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Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Fury first appeared in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (1963), a World War II-based title that portrayed the cigar-chomping Fury as leader of an elite army unit.
A modern day Fury, a CIA agent, debuted a few months later and, in Strange Tales #135 (1965), the character was completely transformed into a suave, James Bond-like spy and leading agent of the fictional espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Although artistically influential, the series Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. did not outlast the 1960s and subsequent Fury series have been sporadic and unremarkable.
In the Marvel Universe, Nicholas Joseph Fury is the eldest of three children. He was probably born in the late 1910s to mid 1920s, grew up in the NYC neighbourhood known as Hell's Kitchen, and was an amateur boxer, a good skill to have in a tough neighbourhood. He was a good friend to Red Hargrove, and the two of them eventually left the neighbourhood to pursue their dreams of adventure, eventually settling on a daring wing-walking act.
Their death-defying stunts caught the attention of Lt. Samuel "Happy Sam" Sawyer, who enlisted them for a special mission in Holland. The two later joined the United States Army. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Imperial Japanese Navy ambushed the base on 7 December 1941; Red Hargrove was among the many killed in the attack.
Lt. Sawyer, now a captain, assigned Fury the command of the First Attack Squad, the "Howling Commandos," a band of rip-snorting commandos who were assigned the most dangerous missions of the European theatre. The Howling Commandos consisted of Corporal Thaddeus Aloysius Cadwallander "Dum Dum" Dugan, Private Gabriel Jones (the first black man to serve in a white unit), Private Reb "Rebel" Ralston, Private Dino Manelli (modelled after Dean Martin), Private Eric Koenig (a German defector), Private Izzy Cohen (the first Jewish comic book hero), and Private "Junior" Juniper (killed in action, replaced with Private Percival "Pinky" Pinkerton).
The adventures of Nick Fury and the First Attack Squad were brought to life in the pages of Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos, in which the unit fought the likes of the Red Skull (Hitler's bellboy turned supervillain), Baron Strucker, the first Baron Zemo, and many other Axis villains. They also fought alongside Captain America and Bucky in issue #13, and Reed Richards (later Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four) in issue #3. The series lasted for 120 issues before going into reprints (the last original story, #120, was published in 1974). After 47 reprint issues, the series finally ended in 1981. The series ran concurrently with another Marvel World War II book, Captain Savage & his Leatherneck Raiders.
At the end of the war in Europe, Fury was severely injured by a landmine in France, and was found and healed by a Berthold Sternberg. Professor Sternberg used him as a test subject for his "Infinity Formula," and he made a full recovery.
Nick Fury worked for the OSS after the war, gathering intelligence in Korea. Six months into his service, he learned the extent of Sternberg's life-saving operation: the Infinity Formula retarded his aging, and if he didn't receive annual doses of the Infinity Formula, he would age rapidly and die. The good doctor began a thirty-year period of extorting large sums of money from Fury in exchange for the Infinity Formula. The formula, the extortion, and the eventual end of said extortion was detailed in 1976's Marvel Spotlight #31: "Assignment: the Infinity Formula."
Fury was sent to the CIA as an espionage agent, gathering information in Korea, where he earned a battlefield promotion to Colonel. The CIA used him as a liaison to various super-powered groups that began appearing popping up in the 1960s, including the Fantastic Four. The modern day, CIA-employed Fury first appeared in The Fantastic Four #21.
During his time with the CIA, Fury began wearing his trademark eyepatch. Various reasons have been attributed to this.
In Strange Tales #135, Nick Fury jumped genres from two-fisted war hero to a James Bond-esque Cold War spy, and Marvel introduced Colonel Nick Fury (and Marvel readers) to S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division), the Marvel Universe's top-notch spy agency, and HYDRA (despite the capitalization, it is not an acronym), an international terrorist organization created by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
Fury's new adventures were detailed in Strange Tales #135-168, and then he got his own series: Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., written and pencilled by Jim Steranko, known for his surrealist artwork. Unfortunately, this series only lasted 15 issues before it was cancelled.
Fury continued to make appearances in the other Marvel books, from Fantastic Four to The Avengers. In 1972, Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos celebrated their 100th issue with a reunion of the Commandos, sponsored by Stan Lee and the creative team behind the title (Stan Lee has made several appearances within the Marvel Universe, breaking the fourth wall, as it were).
In 1988, Marvel produced the six-issue Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries, following it up with a second Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. In 1991, Marvel changed S.H.I.E.L.D. to stand for "Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage and Logistics Directorate" (the acronym still made no sense). A pivotal event of the second series was "the Deltite Affair," where S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were replaced with Life Model Decoy androids. The second series lasted 47 issues, ending in 1993 (some say it went out with a whimper), and the two books made controversial changes to the character of Nick Fury, as well as killing then-General Happy Sam Sawyer and resurrecting (again) Baron von Strucker.
In 1994, the Fury one-shot retroactively changed ("retconned") the events of Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. and the second Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series into a series of events designed to distract Fury from von Strucker's resurrection plans. Also in 1994, Howard Chaykin wrote the four-issue Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. limited series, considered much better than most of the second Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
In the 1995 "Over the Edge" crossover, the Punisher is captured and sent to a maximum-security facility with a S.H.I.E.L.D. escort. During a hypnosis session with Doc Samson , Spook interrupts and has the Punisher conditioned to believe that Nick Fury was responsible for his family's murder. He escapes the facility after a Mafia attack and goes after Fury. At the climax of the storyline, the Punisher kills Nick Fury, who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
However, in the Fury/Agent 13 two-issue limited series, it is revealed/retconned that the Nick Fury that the Punisher "killed" was a highly-advanced Life Model Decoy designed by Tony Stark (Iron Man), and that Fury was never dead.
Different versions of Nick Fury, not part of the regular Marvel Universe, have appeared from time to time, including:
- In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, General Nick Fury is a significant figure. (He is also African-American; the character is modelled after Samuel L. Jackson.)
- The Fury miniseries under the Marvel MAX imprint imagined a world where Fury was a burned-out Cold War vet unable to cope with the modern world.
- In the 1996 Marvel/DC Amalgam comic Bruce Wayne: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury appeared as a retired army colonel alongside General Frank Rock.
- In the miniseries 1602 Nick Fury appears as Sir Nicholas Fury, Queen Elizabeth I's chief of intelligence. His character was modeled after Elizabeth's real life spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham.
Movies & Television
David Hasselhoff portrayed Fury in a 1998 Nick Fury TV movie. Phillip Abbot did Fury's voice in the 1994 Spider-Man and Iron Man animated series, Jim Byrnes did Fury's voice in the X-Men: Evolution animated series, and Mark Gibbion did Fury's voice in Spider-Man Unlimited .
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