Nicholas Joseph Fury is an iconic Marvel character often credited as being one of the best super recruiters in the universe. Not only does he recruit heroes, but he often serves as the middle man between super heroes and international governing bodies. Over countless story lines since his inception, Fury has assembled some pretty stellar teams of heroes to fight for humanity and protect our world as we know it. However, what else do you know about this international man of mystery? Yes, that Bond reference was intentional as the character was loosely inspired by the success of the British secret agent on screen. Heck, even the early Fury’s love of cigars was inspired by his artist the acclaimed Jack Kirby. Nick Fury has gone through some pretty noticeable changes over the years (i.e. his race, his job, his “powers,” etc…), but a few characteristics usually hold true: He never quits, doesn’t play well with others, and always has a plan.
History: As noted, Nick Fury has gone through a few changes since his first appearance in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. This iconic appearance took place in 1963 during WWII as Fury with his band of soldiers known for their loud battle cry fought throughout Europe. Although Fury and his men are often penned in U.S. Army attire, they did fight for other countries at times, perhaps most notably for Winston Churchill. If you are curious, yes, Fury did occasionally fight alongside Captain America and Bucky Barnes. Aside from his early ties with the government and its use of Captain America, another important event happened to Fury: He loses his eye in a grenade explosion. (Note: The story of how such injury occurred has changed with Marvel’s reinvention of the character over the years.) A few years after Fury’s first appearance, Stan Lee saw the market for wartime stories begin its decline, so Fury’s arc transitioned into the role of a secret agent for the CIA. In this new role, he notably recruits other agents and soldiers to help with missions. Most notably, he is responsible for recruiting the infamous Richard and Mary Parker (i.e. Spider-Man’s parents), and, subsequently, can be somewhat blamed for their murder at the hands of HYDRA. Fury’s stint with the CIA is easily overshadowed with his most notable position within S.H.I.E.L.D. and serving in the instrumental role of organizing the Avengers Initiative. As many are aware, the organization has disbanded several times in the comics for one reason or another, but Fury’s ties with the highly secretive group are almost always revived.
His Image: It’s not often that an iconic character becomes more noticeable as time goes on, but in Nick Fury’s case, one could argue that his new image will forever solidify his presence in the Marvelverse. Originally fashioned as a young white male chomping a cigar while barking orders at a group of unconventional soldiers, the new Fury is a more elusive black super spy working in a more selfless manner. It is often thought that Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of Nick Fury is one of the most accurate of all the heroes in the MCU. It’s cool to consider that Fury’s character underwent this historic change in 2001 when Jackson was reportedly used as inspiration for the character’s new image, which was seven years before he took the role for the post-credit scene in Iron Man.
Is he a super hero? One of the best parts about comics and super heroes is the debates that ensue based on powers and abilities. Much like Black Widow and Hawkeye, some are quick to question Nick Fury’s place in Marvel lore. Does he have super powers? Let me give my stance. Aside from being firearm and combat expert, Fury is a highly intelligent covert operative. He has an extensive knowledge of people and places, and he is a master of manipulation and disguise. What makes him different than any other agent is his use of the Infinity Formula. The Infinity Formula is a serum that halts or slows aging, so the effects of time do not negatively affect him. Even though some storylines downplay the serum’s ability to keep him youthful and suggest he actually uses LMDs to appear the same age, many would agree that his age is authentically altered by the serum. A wild card argument—so to speak—can be based on Fury’s role in the more recent Original Sin and Secret Wars story lines where he does take on the moniker of The Unseen. Without diving into too much backstory, Fury assumes the duties of Uatu the Watcher, so he can view and observe parallel universes and timelines. (The Watcher literally just watches all events from the moon and occasionally gives information to heroes. Although such power comes with rules of the Watchers, you can see he finds some loopholes. Regardless, Fury’s new role reveals some big secrets, and I am one to think those secrets make him more of a super hero. Again, sorry for the vague recital, but it is a series you have to read for full effect.
Is he an antihero? Some side with the belief that Fury isn’t a true hero, but, instead, he resembles more of an antihero or minor villain. I can see the argument for him being an antihero, but the villainous side of him is never prolonged. The Ultimate version of Fury (i.e. Jackson’s persona) has more antihero qualities based on his S.H.I.E.L.D. ties when compared to the original Lee/Kirby Fury, but the character’s motives have largely remained the same: protecting the United States/Earth. One antihero argument can be his use of Life Model Decoys (LMDs). Most fans dog on Tony Stark for creating Ultron, but Fury has some experience owning and operating some questionable AI. S.H.I.E.L.D. created LMDs, which are robotic clones with the ability to function just as their subject, to carry out dangerous missions and protect our heroes. LMDs do cause some problems in the comics, and Fury is notorious for having a lot of them represent him. We know S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the most ethical governing body, and when you are the head of it, those blemishes are tied to your character. For instance, he actively looks for ways to create weapons of mass instruction with the “strike first” mentality. When most think of a hero, the thought of handing out gruesome deaths really doesn’t mesh with the stereotypical portrayal of those deemed just and good. Nick Fury has a checkered past in such regard, and some of his more intense moments are not for the faint of heart. The character has admitting to using methods like mass destruction and torture to push agendas.
Despite his mysterious persona, Nick Fury is a very relatable character in all Marvel universes. I am really curious if the MCU will bring closure to Fury’s eye accident in Captain Marvel, and if so, the origin of such injury will likely be new. Samuel L. Jackson is a fantastic actor, and his abilities have made the character more likeable than any of the comics books ever did. Could you imagine someone else playing Nick Fury? Well, don’t forget David Hasselhoff portrayed him in the late ‘90s and was rather offended when the MCU didn’t bring him on. To laugh further at the notion of anyone but Jackson playing Fury, George Clooney reportedly rejected the role prior to Marvel awarding it to Jackson. We’ll never know how that would have worked, but I am rather glad that didn’t happen.