Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (feature)

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Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965)
Cover art by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
FormatOngoing series
Publication date1965–1968
No. of issues34
Main character(s)Nick Fury
Creative team
Created byStan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jim Steranko
Written byStan Lee
Dennis O'Neil
Roy Thomas
Jim Steranko
Penciller(s)Jack Kirby
John Severin
Don Heck
Howard Purcell
John Buscema
Jim Steranko
Inker(s)Dick Ayers
Joe Sinnott
Frank Giacoia
Mike Espostito
Ogden Whitney
Letterer(s)Artie Simek
Sam Rosen
Editor(s)Stan Lee

"Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." was a feature in the comics anthology Strange Tales which began in 1965 and lasted until 1968. It introduced the fictional spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. into the Marvel Comics world and reintroduced the character of Nick Fury as an older character from his concurrently-running series Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, which was a series set during World War II. The feature replaced the previously running Human Torch feature in the book and ran alongside the Doctor Strange feature. After the feature ended, a comic book series was published which has had several volumes as well as a comic strip. The feature was originally created by the duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who also created the original Sgt. Fury series but it was later taken over by artist and writer Jim Steranko. The feature was often censored by the Comics Code Authority due to Jim Steranko's provocative art; this art helped change the landscape of comics which Steranko continued with in the 1968 ongoing series. Much of Nick Fury's supporting cast originated in the feature and many of the devices used by these characters were often used in other comics published by Marvel.

Background[edit]

Nick Fury debuted in May 1963, in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos; a World War II themed comic which followed Sgt. Nick Fury and his fellow soldiers on various missions against agents of Nazi Germany. Sgt. Fury was an immediate hit for Marvel and the character was incorporated into the greater Marvel Universe in Fantastic Four #21, by the end of 1963. Seeing the commercial success of the character, Stan Lee decided to create a second Nick Fury series to run concurrently with the World War II-centric Sgt Fury. Fury, who was a plain-clothed secret agent with an eye patch over one of his eyes in his Fantastic Four guest appearance, would be turned into a secret agent in his new contemporary series: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Publication history[edit]

Seen here in Strange Tales #168 (May 1968) Valentina Allegra de Fontaine's back side under the yellow belt has been completely blacked out, removing any lines to denote her cheeks that were in the original artwork by Steranko.

Under Lee and Kirby[edit]

Strange Tales #135 (Aug 1965) had the first 12-page story featuring S.H.I.E.L.D. and the terrorist organization HYDRA[1] with Nick Fury, now a superspy instead of a soldier as in most of his previous appearances. This was to take advantage of the contemporary The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond fad.[2] Written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, with Kirby also providing the artwork, it introduced many iconic features of the Marvel Comics universe.[3] Kirby and Lee created the Helicarrier and the Life Model Decoys, which became trademark gadgets and recurring plot devices for almost all future Nick Fury stories. The debut cover was drawn by Kirby and Frank Giacoia.

Under Steranko[edit]

"Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." was taken over by Jim Steranko in issue #155 (April 1967), who had previously done penciling and coloring for the feature beginning in Strange Tales #151 (Dec. 1966).[4] Steranko was an innovative new talent that emerged at Marvel during the late 1960s, as he helped revolutionize the look of the comic book page with his "pop" artwork.[5] Steranko pioneered art movements of the day such as and op art psychedelia in the comic, built on the longtime work of Kirby with photomontage, and created comics' first four-page spread[6] – this also was inspired by Kirby, who in the Golden Age of comics had introduced the first full-page and double-page spreads. Steranko's plotlines involved adult intrigue, sexuality that was barely hidden away from the page, and hip sci-fi that was in vogue at the time of psychedelics in the 1960s. He also created his own version of the Bond girls, essentially, in skintight leather, pushing what was allowed under the Comics Code at the time. The Comics Code Authority demanded several panels in one landmark issue be to redrawn and censored.[7] Many times during his run on the feature, his art was censored, especially on the female characters. Nick Fury's love interest La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine often had line and coloring removed from the art on her body to decrease buttocks or cleavage, many times with the cleavage lines erased altogether. In one story, her buttocks were completely blanked in the published issue.[8] "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." was the first Strange Tales feature to receive its own cover logo below the main title with Strange Tales #150 (Nov. 1966).[9]

Prints[edit]

Strange Tales releases[edit]

Issue
(Cover Date)
Story title Writers Pencillers Inkers Notes
1 #135
(August 1965)
The Man For the Job Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby Dick Ayers First appearance of Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage and Law-Enforcement Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.), Hydra, the Helicarrier, and Life Model Decoys
2 #136
(September 1965)
Find Fury or Die! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
John Severin
John Severin
3 #137
(October 1965)
The Prize Is... Earth! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
John Severin
John Severin Dum Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones join S.H.I.E.L.D.
4 #138
(November 1965)
Sometimes the Good Guys Lose! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
John Severin
John Severin
5 #139
(December 1965)
The Brave Die Hard! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Joe Sinnott
Joe Sinnott
6 #140
(January 1966)
The End of HYDRA Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Don Heck
Joe Sinnott
7 #141
(February 1966)
Operation: Brain Blast! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby Frank Giacoia
8 #142
(March 1966)
Who Strikes at --- S.H.I.E.L.D.? Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby Mike Esposito
9 #143
(April 1966)
To Free a Brain Slave! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Howard Purcell
Mike Esposito
10 #144
(May 1966)
The Day of the Druid! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Howard Purcell
Mike Esposito First appearance of Jasper Sitwell
11 #145
(June 1966)
Lo! The Eggs Shall Hatch! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Don Heck
Mike Esposito
12 #146
(July 1966)
When the Unliving Strike! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Don Heck
Mike Esposito First appearance of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.)
13 #147
(August 1966)
The Enemy Within! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Don Heck
Dick Ayers
14 #148
(September 1966)
Death Before Dishonor! Jack Kirby Jack Kirby
Don Heck
Don Heck
15 #149
(October 1966)
The End of A.I.M.! Dennis O'Neil
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Ogden Whitney
Ogden Whitney
16 #150
(November 1966)
Hydra Lives! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
John Buscema
Frank Giacoia
17 #151
(December 1966)
Overkill! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Jim Steranko
Jim Steranko First issue drawn by Jim Steranko
18 #152
(January 1967)
The Power of SHIELD! Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Jim Steranko
Jim Steranko
19 #153
(February 1967)
The Hiding Place! Roy Thomas
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Jim Steranko
Jim Steranko
20 #154
(March 1967)
Beware...The Deadly Dreadnought! Jim Steranko
Roy Thomas
Jim Steranko Jim Steranko First issue plotted by Jim Steranko
21 #155
(April 1967)
Death Trap! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko First issue written, penciled, and inked entirely by Jim Steranko
22 #156
(May 1967)
The Tribunal! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko
23 #157
(June 1967)
Crisis! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko
24 #158
(July 1967)
Final Encounter! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko
25 #159
(August 1967)
Spy School Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko First appearance of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Guest appearance by Captain America
26 #160
(September 1967)
Project: Blackout, Part 1 Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Return of Jimmy Woo. Guest appearance by Captain America
27 #161
(October 1967)
Project: Blackout! Part II - The Second Doom Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Guest appearance by Captain America
28 #162
(November 1967)
So Evil, the Night! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Frank Giacoia Guest appearance by Captain America
29 #163
(December 1967)
And the Dragon Cried... Death! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Frank Giacoia First appearance of Clay Quartermain
30 #164
(January 1968)
Beware...The Deadly Dreadnought! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Bill Everett
31 #165
(February 1968)
Behold the Savage Sky! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Frank Giacoia
32 #166
(March 1968)
If Death Be My Destiny! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Joe Sinnott
33 #167
(April 1968)
Armageddon! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Joe Sinnott Four-page spread
34 #168
(May 1968)
Today Earth Died! Jim Steranko Jim Steranko Joe Sinnott

Collected editions[edit]

  • Son of Origins of Marvel Comics includes "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." story from Strange Tales #135, 249 pages, October 1975, ISBN 978-0-671-22166-9
  • Marvel Masterworks: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Vol. 1 collects Strange Tales #135–153, Tales of Suspense #78, and Fantastic Four #21, 288 pages, September 2007, ISBN 978-0-7851-2686-7
    • Vol. 2 collects Strange Tales #154–168 and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1–3, 272 pages, December 2009, ISBN 978-0-7851-3503-6

Reception[edit]

Steranko won Alley Awards in 1968 in the categories of "Best Pencil Artist" and "Best Feature Story" for "Today Earth Died" in Strange Tales #168.[10]

Writer Steven Ringgenberg assessed that "Steranko's Marvel work became a benchmark of '60s pop culture, combining the traditional comic book art styles of Wally Wood and Jack Kirby with the surrealism of Richard Powers and Salvador Dalí. Steeped in cinematic techniques picked up from that medium's masters, Jim synthesized ... an approach different from anything being done in mainstream comics."[11]

Entertainment Weekly observed that Steranko "elevated 12-cent rags into modern art, with mature themes and storytelling innovations that attacked the page and stripped it of its strictly formatted structure."[12]

In 2017, The Slings & Arrows Graphic Novel Guide praised Steranko's art, stating "He was the first Marvel era artist to step definitively away from Kirby’s shorthand dynamics, introducing greater delicacy, and a view of the comic page as a single entity as well as a progression of panels." The same review continued that "The writing is never as imaginative, Fury all too often relying on some amazing device to extricate himself from his James Bond influenced predicaments."[13]

Sales[edit]

  • 1965: Strange Tales was the 53rd best-selling comic book series in the United States with an average of 230,285 copies sold per issue.[14]
  • 1966: Strange Tales was the 36th best-selling comic book series in the United States with an average of 261,069 copies sold per issue.[15]
  • 1967: Strange Tales was the 45th best-selling comic book series in the United States with an average of 241,561 copies sold per issue.[16]
  • 1968: Strange Tales was the 32nd best-selling comic book series in the United States with an average of 266,422 copies sold per issue. This includes sales of the series after the title changed to Doctor Strange as of issue #169 (June 1968).[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ DeFalco, Tom; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1960s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 109. ISBN 978-0756641238. This issue [#135] was also the first time readers met SHIELD's evil counterpart HYDRA, a subversive organization dedicated to world domination.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Markstein, Don (2004). "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on August 31, 2015. Marvel Comics always ready to jump on any bandwagon that might sell comic books, responded to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from A.U.N.T.I.E., etc., with an initialized spy agency of its own.
  3. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 109: "With Jack Kirby providing the artwork and more than a few wild ideas, Fury was made the director of the Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division (SHIELD)."
  4. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 130: "Writer/artist Jim Steranko had begun to draw the 'Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD' [feature] in Strange Tales #151 and started writing it four issues later."
  5. ^ Daniels, Les (1991). Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 144. ISBN 9780810938212. Perhaps the most innovative new talent to emerge at Marvel during the late 1960s was Jim Steranko, whose bold innovations in graphics, layout, and design startled the readers... Steranko transformed the look of the comic book page.
  6. ^ Hine, David (December 20, 2011). "Steranko! Part 2 - The World's First 4-Page Spread". Waiting For Trade. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018. Strange Tales #67 appeared and Steranko gave me another of those spine-tingling moments when I realized I was looking at the first 4-page spread in the history of comics.
  7. ^ Ross, Jonathan (July 20, 2010). "Jonathan Ross meets Jim Steranko, his comic-book hero". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. Archived from the original on February 22, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2013. His work on his first hit book, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, took the wildly popular Bond secret-agent schtick and gave it a jazzy makeover, with outlandish plots, eye-popping visuals and even 'adult themes' that had the Comics Code Authority demanding several panels in one landmark issue be redrawn.
  8. ^ Cronin, Brian (August 6, 2009). "Comic Book Legends Revealed #219". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017.
  9. ^ Marvel "Bullpen Bulletins": "Sensational Secrets and Incredible Inside Information Guilelessly Guaranteed to Avail You Naught!", in Tales of Suspense #83 (Nov. 1966) and other Marvel comics that month
  10. ^ "1968 Alley Awards". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015.
  11. ^ Ringgenberg, Steven (Spring 1989). "A Life Long Love Affair with the Pop Culture Pin Up!". Betty Pages Magazine (4). Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Via TheDrawingsOfSteranko.com
  12. ^ Labrecque, Jeff (July 31, 2014). "The Infinitely Incredible, Impossible Life of Jim Steranko". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018.
  13. ^ Verhoven, Karl (2017). "S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko: The Complete Collection". The Slings & Arrows Graphic Novel Guide. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018.
  14. ^ Miller, John Jackson (n.d.). "Comic Book Sales Figures for 1965 - Average Total Paid Circulation as Reported in Publishers' Statements of Ownership and Filed with the United States Postal Service". Comichron.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018. This list includes only those titles which offered subscriptions via the USPS Second or Periodical Class, and which published their sales reports in their titles.
  15. ^ Miller, John Jackson (n.d.). "Comic Book Sales Figures for 1966 - Average Total Paid Circulation as Reported in Publishers' Statements of Ownership and Filed with the United States Postal Service". Comichron.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018.
  16. ^ Miller, John Jackson (n.d.). "Comic Book Sales Figures for 1967 - Average Total Paid Circulation as Reported in Publishers' Statements of Ownership and Filed with the United States Postal Service". Comichron.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018.
  17. ^ Miller, John Jackson (n.d.). "Comic Book Sales Figures for 1968 - Average Total Paid Circulation as Reported in Publishers' Statements of Ownership and Filed with the United States Postal Service". Comichron.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018.

External links[edit]