For Your Eyes Only: The Secret History of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Secret History of S.H.I.E.L.D.With the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the horizon, I wanted to take a look back at the history of the organization and its’ key players, to better give us an idea of the things we might expect in the upcoming series.

Sgt_Fury_Howling_Commandos_No._1

Marvel Comics Published May 10, 1963. Cover Artist: Jack Kirby

Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos:

Though Nick Fury is now synonymous with being Executive Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.,  it is also worth noting that he was once a soldier in World War II. Issue #1 of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos (1963) presented a younger Nick Fury with the title of Sgt. in the U.S. Army leading a group of rough and ready soldiers (known as the First Attack Squad) on special missions in Europe during the second World War. Since Fury was a NCO, and not yet in charge of the whole of a military organization he reported to his superior, Captain “Happy Sam” Sawyer.

We became familiar with a cinematic version of The Howling Commandos in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, they were unaccompanied by Nick Fury. The movie version of the team was led by Steve Rogers, with Bucky Barnes acting as second in command. Other Marvel films have connected certain dots from Fury to Howard Stark to Captain America, although there seems to be no proof that the film version of Nick Fury was alive during the super soldier project worked on by Howard Stark. Hopefully we’ll get to see the commandos return in flashback and maybe even include modern iterations of them.

Strange_Tales_Vol_1_135

Marvel Comics Published August 10, 1965. Cover Artist: Jack Kirby

Origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1940s & 1960s:

First introduced in Strange Tales 135 (1965), S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted as a fully fleshed out organization presided over by an eye-patched Nick Fury, now sporting the rank of Colonel. Fury’s adventures no longer resembled the gritty war stories of World War II, instead he traded his Army fatigues for a suit and tie. The switch from “two-fisted tales” style stories to more espionage driven fare is the result of Dr. No. appearing on the silver screen in 1962 and sending the world into a spy-fi frenzy. The United States was also in Cold War with the Soviet Union and the S.H.I.E.L.D. stories definitely reflected the times. in the world of the comics, Nick Fury is credited with conceiving of S.H.I.E.L.D. before shelving the idea only to have it resurrected by the United Nations. During this time period S.H.I.E.L.D. existed as an covert operation which occasionally crosses the line into military actions. Though Fury is Executive Director of the organization (he second ever recruited to the position), he reports to a board of twelve members who’s identities are secret to him.

In the Marvel cinematic universe we’ve seen Fury reporting to his board, but we haven’t yet the concrete information as to how exactly S.H.I.E.L.D.  got it’s start. We can presume that the organization began as an extension of the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), the same team that gave Steve Rogers his abilities. However, early reviews and reporting have confirmed that the Agent Carter short film attached to the forthcoming Iron Man Blu-Ray will shed some light on the birth of S.H.I.E.L.D. HINT: It has something to do with the duo of Agent Carter and Howard Stark. Maybe Agent Carter is S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘s first Executive Director, with Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury being her successor.

infinity

Marvel Comics Published December, 1976. Marvel Spotlight #31 Penciler: Howard Chaykin

The Infinity Serum:

At the end of World War II, Nick Fury is severely injured by a land mine, and is taken into the care of French scientist Dr. Berthold Sternberg and used as a guinea pig for a drug known as the “Infinity Formula”. The formula saves Fury’s life and has the added effect of slowing down his aging. Unfortunately, Fury has to take one dose of the drug every year, or his aging will catch up to him and he will die. This piece of information explains how Fury manages to stay relatively young and fir even after being a WWII veteran still doing field work into the 21st century.

In Iron Man 2, we learn that Nick Fury knew Tony Stark’s father, Howard. While it is not unbelievable that Nick Fury would have been alive in the 1960s, (due to actor Samuel L. Jackson having been born in 1948), it is entirely unlikely that he would have been old enough to do field work unless he was aging slower than a normal human. Though not explicitly stated, it is likely that the movie Nick Fury is having his aging process stunted by some means. In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Nick Fury is a WWII soldier who is kidnapped and forcibly experimented on in the Super Soldier Program. This event gave Ultimate Nick Fury enhanced strength and slowed aging.

Scorpio

Marvel Comics Published June, 1968 Cover Artist: Jim Steranko

Scorpio and The Zodiac:

First appearing Strange Tales #159, super villain terrorist known as Scorpio oversees the terrorist organization known as Zodiac. Zodiac, as well as HYDRA serve as a foil organization for Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. Zodiac is populated by twelve people, each modeled on a different zodiac sign. As with most super villain groups their goals are to run the world by using murder and criminal enterprises to do so. It is later revealed that Scorpio, Zodiac’s acting leader, is actually Jake Fury, Nick Fury’s brother. The revelation and destruction of Scorpio was revealed to also be a long term play by Nick Fury and resulted in the LMD program, which enables S.H.I.E.L.D.  to produce android decoys of it’s members.

Captain America: The First Avenger shows SSR and OSS soldiers and agents fighting the scion Nazi organization known as HYDRA. Since Nick Fury’s integration into the history of the Marvel CInematic Universe is unknown at this point, HYDRA seems to be the only opposition organization mentioned. However, the Agent Carter short, shows a post-war OSS running up against a criminal enterprise known as Zodiac.

decoys

Marvel Comics Published August, 1965. Strange Tales #135. Penciler: Jack Kirby

Life Model Decoys:

Life Model Decoys are part of the vast technology that S.H.I.E.L.D. has at its disposal. These android copies are made to look and act as real people and are often used to infiltrate criminal organizations as well as draw fire away from key agents. Nick Fury has employed LMDs on a number of occasions as they are shandy tool for characters (and writers) to explain some of the resurrections in the Marvel universe. LMDs are meant to perfectly mimic their intended originals in every possible way, including thought patterns (in case any nosey telepaths are around).

LMD was mentioned off-handedly in the Marvel universe by Tony Stark who was trying to avoid Agent Coulson. This offhanded remark could set the ground work for explaining why Agent Coulson avoided death. Perhaps Stark Industries had something to do with it?

This has been your insight into the internal machinations and history of the organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. This message will self destruct in five seconds…

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Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com