S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) was an international peacekeeping, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism agency sanctioned by the United Nations. They are led by a director who reports to the World Security Council made up of members from various nations. Founded to combat technologically advanced threats on world security (specifically the menace of Hydra), they remained throughout the years on the front lines, fighting terrorism, supernatural threats and extraterrestrial menaces as an international intelligence agency.
In 1960, American business and weapons manufacturer Howard Stark, a member and agent of the Brotherhood of the Shield, started elaborating the idea of a secret counter-terrorism espionage organization devoted to protect the world from several worldwide threats, recording his own thoughts and purposes to leave them as a legacy to his adopted son Anthony.
Stark eventually proposed his plans about the organization to a group of U.S. Government officials, who decided to officially start Project: S.H.I.E.L.D., even considering C.I.A. agent Colonel Nick Fury for the position of Executive Director.
Sponsored by the U.S. Government, the United Nations and Stark Industries, Howard Stark's organization was then formed as Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-enforcement Division, abbreviated S.H.I.E.L.D., although C.I.A. agent Colonel Rick Stoner was ultimately selected as the agency's first Executive Director. S.H.I.E.L.D. first concentrated itself to counter the menace of Hydra, a secret terrorist organization led by former Nazi officer Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
The very existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. was made public in 1965 when its Director, Rick Stoner, was apparently killed by some Hydra operatives, resulting in the selection of a replacement. Nick Fury was then nominated as the agency's public Executive Director, reporting only to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Executive Council, composed by politicians and businessman from several states and countries.
As director, Colonel Fury took a very active hand in S.H.I.E.L.D. operations, often going into the field himself on their most important missions. Supporting him, aside from the thousands of rank-and-file S.H.I.E.L.D. agents working around the world, were a core group of capable officers. Fury's aide-de-camp was the man who had filled the same function for his Howling Commandos in World War II, the boisterous Timothy 'Dum Dum' Dugan. Another ex-Howler joined S.H.I.E.L.D. in the person of Gabe Jones, whose presence had made the Howlers the Army's first racially integrated unit. There was also the by-the-books Jasper Sitwell, who balanced and sometimes clashed with the more emotional members of the command staff. The brilliant Sidney 'The Gaffer' Levine acted as head of Research & Development, designing many high-tech specialty gadgets to supplement the weapons and vehicles provided by Stark Enterprises. Later, Laura Brown, the daughter of the Imperial Hydra, defected from Hydra to join S.H.I.E.L.D.. Jimmy Woo, hero of clashes with the villainous Yellow Claw, served as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s FBI liaison agent. Clay Quartermain was a resident 'pretty boy' super-agent. La Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine ('Val' to her friends), a member of the European jet-set, proved to be equally skilled, as well as one of Fury's lovers. Another prominent member was Sharon Carter (Agent 13), a frequent partner and eventual lover of Captain America.
The equipment of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been at least as distinctive as its membership. A series of flying fortresses invariably known as the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier served as the mobile headquarters of the organization. Other vehicles such as hoverfliers, flying cars and tunneling vehicles rounded out S.H.I.E.L.D.'s vehicle complement. Agents carried a variety of personal gear as well. Fury's weapon of choice was a 300-round .15 caliber pistol specially designed to fire explosive-tipped needles. Tear gas boutonnieres, explosive shirts, rear-view periscope hats, camera-phone watches, jetpacks, cigars laced with various chemical compounds (including flash bombs), and other tools of the spy trade insured that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents always had access to the right equipment. One of the most distinctive inventions of The Gaffer was the Life-Model Decoy (LMD), an extremely lifelike android designed to emulate the behavior of a specific individual, usually used to replace someone in danger of being killed. During the Cold War S.H.I.E.L.D. also maintained a large headquarters in New York City, as well as other bases in every major city in the Western world, and hidden outposts in many Communist countries.
Various specialized teams of agents have been utilized, such as the Psi Division and Super Agents. At one time, S.H.I.E.L.D. had command over an incarnation of the Hulkbusters. Throughout the years, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have left the service to perform acts both heroic and villainous. Some went rogue, such as Mentallo, becoming threats to society. Others, like Quasar, joined the superhero community. Since the early days, S.H.I.E.L.D., through Fury, has maintained close ties to groups like the Avengers and Fantastic Four, and with individuals like Captain America, Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), and Wolverine, ensuring that a capable and varied pool of special operatives were readily available. That said, S.H.I.E.L.D. often came into conflict with members of the superhero community who worked through less than legal means or against government aims. Fury's friendships with many superheroes conflicted with his duties in these cases.
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s main enemy, Hydra, continued to be a threat throughout Nick Fury's first years as director. It became apparent that Fury's old wartime foe, Baron von Strucker, had become the new Supreme Hydra, with plans to to menace the world with a deadly biological weapon. Fury took the fight to the enemy stronghold, Hydra Island, turning this weapon on its makers.
When Godzilla was freely roaming the earth, a task force under Dum Dum Dugan's command, the Godzilla Squad, set forth to capture him. They used a smaller version of the Helicarrier called the Behemoth, as well as a giant robot called Red Ronin, before Godzilla disappeared into the Atlantic.
Another great threat was formed as a result of a lapse in S.H.I.E.L.D. security, when the supervillain Scorpio, actually Fury's brother Jake, stole the LMD technology to create the second team of villains called the Zodiac.
The first dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D. occurred in the wake of a wide-scale infiltration of the agency, again involving LMDs. In this case, a group of LMDs attained sentience, infiltrating both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, replacing key members of both before being defeated by Fury and an impromptu force of allies.
The reorganized S.H.I.E.L.D. was backed by the United Nations, with the acronym now standing for 'Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate'. Shortly after, Baron Strucker, long thought to have died on Hydra Island, returned as the new head of Hydra and the organizations again clashed. The new organization had some internal structural changes, with the eight-rank system being replaced by a ten-rank one. Also, there existed "Full Champion License", a rarely-awarded accolade known to be held by Captain America, whereby the holder has authority to assemble any team they sees fit for any mission they see fit. This was the legal basis for the formation of the New Avengers.
In the wake of Nick Fury's Secret War in Latveria, he was removed from the directorship and forced into hiding. His replacement was not one of his close associates in the high ranks, but a newcomer, Commander Maria Hill. Her appointment by the U.S. president was meant to ensure S.H.I.E.L.D. bias towards American interests, and her lack of connection to the superhero community was meant to keep S.H.I.E.L.D. from aiding them. This came to the fore when S.H.I.E.L.D. units nicknamed 'Cape-Killers' were tasked with enforcing the Superhuman Registration Act. Just prior to the first superhuman Civil War, Captain America estimated that there were 3,000 S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on active duty.
Towards the end of that conflict, Commander Hill decided that she had been made Executive Director so that she would fail. She proposed that Tony Stark take the job, with her as deputy director. After the victory of his Pro-Registration superhero unit, he accepted the appointment. Stark undertook a series of initiatives, including the construction of a new gold-and-red Helicarrier in the motif of his Iron Man designs, the introduction of a daycare center in the Helicarrier, and an employee suggestion-box. While accused of treating S.H.I.E.L.D. as a Stark Industries subsidiary, he succeeded in streamlining the organization and raising morale.
S.H.I.E.L.D. fought a wave of global superhuman terrorism under Stark's command, but was manipulated into two international incidents that almost saw Stark arrested, until it was revealed that Mandarin was behind the smear and was stopped from committing genocide with an Extremis pathogen.
At the start of the Secret Invasion by the extraterrestrial shape-shifting Skrulls, the Helicarrier was disabled by a Skrull virus and left floating and disabled in the Bermuda Triangle. By this point the Skrulls had already replaced a large number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including the high-ranking 'Dum-Dum' Dugan. After the invasion was repelled (thanks in part to Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors), the President of the United States decided to dissolve S.H.I.E.L.D., and had it, the 50 States Initiative, the Avengers, the Thunderbolts Initiative put under the authority of the public hero of the invasion: Norman Osborn, head of OsCorp and the original Green Goblin.
Osborn used the opportunity to transform S.H.I.E.L.D. into 'H.A.M.M.E.R.' and seemingly disbanded the Thunderbolts. In reality he turned the latest Thunderbolts into a black-ops force to do his dirty work. He also founded the newest government-sponsored Avengers team, colloquially known as the Dark Avengers. Finally, he set up a Cabal formed by some of the most powerful beings on Earth, including himself, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, Loki and the Hood.
After the Siege
Following the Siege of Asgard and the revelation of Osborn's insanity, the U.S. government disbanded H.A.M.M.E.R. Although Steve Rogers, now installed in Osborn's position by the U.S. president, had the opportunity of rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D., he decided to instead rely solely on his shadow ops task force, the Secret Avengers.
After the return of Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R., Steve Rogers rebuilt S.H.I.E.L.D. from the ground up with agents who could be trusted, building a new Helicarrier and giving Daisy Johnson directorship. The new S.H.I.E.L.D. subsequently saved U.S. Army Ranger Marcus Johnson from mercenaries hired by the Leviathan, and when he discovered he was the son of Nick Fury, he and his army friend Phil Coulson joined the storied security agency.
After director Daisy Johnson broke the protocols by sending the Secret Avengers to kill A.I.M. leader Andrew Forson, Quake was suspended indefinitely and Maria Hill was put in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. once more.
Time Runs Out
Eight months into the future, S.H.I.E.L.D. had taken over the Avengers and was helping them hunt down the Illuminati to make the organization answer for destroying incursive worlds, which endangered the safety of Earth as a consequence of the multiversal phenomena known as incursions.
After locating the Illuminati in Spain, S.H.I.E.L.D. sent in the Avengers to capture its members. However, this was a trap set by the Illuminati, who attempted to subdue the Avengers with help from Sunspot's Avengers. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Avengers and Illuminati eventually agreed to a truce and work together to find a way to stop the incursions.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Act and Dissolution
Following the end of the incursion crisis and the resurgence of Hydra, marked by its employ of guerrilla tactics to create a climate of fear and anxiety through the United States and Europe, Captain America and Sharon Carter proposed to the U.S. Senate Select Committee the creation of a bill known as the S.H.I.E.L.D. Act. Unbeknownst to anybody, at this point Captain America had been secretly supplanted by a fascist version of himself from an alternate timeline that acted as a sleeper agent for Hydra.
Once the bill was signed into law with bipartisan support in Congress, it drastically expanded S.H.I.E.L.D.'s authority within the United States in areas concerned with law enforcement, mass surveillance, and resource allocation, even allowing the organization to become the de facto "top cop" in an event of a national state of emergency. The passing of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Act coincided with the reinstatement of Captain America as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after Maria Hill faced trial and was found guilty for the events that occurred in the secret superhuman prison known as Pleasant Hill, which led to her deposition.
This fascist Captain America subsequently manipulated the events behind three crises that hit the world at the same time: a Chitauri invasion, the Army of Evil's attack on Manhattan, and Hydra's uprising in Sokovia. The escalation of these events put into action S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new powers, and control of the United States was handed over to him. Using hypnotist Doctor Faustus, Hydra took over an entire S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, whose forces combined with Hydra took over the entirety of the organization. As Captain America conquered the United States, all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resources were essentially absorbed by Hydra. After the fall of Hydra's empire, what remained of S.H.I.E.L.D. was effectively dissolved, though for a brief period of time they continued to guard black sites prisons, while transferring prisoners, as well as turning over numerous artifacts to the U.S. Army.
Equipment: Various including: A.N.C., Beta-cloth, kevlar body armor, jetpacks, teleporter, psi-blocker, Hover Discs, Neutro-Mist, Uni-Lens Battle Armor.
Transportation: S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, various flying cars, floaters, hoverfliers, S.H.I.E.L.D. Shuttle, Skimmer, Sky-Destroyer, the Cradle, conventional automobiles, boats and aircraft.
Weapons: Plasma pistols, needler pistols, various conventional firearms (.30 caliber machine pistol standard issue.)
- S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are taught at the academy to say 'blast' in the field instead of cursing, so as to avoid offending anyone.
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Links and References
- Secret Avengers Vol 2 #1
- Strange Tales #135
- Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol 3 #7
- X-Factor Vol 3 #14
- X-Factor Vol 3 #15
- Civil War: The Confession #1
- History of the Marvel Universe Vol 2 #2
- Avengers Standoff: Assault On Pleasant Hill Omega #1
- S.H.I.E.L.D. #6
- S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-6
- S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol 2 #1-4
- S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hickman & Weaver #5-6
- Marvel: The Lost Generation #10
- Secret Warriors #1; Hydra Timeline
- Strange Tales #156
- According to S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol 3 #9, Commander Dum-Dum Dugan helped form S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1965, at the request of the newly appointed Director Nick Fury. In fact, Dugan did not help form S.H.I.E.L.D., as it had been active since 1961, and instead assisted the new Director to form a brand-new, public incarnation of the espionage organization.
- In Strange Tales #135 the previous Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is mentioned to have been killed by Hydra. His identity as former C.I.A. colonel Rick Stoner would not be revealed until the release of the now apocryphal Fury #1, while in Fury / Agent 13 #1-2 it was revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s previous Director, codenamed Fallen Angel, was instead left dying by S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives after having been fatally injured by Hydra agents. Secret Warriors #1's Hydra Timeline finally confirmed the Rick Stoner identity and his apparent death at the hands of Hydra.
- S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Executive Council was first named Supreme International Council in Strange Tales #135 and later referred to Executive Board, Executive Council or Board of Directors in Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-6.
- New Avengers #21
- Battle Scars #2
- Battle Scars #6
- Secret Avengers Vol 2 #5
- Avengers Vol 5 #35
- Avengers Vol 5 #39
- Avengers Vol 5 #40
- Free Comic Book Day Vol 2016 #(Captain America)
- Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
- Captain America: Steve Rogers #2
- Captain America: Steve Rogers #10
- Civil War II: The Oath #1
- Secret Empire #0
- Secret Empire Omega #1
- Spider-Man/Deadpool #23
- Uncanny Avengers Vol 3 #29
- Marvel Legacy #1
- Irredeemable Ant-Man #6