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Declassifying Agents of SHIELD’s LMDS: What Are Life Model Decoys?

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, TV News, TV Comment
Declassifying Agents of SHIELD’s LMDS: What Are Life Model Decoys?

The second half of this season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will be sub-titled “LMD,” a reference to the introduction this season of Aida (played by Mallory Jansen), a “Life Model Decoy,” a robot who can mimic the appearance and personality of a real life person. After reading the Darkhold, Aida’s brain has been altered and she appears to have not only gained sentience, but also has turned evil, replacing a key member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team with another Life Model Decoy (LMD) of her own creation.

RELATED: Agents of SHIELD: [SPOILER] Has Been a Life Model Decoy All Along

With LMDs taking center stage in Marvel’s television universe, we thought we would reveal the comic book history of LMDs.

When we first met Life Model Decoys, Nick Fury had not even joined S.H.I.E.L.D. yet, as the very first page of the first S.H.I.E.L.D. story in “Strange Tales” #135 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers) showed Nick Fury getting measured for his Life Model Decoy…

strange-tales-135a

And a few pages later, Fury saw the LMDs in action…

strange-tales-135b

Robots that could perfectly take the place of high level members of S.H.I.E.L.D., to the point where close friends of the real life agent didn’t know the difference, were extremely valuable pieces of technology. In the early days of the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in “Strange Tales,” the technology behind the creation of LMDs was constantly under attack from evil organizations, like A.I.M. in “Strange Tales” #148 (by Jack Kirby and Don Heck)…

strange-tales-148a

After LMDs became common place in “Strange Tales,” they soon began popping up in other books, like “Captain America” and “Iron Man.” It was in the pages of “Iron Man” #17 (by Archie Goodwin, George Tuska and Johnny Craig) that we first saw an instance where an LMD became sentient. An LMD that Tony Stark had made of himself to trick the Mandarin after the Mandarin had learned Iron Man’s secret identity was placed back into storage after being used in “Iron Man” #11, but an explosion brought it back to life and it now wanted to take over as the real Tony Stark.

ironman17

It used logic that is likely going to be mentioned at some point in future episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” namely that it is simply better for the world for a perfect machine to become Iron Man over someone with a heart problem like Tony Stark. It was for the good of humankind that the LMD replaced Tony Stark. Naturally, Tony disagreed and eventually took his life back, but that threat of an LMD becoming too sentient remained there for years.

In a storyline from “Defenders” #46-50, the Defenders took on Scorpio (Nick Fury’s kid brother, Jake Fury) and his new Zodiac, which was made up entirely by LMDs. Fury even managed to have a rogue LMD of his own brother serving him, and that Fury (later known as “Max Fury”), mourned the loss of his “brother” at the end of the story in “Defenders” #50 (by David Kraft and Keith Giffen)…

defenders50

In the mid-1990s, Marvel decided to kill off Nick Fury, and to do so, they knew that they had to eliminate LMDs as a possible “out” for Fury. So in “Double Edge: Omega” (by John Ostrander, Doug Wheatley and Jimmy Palmiotti), the Punisher specifically destroyed all of Nick Fury’s LMDs…

double-edge-omega1

Thus, when he killed Fury at the end of the story, you knew that Fury was 100% dead…

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However, this being comics, it turned out to be a very special LMD, one capable of even fooling Wolverine’s senses, as revealed in “Fury/Agent 13” #1 (by Terry Kavanagh, Ramon Bernado and Ian Aiken).

agent-13

You have to love a storyline that specifically was about, “There are no LMDs, so Nick Fury is definitely dead right now. IF you’re going to bring him back to life, it can’t be with LMDs, because they’re all gone.” “Okay, how about there are other super secret LMDs!” “Sounds good!”

The most recent major story involving LMDs was the major Marvel crossover, “Original Sin,” where it was revealed that Nick Fury had been using LMDs a lot more extensively than people ever knew. You see, during the 1950s, Fury had taken on the role of being the defender of Earth from outside threats (from aliens and other dimensions). As a result of his new mission, he could not always be on Earth, so he used LMDs frequently to take his place. In recent time, the Infinity Formula that had kept him forever young had begun to run out so he rapidly aged and thus had to have a very elaborate LMD take his place on a more regular basis. At the end of the crossover, Fury took over from Uatu as the new Watcher (while Bucky Barnes took his place as the new defender of the planet – the heroes learned that the person they knew as “Nick Fury” was an LMD after Bucky decapitated it after he realized the truth).

During this same crossover, it was revealed that Dum Dum Dugan, Nick Fury’s best friend at S.H.I.E.L.D. had secretly been an LMD for decades!

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It seemed that Fury relied on Dum Dum so much that he could not let his friend die, even when Dum Dum was killed in an an early S.H.I.E.L.D. mission. Instead, Fury had a series of Dum Dum Dugan LMDs created that the main Dugan consciousness would be transferred to every time he “died.” Following “Original Sin,” Dum Dum has embraced his LMD existence in full force, primarily as a member of S.H.I.E.l.D.’s Howling Commandos (made up of supernatural S.H.I.El.D. agents, including Dum Dum as the sort of Frankenstein’s monster of the group).

LMDs are right up there with the unstable molecules that Mister Fantastic established that all superheroes use for their respective costumes, as the most famous pieces of technology in the Marvel Universe. Interestingly enough, readers had presumed that LMDs had already existed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the existence of Patton Oswalt’s Eric Koenig and his multitude of “brothers,” but apparently the Koenigs really were just a big family filled with duplicates. Or maybe it will be revealed during “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD”!

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