Happy July Fourth!

It’s Independence Day in the United States. What better way to celebrate than to again view this classic cover by Jim Steranko during his run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Jim Steranko’s cover to Strange Tales 167

Jim Steranko: 1960s spy fan

Jim Steranko provides a Sean Connery/007 cameo in Strange Tales No. 164 (1967)

Not that it’s a terrible surprise but writer-artist Jim Steranko, who had a legendary run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1960s, was a big fan of 1960s spy entertainment.

His S.H.I.E.L.D. stories included a weapons master named Boothroyd. He also had the Sean Connery version of James Bond make a one-panel cameo in Strange Tales No. 164 in 1967.

Anyway, Steranko takes questions from fans (or “henchmen”) each Sunday night on Twitter.

The Spy Commander couldn’t resist. So I asked if he had seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. during the period.

The answer? Well, judge for yourself:

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I needed to look it up. The Hunter was a 1952 series where, according to IMDB.COM, Bart Adams used the cover of an international businessman to battle Communist spies. Barry Nelson was the first actor to play James Bond in the 1954 CBS television production of Casino Royale.

Happy Fourth of July from The Spy Command

To celebrate the birthday of the United States, here’s our traditional greeting: Jim Steranko’s classic cover to Strange Tales 167.

The issue wrapped up a marathon Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. story line by the writer-artist.

Jim Steranko's cover to Strange Tales 167

S.H.I.E.L.D. at 50: bigger than it has ever been

Jack Kirby's cover for Strange Tales 135 in 1965

Jack Kirby’s cover for Strange Tales 135 in 1965

This summer is the golden anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel Comics’ answer to the spy craze of the 1960s.

Marvel was barely hanging on at the start of the 1960s. Starting with The Fantastic Four in 1961, the comics company began a comeback. With new characters and revamped version of old characters, Marvel had momentum in the mid-1960s.

One obvious trend was the spy craze. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby already had launched a World War II war comic, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. The duo decided to also bring Fury into the “present day” of the 1960s and, an issue of the FF, established Fury survived the war and now worked for the CIA.

With S.H.I.E.L.D., Lee and Kirby took the concept a step further, establishing their own spy agency, which recruited Fury to be its new leader. S.H.I.E.L.D. even relied on Tony Stark to supply it with futuristic weaponry.

From its inception, S.H.I.E.L.D. had an uneven run. Lee hired Jim Steranko on the basis of his raw talent. Steranko chose S.H.I.E.L.D., in part because the comic wasn’t a huge success.

Steranko made his mark but was gone before the end of 1968. After his departure, there were attempts at revivals but none really took hold.

All of that changed in the 21st century. Marvel decided to make its own movies, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. S.H.I.E.L.D. was there at the start and, in an epilogue after the end titles, the audience saw a new Nick Fury in the person of Samuel L. Jackson.

Eventually, the Jackson version of Fury appeared in several Marvel movies (most recently in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Marvel, after it was acquired by Walt Disney Co., expanded into television. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed by ABC (another Disney property) for a third season.

S.H.I.E.L.D. now is bigger than it has ever been. Middle age is treating the Lee-Kirby creation pretty well.

The nemesis of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the start was Hydra, a villainous organization. Lee has said (as early as the mid 1970s) that S.H.I.E.L.D. was inspired by James Bond movies and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In 2015, there’s an U.N.C.L.E. movie but no Thrush (the villainous organization featured in the original 1964-68 television series).

Yet, in both movies and television, Hydra is still going strong. Meanwhile, with 007 movies, SPECTRE has been on the inactive list because of legal disputes until this year’s 007 film SPECTRE. Life can be funny.

WSJ on M:I and U.N.C.L.E.; new Kirby-Steranko story

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Here’s a roundup of some Other Spies developments.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has a story about making movies based on television series, specifically looking at Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

One excerpt:

Why does TV continue to inspire movie dreams?

It is partly because of the extra time and money a feature can offer filmmakers. More fundamentally, even an aged television series can provide brand-name recognition, which acts as a commercial safety net—although an unreliable one.

(snip)
For every successful adaptation, though—from “Star Trek” to “21 Jump Street”—there’s the risk of turning out “The Lone Ranger.” The 2013 film with Johnny Depp as Tonto was rejected by audiences, who were uninterested in the plot, unfamiliar with the 1950s television show and more mystified than intrigued by Mr. Depp wearing a dead-bird headdress. The film led to a nearly $200 million loss for Disney.

The story includes quotes from M:I director Christopher McQuarrie about watching the original Mission: Impossible in returns (“It was sort of iconic to me.”) and U.N.C.L.E. movie co-writer Lionel Wigram, who says Warner Bros. wasn’t “interested in a contemporary story. But we could do a ’60s spy movie that appeals to a modern audience, and is very much the zeitgeist of ‘Mad Men.’”

Nick Fury

Nick Fury

COMIC BOOK RESOURCES reports that Marvel Comics plans to run a previously unpublished Jack Kirby-Jim Steranko art in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 9 coming out in August.

Here’s text from a press release in the Comic Book Resources story:

First, this August, S.H.I.E.L.D. #9 answers a question half a century in the making. A mystery that lies at the heart of the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. – who is the “Man Called D.E.A.T.H.”?! Written by Mark Waid with art by Lee Ferguson – this special, oversized anniversary issue features a never before published S.H.I.E.L.D. sequence penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Jim Steranko! Plus – Al Ewing brings you a second story featuring the return of Dum Dum Dugan and the birth of the new Howling Commandos! Along with the very first S.H.I.E.L.D. story from 1965 and the original sequence that inspired S.H.I.E.L.D.’s creation – this is not one to miss!

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee both co-created Nick Fury (as the start of a World War II comic book) and S.H.I.E.L.D. (where an older Fury takes command of the agency). Steranko took over S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1966, first as artist and then as writer. Steranko’s early S.H.I.E.L.D. efforts had him doing finished art over breakdowns by Kirby.

Happy Fourth of July from the HMSS Weblog

And don’t forget: Don’t yield, back S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Marvel to re-issue Steranko’s S.H.I.E.L.D. stories

Jim Steranko's cover for Strange Tales No. 167

Jim Steranko’s cover for Strange Tales No. 167, climax of the Yellow Claw storyline.

Marvel Comics is re-issuing artist-writer Jim Steranko’s classic run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in September in time for a new S.H.I.E.L.D. series on ABC.

The trade paperback is priced at $34.99 but can be PRE-ORDERED ON AMAZON.COM FOR $24.79. It reprints the Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales Nos. 151-168 and issues 1-3 and 5 of Fury’s own title. (No. 4 was an expanded re-telling by Roy Thomas and Frank Springer of the S.H.I.E.L.D. origin story by first done by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Strange Tales No. 135.)

Steranko took over as S.H.I.E.L.D. artist with issue 151. Jack Kirby, Fury’s co-creator, did rough layouts with Steranko doing finished pencils and inks. Eventually, Steranko took over as writer as well.

Steranko came in the middle of a storyline started by Stan Lee involving a new mysterious Supreme Hydra who was a master of disguise. Steranko eventually revealed the character to be none other than Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, Fury’s nemesis from World War II.

Steranko had another long storyline reviving a 1950s villain, the Yellow Claw. The politically incorrect named villain is revealed in the last installment to be merely a robot. It was all part of an elaborate, chess-like game played by Dr. Doom and a sophisticated robot.

James Bond makes a "cameo" in Strange Tales No. 164

007’s “cameo” in Strange Tales No. 164

Steranko clearly was a James Bond fan. One of his stories featured a weapons expert named Boothroyd. In Strange Tales No. 164, the Sean Connery version of Bond pays a one-panel visit to a S.H.I.E.L.D. barber shop front.

The new paperback is coming out on Sept. 24. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC will air its new S.H.I.E.L.D. series this fall, built around Clark Gregg’s agent seen in a number of Marvel movies, including 2012’s The Avengers. When last seen, it appeared Gregg’s Agent Coulson had died. Then again, the audience only had the word of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about that. The S.H.I.E.L.D. series is overseen by Whedon, who directed the Avengers film.

Meanwhile, here’s a tip of the cap to TANNER’S DOUBLE O SECTION BLOG, where we first read about this.

2000 HMSS STORY: DON’T YIELD, BACK S.H.I.E.L.D.