Due to the nature of the Sliding Timescale in the Marvel Universe, there are numerous references to current events, public figures, and technological advances that given the time of their publications should be considered topical references instead of canonical/historical references. The "Modern Age" of Earth-616 is roughly about 14-15 years old as of the year 2015, however the publication of this era has spanned sixty years. As such certain references greatly age the cast of characters if taken literally.
For example, Fantastic Four #98 depicts a story wherein the Fantastic Four assist the first American lunar landing on the Moon, which happened on July 21, 1969. This would be considered a topical reference. References to this story in Marvel's various Official Handbooks usually no longer specify that this is the Apollo 1 mission, just a "NASA mission to the moon". Whereas, the story in Marvel: The Lost Generation #6 that features the First Line saving the Apollo mission from the Skrulls would be considered canonical in the Marvel Universe as it took place in the year 1969 of Earth-616.
In the year 2001 the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center was featured heavily in Marvel Publications at the time and was the center of a story in Amazing Spider-Man Vol 2 #36. While this story was topical when the comic was originally published in 2001, the Sliding Timescale has since moved forward making the destruction of the original twin towers a topical reference in the context of that story. As of 2015, the sliding timescale dictates that all appearances of the Twin Towers at the WTC site are now topical as the "Marvel Time" dictates the modern age has lasted 14 years.
Another example is the Human Torch and Thing's encounter with the Beatles in Strange Tales #130. The story was originally published in 1965 during the height of the Beatles popularity. This would be considered a topical reference as the Torch and Thing are considered modern age characters.
One of the most common topical reference made in the Earth-616 universe are appearances by the President of the United States. In many stories a president is usually depicted as having their face obscured, or back turned, and are not referenced by name. However, in many other publications the president is fully depicted, and named. For example, appearances of Richard Nixon in Incredible Hulk #119, Gerald Ford in Incredible Hulk #185 and even Barack Obama in Amazing Spider-Man #583 should be considered topical as they all appeared in stories that took place in the "Modern era". Alternatively, stories featuring Franklin Delano Roosevelt that take place during during his presidency should be considered historical to Earth-616 as it took place around World War II and the stories that feature him are considered part of Earth-616's wartime history. The various presidents that were featured in the series Marvel: The Lost Generation Vol 1 would also be considered to be historical appearances. Publications have existed long enough where some appearances of US presidents are considered topical, or in continuity depending on when they were published and the time the story was framed. For example, John F. Kennedy appeared in Fantastic Four #17, in a story that is set in the modern age. Based on that point of reference, Kennedy's appearance as the current President should be considered topical. Whereas his appearances in Captain America Vol 5 #50, Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1 and others take place during times when Kennedy was alive and actively involved in US politics.
The only individuals that are exempt from becoming topical references are Marvel Comics creators who make appearances in various stories. For example Marvel Comics forefathers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby both make an appearance in Fantastic Four #10. The pair have made regular appearances in Marvel publications over the years. All current editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe identify them by name when recounting their interactions with characters in the Marvel Universe. As such one should always consider appearances of Marvel creators like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, and John Byrne to be considered factual as opposed to topical. Their Earth-616 counterparts all make their appearances in their prime, and age according to the Sliding Timescale.
(See Also: Sliding Timescale)
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