Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 18 Jack Kirby Spy Gadgets and Gizmos
With the premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series just around the corner, I thought it only right to present the wild technology that Jack Kirby, introduced in the first two Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. stories all the way back in 1965. Look, we’re not saying that Stan Lee didn’t have ANYthing to do with these stories, or that John Severin didn’t rock the second story, but the tech would’ve been something put there when Kirby drew and provided notes to Lee for the first story and the breakdowns for the second. So, get set for some spytastic goodness courtesy of the King of Comics, and learn the roots of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
“The Man For The Job!” - Strange Tales #135, August 1965
1) So, right there on the cover there’s some cool Kirby-tech! It's a viewscope that shows us Nick Fury’s skeleton. Awesome!
2) Then, right on the title splash of the first story, “The Man For The Job!” we see the incredible ability to create “carbon copies” of human beings, the L.M.D., a.k.a. Life Model Decoy. Of course, there are theories out there that Agent Coulson's resurrection in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after his apparent death in The Avengers may have something to do with L.M.D. tech...
3) After Fury and some of his L.M.D.s are out of the lab, they’re attacked by hidden assassins. Fury’s contact shoves him into a Porsche 904 since they’re now being pursued by a fighter jet with napalm firebombs. The Porsche proves to be fireproof, thanks to being built of “the same material and alloys used in the outer hull of space capsules!” and has scaled-down sidewinder missiles. Oh yeah, it can fly, too!
4) Some Hydra goon on a Vespa watches the car fly off and speaks into his helmet video phone. Sure, we can 4G Skype or Google+ Hangout on our smartphones, but 45 years ago this was a fun variation on the 2-Way Wrist TV that was recently introduced in the Dick Tracy newspaper strip. Tracy had been using a 2-Way Wrist Radio since 1946.
5) Before entering HQ, Fury and his contact are scanned by the “most thorough electro-chemical analyzers known to science!” And, thankfully, the X-Ray skulls from the cover are included in the story as well!
6) Fury meets Tony Stark, the man “in charge of the Special Weaponry Section of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (could this become a plot point for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or future Avengers films?) They enter a war room where a large globe with “the symbolic arms of Hydra encircling the Earth!” is blasted by Stark with a “transistorized gun blast”. You may have a better idea of what a transistorized gun blast is than Stan Lee did. Kirby may have explained it in his margin notes, but all we’ve got is “transistorized gun blast”. It might mean that there weren’t any bullets...but it's hard to tell.
7) Fury finds a bomb in his chair, and throws the bomb out what looks like a porthole, and well, it is a porthole, because we then learn that he’s on the S.H.I.E.L.D Heli-carrier, the very first appearance of this iconic piece of Marvel history. Mind = blown! Wooo!
And that's all just the FIRST issue! But there's even more in the next one...
“Find Fury or Die!” - Strange Tales 136, September 1965
8) The splash has a “Hydra-Hunter” observing Fury through an amazing camera/scope and reporting back to his shady bosses.
9) A Hydra assassin walks through the Hydra training area filled with all kinds of evil shenanigans going on, most notably: the helmet. Seriously. What the heck is that helmet all about?
10) Hydra agents fly out of a barge in NYC’s East River wearing the same “N.A.S.A.-type experimental jet packs” that they sport on the cover.
11) A Hydra agent is locked in a shoe-shine chair. "Wha--??"
12) A nattily dressed Hydra agent receiving a manicure is bound and gagged - hi-tech style!
13) Nick Fury uses a hand-held hypno-beam on the two captured Hydra agents. Mind control is clearly not beyond the scope of Tony Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D! What the NSA would give for these secrets...
14) A barber chair is an elevator down to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ below. This method of gaining entry to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ was used for decades in the Marvel Universe, and this is the first time you get to see it! But more importantly...what is it with these S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra agents and grooming in this story?
15) Hydra uses a portable X-Ray scanner on a warehouse wall…
16) ...and calls down the hovering Hydra-Ram to open it. Hydra-Ram, Hydra-Hunters, Stan’s working those Hydra-Hyphens giving names to this Kirby-Tech!
17) Hydra-ram has many functions! It has Laser Ray and Electro-Magnet! It can core an apple!
18) Fury observes Hydra in the warehouse with a fancy periscope
And there you have it. The rest of this tale is filled with somewhat non-Kirby-tech traps like fake walls, dizzy rooms, and flypaper goo. But still, there are twenty four pages of 1965 comics filled with all kinds of spy-tastic Kirby-Tech goodness. And we didn’t even show the “throat mike” or the “quarter-sized walkie talkie” Oh, what the heck, just look at this quarter-sized walkie talkie!
Two issues of Strange Tales had as many crazy gadgets and gizmos as half the James Bond franchise. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series has some serious boots to fill!
About the Author: Rand Hoppe is a founding trustee of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center. Head on over there for tons of rare Jack Kirby artwork, interviews, and much more!