dimension that can usually only be accessed by shrinking to a sub-atomic size. Beyond the edge of this reality, there's the Quantum Void, a desolate universe beyond space and time. While there's not a specific comic book counterpart to the Void, it could be the MCU's version of another classic Marvel reality, the Negative Zone.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966's Fantastic Four #51, the Negative Zone is an antimatter universe that's usually linked with the Fantastic Four. This savage reality has also given birth to villains like Annihilus and Blastaar. As CBR recently covered, the Void could functionally replace the Zone in the MCU, since the Negative Zone is part of Fox's Fantastic Four movie rights.
15 THE AVENGERS LIVED THERE
While the MCU's Quantum Realm has been a decades-long area of study for Michael Douglas' Hank Pym, the Marvel Universe's Hank Pym has only had occasional interactions with the Microverse in comics. Still, Pym discovered Underspace, a dimension that was hidden below the Microverse. After forming a new team of Avengers, he built a new headquarters for the team, the Infinite Avengers Mansion in 2009's Mighty Avengers #27, by Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Khoi Pham.
With almost a million floors, the Infinite Avengers Mansion could only exist here.
Operated by the robotic Avenger Jocasta, this physics-defying building had doors that led to numerous access points around Earth. In 2011, it was destroyed by Titania and the Absorbing Man during the Fear Itself crossover.
14 CAPTAIN MARVEL IN THE QUANTUM REALM?
On the surface, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel, Marvel Studios' next film, don't seem like they would have too much in common. While the Ant-Man movies are lighthearted, down-to-Earth affairs, Captain Marvel will see Brie Larson's Avenger take flight as a cosmic hero in the 1990s. However, the Quantum Realm will also play a role in Captain Marvel, according to quantum physicist Dr. Spiros Michalakis.
Michalakis has been one of Marvel's main science consultants since 2015's Ant-Man, and even suggested the name "Quantum Realm." As CBR covered, Michalakis suggested that the unique nature of the Quantum Realm could be used in a multitude of ways in the MCU's future.
13 THE (OTHER) CAPTAIN MARVEL'S HOME
While the current Captain Marvel hasn't had too many encounters with the Microverse, Genis-Vell, the son of Marvel's original Captain Marvel, spent a lot of time there. Created by Ron Marz and Ron Lim in 1993's Silver Surfer Annual #6, Genis quickly took on his father's old name to become Marvel's third Captain Marvel.
Eventually, Genis was physically bonded with the perennial Marvel sidekick Rick Jones.
After they were bonded, Genis and Rick essentially existed in the same body. One person would take control of the body in the Marvel Universe, while the other would be sent into the Microverse. Over the course of writer Peter David's run on Captain Marvel, Genis turned into a universe-destroying villain before he repented and later perished in 2006.
12 THE MICROVERSE'S FIRST AVENGERS
While the Marvel Universe is full of scientific superheroes like Ant-Man or Mr. Fantastic, none of those characters were the first heroes in the Microverse. Years before most of those heroes even existed, Captain America and Bucky traveled to the sub-atomic realm in 1943's Captain America Comics #26, by Ray Cummings and Syd Shores.
While the word "Microverse" won't be coined for several more years, Cap and his young partner visited a sub-atomic planet called Mita. In order to save their daughter Dianna from the monstrous tyrant Togaro, the rulers of Mita sent their daughter to Earth. Even though the two future Avengers defeated Togaro, Mita was still destroyed, and most of its residents perished in this Golden Age adventure.
11 THE MICRONAUTS
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Marvel published a series based on Mego's Micronauts toyline. While the toyline folded in 1980, Marvel's The Micronauts ran from 1979 to 1986, when it flourished as one of the era's better Marvel titles. Creators like Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden worked on the series, which established most of the franchise's lore and introduced its most recognizable characters.
The Micronauts were a team of heroes who led the resistance against the tyrannical Baron Karza.
The Miconauts was deeply embedded in the fabric of the Marvel Universe. The series firmly defined what the Microverse is and featured numerous Marvel heroes and villains. While Marvel eventually lost the Micronauts license, it still owns the original characters creators introduced in the series.
10 IT'S NOT SAFE FROM THANOS
At the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, Paul Rudd's Scott Lang was the only character who survived Thanos' universe-shaking snap from Avengers: Infinity War. Since he was in the Quantum Realm at the time, some fans wondered if that protected him from the wrath of the Infinity Gauntlet. However, Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo clarified that Scott was just lucky and that Thanos' snap could even be felt in the Quantum Realm.
In comics, Thanos did even more damage to the Microverse. As Peter David and ChrissCross revealed in 2000's Captain Marvel #6, Thanos teamed up with Baron Karza to destroy all sub-atomic realms in an unseen battle. The villains eventually lost after they collapsed every sub-atomic reality into the Microverse.
9 BUG, GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY
The most recognizable member of Marvel's Micronauts is the alien Bug. Created by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden in Micronauts #1, the wise-cracking, insect-like warrior looked nothing like the ill-defined "Galactic Warrior" toy he was ostensibly based on. Since he was almost an entirely original creation, Marvel kept the rights to Bug, along with some of his teammates.
In their irregular appearances, Bug and the other Marvel-owned Micronauts were now called the Microns.
After disappearing for years, Bug resurfaced in 2007's Annihilation: Conquest Prologue, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Mike Perkins. After being held captive by the Kree for years, he joined Star-Lord's makeshift team of warriors and eventually joined the Guardians of the Galaxy for a few years.
8 DOCTOR STRANGE'S FANTASTIC VOYAGE
While the Quantum Realm has been a prominent part of both of Ant-Man's solo movies, he's not the only Marvel hero who's passed through this sub-atomic world. In 2016's Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch's Strange spent a few moments in the Quantum Realm after Tilda Swinton's Ancient One sent him hurtling through the MCU's multiverse.
While this moment might seem like a throwaway reference, it wasn't a meaningless nod. Strange's trip showed that the Quantum Realm could be accessed by scientific and mystical means. That overlap also helped tie Strange's mystical side of the MCU to the more science-based side of the MCU that's home to hi-tech heroes like Ant-Man.
7 IT BROUGHT OUT PROFESSOR X'S EVIL SIDE
At the peak of their popularity, the Micronauts crossed over with the X-Men in the aptly-titled 1984 miniseries The X-Men and the Micronauts. In Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice's story, the X-Men went into the sub-atomic realm to stop the Entity, a powerful, mysterious being who threatened the entire Microverse.
Naturally, the Entity was Professor X's evil side, which had become a separate being a few years earlier.
In a standard team-up formula, the X-Men and the Micronauts fought each other before teaming up to take on the Entity and Baron Karza, who spent much of the story trapped in the young Kitty Pryde's body. Today, the series is mildly infamous for putting some younger X-Men in similarly uncomfortable situations like that one.
6 THE ENIGMA FORCE
In the Marvel Universe, the Microverse is filled with a mystical energy called the Enigma Force. As its name implies, the Enigma Force is still largely a mystery. It's essentially leftover energy from the creation of the Microverse that helps defend it from dark gods called the Whirldemons. Another part of the Enigma Force, the Uni-Power, has turned several Marvel characters into Captain Universe.
Created by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden in 1979's Micronauts #8, Captain Universe exists in the Marvel Universe to balance out the Enigma Force's power in the Microverse. The Uni-Power jumps from host to host and has been possessed by heroes like Spider-Man, Hulk, Deadpool and X-23. While it appears irregularly, the Uni-Power still pops up around the Marvel Universe irregularly.
5 DOCTOR DOOM'S DOMAIN
While the early version of the Microverse appeared in the 1940s, its next major appearance was in 1963's Fantastic Four #16, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. After being hit by a blast from his own shrink ray, Doctor Doom was sent into the Microverse. After landing in Sub-Atomica, one of the Microverse's more prominent sub-atomic galaxies, Doom promptly befriended its king, deposed him and took it over.
With Ant-Man's help, the Fantastic Four used Pym Particles to enter the Microverse.
Hank Pym's Ant-Man eventually joined the other heroes in one of his first trips to the Microverse. After Ant-Man and the Four began to overwhelm Doom, he fled into the regular-size world, where he was promptly defeated.
Although he was born in the Microverse, Psycho-Man has caused plenty of trouble all around the Marvel Universe. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1967's Fantastic Four #5, this microscopic villain ruled several technologically-advanced areas of the Microverse. Looking to expand his empire, he traveled to the Marvel Universe, where the still-small villain controlled a regular-size robot suit.
In his conquest, the Psycho-Man's chief weapon is the Control-Box, which can make his victims feel crippling "fear, hate and doubt." While he's usually battled the Fantastic Four, he's also fought the Micronauts, Spider-Man and Cable. While the Psycho-Man appeared in the 1990s Fantastic Four cartoon, his most prominent recent accomplishment was driving an alternate reality's Deadpool totally insane in Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe.
3 MINIMUM CARNAGE
In 1993, the Spider-Man villain Carnage almost plunged New York into total chaos in the landmark "Maximum Carnage" epic. In the 2012 crossover "Minimum Carnage," the sadistic symbiote set his sights on a smaller target, the Microverse. In Chris Yost, Cullen Bunn, Lan Medina, Khoi Pham and Declan Shalvey's series, Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man's once-evil clone, and Flash Thompson's Venom, a heroic government operative, traveled to the Microverse to stop Carnage.
Minimum Carnage brought the fan-favorite Venom and Scarlet Spider series together in a well-received event.
The sub-atomic villain Radu brought Carnage into the Microverse to create an army of soldiers from his alien symbiote. Naturally, the Marvel-owned Micronauts members made an appearance to help these Spider-Men defeat Radu and Carnage.
2 ANT-MAN IS STUCK THERE
Even though they share dozens of heroes and continually influence one another, the MCU and the comic book Marvel Universe aren't always on the same page. However, in a pair of well-timed stories, Scott Lang's Ant-Man is currently in the same precarious spot in both comics and film.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Ant-Man was left stranded in the Quantum Realm after the rest of his team disappeared in Thanos' snap. In the Marvel Universe, Lang's Ant-Man and Nadia Van Dyne, the current Wasp, are also trapped in the Microverse. As of this writing, the two Avengers are still looking for a way back to the regular-size world in Mark Waid and Javier Garron's aptly-titled Ant-Man and the Wasp.
1 THE KEY TO DEFEATING THANOS?
While it hasn't played a truly central role in the MCU yet, many fans are wondering if the Quantum Realm could be pivotal in helping the Avengers defeat Thanos. Since it was featured in Ant-Man and the Wasp and is scheduled to appear in Captain Marvel, the sub-atomic dimension will have appeared in both Marvel movies between Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers 4.
Since the Quantum Realm is outside of time and space, it could help the Avengers operate without Thanos' knowledge.
The Russo Brothers, who directed Infinity War, have already teased the role of Scott Lang in the next Avengers' movie. Since time flows differently in Quantum Realm, it could even facilitate the heavily-rumored time-travel storyline in Avengers 4.