I have a poster of Marvel characters on my wall that has one character who would make people who only know the MCU version of Marvel scratch their heads. They’d look at it and say “Wait, I thought Nick Fury was Black. Who’s this Nick Fury?” Well, I’ll tell you .
War comics were still around, despite the restrictions of the Comics Code. In 1959, DC started Our Army at War, later to be known as Sgt. Rock. Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos could be seen as Marvel’s answer to Sgt. Rock.
Sgt. Fury was actually a bet with publisher Martin Goodman that he could make even the worst title ever sell. “Howling Commandos” was actually inspired by the 101st Airborne Division (aka the “Screaming Eagles”. The Commandos consisted of:
Col. “Dum Dum” Dugan: Fury’s ” number one “, a former circus strongman.
Pvt. Izzy Cohen: the team’s mechanic
Pvt. Gabriel Jones: Marvel’s first African-American character.
Pvt. Juniper: the first person to die in a Marvel comic, to show that anyone could die.
Pvt. Eric Koenig: Nazi defector who joined in #27.
Pvt. Pinkerton: Juniper’s replacement.
Pvt. Manelli: a former actor modelled after Dean Martin (he’s even introduced as someone you’d recognize from a movie).
Pvt. Ralston: a former jockey.
The comic lasted 167 issues (but became a reprint comic beginning with #80), ending in 1981. But in 1965, we got to see what Nick was doing in the present day. In Strange Tales #135, he replaced the Human Torch to become its main feature, and the character who would make Jim Steranko one of Marvel’s most celebrated artists, thanks to his surreal art style. Inspired by James Bond, Fury was now a Colonel heading SHIELD (Strategic Headquarters International Law-Enforcement Division). Now instead of fighting Nazis, he was fighting Hydra, the Cold War successor. The story also introduced Life Model Decoys, android duplicates that would often stand in for actual agents. He was the main feature until #168, after which he spun off into his second title, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. However, Steranko was unable to make deadlines for the longer stories, and left after the fifth issue.
Despite only lasting 18 issues (three of which were reprints), Nick Fury would continue to be an enduring example of a bygone era. You just can’t keep a good soldier down.
One thought on “The History of Comic Books Chapter XV: Strange Spies”
The MCU films were not, of course, the first time Nick Fury was black. Nick Fury was black in the Ultimate universe comics, beginning with his first appearance in ULTIMATE X-MEN #10.