Strange Tales #136-145 (Nick Fury)
Issue(s): Strange Tales #136, Strange Tales #137, Strange Tales #138, Strange Tales #139, Strange Tales #140, Strange Tales #141, Strange Tales #142, Strange Tales #143, Strange Tales #144, Strange Tales #145 (Nick Fury stories only)
The last few issues of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD reprint these early Silver Age Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales. Maddeningly, they start with issue #136, the second issue of the Nick Fury run, leaving out the story of how Fury is recruited to lead SHIELD. Still, these are some fun super-spy stories with art mainly by Kirby.
Nick Fury leads a large number of Hydra agents to a barber shop SHIELD uses as a front.
The agents are captured by SHIELD, but Fury gripes that it won't matter until the leaders are captured. Meanwhile, the leader that directed the failed attack on SHIELD is killed and replaced.
After getting equipped with the latest in SHIELD gadgetry...
...he heads off with Gabe and Dum Dum in search of Hydra's Betatron bomb. It's nice to see that Fury has recruited some of the Howlers back in action, although it's never really directly mentioned. They're just sort of there.
Hydra launches the bomb. SHIELD retaliates by destroying the Hydra base that launched it but Hydra now has the upper hand. The Imperial Hydra's daughter Laura Brown (Aka 'Agent G'. For 'girl'? She was Agent H when she was introduced last issue, although we didn't know then that she was the Imperial's daughter) gives him a hard time about his megalomania...
The Imperial Hydra is hurt deeply by his daughter's criticism. He's reduced to muttering to his pet cat.
Still, he decides to move forward with his schemes, releases the Hydra "Fox" division to convey Hydra's commands.
Hydra's divisions (never to be seen again outside of these issues, i suspect):
"Giving my various departments the names of living creatures was a master stroke on my part! It furnishes a feeling of identity... a sense of pride to each division!" But where are the regular grunt soldiers that we see every issue?
Fury goes to Tony Stark to get some new weaponry to stop the Betatron bomb. The anti-bomb weapon is called... the Brainosaur. Unfortunately, Hydra's Tiger and Rhino divisions have been stalking Fury and they attack in Stark's lab.
Fury is captured (why was the assassin division sent on a capture mission?), and Stark is not prepared to turn into Iron Man, although he is protected by a personal force shield.
Hydra does not seem to be aware of the Brainosaur.
[In the Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #16 reprint, the last 3 pages of #137 and #138 have been swapped, leading to some disjointed reading until you realize what's going on. Also, Gabriel Jones is incorrectly colored as a white guy throughout many of these issues. It's a problem with the reprints, but not a problem in the originals.]
Fury is tortured with an image inducer where he seems to give up the existence of the Brainosaur, but not any details about it. Laura Brown helps Fury escape his prison (along with some exploding coffee (!) and a flammable shirt. Why would you wear a flammable shirt??).
Imperial Hydra won't send the Tiger division against Fury because he doesn't want his daughter to be killed (but... last issue they performed a capture mission), so instead he sends a robot. Meanwhile, SHIELD launches an assault on Hydra. They've located the Hydra base using a Hydra UFO they captured when Fury led the Hydra division into the trap at the barber shop front. Stark disables the Hydra bomb.
Brown, ready to destroy the Hydra base even if it means the death of his own daughter, is instead killed by a pair of Hydra agents. Brown's civilian identity is that of an assistant to the CEO of Imperial Industries International...
...and they that can't believe that the puny secretary could be the Imperial Hydra (he had been wearing padded robes and platform shoes).
Or, if you prefer, they really work for Strucker, although that's not what was intended here. Fury lets Laura Brown escape.
As Fury returns to the SHIELD base, he is zapped by SHIELD's new ESP division.
They're just practicing. Nice way to treat a guy who's been running around the globe, imprisoned, and in a bunch of gunfights in the past few days. Their test wakes up a former agent named Mentallo.
Mentallo, annoyed that SHIELD is trying to replicate his powers with machines, seeks out a partner - the Fixer.
Mentallo and the Fixer are a really cool duo.
They are quite unstoppable to begin with, and while they bicker and constantly try to one-up each other, they don't scheme behind each others backs like most super-villain team-ups. They are eventually defeated, of course, but it's a good first showing.
To wrap things up, a bozo called the Druid attacks SHIELD with his Eggs of Satan.
The Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD series ends before reprinting the conclusion to this story, but i've subsequently picked it up. SHIELD tries to draw out the Druid using Fury LMDs...
...but he doesn't fall for it.
The Fixer confirms that the Druid has nothing to do with the organization that hired him, which he calls "Them".
Fury and SHIELD don't have too much trouble mopping up the Druid.
Jasper Sitwell shows up at SHIELD for the first time during the Druid story.
By issue #145, Fury is so impressed with him he's worried that Sitwell wind up replacing him.
Obviously, this run introduces a lot of concepts core to SHIELD and Hydra, and both the art and story will be largely influential to later creators.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Fury was only recently promoted to Colonel and he and his close associates still find the idea to be a novelty. Takes place concurrently with Tales Of Suspense #75. Tony Stark appears in these issues but there are no references to anything happening in Iron Man. I have these between Tales of Suspense #78-79, while the Stark Factor is closed down, but that doesn't mean that Nick Fury couldn't have pulled some strings to get him to do some work for SHIELD (and that actually dovetails with the idea that he's not prepared to turn into Iron Man).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #16, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #17, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #18 (issue #145 is an original)
Inbound References (13): show
Howard Purcell was a longtime DC artist; he didn't stay at Marvel too long.
Tony Isabella used the Hydra divison chart again during his Dardevil run, but he didn't use animals that time.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 3, 2011 12:05 PM
Well, guys wore flammable clothing while Disco Dancing in the 1970s a lot...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 15, 2012 5:03 PM
I wonder why create agent Coulson when they could've used Jasper Sitwell. Great character.
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | January 19, 2013 5:22 PM
I originally thought the Coulson character in the Iron Movies was Sitwell until they gave him a name. Maybe they already expected to kill him in Avengers and thus wanted a disposable character?
Sitwell actually does appear in the Marvel One Shots promos/easter eggs of the movies. You can find them on YouTube.
Posted by: Chris | January 20, 2013 3:48 PM
I will look for them, Chris. Tahnk you
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | January 21, 2013 5:25 AM
Some fanzine articles claimed that Sitwell was based on Roy Thomas.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 5, 2013 4:06 PM
I like the fact that Hydra used a barber shop front in the Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.
Posted by: Silverbird | June 6, 2014 1:08 PM
Hydra only should have had nine divisions; like the Hydra of myth had nine heads.
Posted by: Thanos6 | April 27, 2015 8:52 PM
The first bunch of scans features inks by John Severin. Didn't see any pertaining credits.
Posted by: VtCG | July 18, 2016 12:47 AM
John Severin is listed as the first inker on this entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 18, 2016 11:31 AM
Okay like you said lots of stuff here. Hydra is IMHO the best of all these evil super spy groups, predating SPIDER at Tower Comics and several such groups at DC (the best of DC's being the H.I.V.E.). I believe that it was partially inspired by the criminal organization in the Doc Savage novel the Czar of Feat who also wear green robes and the bit where they line up behind one another and stick their arms out in different positions is used by them as well as Hydra. The barber shop bit was a nod to the Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Del Floria tailor shop. Mentallo and the Fixer were cool characters and have only rarely been used this well since then. The Druid was a weaker villain in my view but has stuck around for awhile now. I loved all the gadgets and Kirby's artwork and the various agents. I don't know about Sitwell being modeled on Roy Thomas as he is taller than Roy but you could be right.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 4, 2016 9:13 PM
While obviously S.H.I.E.L.D. will get it's definitive nature and look under Steranko, the Kirby stuff really sort of just of has fun with the concept in it's own element, particularly with these gruff old war veterans taking on Bond-like elements that were popular at this point. Admittedly it would have been interesting to see this stick around but of course this industry is always about fresh blood and new stuff to keep it relevant.
Posted by: Ataru320 | November 14, 2016 10:39 AM
Sitwell is truly an eager beaver in thus issues, wonder why they made him an hydra in the movies...
Posted by: Roy Mattson | June 4, 2017 8:36 AM
Sitwell int he movies is HYDRA because they'd already used his personality for Phil Coulson.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 4, 2017 8:51 AM
The Hydra division chart reminds me of what was done in the James Bond Role-Playing Game. Since the creators could not use Blofeld or SPECTRE, they devised an organization called TAROT, with each specialized division represented by cards from the Major Arcana cards (Example: Assassination represented by Death).
Posted by: Brian Coffey | July 2, 2017 11:49 AM
@Brian Coffey: Suddenly I just imagine Kananga's organization from the "Live and Let Die" movie with that explanation. But on topic: animal names for HYDRA divisions is awesome and really should have been further refined by someone at Marvel.
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 2, 2017 2:51 PM
@Ataru320 True, considering the character of Solitaire (Jane Seymour's film debut). I was just thinking of each using symbolism in their respective organizational structures. And I agree with your assessment of HYDRA's use of animals for divisions, it WAS cool and should have been updated and expanded upon.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | July 2, 2017 10:36 PM
With the glasses and suits and occasional bow ties, in addition to the combination of "aw, shucks" demeanor and go-getter attitude, Jasper Sitwell could have been modeled after the character popularized by the great silent film comedian Harold Lloyd, most famous for hanging by the clock hands over the streets of Los Angeles in the classic "Safety Last" and who, at his peak, earned higher box office than even Charlie Chaplin himself (due to Lloyd's bigger output compared to Chaplin's).
Posted by: Brian Coffey | October 10, 2017 3:17 PM
If only the Druid had had enough moollah to put himself through college like DOCTOR Druid, he wouldn't be such a bozo.
So the "Planning Staff" division is a Maggia boss that fights Spider-Man and Daredevil, the "Air Action" division is a Captain America sidekick, the "Heavy Weapons" division is a heavyweight Spider-foe, the "Diplomacy" division is a burglar who's faced a Spider-Man/Human Torch team-up, and the "Administration" division is kiiiiiiind of a Fantastic Four underground-dwelling antagonist. (and "Supply"...sells cigarettes? Boy, Hydra sure is evil.)
Also, I remember a few morons wearing T-shirts that said "Beaver Patrol" on them. They were mostly jerks, but they didn't strike me as Hydra agents back then. Let alone from the "Engineers" division.
I agree with Thanos6 that Hydra should only have nine divisions, like the mythological creature; maybe they could merge "Administration" and "Planning Staff" (which are closely related) and called it "Mowl".
Those Hydra agents that killed Arnold Brown are real idiots. Hold him at gunpoint at check out his story, geez! I hope they got fired for this. And Brown himself is quite the moron, too. Could've been a bit more persuasive, maybe tellin' 'em stuff only a Supreme Hydra would know? Plus, padded clothes and built-up shoes, that was Big Man's gimmick, his best one, actually. I know Hydra are terrorists and all, that want to 'take over the w--' >boring<, but stealing another bad guy's schtick, that's really mean.
Posted by: The Transparent Fox | May 19, 2018 8:39 AM
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