Nick Fury has been around for a long time. He first appeared in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 back in May 1963 and his comic series proved to be popular. Despite this, he remains an enigmatic character, which is fitting, given that he's one of the Marvel universe's best spies. No matter how drastically he has changed over the last few decades, a few things have remained: his admirable ability to take on the entire world and his ability to appear damn near omniscient... at least, in comparison to everyone else around him.
He may not have fantastic powers but he's still incredibly interesting, more than one might think at first glance. People tend to have a lot questions about Nick Fury and we're going to try and answer some of them here by revealing some of his character-defining secrets. You'll learn more about his backstory and his motives for doing some of the things he did in the name of world safety. It's not all pretty, but the ends always seemed to justify the means. Hopefully you'll walk away with a greater appreciation and understanding of the character, making his future appearances and adaptations that much more interesting.
This one is pretty much a given, but it still bears repeating. Fury has had his fair share of failures alongside a multitude of successes, having faced overwhelming odds and emerging unscathed. His unshakeable will and determination have pulled him through, but realistically, that isn't nearly enough. That's where his intense training and experience in the battlefield come in handy. When you learn what he's capable of, you'll find that it's blatantly obvious how he came to be director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
He's a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, trained in multiple martial art styles including jiu-jitsu and taekwondo. He's also fluent in several languages including German, Russian and Japanese. As if all that wasn't already impressive, he also received education and experience as a paratrooper, training with demolitions and several types of weapons and firearms. Who needs superpowers when you've got all that under your belt?
There have been several different backstories across different comics and adaptations. The original story behind the loss of Fury's left eye can be found in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #27 (written by Stan Lee, artwork by Dick Ayers and John Tartaglione) in which it was revealed that he gradually lost 95% of his vision in that eye after it was hit by shrapnel from a grenade.
He didn't start wearing the eye patch right away. It took 20 years for the injury to really hinder him enough that the eye patch seemed practical. Stan Lee actually only gave him an eye patch because he didn't want people getting confused since the Sgt. Fury comics and the Fantastic Four comic (in which he would make a post-war appearance), took place in different periods of time.
You won't see Fury dining with a lovely lady or trying to awkwardly flirt, but that doesn't mean his life is completely absent of romance. As a matter of fact, he actually was in love once. Her name was Pamela Hawley, a medic of the British Red Cross. She met Fury when he was stationed in England during WWII and the two grew quite close. They got so close, in fact, that Fury considered proposing to her.
Unfortunately, before he ever had the chance to ask in Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #18 (written by Stan Lee, illustrated by Jack Kirby and others), Hawley was killed in a bombing raid over London, a fact Fury didn't find out until he visited her estate, eager to propose. He hasn't really loved as deeply since.
Obviously, Fury has been around for a long time. He fought in several major wars but he doesn't look a day over forty. The reason for his lack of further aging was revealed in Marvel Spotlight #31 (written by Jim Starlin, art by Howard Chaykin), which revealed that Fury took an annual dose of Infinity Formula, which prolongs his life.
His dependence on the formula meant that far too often, he was at the mercy of the person who held it, that dependence ended in Fear Itself #7.1 (written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Butch Guice and others) when he used the last sample of the formula to prolong Bucky's life. A lifetime of using it, however, meant that trace amounts were still in Fury's blood, keeping him alive just a little longer.
The nature of Nick Fury's profession means that sometimes it's best not to walk into risky situations alone...or at all. That's where Fury's life model decoys come in. The first time Fury encountered LMDs was back in 1961, when he, and two others, stumbled upon strange technology capable of creating life-like robot replicas of any living person. These are clearly useful for people in the spy world, especially one as cunning as Nick Fury. He has used LMDs to act in his stead while he was off investigating other things and he has also used them to manipulate people.
In Secret Warriors #26 (written by Jonathan Hickman, artwork by Alessandro Vitti and others), the same issue that detailed Fury's discovery of LMD tech, we see Fury use the LMDs to manipulate his hated enemy, Baron Von Strucker, into unknowingly working for him, with Strucker believing that he had been covertly infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D.
You might be wondering how experienced Nick Fury really is. You know that he fought in World War II, during which time he led a unit of his own, called the Howling Commandos, on special missions. After the war, Fury was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, which preceded the CIA. His skills as a spy then earned him a place within The Great Wheel, an organization that defended the world against superhuman threats.
It was during his time with The Great Wheel that Fury was injured and healed by the Infinity Formula, it was also when he came across the technology that would allow him to create Life Model Decoys. Unfortunately, the organization disbanded after being betrayed from within. The Great Wheel splintered into different factions, like HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. Because of his proven skill, Fury became the public director of the latter organization. Of course, that's not where his story ends.
The LMDs evidently turned against Fury when it was discovered that the Deltites (cutting edge LMDs) had infiltrated and asserted control over both S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA in the 1988 miniseries, Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury was overcome with insecurity. He had prevented the Deltites from covertly conquering the world and overcame the situation, but in the process, S.H.I.E.L.D was no more.
The Deltites had been defeated, but Fury had lost faith in the organization he dedicated so much of his life to, especially after already having lost too many good men. He resolved to venture off to completely dismantle all traces of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, when HYDRA resurfaced, Fury was forced to return and head a second iteration of S.H.I.E.L.D, one established by the United Nations.
For a long time, the Skrulls had been infiltrating Earth, kidnapping its greatest superheroes and replacing them with Super Skrull agents who could mimic their appearance, personalities, powers and even their scent. Wolverine himself couldn't distinguish the Skrulls from his real allies. Nick Fury however, evidently knew about the invasion before anyone else did.
In Mighty Avengers #12 (by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev and others), we see that Fury was romantically involved with what is revealed to be a Skrull spy: Countess Valentina Fontaine. He followed her after a romantic night and quickly discovered that she was a spy. After shooting her in the head, Fontaine transformed, which is when Fury realized that S.H.I.E.L.D and the world were secretly under attack.
The "Original Sin" storyline revolved around the brutal death of Uatu the Watcher. When a mysterious figure destroys Uatu's base and leaves Uatu dead with his eyes gouged out, Earth's heroes rush to investigate, led by Nick Fury on their hunt for the killer. Little did they know that the killer they were looking for was right in front of them, hiding in plain sight, testing them.
Fury reveals that with the Infinity Formula out of his system, he was aging at a rapid pace and sought a replacement, which is why he sent the heroes on a pointless chase. He revealed that torturing aliens in the name of Earth's defense was always a part of his job and Uatu needed to die, as he held information Fury deemed crucial -- information Fury extracted from the eyes of the Watcher. There's definitely a dark side to Fury, no doubt about that, but he only ever uses it to protect Earth and do his duty.
The Watchers may have had a tenuous relationship with Uatu, but that didn't mean they would allow his killer to go unpunished. And no matter how skilled Nick Fury was in the world of espionage and subterfuge, he could not hope to elude them. For his crimes, Fury was bound to the moon and forced to watch events unfold on Earth, unable to intervene and protect it.
He is now known as The Unseen, no longer the Nick Fury people once knew. That role in its entirety was adopted by Nick Fury Jr, who is every bit the spy his father was. He was even born with the Infinity Formula in his veins. However, that doesn't mean we've seen the last of Nick Fury Sr. In fact, he appeared most recently in the Unworthy Thor, indicating that he has a much larger role to play. His story isn't over yet.
Back in 2002, a new Nick Fury was introduced in The Ultimates (written by Mark Millar). He was quite different from the original, in that, instead of being white with cropped hair, the new Fury looked exactly like actor Samuel L. Jackson. Upon discovering this, Jackson's agent expressed his desire to sue, but Jackson himself, thinking that it was a fantastic idea, decided to work out a deal with Marvel so the character could keep the actor's likeness.
Clearly that was a great decision on Jackson's part since he was offered the role of Nick Fury in the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's probably why, when Millar apologized for using his likeness all those years ago and asked if Jackson was annoyed, Jackson replied, "F*ck no, man! Thanks for the nine-picture deal!"
With the popularity of the MCU, it was only natural that the comics would introduce elements familiar to film fans, like Sam Jackson's Nick Fury, in the mainstream Marvel Comics universe. It was revealed in the miniseries Battle Scars that Nick Fury had a son with Nia Jones. The character resembled the Ultimate Nick Fury in a lot of ways, except he was younger and still learning.
With Nick Fury Sr. now The Unseen, Nick Fury Jr. has become a top operative working both in and around S.H.I.E.L.D, which is currently directed by Maria Hill. For all intents and purposes, this character is Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. It was the advisable thing to do, according to Marvel's vice president, Tom Brevoort, seeing as how all adaptations have depicted the singular, Sam Jackson-based Nick Fury.
Obviously, Samuel L. Jackson isn't a masterfully trained spy who constantly finds himself holding the fate of the world in his hands, but the similarities between Samuel L. Jackson and Nick Fury don't stop at appearances. It's fitting that since the character came to be based on Jackson, certain parts of their histories would run parallel as well. That isn't in reference to the comic book character, but the MCU's film adaptation of him.
In Captain America: Winter Soldier, you may remember Nick Fury telling Cap a story about his grandfather -- that the man was an elevator operator who worked in a "nice building" in a neighborhood that got worse. In reality, Jackson's grandfather really was an elevator operator and really was a good, compassionate man, though as far as we know, he didn't actually carry a 22. magnum in a paper bag.
Speaking of the MCU's Nick Fury, you might be wondering what happened in Bogotá that helped shape Fury as well as his greatest enemy. The story there was never fully revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier but if you pay attention, you can piece it all together.
We now know that Pierce was working at the US Embassy in Bogotá when it was invaded by nationalist rebels who took several hostages. Pierce was able to escape thanks to his bodyguards, but his daughter was taken captive. Thankfully, Nick Fury, who Pierce had met before, wasn't too far away and able to aid in a rescue. Pierce wanted to try a diplomatic approach and negotiate, but Fury disobeyed orders and went in to rescue the hostages. He succeeded, and for this, was rewarded and made director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Unfortunately, he had also shown Pierce that diplomacy doesn't work as well as brute strength.
You can probably guess that anyone who rushes into gunfire, regularly fights alongside and against godlike superheroes and villains and harbors knowledge of many if the world's greatest threats, would not be easily scared. Well Nick Fury certainly isn't. It's understandable that a lifetime of fighting wars and supervillains would harden a heart against a lot of things, but to not even flinch in the face of near certain death?
Just look at The Incredible Hulk: The Fury Files (written by Frank Tieri, illustrated by Steve Lieber and others), which takes place before the events of The Incredible Hulk film. Fury is sent to investigate rumors surrounding General Ross and an attempt to recreate the Super Soldier Serum. Eventually, he finds Banner and comes face to face with the Hulk, who roars in anger right in Fury's face, though Fury stands unshaken, confident that the man he met has no intention of hurting anyone. No one but Nick Fury could ever be that confident in their analysis and that unafraid in the face of a monster.