Shot through the heart (and JMS is to blame)
Now slightly updated! (3/20/2007)
Due to the assassination, Project: Rebirth is cancelled. The US government activates Project: Iron Man and asks Steve Rogers to participate in it. Steve accepts, and is permanently bonded to the Iron Man armor. Iron Man debuts during the Battle of Guadalcanal, going on to help win the Second World War.
Decades later, Peter Parker sneaks out of a field trip to a desert base and goes joyriding with friends in a stolen jeep. After the jeep breaks down, Peter goes off to find fuel, wandering into a test site just as a gamma bomb is detonated and recovers from the explosion in hospital. After returning home, Peter is confronted by the two friends, who accuse him of getting them into trouble. Peter becomes angry and turns into the Hulk, destroying property around him. The Hulk is confronted by the police. Aunt May recognises the Hulk as Peter and suffers a heart attack, which causes him to flee.
Peter later visits Aunt May in the hospital and says goodbye before running away, only to be confronted by Iron Man and several army troops. Peter turns into the Hulk and confronts Iron Man. After a long fight outside the hospital, the Hulk eventually kills Iron Man and flees in terror.
Meanwhile, Reed Richards, along with his co-pilots Ben Grimm, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm, launches into space in a rocket designed to collect cosmic rays. However, the rocket explodes before it can reach orbit due to sabotage, crashing back to Earth and killing Ben, Johnny and Sue. Afterwards, Reed is invited to join the spy organisation called S.H.I.E.L.D.
Years later, Bruce Banner is bitten by a radioactive spider collected from the gamma bomb test site and mutates into a half-man, half-spider creature. After going on the run for two years, Banner is captured and, after having his mutation brought under control, becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
That's the deal, and it's fine as far as it goes. And, I grant you, it isn't very realistic to expect it to go all that far, in a mere 5 issue miniseries. And yet, I get to the climactic fifth issue, and here are all these previously completely unmentioned superheroes and supervillains swarming out of the woodwork to fight Galactus, and Strazinsky gives us this clever little caption about how "Some lives were not touched at all" by, you know, the original stray bullet that created this entire alternate universe -- and sure, that's reasonable. It is.
Upon reading this, though, a huge part of me instantly screams -- "BULLSHIT!!!!"
If you're going to 'turn the Marvel Universe on its side', you have to do THE WHOLE MARVEL UNIVERSE. If one stray bullet is going to turn Steve Rogers into Iron Man, Peter Parker into the Hulk, Bruce Banner into Spider-Man and keep the Fantastic Four from ever existing... well... that's a lot of weight to pile onto one small piece of high velocity heavy metal, granted. But I say, KEEP PILING. I want to see this supposedly minor change eventually effect everything and everyone in the entire damn universe, or, at least, on the entire damn Marvel Earth.
Otherwise, it's very much like you're saying "Well, yeah, sure, Captain America and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, they're important. If you fuck with their origins, make a bunch of them not exist and seriously screw with the others, that's going to have an impact, yes. But... you know... not on everything. Especially not on, um, THE NEW X-MEN. Because they're too good to be in any way changed by something as trivial and stupid as Captain America and the Fantastic Four never existing and Peter Parker and Bruce Banner trading super-identities."
And, once again, my forebrain is up on its hindlegs chanting "bullSHIT bullSHIT bullSHIT". Because there is just no way I'm going to swallow that nonsense.
And, you know, my so-called mind, in its endlessly mysterious ways, kicks out alternate timelines the way horses shit on an uphill slope. So, here's MY rather more fully fleshed out timeline for Marvel's BULLET POINTS universe --
Strange is eventually assigned to Operation: FURY, a top secret project hidden in Canada where an immortal soldier from WWII has volunteered to have his bones fused with admantium
Professor Charles Xavier is led by his first, experimental Cerebro machine to New York City's bowery, where he discovers a homeless mutant who has winged feet, pointed ears, the ability to fly, bulletproof skin, and superhuman strength that is somehow tied to a dependency on immersion in water -- this mutant agrees to accept training and therapy from Xavier, in hopes of recovering his memory -- these two become a team, and their adventures soon lead them to the American Southwest, where they unearth the inert body of the world's first android, the ironically named Human Torch -- the Torch's revival causes the homeless mutant to remember that he is Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner -- the Torch, Namor, and Charles Xavier form a group called 'the New Invaders', whose specific purpose is to foil threats to world peace originating outside America's borders
A teenaged Sam Wilson pushes an old woman out of the path of a speeding truck and is blinded when a piece of radioactive waste from the truck strikes him across the eyes -- when his parents are later killed by crime related violence, Wilson will take on the guise of Daredevil and declare war on Harlem's underworld --
A young Scott Summers, having fallen under the criminal influence of the mutant Jack o'Diamonds, finds his mutant powers manifesting as he and his evil mentor are being attacked by a rival underworld gang, led by a man named "The Fixer". Summers and Jack O'Diamonds easily destroy their attackers using Summers' new, largely uncontrolled optic blasts. Now responsible for several mostly inadvertent murders, Summers becomes a hardened criminal --
With The Fixer's gang destroyed, "Battlin" Jack Murdock takes the heavyweight title of the world -- his son Matt Murdock goes on to excel in his studies and join the Air Force, where he eventually enters astronaut training with NASA – his superior sense of spatial relationships coupled with his own brash nature quickly earn him the nickname of "Hotshot" --
At Cape Canaveral , Lt. Carol Danvers has encountered and foiled several alien infiltration plots – when top secret long range sensors discover what seems to be an alien base on the moon, she volunteers for an exploratory expedition commanded by Colonel John Jameson, using a redesigned Richards rocket engine -- others in this expeditionary crew are Air Force pilot turned astronaut Matt Murdock and young math genius and Air Force Lt. Hank McCoy, who is secretly a mutant -- passing through cosmic radiation belts during the journey, all four are mutated (or further mutated), with Matt "Hotshot" Murdock gaining power over fire and the ability to transform into a walking humanoid fireball, McCoy transforming into a monstrous black furred superstrong Beast with incredible agility and regenerative powers, Lt. Danvers gaining the ability to manipulate an invisible particle field allowing various effects (including high velocity flight while encased in an indestructible, friction proof forcefield) and Col Jameson himself gaining the power to stretch his body to a near infinite degree – the expedition reaches the moon and discovers the "Blue Area" along with a Kree outpost there, which they manage to destroy – returning to Earth, they are hailed by the press as "the Fantastic Four" and led by John "Mr. Fantastic" Jameson, become the U.S. military's front line force against unEarthly threats
In the Soviet Union, Project: воин олова("Tin Soldier") has been ongoing since the mid 1940s, attempting to create a working duplicate of America's Iron Man armor – Dr. Erik Magnus is in charge. Magnus is using the project as cover for his private, covert activities searching out fellow mutants he can dominate/enslave and use to conquer the world. When Tin Soldier hits an snag, Magnus arranges to have visiting biophysicist Henry Pym and his East German wife Maria kidnapped so Pym can be forced to work on the project – Pym combines his own cybernetic and size control breakthroughs with Russian 'Tin Soldier' tech to create a prototype 'Soldier Ant' battlesuit that will only function in miniature size – he is killed attempting to break himself and his wife out – his wife, Maria Pym, dons the 'Soldier Ant' battlesuit and wreaks havoc on the Tin Soldier compound before escaping – back in the U.S., she vows to carry on her husband's work and to use his technology to fight crime and aid the oppressed as Soldier Ant –
Soldier Ant soon encounters Misty Knight while Misty is still going through the police academy – Misty asks Soldier Ant if she can become her partner; Soldier Ant uses Pym size change technology to create the superhero identity 'Giantess' for Misty – the two become a crime-fighting team
When Vernon van Dyne is murdered by an alien outlaw, his teenage daughter Janet becomes obsessed with avenging her father's murder. She devotes herself to a rigorous physical and mental training process and utilizing her newly inherited wealth as well as her father's self invented alien detection technology, she equips herself to hunt down her father's murderer and kill him. Having done so, she equips herself further with alien technology confiscated from her father's murderer, and vows to devote her life to avenging the innocent as The Punisher (a name she chooses from something her father's killer calls her as he is dying, referring to an alien legend)
When newly graduated medical students Don Blake and Jane Foster accidentally stumble on an alien invasion fleet hidden in Northern Europe, they flee into a cavern, where a cave-in kills Blake and breaks Foster's leg – she finds an old stick and upon accidentally striking it against a stone she is attempting to shift, she is transformed into a female version of Thor – she escapes the cavern, foils the aliens, and returns to the U.S. where she continues to occasionally battle evil as Thor –
Odin assigns Loki to test this new female 'Thor' -- Loki uses his powers to make a circus strongman named 'Crusher' Creel into The Absorbing Man – Creel runs amok at the circus – Jane Foster is watching, and turns into Thor to battle Creel – also in the audience are Maria Pym and Misty Knight, who become Soldier Ant and Giantess to aid Thor – working as performers in the circus are Clint Barton, along with Wanda and Pietro Magnus – all six working together are barely capable of defeating The Absorbing Man, and upon doing so, decide to form a permanent team called The Avengers
After Mordo proves incapable of protecting Earth's dimension from Dormammu, the Ancient One seeks a more effective disciple to eventually become Earth's sorcerer supreme – sensing enormous latent power to manipulate reality in a young American named Rick Jones, the Ancient One recruits Jones – eventually, Jones becomes a Master of the Mystic Arts and, on the death of the Ancient One years later at the hands of Shuma-Gorath, succeeds to the post of Sorcerer Supreme
When Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – Cyclops, Jack o'Diamonds, Mastermind, the Blob, and the Toad – attack Cape Canaveral, it is the Fantastic Four who drive them off
When Victor Von Doom nearly succeeds at hurling SHIELD headquarters into the sun, SHIELD Director Reed Richards works with Tony Stark to design a giant, flying 'helicarrier' to use as a mobile HQ for SHIELD from that point on – upon having his plan foiled by Richards and Stark, Doom kills Baron Strucker and replaces him with a lifelike robot duplicate, which Doom then uses to control HYDRA by proxy -- thus begins a decades long conflict between Doom/HYDRA and Richards/SHIELD
That should cover most of the early Silver Age, at least, and with that level of change to the MU (no Cap, a military FF, Tony Stark and Dr. Strange are civilians, Hank Pym and Don Blake dead, Reed Richards is running SHIELD, Nick Fury is basically Wolverine, Magneto is working for the Soviet Union when he isn't moonlighting as a world beater, Rick Jones as Sorcerer Supreme, Charles Xavier, Namor, and the original Human Torch adventuring together, etc, etc) it seems to me that virtually every other character and concept we know of in the Marvel Universe would have to also be distorted in some way by the effect of that original stray bullet.
I'd ask people to tell me what they think, but, well, this is one of those entries that nobody but me ever reads, so... y'know...