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  1.   1.  Specifics on really recent stuff

Timeline of Modern Marvels (note: anything not referenced can be assumed to have occurred identically to our world unless desired otherwise by the players):

1939
Rumors of a "burning man" spread across the East Coast like wildfire, only cut short by the onset of World War II.
1941
Red Skull and Captain America emerge as major players in WW II.
1942-1944
The Nazis create many strange and terrible prodigies of science, which are opposed by pulp-style Allied heroes. None of the Allies are known to have super-powers, though rumors abound. In the mind of the common man, however, superhuman abilities are associated with the horrors created by the Axis powers. On the other hand, colorful heroes are famous on both fronts, with code-named aviators earning fame over the Pacific and a variety of Captain America-inspired special operators make their mark on the European front. Most of these heroes and villains are killed during the war. (The Red Skull's betrayal and formation of Hydra is kept quiet by both sides for propaganda reasons.)
1945
Both the Red Skull and Captain America disappear shortly after the war's end. The Skull becomes the world's most wanted war criminal; all the US government will say about Captain America is that Rogers has "earned his rest."
1962
The first rumors of mutants begin spreading. Though the First World's governments deny and mock these rumors, stories of a secret intervention during the Cuban Missile Crisis are impossible to suppress completely. However, the very real return of HYDRA, led by the self-styled "Baron Zemo," distracts from this development. Note: HYDRA is not an acronym; the joke in S.H.I.E.L.D. is that Hydra agents speak in ALL CAPS. The convention from here forward is that Hydra is in all caps when first used in a paragraph.
1963
Doctor Stephen Strange begins "consulting on occult matters" from his Greenwich Village brownstone. In the wake of John F. Kennedy's death the second gunman is factual and known in this universe, but was never found the agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) is formed from the until-then mostly defunct Strategic Scientific Reserve. Its first director is the then-unknown Roger Grant. Rumors abound that the second gunman was a HYDRA agent, but a lack of solid evidence has led to this story being (in the words of one critic of Oliver Stone's JFK) "the god-king granddaddy of wacko conspiracy theories," though there is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence.
The 60s and 70s
S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA do battle across two decades, clashing in psychedelic espionage capers that would rival the most outrageous cinematic Bondian swashbuckling. In 1974, at the height of the Watergate scandal, Grant resigns very suddenly as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., his long-time partner Richard Jones replacing him. In 1980, Baron Zemo disappears, apparently once and for all, and Rick Jones steps down as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., marrying Contessa Valentina de Fontaine. Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who had vied with Zemo for leadership of Hydra since its reformation, takes control of the secret empire. Jasper Sitwell becomes the third Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., serving as something of a "peacetime" director during Strucker's reorganization of Hydra.
20 years ago
Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters opens publicly in Westchester County, NY. Professor Xavier, a noted peace and equality activist, aims to teach the "leaders of the future" to harness their gifts for the greater good of mankind. Marcus Johnson becomes the fourth Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
15 years ago
An infamous experiment by a prodigy from the then-little-known nation of Latveria destroys Empire State University. Reed Richards first becomes famous saving most of the students from the strange blast and its after-effects. The wealthy Storm family are among those saved, giving Richards a patron.
10 years ago
Conspiracy theorists swap stories of mutant, magical and/or reality-warping "Secret Wars," which spread wildly enough across the Internet for the mainstream media to take notice (and, for the most part, mock them). S.H.I.E.L.D. figures prominently in these tales. Nothing is ever revealed about these supposed battles. S.H.I.E.L.D. representatives dismiss the stories as fantasy and rumor-mongering. Nick Fury becomes the fifth Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
5 years ago
Doctor Doom emerges as the absolute ruler of the tiny nation of Latveria. Since the man he replaced, Baron Rudolfo von Bardas, was a tyrant himself, there is little concern at the time. Over the last five years, Latveria has gone from virtually unknown postage-stamp nation to one of the emerging powers (and dangers) of the 21st Century. Meanwhile, Susan Storm, heir to the Baxter Corporation empire, sets Dr. Richards up in the top five floors of the Baxter Building.
Recently
Two months before the campaign begins, the "Fantastic Voyager" encounters a cosmic storm. The Voyager makes a "forced landing" in the Atlantic, managing to reach an island. Three days after the crew is rescued, they are seen using fantastic powers to fight off a "Mad Thinker" and his quintet of robots, revealing what they've become to the world. They form the Fantastic Four to put their powers to altruistic use (and ensure there's too much of a media spotlight on them for the government to "disappear" them), kicking off the Modern Age of Marvels. Note that scientists and mystics alike pick up that the Cosmic Storm, given capital letters by the media, has had some significant effect on the Earth.

1.  Specifics on really recent stuff

Subject to corrections, player additions, updates and further tweaking (all week/month long periods are give or take a bit).

Note: Please keep additions to this list to the portions of events that some other PCs might reasonably know.

CS -3 days
Tony Stark arrives in Afghanistan to demonstrate Stark Industries' latest weapon, the Jericho. His convoy is attacked and he is reported as MIA.
CS -1 day
Thor fights the Destroyer in Puente Antiguo, New Mexico.
CS
Date of Cosmic Storm: The Bifrost is shattered, the Richards expedition's "Fantastic Voyager" is bathed in unusual energies, and Dr. Bruce Banner's classified experiments result in an explosion in his lab at UC Berkley.
CS +3 days
The Fantastic Four reveal themselves by saving hundreds of people trapped on the George Washington Bridge from five attacking robots (humanoid, super-strong, approx. 7 ft. tall).
CS +1 week
Tony Stark returns from the Middle East and announces that Stark Industries will cease weapon production.
CS +2 weeks
A battle between two super-strong beings, one of whom identifies himself as an "abomination of science," results in the demolition of a construction site in Oakland, CA. The Abomination is revealed to be once-aging physics professor Dr. Geoffrey Crawford, while S.H.I.E.L.D. identifies the heroine who defeated him as simply "Adamant."
CS +1 month
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. holds a press conference, announcing that Adamant, whom the press has nicknamed "the Argent Amazon," has agreed to join the venerable security organization. All requests for a name other than Adamant are refused out of respect for the new agent's privacy. In a related press release, S.H.I.E.L.D. reports that Drs. Bruce Banner and Elizabeth "Betty" Ross will be joining the organization, partly to assist in understanding Adamant's extraordinary powers.
  • The Mutant Brotherhood is revealed to the world when they are prevented from interfering with a UN summit on the "mutant question" on Ellis Island. The Brotherhood escapes, but the heroes who stopped them are also identified by S.H.I.E.L.D. as mutants, the long-rumored "X-Men."
CS +6 weeks
Spider-Man begins his brief wrestling career.
CS +7 weeks
A massive brawl between two figures in high-tech armor tears through a chunk of Los Angeles; the press dubs the red-and-gold hero Iron Man. The next morning, Tony Stark holds a press conference to explain that Iron Man is his bodyguard, only to declare "I am Iron Man."
CS +2 months
Your characters are called together by S.H.I.E.L.D. as part of the activation of the Avengers Initiative.

Further Note: As indicated by the Brotherhood's clean getaway, the X-Men films (as well as the FF and Raimi/Maguire Spidey films) are indicated herein for the "look and feel" of the characters more than the specific events.