Top 10: Things to Appear in the SHIELD TV Series by Jerry Whitworth
Announced last year, Marvel Television went into production on a SHIELD television series created by Avengers director Joss Whedon (known for television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly). Featuring SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson (portrayed by actor Clark Gregg and appearing in four feature Marvel films and two short films), the series focuses on the intelligence agency SHIELD, a counter-terrorism unit based out of the United States that battles high-level terrorist cells, superhuman and advanced technological threats, and alien invasions (essentially, whatever conventional agencies are ill-equipped to handle on their own). Coulson, head of field operations, mans a team of five main operatives which the series focuses on and who will fight on the Earth’s behalf in the weekly series set to air on the ABC network with filming on the pilot beginning in January 2013. No word as yet if elements of the Marvel One-Shots short films, such as characters like Jasper Sitwell, Agent Blake, Benny Pollack, and Claire Wise, will arise. Lets take a look at some of the things we expect in the series.
10. REAL WORLD RELEVANCE
Though based in the fictional world of Marvel Comics, SHIELD should at some level reflect some of the climate of the real world walking a fine line like so many other series working within a similar tone. As some souped-up version of the FBI, ATF, CIA, NSA, and so on and so forth, SHIELD should have to deal with issues like politicians wanting to exploit the agency for their own means, foreign powers trying to take advantage of the remarkable advents in the modern age (super powers, advanced technology, magic, aliens, etc), political pressure such as in “the mutant problem,” some fictional analogy of Guantanamo Bay, and rival intelligence agencies in the vein of the GRU, Mossad, and MSS (in the comics, Canada has Department K and Britain has MI-13, for example). Fictional places like Atlantis, Latveria, Attilan, Savage Land, Mount Wundagore, and the Aerie should be locations either mentioned in passing as a wink and a nod to fans or areas to be explored in the series (for some of these places, how would SHIELD act at the emergence of these places as they arise or what political issues come from their interaction with the United States). Characters like Henry Gyrich, Senator Robert Kelly, Reverend William Stryker, Cameron Hodge, Bolivar Trask, and Valerie Cooper are just some of the elements that could be part of some of the driving forces in the series. A demonstration of agency interaction could be how will the Hulkbusters react as Bruce Banner is provided an umbrella from them under the protection of SHIELD? And what of other international threats like AIM and the Hand, how does SHIELD deal with them?
Mentioned in passing by Tony Stark in the Avengers film, the Life Model Decoy (LMD) has been a long employed tool by SHIELD since their inception in 1965. The LMD is an android designed to perfectly mimic the person its modeled after and has been used repeatedly as a swerve to readers to make them believe SHIELD personnel and those they protect were killed only to prove to be a deception. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems thus far fans have been given all the big SHIELD advents except the LMDs so it’s certainly something comic fans will look forward to and something that will drive new fans crazy (imagine seeing this character you’ve come to love get killed only to show up several episodes later for the first time).
While SHIELD stalwarts like Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, and Maria Hill have made their cinematic appearances (with Sharon Carter set to appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), fans have been left to wonder where Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine has been. Created by Jim Steranko during his legendary Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. run, the Contessa was Fury’s love interest and epitomized sex, beauty, and fashion while rivaling Fury in every way. Deadly, ingenious, and unflappable, the Contessa is one of Fury’s closest confidantes and one of the greatest agents to ever operate under SHIELD. As the main cast for SHIELD has already been put together with likely cameos by Fury and Hill, it’s unlikely the Contessa would be a reoccurring cast member but instead an infrequent guest star appearing when her talents would be needed most (teaching viewers that when she appears, something big is about to happen).
While SHIELD operates under the support of NATO and is a global entity, the Marvel Universe nonetheless has and likely always will revolve around New York (so much so, it’s almost a character unto itself that crosses over many of the publisher’s titles). As such, it only makes sense that while the television series trots around the Earth that its heart remain in New York (akin to to the series Fringe and its relationship with Boston). So, landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Tribute in Light, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Coney Island, Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium, Staten Island Ferry, Grand Central Terminal, Madison Square Garden, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bronx Zoo, Empire Diner, Washington Square Arch, Gray’s Papaya, South Street Seaport, Katz’s Delicatessen, Ray’s Pizza(s), and more should pop up to hit this point home (in much the same way such locales appeared in Marvel Comics). But even more so, eagle eye fans will love to keep their eyes open for New York locales unique to Marvel like the Daily Bugle building, Stark Tower, Four Freedoms Plaza, Sanctum Sanctorum, and Empire State University.
A criminal organization based on the astrological zodiac, Zodiac operates throughout the United States and initially came into conflict with SHIELD when member Scorpio attempted to assassinate Nick Fury with the magical artifact Zodiac Key, this operative later revealed as Fury’s brother Jake. The pair would overtime impersonate each other in their enemy’s organizations on separate occasions (at one point Nick Fury in the guise of Scorpio battled the Avengers). Scorpio would eventually build android duplicates of his comrades to serve as his own personal Zodiac but was defeated by the Defenders and would take his own life. Zodiac would return infrequently over the years battling the various heroes of Marvel.
Even though SHIELD will focus on the men and women who battle the impossible with only their training and advanced technology, if it’s a series based on Marvel Comics, it has got to have some superheroes in it. While some properties are tied up elsewhere (Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Punisher, Wolverine, X-Men, and Fantastic Four) and it’s unlikely the stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe will make appearances (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk), there are plenty of Marvel characters that could make the transition. Though, I purposely left out Hawkeye and Black Widow from not making possible appearances because they are SHIELD agents and could very well make cameos in the show considering they lack feature films based on their characters (the TV series providing some heat for the characters and the capability to give background into their history). Further, characters like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange who have upcoming films could very well make guest appearances in the show as some advertisement for their features. But more on point, imagine an episode where a SHIELD agent gets super powers and becomes someone like Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Falcon, Quasar, Daisy Johnson, or Abigail Brand. There is also, of course, Deathlok who was a SHIELD agent returned to life as a cyborg (at least in one incarnation). Or, simply have SHIELD agents come across a hero during the course of their duties, someone like Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Daughters of the Dragon, White Tiger, Doc Samson, Shroud, Ka-Zar, or Man-Thing. A rather cool guest star could see Sticky Fingaz return to star as Blade the Vampire Hunter from the character’s television series.
Arguably more important than superheroes to the series, supervillains need to appear in the show. Otherwise, the SHIELD series wouldn’t feel like it was based in the Marvel universe. Perhaps the easiest way to achieve this is to have a SHIELD agent go bad. And with characters like Constrictor and Taskmaster retroactively made to be SHIELD agents, the series certainly has some stories to work with already. Otherwise, they need to tackle villains that are unlikely to emerge in the films (especially from Sony and Fox). Some viable candidates would be the Hood and his criminal empire, Roxxon Energy Corporation, Lethal Legion, Serpent Society, Night Shift, Justin Hammer’s army of villains, and Graviton would provides dozens of criminals that are unlikely to emerge in any of the films.
If you’re going to have supervillains, you have to have a prison to put them in. The Vault was created in 1986 as the first prison designed specifically for superhuman criminals (though, Project PEGASUS predates it and served a similar function) and is a remote facility in Colorado operated by the Guardsmen (guards who use Iron Man-based technology, which could open the door for SHIELD’s Mandroids). The Vault (and, for that matter, facilities like Project PEGASUS and the Raft prison that came later) went through several snafus where villains took the prison over and where heroes were trapped inside which provided really interesting stories that could easily be adapted for the SHIELD series. Further, repairs of the facility after a breakout could be a great avenue to introduce Damage Control (a service that cleans up and rebuilds after superhero/villain battles) which, rumor had it, were at one point examined for a possible television series.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemingly gravitating towards more cosmic stories with the Nine Worlds (Midgard, Asgard, Jotunheim, Svartalfheim, etc), Chitauri, Thanos, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, it only makes sense that the issue of aliens would arise in the SHIELD series. While fans are not as in the know regarding the future of the films, there’s a strong possibility the next Avengers film could adapt the fan-favorite Kree-Skrull War (likely with elements of Secret Invasion) storyline so elements of the story could be built up in the SHIELD series as the Skrulls begin to infiltrate Earth as the Kree tackle Earth with an armed response. Though, it can be tricky with Marvel properties at other studios where showrunners may want to have the Negative Zone invade Earth but Annihilus and Blastaar could be tied to Fantastic Four. Of course, not all aliens have to be the starship sporting kind as SHIELD could deal with magic invaders like from Dormammu, Shuma-Gorath, Nightmare, N’astirh, etc. So, there’s definitely a large breadth of possibilities.
If you’re going to have a SHIELD series, you have to have their greatest threat: the terrorist organization HYDRA. Introduced in the cinematic universe in Captain America: The First Avenger, HYDRA was a research and development arm of the Third Reich headed up by the Red Skull that extensively researched the cosmic cube (Tesseract). In the comics, Nazi criminal Baron Von Strucker founded HYDRA following the end of World War II under the premise of perpetuating Hitler’s doctrine but in reality as Strucker’s personal bid for power. SHIELD largely mirrored HYDRA having grown out of the ashes of WWII to become an entity only to instead prevent the emergence of another threat like the Third Reich. Some other elements of HYDRA include the Satan Claw (an ancient artifact of great power wielded by Strucker), Madame Hydra (the assassin Viper who was HYDRA’s greatest agent and who later took over the Serpent Society), Fenris (twin mutant children of Strucker), Death Spore Virus (a deadly virus obtained by HYDRA that bonded to Baron Strucker giving him the power to return from death and kill with a touch), and the Dreadnoughts (android soldiers). Further, often has HYDRA struck alliances with other villainous organizations like the Hand, Maggia, and AIM opening the door to many possibilities.