S.H.I.E.L.D.: 'The Avengers' Organization Bio

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S.H.I.E.L.D.: 'The Avengers' Organization Bio

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Marvel/Paramount Pictures' 'The Avengers' - 2012

During the 1960s, spies like James Bond were as cool as superheroes. That's one likely reason why Marvel Comics created S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division), an organization designed to fight terrorism on a global level.

With a few notable changes, this extra-government agency has been pulling the strings in Marvel's cinematic universe, including the upcoming adventure "The Avengers."

S.H.I.E.L.D's Origin Story

Making its debut in "Strange Tales" issue 135 in 1965, S.H.I.E.L.D. was originally formed to deal with Hydra, an organization trying to take over the world. The founders and the executive board remain shrouded in secrecy, but Nick Fury has been the best known face of the agency. Recommended by Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man), Fury became the second executive director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

For nearly 50 years, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, a hybrid vehicle combining the best elements of a helicopter and an aircraft carrier, has been a familiar sight across countless issues of Marvel Comics. Fury has interacted with the superheroes of this expansive universe, most notably the Fantastic Four and Iron Man.

S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Comics

More than a decade ago, Marvel's "Ultimate" line of comics reimagined familiar characters and organizations for younger readers. In this universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention Logistics Directorate) seems to be in the business of creating superhero teams, in particular the Ultimates.

While the heroes in the mainstream Marvel universe came together to battle Loki on their own, much has been said about the "Avengers Initiative." Based on the trailers and after-credits tags in other Marvel movies, Fury is the force behind bringing Captain America, the Hulk, and other heroes together to one team. Whether or not the Avengers act as a separate division or report directly to Fury remains to be seen.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Power

In the 1960s and 1970s, Marvel Comics added some futuristic technology to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s arsenal of high-tech weapons and jumpsuits, including the L.M.D. (Life-Model Decoy). An L.M.D. was an artificial duplicate of a human used to distract agents of Hydra and other criminals.

In the mainstream Marvel universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. has offices and agents operating in countries all over the world. The Ultimate version of the organization is operated by the U.S. government, which leads to conflicts when the agency interferes in foreign affairs.

S.H.I.E.L.D. in "The Avengers," Marvel Films

For the current crop of films taking place in the Marvel Universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division." Along with head honcho Nick Fury, several major characters introduced so far have a strong connection to S.H.I.E.L.D., either overtly or covertly.

In "Iron Man 2," Fury reveals that Natalie Rushman (a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff) is really Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson), a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative assigned to observe Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) while working as his personal assistant.

As shown in 2011's "Thor," Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner) also works for S.H.I.E.L.D. While a depowered Thor was trying to retrieve his mystic hammer, Hawkeye was taking orders directly from S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). The famed archer did admit to Coulson, though, that he was starting to admire the way the erstwhile God of Thunder handled himself.

The aforementioned Agent Coulson has become an essential link between the other Marvel Studios movies and "The Avengers." He first appeared in the original "Iron Man" movie, asking both Tony Stark and his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) for details about Stark's escape from a terrorist cell in Afghanistan.

Coulson provided a cover story that first originated in the comics, namely that Iron Man is Stark's bodyguard. Stark instead chose to go public with his secret identity, though.

Clark Gregg's role in the Marvel movies has expanded since 2008. In "Iron Man 2," Agent Coulson is assigned, along with the Black Widow, to stay close to Stark. In one scene, Coulson and Stark are shown handling a replica of Captain America's signature shield. In the tag after the credits, the S.H.I.E.L.D agent also is on hand when Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, is uncovered.

Agent Coulson now acts as Fury's right hand man in the field. "The Avengers" trailer released during the Super Bowl shows Coulson standing next to Thor in what appears to be the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. The agent's role seems to have expanded into that of a liaison/handler for the superhero team.

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