Comics
Published November 18, 2019

The Negative Zone: One of Marvel's Strangest Places Explained

The Negative Zone is a big part of the upcoming 'Annihilation: Scourge' - see what it's all about!

Among all the universes, dimensions, and realities in the Marvel Universe, few are as storied and complex as the Negative Zone. Marvel fans were introduced to it early in the Marvel canon thanks to the explorations of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Since making its debut in 1966, the Negative Zone and its inhabitants continue to pop up throughout Marvel history.

So, what is it? On the latest episode of This Week in Marvel, co-hosts Ryan “Agent M” Penagos and Lorraine Cink helped shine the light on the bizarre world of the Negative Zone, which is at the center of another new Marvel Comic event, ANNIHILATION: SCOURGE!

The Negative Zone is a like a fancy anti-matter, topsy-turvy dimension in the Marvel Universe that is technically its own universe that exists parallel to Earth’s. It’s generally depicted as a harsher place, with a number of planets and an array of creatures both intelligent and feral that can survive and thrive in the environs. Periodically, the more powerful and clever denizens of the Negative Zone will rise up to rule and find their way to Earth in an attempt to conquer it. Historically it’s been tied to Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four.   

The Negative Zone Jack Kirby collage
FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #51

As its name suggests, the Negative Zone is an anti-matter or negative matter universe. Molecular property of things native to the Negative Zone is reversed from the Marvel Universe, for example. It can be extremely dangerous for positive matter beings and things from the Marvel Universe to exist there for a prolonged period of time.

The anti-matter state of the universe also causes negative emotional and mental expressions in positive matter beings while they are in the Negative Zone. There’s no definitive info, but it’s likely that the universe is very old and is going through a contraction on its way to full collapse. It has long since stopped expanding, and now gets smaller.

Time passes at a different, faster rate relative than in most other universes. While not fully explored, and possibly due to the contraction and other factors, the Negative Zone is largely uninhabited, with little evidence of greater evolution. Planets include Argor, Arthros, Baluur, Kestor, Krysok, Mantracora, the Ma’Os Spires (which could also be considered a region), Neffig, Ootah, and Tarsuu, Tyanna, Tysillekt.

First appearance/Origin story

The Marvel Universe was introduced to the Negative Zone in FANTASTIC FOUR #51, “This Man This Monster,” which was released in March 1966 (and written by Stan Lee and penciled by Jack Kirby). But we only get a little bit of information about what the Zone is. Over time, more about the dimension is revealed.

What was it created for? Jack Kirby has been credited in creating the Negative Zone. He said he liked experimenting with gimmicks and wild ideas and technology/ideas/concepts/things we’d see in the future. Just going big with ideas and possibilities. That’s how he came up with Ego and the Negative Zone, among other things. It’s said that Kirby wanted to depict the Negative Zone fully through his collage work, but it wasn’t feasible from a time and financial standpoint. We do get some of that, even with a glorious splash page in FANTASTIC FOUR #51, pictured above.

Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four “discovered” the Negative Zone while doing some scientific exploring. It was a limited encounter the first time, but he opened the doorway.

The next time we see the Negative Zone, Reed is opening a doorway to the dimension as a last-ditch effort to save the team from being killed by Sandman. Reed stops Sandman, who flees in terror from the NZ, but Mister Fantastic is unfortunately pulled through space-time and into the Zone. The FF enlists the help of the Inhumans to save Reed, with Triton braving the journey and rescuing him. In the process, Triton also brings evil Negative Zone tyrant Blastaar—"The Living Bomb Blast”—to the Marvel Universe.

Eventually, Reed must make another trip to the Negative Zone. He needs an anti-matter element only found there in order to save the life of Sue and their unborn child. Reed is joined by the Thing and the Human Torch on the journey, one in which they come face to face with Annihilus, “The Living Death That Walks.”

Annihilus and Blastaar are generally the main power holders in the Negative Zone. Annihilus is a conqueror, and a destroyer, often the lord of the Negative Zone. It’s a big purple and green insect-looking monstrosity, with power levels that rival those of Thanos. Superpowered in nearly every way, it also gains immense power from the Cosmic Control Rod, which keeps it young and virile, makes it stronger, gives it energy blasts and more. Even without the Rod, Anny is tough. When killed? It’ll just be reborn to conquer again! 

Annihilus
FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL (1963) #6

Blastaar, often called King Blastaar, has ruled planets within the universe and at times usurped more control from Annihilus. He’s taken the Cosmic Control Rod from Annihilus on occasion, has worked alongside Marvel Universe heroes and villains for his goals, and rules with an iron fist when he gains power. Maybe not quite as dangerous as Annihilus, Blastaar’s cunning and savagery, along with his immense force blasts, make him a nightmare.

The Eternals also temporarily set up shop in the Negative Zone. With the tech that hides the Eternal city of Olympia from prying eyes of the outside world malfunctioning, Sprite accidentally messed with things and zapped them into the Negative Zone. But that was just a minor hiccup for them.

Reed has used the Negative Zone on several occasions to get rid of difficult enemies, such as the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android, the Super-Adaptoid, and Galactus

CIVIL WAR

During the first Super Hero Civil War there was some Big Negative Zone Drama! The massive Marvel Comic event in the 2000s began when hundreds of innocent civilians were killed during a battle between heroes and villains. It was argued that the disaster could have been prevented by training, oversight, and experience. Many of our favorite Marvel Super Heroes fought over whether they should reveal their identities and fall under governmental regulation and control.

So the team who wanted everyone to register—led by Mister Fantastic, Yellowjacket, and Iron Man—decided that the Negative Zone would be a great place to imprison the Super Hero dissidents and rebels as well as the bad guys—all criminals in their new world order.   

Project 42
CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE (2006) #5

As a prison, it was called Negative Zone Prison or Prison 42. Tony Stark called it Project 42 since it was the 42nd idea that he, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym came up with following the events that led to the Super Hero Civil War. (Reed had already worked on a Negative Zone Prison before the events of Civil War, a version of the Vault that was part of a plan by the Mad Thinker.) The prison was nicknamed Fantasy Island and Wonderland by the inmates because they loved irony – it was also the setting for the beginning of the conflict’s final battle.

Iron Man lays a trap for Captain America, but Cap retaliates by using his planted mole, Hulkling, to release all the prisoners housed in the Negative Zone prison. During the battle, Cloak teleports all its superhuman detainees out, including a number of villains and most of the heroes. The prison was kept in use for a while, holding some of Hulk’s alien allies after the events of World War Hulk. (Hulk smashed all the heroes after he thought they betrayed him, sent him to another planet, and betrayed him again.) 

When the Skrulls invaded (the shapeshifters took over the identities of many humans and super humans after their home planet was destroyed and their population in shambles) not too long after that, the prison was abandoned and taken over by Blastaar, who hoped to use it as a beachfront to invade Earth, but he was repelled and later driven from the prison.

ANNIHILATION

The original Annihilation event (which happened relatively concurrently with Civil War) saw Annihilus gather more power than ever before thanks to his Cosmic Control Rod, the Quantum Bands, new allies and the Opposing Force, a sort of Negative Zone version of the Power Cosmic. He rallied an enormous wave of creatures, warriors, ships, and forces from the Negative Zone—as well as forces from the Marvel Universe, including Thanos—into the Marvel Universe in an attempt to conquer the positive universe. It was believed that the Marvel Universe was expanding into the Negative Zone and Annihilus was none too happy about that. He wanted to gain all the power and then kill everything, everywhere.  

Annihilation
ANNIHILATION (2006) #3

The Annihilation Wave destroyed the Skrull Empire in less than six months, eradicated the Nova Corps in no time at all, and tore through systems and forces. The event saw Galactus defeated and enslaved, brought major changes to the Kree, put Peter Quill in the spotlight as a war-time general, helped set the stage for the formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and more.

The Annihilation Wave was defeated after Galactus was freed, and Nova literally tore Annihilus’s guts inside out.

The initial Annihilation event reignited Marvel’s cosmic side, leading to new stories and events, including the Thanos Imperative, which seems VERY key to the new ANNIHILATION: SCOURGE story.

Some time after the events of Annihilation, while the reborn Annihilus was still small, Johnny Storm sacrificed his life to prevent an invasion and breach from the Negative Zone. While Johnny was killed, he was brought back to life by Negative Zone forces. Eventually, Johnny would go on to rally a group of allies, get his hands on the Cosmic Control Rod, and depose Annihilus in the Negative Zone. Johnny even took the Rod with him when he returned to the Marvel Universe.

And after the events of Infinity, a giant cosmic fracas with Thanos and his Black Order, Annihilus and his forces even established a planetary foothold in the Marvel Universe, one with stargate portals with a bridge to the Negative Zone.

Since the Negative Zone remains so massive and mysterious, this is an abridged version of the world’s vast history. And that history will continue to grow when the heroes of the Marvel Universe head back to the Negative Zone in FANTASTIC FOUR: NEGATIVE ZONE #1, on sale Wednesday, November 27! You can pre-order your copy now online or at your local comic shop.

And what about ANNIHILATION: SCOURGE? Something is definitely stirring in the Negative Zone, and Nova is assembling a team to take on the terrifying threat! ANNIHILATION: SCOURGE #1 goes on sale Wednesday, November 20 – reserve your copy today!

Listen to Ryan and Lorraine discuss the Negative Zone on the latest episode of This Week in Marvel!

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