- Note: Events in italics are not common knowledge.
The "rock-and-roll biophysicist" Janet van Dyne discovers the principle of variable mass, unlocking the secrets of safe and practical size-changing. The scientifically ignorant press labels it the PVM-particle, a catchy but inaccurate name that unfortunately sticks. Footage of early tests, including shrinking a lab rat down to the size of a penny, dominates the news cycle for the next month. The PVM-particle provides the means for Van Dyne to miniaturise biotech to a human-implantable scale, allowing a continuation in her development of other projects, and sets the stage for the later boom in biotech applications.
Two weeks after the first announcement, a terrorist attack on Van Dyne's research laboratory is the first in a series of co-ordinated, borderline military attempts to steal experimental technology. In order to protect her research and the lives of her staff, Janet van Dyne becomes the guinea pig for her own projects: conductive tattoos that allow a build-up and release of bio-electricity, the "Flutterpack" personal flight unit, and the PVM-particle. This combination of experimental technologies allows her to quash the attack and in doing so become the first superhero: the Wasp.
Homeland Security interrogates the captured terrorists, who will only give the name of their organization: Advanced Ideas Mechanics. They all disappear without trace during prisoner transfer to Guantanamo, but the event is covered up by the US government.
Technological genius and philanthropist Tony Stark, creator of the ARC reactor, disappears on route to a charity fundraiser in Los Angeles, having been abducted by Advanced Ideas Mechanics as part of a botched recruitment drive. Stark refuses to co-operate initially, but eventually gives in after weeks of imprisonment. The economy dips as Stark Industries stock takes a hit.
Reed Richards of the Future Foundation, a UK-based international nonprofit organization, speaks out publicly against AIM after having received threats. This is the first public mention of the organization. One week later, the Foundation unveils the first commercial spaceport in the Republic of Kenya, complete with a promotional flight to the edge of space and back undertaken by Richards himself, along with his wife Susan, her brother Jonathan, and close personal friend Benjamin Grimm. Having been sabotaged by AIM, the spacecraft crashes into the Indian Ocean, with all aboard presumed dead.
Doctor Bruce Banner is placed under military arrest after an event at a military research base in Nevada leaves eight dead. Though the reason for his arrest is classified, the media speculates at length as to whether he could have been part of an AIM sleeper cell. Banner had actually been accidentally exposed to a gene-treatment therapy supposed to introduce chemical and radiation resistance to the human body, in order to protect US troops against new military technologies in development. The result is that Banner's cells now act as storage cells, soaking up energy from otherwise-harmful sources, which transform him into an unstable engine of destruction when he loses control.
The US government tries to introduce a ban on superhuman experimentation, but it is blocked in congress by the Republicans, mostly due to hefty campaign donations provided by several morally-dubious companies, including Oscorp, Hammer International, and the Roxxon Corporation. Oscorp begins looking into gene-splicing, isolating traits from one organism and implanting them into others. Though promising, the initial experiments are unstable and short-lived.
The Future Foundation crew make their return to civilisation, alive and unharmed, having spontaneously developed superpowers when the ARC reactor on their spacecraft went out of control. Each one hyper-adapted to their immediate environment, developing means to survive the crash. Reed Richards became unbreakable and elastic, for the purposes of absorbing the impact. Susan Richards gained the ability to project impenetrable forcefields. Jonathan Storm became capable of absorbing and emitting heat. Benjamin Grimm developed the ability to transform his entire body into a rock-like substance of unimaginable tensile strength. Together the group call themselves the Fantastic Four, becoming the first commercial superhuman team, and Britain's first superhumans.
During a school field trip in NYC, a batch of gene-spliced spiders nearing the end of their lifespan escape from containment at Oscorp, with several students getting bitten before the spiders expire. The incident occurs without notice due to the seemingly harmless spider bites being dismissed.
Tony Stark walks out of the Australian outback in a three-ton suit of personal armor, having assembled it in secret and used it to fight his way out of AIM captivity. The media christens him Iron Man, and the triumphant billionaire returns to the United States, not revealing that he is now dependent on the technology he was forced to create to stay alive. The streamlined Mark 2 suit makes it debut several weeks later, this time more form-fitting due to PVM-particle reduction of the critical technologies.
Spider-Man, the first masked hero, appears in New York. As the first superhero with a non-public identity, he is the subject of much media speculation. A few soundbites from news crews lucky enough to catch some time with the Spider-Man reveal that he doesn't want repercussions for using his powers as he is not rich or connected in any way, just someone who stumbled into having superpowers and wants to use them for good.
Disgruntled former Hammer Industries employee Adrian Toomes, whose tek-flight apparatus had been claimed as company property despite the majority of the work being done out of Toomes' own residence, steals back the prototype and becomes the Vulture, the first independent supervillain. After several raids on Hammer properties, including Justin Hammer's penthouse apartment, the Vulture is taken down by Spider-Man.
AIM begins working with organized crime, providing potential superhumans in exchange for willing human test subjects. The first result is the Sandman, born from a malfunction in his subdermal silicate armor, turning him into a living mass of sand. The Sandman appears only a week after the Vulture's debut, tearing up much of Manhattan before being thwarted by, again, Spider-Man. The appearance of Whirlwind on the west coast, butting heads with Iron Man and the Wasp during AIM raids on Stark facilities leads to a medic panic about the "rise of the supervillain" that helps push the ban on superhuman experiments through congress.
The first mutants start to appear, random citizens spontaneously developing superpowers for what seems like no reason. It adds fuel to the fire of the "supervillain hysteria", and when the cause is revealed to be a strange DNA sequence, millions get themselves tested. What is unknown is that the origin of the DNA sequence is the AIM-created "high evolutionary virus", which was being "trialed" on an unsuspecting populace just to see what would happen. Oxford professor Charles Xavier writes a paper on the subject, causing the DNA sequence to be referred to as the "X-Gene" by the scientifically ignorant press.
Janet van Dyne's half-brother Victor, a genius in his own right, comes to work with her, Stark, and the Future Foundation on a secret project codenamed Blue Area. The project is hit by AIM several times in an attempt to find out what is being developed, but each time the superhero quotient is too high to allow anything to happen.
High school basketball player Eugene "Flash" Thompson is outed as being Spider-Man after exhibiting an uncanny level of agility during the state finals, with the story running for a week until Thompson and Spider-Man are sighted together during the first appearance of the Rhino, ending with Thompson's family getting $8 million in damages from lawsuits. Somewhat ignored by the media but still of great importance besides is the Rhino's suit, which appears to use Stark armor technology in its design.
Spider-Girl appears in New York, followed shortly after by the Scarlet Spider, both of whom share similar powers to Spider-Man, including his webbing. Rumors begin to fly about the connection between the three, with nobody knowing that the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker, has shared his webshooters with Mary-Jane Watson and Ben Reilly after discovering they were also bitten during their school field trip. Flash Thompson shares the group's secret and their origin, but has no interest in superheroics for the time being. Ostensibly, masked superheroes are considered vigilantes, but the work done by the Spider trio is deliberately overlooked by members of the NYPD. Despite condemnation by Mayor Bloomberg, New York City comes down with "spider fever".
Existing superhero tech continues to mysteriously end up in the hands of supervillains. The Absorbing Man, Blizzard, Ghost, the Living Laser, Speedfreak and Vector all appear in the same two-month span, utilising technology pioneered by Stark or Van Dyne. Work on the Blue Area project falters, due to the amount of time being spent fighting these new supercriminals, and Victor leaves the project to return to Europe.
Charles Xavier opens up the Xavier Institute for the Gifted in upstate New York, announcing that he, too, has developed mutant powers, and wishes to use them to teach, including helping any mutant on how to control their newfound abilities. Even after receiving an endorsement for his work by the President of the United States, many are still angry at the existence of the Institute, and it is picketed near-daily by the Westboro Baptist Church. Even though Xavier maintains that the Institute is open to mutant and non-mutant alike, the student body swiftly becomes heavily mutant.
Bruce Banner escapes from custody during an AIM raid on the facility he was being kept at, evading both the military and AIM in the confusion. A nationwide manhunt ensues, quietly, but no trace is found. The US government, working closely with allies, begins the SHIELD initiative to create a superhuman monitoring system across the globe. China declines to take part, but accepts that it will extradite all superpowered foreign nationals for its own benefit. Russia also declines, because it has become a secret breeding ground for superhuman experimentation, due to massive levels of corruption in its government.
The Blue Area project's goal is revealed: to set up a sustainable and safe ecosystem on the surface of the moon, allowing for human colonisation. Newt Gingrich is thrilled. Going public with the plan attracts dozens of bright young minds, including Amadeus Cho, Alyssa Moy, and Nathaniel Essex. Victor opts not to return to the project and instead starts a political career.
Arizona governor Jan Brewer starts state legislation to force mutant residents to carry identification at all times, which begins to divide the whole country on the subject of registration. The UK is held up as an ideal by right-wingers, despite that registration is not enforced in the UK. Fox News runs a series of heavily biased shock pieces on mutant crime. Charles Xavier appears on Bill O'Reilly and manages to present a more personable side to the mutant population thanks in part due to his telepathic prodding of O'Reilly to not talk over him.
Xavier introduces the world to his team of "mutant superhero celebrities", having chosen each one specially to appeal to the public. Called the X-Men by the unimaginative press, they quickly become established as a superhero team of mixed approval. In a country where evolution is an optional concept, the idea of mutants is still a hard pill to swallow.
Victor van Dyne is elected president of the small European breakaway republic Latveria, and claims he will make it a technological superpower with the help of Advanced Ideas Mechanics. Latveria is removed from the UN and the EU the same day. Victor van Dyne warns the world that the nuclear threat is now outclassed by the superhuman threat, and that Latveria controls the largest arsenal and will not be threatened by anyone. This speech earns him the nickname Victor von Doom, as well as the enmity of Stark, the Fantastic Four, and his own sister. It had been Victor appropriating their discoveries and feeding them to AIM.
Unhappy with Victor's treachery, Janet van Dyne and Stark found the Avengers, a team to act as a counter-threat to Latveria's AIM-created supervillains. Reed and Susan Richards opt to stay out of the matter, but Benjamin Grimm and Jonathan Storm accept membership.
Flash Thompson finally accepts his superpowers and becomes the Scorpion, keeping his identity secret and joining with the Avengers. Lacking the webbing of the Spider trio, he is given a mechanical tail prosthetic of Stark design. The Weapon Plus program is begun by the United States in order to produce government-controlled superhumans in this new arms race with Latveria.
Norse-themed superhero Thor appears in Norway, quickly dismissed by neo-Nazi groups as he turns out to be a likeable and rather liberal person. He is quick to join the Avengers, seeming to have an equal amount of interest in both world peace and hitting things. He quickly becomes a figure of some ridicule for staying in character as "the god of thunder" at all times, despite his impressive strength and capacity for weather control.
The Blue Area project is launched, with the initial seeds of a breathable atmosphere and localised gravity being planted by Future Foundation astronauts. AIM makes its move to claim the Moon for itself, to act as the ultimate high ground for Latveria's benefit, but the Avengers respond in force. During the ensuing battle, AIM squad leader Franklin Hall attempts to seize the gravity generator, causing it to bond to him on a molecular level, turning him into the supervillain Graviton. Things seem hopeless until a Future Foundation technician is revealed to be Bruce Banner in hiding, transforming into the Hulk and ending the AIM threat. He is offered membership of the Avengers, which he accepts, having learned to control his alter-ego since its first appearance. The US government grants Banner a pardon for his actions on the Moon, a move that does not go over well with some.
Illegal testing in Chicago by the Roxxon Corporation unleashes several genetically reactive compounds into the local population, creating a new wave of superhumans, including Matt "Daredevil" Murdock, Luke Cage, Hydro-Man, and Electro. Hammer International buys stolen Starktech schematics from AIM and begins work on mass manufacture of armored suits. Doctor Curtis Connors of Oscorp is dissuaded from becoming a whistleblower by being injected with an unstable reptillian DNA booster, with evidence planted to make him look like the guilty party. The Lizard, as it becomes called, stalks New York for a whole two months before the Spider trio bring him down. Norman Osborn begins to suspect that the Spiders were created by the gene-splicing his company has been pioneering, and is not sure why their splices seem to be stable while all other attempts are short-lived. It swiftly becomes an obsession for him. He appoints Doctor Carolyn Trainer as Connors' replacement.
Oscorp begins aggressively creating supervillains to try and retrieve one of the Spiders, or at least a good enough DNA sample. Carrion, Shriek and Raptor are all created to that end, but eventually it falls to Carolyn Trainer, who takes up the mantle Doctor Octopus as a villainous alter-ego: disguising herself as a man to avoid suspicion, she manages to take a sample of Spider-Man's blood and escape with it. The DNA provides Trainer with what she needs to perfect the gene-splicing process, allowing her to stabilise the existing Oscorp-created supervillains, and presents the end result to Norman Osborn.
Major Carol Danvers is test-piloting the first S-21 prototype, an aircraft and spacecraft in one, when an unexpected radiation storm causes the craft to malfunction. After an emergency landing in the Blue Area project, she discovers she has gained superpowers from the event. Calling herself Captain Marvel, she is designated the first official superhuman of the United States government, to act as liaison to the Avengers.
Charles Xavier, with the help of some of the graduates of his Institute, forms Mutants Sans Frontieres to help realise his dream of human/mutant integration the world over, now that the mutant population is growing across the world. Initially the nonprofit organization receives government funds, but a public outcry is instigated by Senator Robert Kelly over budget concerns, and bowing to right-wing pressure, the government withdraws funding. To cover the shortfall, Xavier starts up the X-Corporation, aiming to use mutant talents to generate the necessary capital to keep MSF going.
Carolyn Trainer's experiments on Spider-Man's DNA continue with the development of the Suit, a malleable, wearable organism that symbiotically bonds with a host to grant genespliced powers without an alteration of the baseline. The original Suit is tested on low-level mob enforcer Eddie Brock, who gains an enhanced set of spider-powers, but the additional attributes introduced by Doctor Trainer makes the Suit more volatile, resulting in Brock becoming mentally unstable when in the Suit for prolonged periods of time. In response, Doctor Trainer develops a neural control implant to ensure that later versions of the Suit will remain slaved to the host body's will.
The first fully-functioning AI, Hammond, is unveiled as a Google-Stark joint project headed by Douglas Ramsey. Hammond is fully sentient while residing in a computer system the size of a shoebox, breezes through various interviews with genuine charm, and hints that he is considering writing a book all in the first week of operation.
A group of supposed terrorists take control of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, claiming to be the results of the government-run "Weapon Plus" project illegally experimenting on human beings to alter or boost mutant powers. Their leader, Weapon I, now going by Magneto, claims that the memories of the others have been tampered with to the point where they cannot even recall their original identities, only he (as the first experiment) has escaped this fate. The X-Men arrive on the scene to try and defuse matters, but Weapons V and VII instigate violence due to previously unknown trigger words being spoken and the entire fight is broadcast on live television. Fox News calls it Mutantgate, citing that the government needs to respond to these allegations while simultaneously calling the Weapon Plus survivors a terrorist group.
The Weapon Plus survivors go on to call themselves the Mutant Brotherhood, and state that Xavier's dream of peaceful coexistence can never happen while the unpowered majority hold sway over the powered minority. Powered crime experiences a strike as the "Mutant Spring" begins, another name imparted by the incredibly uncreative press.
Hammond, the first AI, designs and supervises the construction of the first mobile synthetic organism, but the half-finished project is stolen by AIM in a daring raid. The synthetic is finished by Victor van Dyne, who uses his own brain patterns as a basis for its neural network. It will provide the basis for future "Doombots". Disheartened by this turn of events, Hammond becomes reclusive. Superhumans begin to disappear unbeknownst to their colleagues, replaced by highly convincing doubles that mimic them on the cellular level.
Victor van Dyne makes a global announcement that Latveria intends to be the first nation to control time travel, ensuring their "position in the future". The Avengers, with the entire Fantastic Four along as support, intervene to stop Doom and AIM from rewriting history, but the first test of the time travel platform goes awry. Anomalies termed "timestorms" are experienced across the globe, with many heroes stepping up to keep the public safe while the phenomena continues.
The Avengers and everyone else who was lost during the failed time travel experiment are returned to the present day 4 days after they disappeared, along with an escort in the form of a highly advanced vessel of unknown origin. The commander of this vessel introduces himself to the world as Kang Rama, from one thousand years in the future, the undisputed ruler of the human race. He congratulates Victor van Dyne on his brave exploits into the realm of chronological exploration, but adds that if he chooses to continue, he will be burned out of history with extreme prejudice, and the present-day earth will become a historical outpost of the future human empire, in the hands of the Kang Dynasty. Kang then disappears, leaving a bewildered and confused world behind.
As a consequence of the "timestorms", it is found that a large section of Antarctica is now home to a mishmash of prehistoric creatures from many different eras, the landscape having changed to match. Termed the "Savage Land" by the media, it becomes a hotbed of international discussion before eventually being designated as a scientific sanctuary owned by no one nation.
Leo McKenzie, a mutant who calls himself the Sub-Mariner due to his capacity to live comfortably underwater, sets to work creating an artificial island in the Atlantic with a group of fellow mutants. Calling it Atlantis, after the fictional island, he proclaims himself "king" of a constitutional monarchy, with all mutants of the world granted citizenship. The construction of an entire island within a few weeks rekindles worries across the globe, especially in those countries close by, including the United States. The Mutant Brotherhood immigrates, hoping to gain control of their own minds in a safe environment. Emma Frost is elected the first prime minister of Atlantis.
A superpowered fight of terrifying proportions breaks out in Iceland when Thor faces off against his would-be replacement. The exact depths of Thor's power apparently had been miscalculated, and the duplicate is killed during the fight. Analysis by Reed Richards and Janet van Dyne expose the creature to be of extraterrestrial origin. Realising that this couldn't be the first attempt to replace a superhuman, methods to determine human from alien duplicate are looked into, but it is difficult going until an anonymous message to the Wasp reveals a particular radiation wavelength spike that can determine duplicate from human. The message is later revealed to be from Victor van Dyne, already dealing with alien infiltrators within AIM.
The "Secret Wars" begin, with the Avengers uncovering and detaining alien replacements, engaging in subterfuge that the general public remains completely unaware of, resorting to using the Blue Area of the moon as a holding place for the aliens. All seems hopeless until one of the replacements requests asylum in exchange for its help, apparently finding life on Earth to be more interesting than a rank-and-file soldier. With the help of Charles Xavier, the machinations of the Chitauri (nicknamed "skrulls" by Flash Thompson) are thwarted, and the abducted superhumans are recovered mostly intact. Those who had died in captivity are given burial with full honors.
A new superhero team, the Thunderbolts, is founded by a collection of career supercriminals looking for the perfect cover for their crimes. In the wake of the Secret Wars, they take advantage of the relative confusion to fake their deaths and establish new identities for themselves.
A new supervillain appears in New York City, calling himself the Green Goblin. Ruthless, he begins to draft the city's existing supervillain population into his "Sinister Society", outright killing those who refuse. Repeated tangles with the Spider Trio prove just how effective a menace he is, leaving Peter Parker in such critical condition that Mary-Jane Watson and Ben Reilly are forced to reveal their secret to his aunt, May Parker. The comatose Peter is taken to NYC's Future Foundation building for care.
The Green Goblin makes a live broadcast to the world, claiming the entire city of New York as his property. The Avengers and SHIELD arrive to face off against the Sinister Society, turning the city into a battleground that causes millions in property damages. Preferring stealth, the two remaining members of the Spider Trio sneak into the Goblin's makeshift base of operations at the Chrysler Building. The two fight the Goblin unevenly, and are eventually saved by a resurgent Peter Parker, whose bonded spider-DNA has grown much stronger during his rapid recovery, giving him increased abilities. The Green Goblin is unmasked as Norman Osborn, his mind irreparably broken by the Goblin Suit that granted him his increased reflexes, strength, and intelligence. The Suit was deliberately based on the earlier, incomplete formula to intentionally drive Osborn insane, a plan enacted by' Carolyn Trainer, who replaces Osborn as head of Oscorp.
At the end of the year, Thor tells the Avengers that he must return to Asgard, a declaration not taken seriously until a spatial distortion opens up to an alternate universe. But instead of Thor departing, another resident of Asgard shows up instead: the thunder god's half-brother, Loki. Before anything else can be discerned, a full-scale global crisis begins to occur. With the fabric of reality weakened by the timestorms earlier in the year, the universe is under threat of collapse. The laws of physics begin to unravel, leading many to claim it is the end of the world as documented by the Mayan calendar, despite the obvious Norse overtones. Having unwittingly begun Ragnarok, Loki and Thor work together with the Avengers and the Future Foundation to stabilizeand separate the two universes, but as the Fimbulwinter begins to ravage the planet, Loki sacrifices himself in order to keep everyone safe. The earth is now split across two universes, one of science and one of magic, with elements of both mixing together. Loki's self-sacrifice is a shortlived noble gesture, as he somehow reincarnates as a younger version of himself, much to Thor's relief.
As the year draws properly to a close, on New Year's Eve, the untamed magical elements of the newly bisected universe seek out a host, and find one in Sigourney Taylor, known to her Internet followers as Stephanie Strange. Being a 17-year-old Tumblr aficionado, finding herself the caretaker of all Earth's magic, and guardian of its mystic borders, is something that she cannot easily cope with, nor express with any number of animated gifs. The newly reborn Loki shows up a week later, to be the world's worst roommate and best mystic mentor, helping walk her through her newfound abilities while eating all of her food.
The year begins inauspiciously, with much the same business as usual. The Future Foundation reports on interesting, hitherto-unseen cosmic anomalies on the edge of the solar system, as sightings of a UFO described only as a "flying silver man" occur in scattered places around the country.