Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Maria Hill escorted me though the corridors of the helli-copter. She has a short tight black hairdo and an even tighter blue body suit. I resist the temptation to look at her butt. I fully realize that she can pick me up and slam me into the wall if I show anything that remotely resembles disrespect. She comes to a door with a brass pluck on it that reads Director. “The Colonel will see you now.”
I am surprised she uses the term colonell rather than director to describe Nick Fury the head of SHEILD, but I don’t have time to think about it for long as the door opens itself and I am ushered in. I am expecting to see huge bald black man in a trench coat with an eye patch. Instead I see a middle aged guy with dark hair that is white at the temples, wearing a blue jump suit with an eye patch.
I guess the shock shows on my face. “You were expecting someone else.” He says in a gruff voice. I was about to apologize when he waves a hand at me, then bids me to set. “Don’t worry I am not offended I get this all the time. You were thinking the Ultimate Universe version of me, where I am the 616 Universe Nick.”
As I take my seat I ask. “What is the 616 Universe?”
“It is basically the original Marvel Universe starting with captain America Issue number one. Think of it as the primary universe for all things Marvel.” He explains.
“And how do you fit in to this world?” I ask.
He smiles. “Where does Momma Fury’s little boy fit in the scheme of things?” He laughs a laugh that could be either charming or a threat depending on context. “Well my pops was a world War One ace. I joined the army during the Second World War rose to the rank of Sargent. Lead an elite team called The Howling Commandos. Served with an OSS scantest named reed Richards who would latter lead the Fantastic Four. I then joined the CIA, until we found out how dangerous super powered villains could be. So we formed an organization called SHIELD, to combat them. Eventually I became the director of SHIELD. Wounded I was given some immortality serum to save my life so I keep my youthful boyish good looks. My look is based on dean Martin by the way.”
“OK, that is your history but what is your history as a character?” I ask.
He rubs his chin and the replies. “Well I started out in the World War Two comic Sgt. Fury and his Howling commandos. Published for the first time in 1963, it was basically a Sgt. Rock rip off…yeah I can say that now…It went 120 original issues plus reprints of over 40 of the originals. In 1965 I was moved to Strange Tales as a super spy fighting a terrorist organization called Hydra. It was basically in response to the success of the TV show Man from UNCLE. Eventually I became a pillar of the Marvel 616 ‘verse.”
“So what is the Ultimate Universe?”
“Well a lot had happened since the sixties, so instead of rebooting the entire Universe like DC did Marvel created a new universe, starting in 2000. To give the world a new modern prospective.”
“And this is where we get the idea of you being an African American?” I ask.
“Yes, they based it on Samuel L. Jackson. The my original version doesn’t look a bit like Sam. But by 2002, I was looking like Mr. Jackson, they even lampshade this in the comic itself when the Ulitmates are talking about who should play them in a movie, I say “Mr. Samuel L. Jackson of course, no discussion.” They didn’t ask Sam if they could use his likeness, he didn’t know a thing about it until after he read the comic book and asked Marvel that he play me in any future movies.”
“What is your opinion of the character Nick fury being an African American?” I ask.
He shrugs. “It shows the shows the appeal of the character, basically white or black doesn’t matter. It is still me. A few chanters can do that Such as Michael Clarke Duncan’s portrayal of King Pin or making Falcon the New captain America.”
“Marvel has always been sensitive to racial issues.” I say.
“As much as the market allows.” Fury agrees with me. “They started out with having back ground characters that were of color, like doctors and policemen. It may seem trivial now but in the sixties it was a big deal that Peter Parker went to an integrated school. Eventually making African Americans heroes in their own right like Storm and Bishop.”
“What other versions of Nick Fury are there?” I ask.
“A whole bunch,” he explains. “In a Marvel world set in 1602, I am Queen Elizabeth’s top man, Deadpool goes to a world where it is the old west and I am a frontier sheriff. I get munched in Marvel Zombies but give out the order to shut down the zombie’s access to the rest of the multiverse. In the Max universe I am a cigar smoking prostitute chasing drunk vet with PST. Then there is a world where I am Nick Furry an one eyed bear and another one where I am an ape…lest said about those versions the better.”
“Probably best. ”I agree. “But you got to talk about the Hoff.” I urge.
Nick almost blushes. “Yes David Hasselhoff played me in a 1998 made for TV movie. Back then Marvel didn’t realize who much money there was to be made by movie adaptations so they weren’t too picky about they put out there. And yes it was cheap and cheesy, But Stan Lee himself said that the Hoff nailed my essence and did a superb job.”
“I think it is fair to say you wouldn’t be the person you are without Jim Steranko, could you tell me a bit about him?”
Nick nods. “Steranko, who would latter have a show in the Louvre, is an artist, who to pay the bills also worked as an escape artist. The way he tells it, he walked in to Marvel with his portfolio and wrangles and interview with Stan Lee. “Who said I don’t have a place for you but I can’t pass up on a talent like you”, so he took him to a rack full of the Marvel titles at the time and let him pick whichever one he wanted. Steranko chose the worse selling title Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD.” Nick laughed at this point.
“Up till this time Marvel didn’t know how to produce a Bond Like spy comic. He revolutionized the title. He added motion and pop art into the comic. There is this scene where I have to get through a maze to the bad guy’s lair. But the page itself was a maze you had to turn it on its side to read it. He started another comic out with the first pages completely wordless, just action. No one did that back then. In fact Marvel was going to only pay him for seventeen out twenty pages because they said it had no story. But it did have a story just no words. Well Steranko threaten to throw some editors off the top of the building and he got his full pay.” Again Fury laughs out loud.
“But Steranko ran afoul with The Comics Code Authority, over a phone being off the hook, what was that about?” I ask.
Again he laughs. “OK, so after a hard job me and my lady friend Valentina de Fontaine, and so we didn’t get interrupted so we took the phone off the hook, and the Comics Code Authority said it was too much innuendo so the panel was pulled. In all unlike most comic book characters I don’t have a problem with the Code, it was a self-governing authority as oppose to regulation from an outside agency.”
“So what do you think about espionage comics in general?” I ask.
He frowns. “At the best it is a niche market. Queen and Country which is arguably the best real world spy comic ran eighty issues and three novels. Spyboy a few dozen and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang only four. There is more a place for espionage n the greater superhero worlds. If you are going to say that yo0u have governments and corporations in them then there is a need for spies and covert ops.”
“One of the thing that comes up with the Phase two movies like Captain America: The Winter Solider, and the TV show Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is the question whether or not SHIELD is good or bad? How do you feel about that?”
He clears his throat and says. “SHIELD is symbolic for the government, it like governments can become corrupted. But if the people in the organization stay true to their beliefs then and but their beliefs before the agency the good will always rise to the top.”
I am about to ask another question when a siren goes off. Nick rises and checks his trusty .45. “Sorry Dave but I got to go save the world form itself…Again.”