Update: We now have a completely revamped timeline to include Iron Man 1 & 2, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers. Click here for Timeline 2.0.
Update: We’ve now added Thor into the timeline.
We’ve known for some time that Marvel Studios’ films are all set in an interconnected universe. Much bandwidth has been burned discussing the puzzle pieces, both obvious and hidden, that help to make up the bigger picture. But no one, up until now, has pieced those pieces together in quite this way. After spending hours and hours of watching and rewatching Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Incredible Hulk, here is the result – a possible chronology for all the events mentioned and depicted in three films and providing a possible framework for how they overlap.
While many historical dates have been derived from various documents and newspapers glimpsed in the films, the dates for the modern section all spread outward from the May 1-2, 2010 running of the Historic Grand Prix Of Monaco and are extrapolated from internal evidence and dialogue. For further information on canonicity of sources and a key to sources used see the notes at the end. Where exact dating for sequences have proven to be impossible, I’ve gone with my best guess.
The Time Line
965 AD – The frost giants of Jotunheim attempt to conquer Midgard/Earth. Their invasion point in Norway becomes the site of an epic battle as Asgard’s ruler Odin leads an army to repeal the invasion and protect the planet. Odin and his force push the frost giants back to Jotunheim where the AllFather discovers an abandoned frost giant infant whom he adopts, names Loki and raises as his own alongside his own son Thor. A truce is negotiated between Odin and the frost giant king Laufey.
1939 – 1945 – World War Two
Young, budding industrialist Howard Stark launches Stark Industries producing planes for war effort following attack on Pearl Harbor. His innovations later earn him a spot working on the Manhattan Project. (IMN, IM2) Stark was also involved with Super Soldier Program. Was his working on Manhattan Project a cover story for his work on Super Soldier Program? (IM, IM2P, CAP)
Dr. Abraham Erskine, working under the code name of “Dr. Reinstein” develops Super Soldier Serum as part of the Weapons Plus program. (IH 0:44:33. Although the Super Soldier Serum seen in Incredible Hulk is credited to a Dr. Reinstein, Stanley Tucci has been cast as Erskine in Captain America. The codename retcon is a solution similar to one found in the comics to reconcile two different names that have been given to the Super Soldier Serum developer over the decades.)
Steve Rogers is recruited into the Weapons Plus program. Injected with the Super Soldier Serum, he becomes Captain America and helps fight the Nazis alongside members of the Howling Commandos.
At some point Howard Stark helps to found SHIELD. (IM2) Would this have stemmed from his work on Manhattan Project/ Super Soldier program? Is SHIELD an outgrowth of Super Soldier Program or a separate entity?
1963 – Anton Vanko defects to the US and begins work with Howard Stark in developing ARC Reactor technology.
1964 – Stark Expo held in conjunction with the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY
1967 – Stark has Anton Vanko deported as a spy. Vanko returns to Soviet Union but is sent to exile in Siberia for two decades. Presumably he is able to return to Moscow following Premier Gorbachev’s call for democratization in January 1987.
May 10 – Tony Stark born (The Iron Man novelization states that Tony Stark was born in 1973, but in order for young Tony to be the age we briefly see him in Iron Man 2 and to still not be old enough to assume of Stark Industries when Howard Stark dies in 1991, I have moved his birth year to here.)
1974 – Last Stark Expo until 2010. Howard Stark hides secret to perfecting ARC reactor in layout of the Expo for Tony to find. (IM2)
1975 – Tony Stark Builds his first circuit board.
1977 – Tony Stark builds his first engine.
1988 – Tony Stark graduates MIT at age 17 at top of class (IM)
1988 – 1991 -Bruce Banner meets Betty Ross while undergrads at Harvard. They begin dating and at one point volunteer for an experiment involving hallucinogenics.
December 16 – Howard and Maria Stark die in car accident on Long Island. (IM)
Speculation – Was Howard Stark’s death orchestrated/ordered by Obadiah Stane in order to gain control of Stark Industries?
1992 – Tony Stark inherits Stark Industries becoming, at age 21, the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. (IM) In addition to the company’s numerous military contracts, Stark Industries also does pioneering work in medical technology and in combating world hunger with their Intelli-Crops program. In the process he becomes somewhat of a media celebrity.
2002 – 2006 – In the wake of 9/11 attacks (Speculation), General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross convinces military to revive the BioForce Enhancement Project, aka the “Super Soldier” program, as a subprogram of the Infantry Weapons Development Program. (IH 0:32:15, 0:32:36)
Dr. Bruce Banner joins the group at Culver University in Willowdale, VA in southwestern Virginia working on way to strengthen cellular resistance to radiation, possibly at insistence of girlfriend Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Ross, daughter of General Ross.
Ross lies to the scientists on the project, informing them that their work will help protect soldiers from depleted uranium. (IHD)
Unspecified Thursday in January – Under the threat of funding cuts, Banner volunteers to test process on himself resulting in the accident that turns him into Hulk. (IH, 0:02:04, partially obscured Washington Times newspaper dateline reading “Friday (Obstructed) 2006”; see also below February 7)
Gamma pulse combined with serum that Betty was developing triggers mutation. Later, gamma pulses somehow stored in Banner’s brain’s amigdala and released during high stress moments will trigger mutation.
Betty is injured and hospitalized. Ross admits to Banner that project is being developed as weapon, not just defense. Banner goes on the run. In the wake of the accident, the military closes the entire lab building for a year and shuts down the entire Bio Tech Force Enhancement project. General Ross secretly holds onto some material, Dr. Betty Ross also secretly holds onto project data, remaining at Culver University as a professor of cellular biology. Betty also ceases speaking with her father (IH 0:44:00), angry at his treatment of Banner.
At some point during his run from the military, Banner travels through the Dakotas (IH 0:02:06), possibly on his way towards the arctic.
The military looses Banner, who eventually arrives in the Arctic Circle to commit suicide in a place where his body would not be found. The attempt fails and Banner/Hulk dislodges frozen body of Steve Rogers/Captain America in suspended animation (IHD)
October 21 – Last sighting of Banner for at least five months (IH 0:02:54, I’m placing Banner’s suicide attempt before this date, or even possibly at this date, as I’m sure that the Hulk’s rampage in the Arctic would have been detected by satellite.)
2007 – 2010
At some point, the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistic Division (SHIELD) is brought in to help Ross and his task force recover Banner. Ross requisitions some high tech weaponry he knows will be required to bring Banner/Hulk down. (IH 0:02:35) Stark Industries sells them Jeep-mounted sonic cannons. (IH 0:02:36) (Is the sonic cannon an off-shoot of the same technology behind the sonic weapon used by Stane to paralyze his Ten Rings collaborators?)
Banner wanders the world avoiding population centers, eventually heading to South America.
May – Following the successful demonstration of the new Jericho missile weapons system outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, the military convoy escorting Stark is attacked by the Ten Rings terrorist group under the leadership of Raza, who were working at least in part on the part of Obadiah Stane. Stark is wounded by Stark Industries-manufactured weapons and is captured.
During his three months of capture, Stark is forced to build version of Jericho for the Ten Rings terrorist group. He instead builds an armored, exo-skeleton battle suit (Iron Man armor, MK I) and uses it to escape. Following his being found by the US military, Stark is taken to Germany where he is checked out by Army doctors and then subjected to debriefings from the CIA, NSA and others.
Late August – Upon his return to the US, Stark buys cheeseburgers and then pulls Stark International out of the weapons business, terminating all contracts with the military. SI stock prices tumble nearly 60 percent. Hammer Industries maneuvers itself to pick up many new contracts.
September – Stark continues to develop a more refined version of the armor he used to escape from the Ten Rings. Stane uses Stark’s change of heart concerning what business he is in as leverage for a takeover attempt. Besides boardroom maneuvering, Stane develops his own high tech battle armor using the remains of the MK I armor recovered by his Ten Rings confederates.
October 23 – Under Stark’s direction, Pepper Potts uncovers proof of Stane’s collaboration with the Ten Rings. Stane and Stark eventually come to blows in their respective armors. Stane is killed. The conflict is seen by the public and the press name the mysterious hero “Iron Man.”
At a press conference the day following his showdown with Stane, Stark rejects SHIELD’s constructed alibi for the events of the previous evening and admits to the world that he is Iron Man. That evening, SHIELD director Nick Fury approaches Stark about a project called the “Avengers Initiative.” Stark declines, Fury calls in Black Widow (IM, IMC2).
Anton Vanko dies in poverty in Moscow. His son Ivan vows revenge on Stark. He begins building his own portable ARC reactor to power an energized whip/body harness.
October 24 – Unspecified Hulk incident. (See April 1, 2010) Soon after, Banner heads into the Rio De Janeiro favela known as Rocinha, to find a way to clandestinely contact Dr. Samuel Sterns, professor in Cellular Biology Department at NYC’s Grayburn College (IH 1:09:11) on the Upper East Side, for help in developing a cure. They communicate using codenames of “Mr. Blue” and “Mr. Green.” Sterns is noted for his work with trimethadiones, used in the treatment of epileptic conditions. (IHD)
Acting on a suggestion from Mr. Blue/Sterns, Banner starts to research Amazonia Tracheophytes (plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant) for a lead on a cure. – (IH 0:02:16, IHD )
Banner also studies calming techniques at a nearby temple, gets a job at a soda bottling plant as a handyman and begins teaching himself Portuguese.
December 16– Iron Man named Time magazine’s Person Of The Year, narrowly beating out Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve. (IM2, In real life, Bernanke was named PotY in Time’s December 16th issue.)
As Tony Stark continues to operate as Iron Man, he manages to bring about a period of relative peace and is credited by some press as having stabilized East-West relations. Stark realizes that the Paladium core of Stark’s ARC reactor is slowly poisoning him. He begins searching for a cure but keeps his condition a secret. (IM2)
April 1 – 158 Days since last “incident” – Banner has accident that leaves drop of blood in soda. (IH 0:32:12) Also, he sends sample of blood to Sterns who will conduct further experiments with it outside of the analysis that Banner needs.
April 25 – Stark Expo 2010 opens with plans to run for one year. (IM2, “Six Months Later”)
April 26 – Stark appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Weaponized Suit Defense Program Hearings chaired by Pennsylvania Senator Stern. Stern pushes Stark to turn the Iron Man suit and technology over to the military but Stark refuses. Stern calls Justin Hammer, CEO of Hammer Industries and Lt. Rhodes to testify against Stark. Stark testifies that although other countries, including North Korea and Iran are working to replicate the technology, they are years away from being able to do so. He also reveals that Hammer Industries have also had their share of lack-of-success, leading to the cancellation of Hammer Industries’ contacts with the Department of Defense. (IM2)
April 27 – Stark appoints Potts Chairman and CEO of Stark Industries. (IM2 0:20:44, Stark Expo website displaying “362 Days Left” to attend Expo) An agent of the Ten Rings supplies Vanko assistance in infiltrating the Monaco Grand Prix.
April 29 – Stark signs paperwork to transfer power to Potts, meets “Natalie Rushman” unaware that she is SHIELD agent Natasha Romanoff. Stark hires her as his new personal assistant.
May 2 – Stark arrives at the Historic Grand Prix of Monaco and in a moment of spontaneity quips “What’s the point of having a car if you don’t drive it,” and replaces Team Stark’s regular driver DiFilipo in Race G. Ivan Vanko attacks Stark along the section of the Circuit de Monaco between turns 16 and 17 along the harbor. Switching into a portable, lightweight Iron Man armor (Mark V), Stark defeats Vanko.
Later that evening, Stark visits Vanko in prison before flying back to US with Potts.
Meanwhile, General Ross’s task force raids Rochina favela is search of Banner under the field command of Emil Blonski. Banner transforms into Hulk, defeats the raiding party and escapes. (IH 0:29:02 Days with out incidence counter moves from 190 days backwards.)
May 4 –Banner wakes up in Guatemala. Over the next 17 days, he will make his way through Chiapas, Mexico to Willowdale, VA and Culver University to see if any data still remains from his original experiment.
May 5 – Hammer orchestrates Vanko’s escape from prison to have him work on Hammer Industries own weapons suit program.
May 6 – Media speculation continues about Stark’s fitness to continue as Iron Man. Rhodes tries to convince Stark to hand over the Iron Man technology to the US military, but Stark continues to refuse.
May 7 – Hammer and Vanko arrive at the Hammer Industries facility in Queens, NY. Vanko begins revamping Hammer’s own battle suit prototypes into unmanned, remote-controlled drones.
May 10 – Tony Stark’s Birthday. Depressed over his inability to solve his palladium poisoning dilemma, he gets drunk which leads to a confrontation with Rhodes, who dons the Mark II Iron Man armor. The ensuing fight wrecks a portion of Stark’s Malibu home. Rhodes leaves with the Mk II suit. (IM2N pg 136 places the night of Stark’s party three days after Vanko’s arrival at Hammer’s Queens facility.)
May 11 – Rhodes delivers the Mk II suit to the military at Andrews Air Force Base. Stark goes for donuts and has a conversation with SHIELD director Nick Fury. Fury mentions a situation in the southwest but confines Stark to house arrest.
At Hammer Industries, Vanko continues revamping the battle suits in to unmanned, remote-controlled drones.
May 13 – The Mk II suit is turned over to Justin Hammer for weapons upgrading on the order of General Meade, though not before Rhodes secretly removes the suit’s ARC reactor.
May 14 – Evening. Physicist Jane Foster, working in the small town of Punete Antiguo, New Mexico, detects a possible Einstein-Rosen Bridge (wormhole) in the nearby desert. Racing to the site with her mentor Dr. Selvig and her assistant Darcy, they discover Thor, having been stripped of his powers and cast out of Asgard by his father Odin for nearly provoking a war with the frost giants of Jotunheim. Thor is tasered by Darcy and taken to a local hospital.
May 15 – Tony visits Potts at Stark Industries, makes intuitive breakthrough on how to fix his palladium/ARC reactor problem through the creation of a new element theorized by his father and hidden in the layout of Stark Expo. Stark builds a small cyclotron to create the element.
A Punete Antiguo, New Mexico local discovers Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, in a crater about 50 miles east of town. Unable to lift it, he calls several other people to give it a try.
The arrival of the Mjolnir is also noticed by SHIELD. Nick Fury reassigns Agent Coulson from his detail with Tony Stark to investigate. Coulson leaves that afternoon from California for New Mexico.
May 16 – Hammer’s Stark Expo presentation is hijacked by Vanko, who uses drones to attack crowd and Stark. After receiving a call from Vanko, Stark skips over tests on new ARC reactor element in order to race across country and stop Vanko. Stark/Iron Man defeat Vanko’s drones with help from Rhodes in modified Mk II armor, SHIELD Agent Romanoff and Stark’s driver Happy Hogan. Vanko apparently killed in explosion that destroys the Oracle Pavilion. Hammer is arrested for his part in engineering Vanko’s escape.
Coulson arrives in New Mexico and discovers the site of Thor’s fallen hammer, Mjolnir. SHIELD quickly quarantines the area and erects a portable laboratory over the site to study the hammer. Agent Clint Barton is one of the agents assigned to the operation.
May 17 – Jane helps Thor escape from the hospital where he is being held. That evening they head towards the site of the SHIELD installation erected around Mjolnir. Thor is captured trying to sneak in.
May 18 – Loki appears before Thor being held at the SHIELD installation and lies to him that Odin is dead. In the evening, Dr. Selvig goes to the installation and manages to get Coulson to release Thor into his custody. Later in the evening, Thor explains the concept of the Nine Worlds to Jane.
May 19 –The Warriors Three and Sif head to Midgard to find Thor. Loki sends the Destroyer after them. Thor and his fellow Asgardians fight the Destroyer. During the battle, Thor proves himself worthy of his godly heritage and his powers are restored, allowing him to turn back the Destroyer. Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three head back to Asgard where Thor reveals Loki’s plan to seize the throne of Asgard. Unfortunately, in the ensuing battle between the two, Thor is forced to destroy the Bifrost to prevent Loki from destroying Jotunheim and committing genocide against the frost giants. This action strands him in Asgard, unable to return to Midgard/Earth.
Banner arrives at Culver University and spies Betty. He goes to old friend and pizzeria owner Stanley to hide out. He offers him the Pizza Shop’s upstairs spare bedroom. (IH 0:34:25)
May 20 –Banner poses as a pizza delivery man to get access to Culver University’s computer labs and research database. He decides to leave that evening but as he prepares to leave Stanley’s he is accidentally seen by Betty. She has him stay the night at the home she shares with new lover Dr. Leonard Sampson. Sampson informs the military of Banner’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Blonski receives an unauthorized “low dose” injection of Super Soldier Serum from General Ross.
May 21 – At Culver University, Betty walks Banner to bus station in the early morning. As they are crossing the campus, they are attacked by the military and Betty becomes aware of the true extent of Banner’s condition. Blonski seems to adapt well to Super Soldier upgrade, but still gets beaten by transformed Banner, getting nearly every bone in his body pulverized. Banner/Hulk escapes the military with an unconscious Betty to a cave deep in the Smokey Mountains.
News of the battle can not be contained and quickly spreads across cable news channels and the internet. Culver U. journalism student and campus newspaper reporter Jack McGee, who witnessed and captured the fight on cell phone video, names the transformed Banner “the Hulk” in an interview with WHIH news. His remarks will be played repeatedly over the next several days. (IH 1:04:42, IM2 1:53:10)
SHIELD continues to monitor the Hulk incident, the situation that Agent Coulson is investigating in New Mexico as well as several other hot spots in Europe, Africa (Wakanda?) and the Atlantic Ocean.
May 23-25 – Ross has meeting with taskforce staff. (IH 1:08:51, Ross states that Banner has been on the run “for five years” but I’m assuming that Ross is rounding up.)
SHIELD helps with search by adding the recently discovered “Mr. Blue” and “Mr. Green” code names to their email searches and quickly detect communication between Banner and Sterns.
Banner continues to rest and recoup. He and Betty plan their trip to New York and Sterns. Betty pawns her mother’s necklace to finance purchase of beat-up pickup truck. They drive to NYC.
May 26 – A Wednesday. Banner and Betty arrive in NYC, bypassing roadblocks at the Holland Tunnel by bribing a boat owner to take them across the Hudson River, leaving them in lower Manhattan. They head uptown to meet with Sterns.
Sterns and Banner try an experimental process to cure him, though it only succeeds in reversing the transformation, not ridding Banner of it completely. Supposition – Does this give Banner more of a control over Hulk? (This is based on the fact that this is the first time that Hulk speaks and the more disciplined way he fights. Also, Banner’s seeming control of transformation on July 8.)
The military captures Banner, but Blonsky forces Sterns to inject him with blood products Sterns had developed from Banner’s blood sample. Blonsky is driven insane and mutates into the Abomination. Sterns is infected with Banner’s blood through an open wound, possibly gaining his own mutation.
Following the NYC Hulk incident, Tony Stark arrives in NYC with a quickly designed containment system to hold Blonski (IHN) and approaches Ross about “putting a team together.”
May 28 – Impressed with his work on Einstein-Rosen bridges and other cutting edge theoretical physics, Nick Fury approaches Dr. Selvig to join SHIELD in an advisory capacity to study a powerful cube-like object in their possession. Fury is unaware that Selvig is under the control of Loki. (This is a rather arbitrary date. I’m allowing a few days for Fury to hear about Selvig’s work with Jane Foster and for him to be verted for a security clearance.)
July 8 – Banner has settled in a cabin deep in the woods of Bella Coola, British Columbia. He apparently is gaining control over the Hulk.
CP – CAPTAIN AMERICA Promotional
IM – IRON MAN movie
IMD – IRON MAN deleted scene
IMN – IRON MAN novelization by Peter David
IMC1 – IRON MAN comic adaptation issue 1
IMC2 – IRON MAN comic adaptation issue 2
IM2 – IRON MAN 2 movie
IM2N – IRON MAN 2 novelization
IM2F- IRON MAN 2 filmmaker comment
IH- INCREDIBLE HULK movie
IHD – INCREDIBLE HULK deleted/extended scene
IHN – INCREDIBLE HULK novelization by Peter David
A Note On The Canonicity of Sources: As this is a chronology of the united Marvel Movie universe*, the films themselves are the final authority as to what is “official” in this unofficial timeline. Of secondary authority are comments from the filmmakers clarifying things presented in the films. Finally, other sources such as deleted scenes, novelizations, viral promotions and comic adaptations are considered tertiary and can be revised or completely discarded if later contradicted by a primary or secondary source. Example – While the events of the deleted opening sequence of INCREDIBLE HULK are currently included in the timeline, events in either the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA and/or AVENGERS films may call for some revision.
* This is only for the properties that Marvel Studios owns film rights to and intend on including in their shared universe. Unfortunately, this means no X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Blade, Punisher or Howard The Duck.