Wednesday, August 29, 2012


ABC has announced a new TV series based on Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. with episodes written by Avengers-director Joss Wheden,

Before I can talk about SHIELD (I'm going to drop the periods from now on) I need to backtrack to Goldfinger. This was possibly the most influential movie of the 1960s. It was actually the third James Bond movie but this is the one that really made an impact. For years afterwards spies, often laden with high-tech gadgets, were popular on TV and in movies. There was even a popular sub-genre of parodies of spy movies (for example, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine). TV series included the Man from UNCLE, the Woman from UNCLE, Get Smart (another parody), and British imports Secret Agent, The Avengers (Steed and Mrs. Peel), and even The Prisoner.

1965 was a big year for Marvel. Stan shook up a lot of titles. Some changes were minor - Reed and Sue got married, Daredevil switched his yellow and black costume for the red one. Other changes were larger - the Avengers replaced most of its members, the Hulk became intelligent (for a while). At the time, Marvel had two comics that featured two stories. Tales to Astonish was split between Giant-Man and the Hulk while Strange Tales was split between the Human Torch and the Thing as the lead feature and Doctor Strange as the backup. The first feature in these comics was replaced with a new one. The Sub-Mariner took over Tales to Astonish and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD took over Strange Tales.

Fury had been around for years as a World War Two sergeant leading the Howling Commandos. Stan billed this as a "war comic for people who don't like war comics." Fury was known for losing both his temper and his shirt.

Early on Stan decided that the Howling Commandos occupied the same word as his superheroes. Reed Richards made an appearance in an early issue of Sgt. Fury (and Captain America appeared in another issue). Fury appeared in an issue of the Fantastic Four as a major.

Rather than create a new character, Stan and Jack Kirby reused Fury. He lost an eye but gained a promotion to Colonel. In the first issue, Fury was recruited as the director of the new organization. It also introduced LMDs (Life Model Decoys), flying cars, and the helicarrier.

Secret governmental organizations exist to fight shadowy groups that are trying to take over the world. In Fury's case the original organization was called Hydra. After this was disrupted, Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) became the new threat. Others followed and Hydra reappeared a few times.

Even though it was part of the Marvel Universe, Fury and SHIELD were kept separate from it. Tony Stark appeared a few times but without armor. Captain America was the only costumed hero to appear.

Jack Kirby was the original artist but he was soon replaced by comics legend Jim Steranko who made his reputation from his run on the comic. Steranko eventually took over as writer, also, becoming the first fan-favorite writer/artist. He combined a clean, photo-realistic style with psychedelic touches and unusual layouts. He left after the 5th issue although he still did some covers. The new team could not maintain the quality of the Steranko issues.

After three years Strange Tales was split into solo comics. It only lasted 15 issues before it was cancelled (it actually went to #18 but the last three were reprints from Strange Tales).

That was not the end of SHIELD. Fury and company became regular guest starts. After Captain America began dating a SHIELD agent he spent some time as sort of a SHIELD consultant. When Godzilla was given a comic book, a branch of SHIELD was assigned to destroy him.

Over the years Fury has become a mainstay of the Marvel Universe. He is the eternal warrior, always there to do the right thing no matter what the cost.

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