For nearly 50 years, Nick Fury has been a comic book hero, starring in two self-titled books plus countless crossovers into other Marvel Comics titles. He is also emerging as a driving force in the cinematic Marvel Studios universe, including a key role in the upcoming "The Avengers" movie.
Nick Fury's Origin Story
As Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four ushered in a new comic book era, Marvel unleashed "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos" (cover date May 1963), an adventure series set during World War II. "Seven Against the Nazis," the inaugural story, introduces Fury as he leads a rescue squad of soldiers with such colorful names as "Dum Dum" Dugan and Dino Manelli. The references to the upcoming D-Day invasion set the timeframe of this story near June 6, 1944.
In the late 1960s, the soldier-turned-spy was recruited by Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) to become head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division). First published in 1968, "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." shows Fury recruiting many of his old teammates, including the aforementioned Dum-Dum Dugan, to fight terrorism on a global scale.
Nick Fury in the Comics
Over a decade ago, Marvel released a line of "Ultimate" comic books featuring trademark characters reimagined for a new generation. Andrew Garfield's interpretation of Peter Parker, for instance, in the upcoming "Amazing Spider-Man" movie is closer to the Ultimate version of that hero.
First appearing in "Ultimate Marvel Team-Up" #5 in 2001, the reimagined Nick Fury is more cloaked in shadows than his World War II-era counterpart. Where the cigar-chomping incarnation was a fairly open book, the Ultimate Fury keeps his cards close to the vest, revealing only certain details about his military service and his true intentions.
Nick Fury's Superpowers
Even with Marvel Comics' un-aging characters -- Mr. Fantastic really should be pushing 90 at this point -- Nick Fury's still-youthful appearance has been attributed to the Infinity Formula, a serum administered by Professor Berthold Sternberg to save his life during World War II. The formula dramatically slows the aging process, but Fury must receive booster shots each year or revert to his true age.
Thanks to the Infinity Formula, Fury has 70 years of military training and service plus the endurance and appearance of a much younger man. In the original World War II stories and his subsequent adventures in the intelligence community, Fury has demonstrated expertise with various weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat.
In the Ultimate Universe, Fury's longevity has been closely linked to the Super Soldier Formula that transformed Steve Rogers into a nearly perfect human being. Retellings of the Captain America origin story show that research and development of the formula has continued into modern times.
Nick Fury in "The Avengers," Marvel Films
Moviegoers who stayed through the credits of "Iron Man," "Thor," and other recent films based on characters from Marvel Comics saw teaser footage of Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) talking about the "Avengers Initiative." Jackson's interpretation of Nick Fury also is more aligned with the Ultimate universe, especially his portrayal as a shadowy mentor who helps bring together the heroes who will form the core of the Avengers team.
When he faces a cosmically-powered threat, Fury recruits Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man to lead the Avengers, a superhero team tasked with saving the world -- if they can stop bickering long enough.
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