Friday, November 4, 2011

Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Among the popular fads of the mid-60's were Science-Fiction, Superheroes, and SPIES.  James Bond!  Danger Man! The Avengers! The Man From U.N.C.L.E.! The Wild, Wild West! Get Smart!!!  Well, sooner or later comics were gonna come up with their own, and as usual, Jack Kirby could take just about any idea or genre and do it BETTER.   

SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS had been around since May'63, the manic wildman leading that pack of yahoos bearing a rather strong resemblance to Ralph Meeker, who had played a number of "unstable army types" in his career.  Fans asked, "What happened to Sgt. Fury after World War Two?"  With the Dec'63 issue of FANTASTIC FOUR, they got their answer... he'd become a Colonel in the C.I.A.!  Some narrow-minded fans have suggested that "revealing" Nick survived the war somehow destroyed any sense of "suspense" in his series, but I think that's nonsense.  Anyone who tunes in STAR TREK hoping to see Jim Kirk bite the big one is watching for all the wrong reasons.

In the wake of GOLDFINGER (released in December 1964), the spy fad became THE big thing of 1965.  A mere 6 months later, the Aug'65 issue of STRANGE TALES, Marvel debuted their "answer" to THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.  But while Napoleon Solo was TV's answer to Bond (handsome, suave, tuxuedo wearing, a real ladies' man), S.H.I.E.L.D. got Nick Fury (Marvel's answer to The Tazmanian Devil-- heehee).  Oh, sure, he'd CALMED DOWN a bit since The Big One-- he even wore the occasional suit (no doubt when he was ordered to).  But while U.N.C.L.E. fought THRUSH, an international crime cartel (and TV's answer to S.P.E.C.T.R.E.-- what IS it wish all these acronyms?), S.H.I.E.L.D. fought Hydra-- who, despite their elaborate hoods, robes, rituals and sci-fi weaponry, were notably NOT a crime cartel, but instead a barely-disguised NEO-NAZI terrorist organization!!!  These guys were not out for mere profit, or even power, they were out to finish the job Adolph Hitler started!

If there's a down side to the early run of NICK FURY, it's that, apart from 3 episodes (in ST #135, 141 & 142), Jack's art was reduced to only layouts, with pencils supplied by others-- and a rotating roster of others to boot.  The quality varied drastically from fabulous to absolutely dire, but the sheer, aggressive inconsistency of it is no doubt why the run was not as highly thought of as it deserved to be.  After all, what many fans overlooked was the fact that Jack Kirby plotted the entire thing 100% on his own. But further, in my own re-reading of 60's Marvels, I've come to feel that Stan Lee did some of his FINEST dialogue work on the series, along with DR. STRANGE, in the same magazine.  In my mind, the later run by Jim Steranko may have had flashier art, but the earier run had MUCH better storytelling, AND dialogue.

Oh yeah... and it also had some FABULOUS covers.  And here's the initial batch, all lovingly, painstakingly "restored" by yours truly.  You WON'T find most of these at any other site.  ENJOY!

STRANGE TALES 135  /  art by Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia   (August 1965)
art by Jack Kirby & Mike Esposito (and Steve Dtko)   (September 1965)
  (Some linework recreated by Henry Kujawa-- 
the coloring was so dark, it made it impossible to see.)

art by JOHN SEVERIN (and Steve Ditko)   (October 1965)

STRANGE TALES 138  /  art by Jack Kirby & John Severin   (November 1965)

art by Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott (and Marie Severin)   (December 1965)

STRANGE TALES 139  /  fantasy version by Henry Kujawa /
art by Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott   (December 1965)

STRANGE TALES 140  /  art by Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott   (January 1966)

STRANGE TALES 141  /  art by Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia   (February 1966)

STRANGE TALES 142  /  art by Jack Kirby & Mike Esposito   (March 1966)

STRANGE TALES 143  /  art by Jack Kirby & Mike Esposito   (April 1966)
STRANGE TALES 144  /  art by Jack Kirby & Mike Esposito   (May 1966)
More as I go!

Now here's a little oddball item for you.  On the left is the image of ST 136 I found at, showing what their current recolored reprint looks like.  On the right is a scan of the actual INKS I found at Comic Art Fans, which I then colored, based on the ORIGINAL printing.  I'm setting them up here side-by-side so you can see just how INACCURATE the "official" reprint version is!  In the early 60's, Stan Goldberg colored virtually every comic Marvel published, and did an INCREDIBLE job on the covers.  I think it's a shame that, to this day, Marvel doesn't seem interested in even trying to accurately reproduce the work he did.

Check out the differences.  No blue haze behind Fury's face, no 2nd skin tone, the green & purple are too light, no 2nd green, no "highlight" on the bird, no 2nd gray, no background on the corner box, no red in the gutter between panels.  Sheesh.  And maybe the blue on that "trap" at the bottom looks better than the original purple, but it's not "accurate".

Oh yeah, and in case anyone's wondering about the Ralph Meeker reference...

Artwork (C) Marvel Comics
Scans from my collection
Restorations by Henry R. Kujawa


  1. Ralph Meeker would have made a great Nick Fury. I love his turn as Mike about cold, blunt instrument kind of guy!

  2. Meeker was there where Darren McGavin (ANOTHER Mike Hammer!) drove the stake into that vampire in the movie THE NIGHT STALKER.