File:Marvel Universe Super Hero Teams 001 -SHIELD-.jpg
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceStrange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965)
Created byStan Lee (writer), Jack Kirby (artist, co-plotter)
In-story information
Base(s)The Helicarrier
Member(s)List of S.H.I.E.L.D. members

S.H.I.E.L.D. (originally an acronym for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division, changed in 1991 to Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate) is a fictional counterterrorism and intelligence agency in the Marvel Universe that often deals with superhuman threats. Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, it first appeared in Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965).

Publication history

S.H.I.E.L.D.'s introduction in the newly launched Strange Tales feature "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." occurred during a trend for action series about secret international intelligence agencies with catchy acronyms, such as television's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond's SPECTRE. Colonel Fury (initially the lead character of Marvel Comics' World War II series Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos) was appointed head of the organization. Some characters from the Sgt. Fury series reappeared as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., most notably Thaddeus "Dum-Dum" Dugan, Fury's bowler hat-wearing aide-de-camp.

Its most persistent enemy is HYDRA, a criminal organization founded (after some retcon) by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Despite that name's capitalization per Marvel's official spelling, HYDRA is not an acronym but a reference to the mythical monster, symbolizing the organization's claim of growing stronger the more it is wounded.

Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965), the debut of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cover art by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was presented as an extant, full-blown entity in its first appearance and much retcon over the years filled-in its labyrinthine organizational history. Stan Lee wrote each story, abetted by artist Jack Kirby's co-plotting, through Strange Tales #147, followed by a rare Kirby-scripted story ("Death Before Dishonor!" in #148 (Sept. 1966). Denny O'Neil scripted an issue, followed by Lee again through #152 (Jan. 1967), the future Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas for an issue. Strange Tales #155 (April 1967), its writing credited to Lee, Thomas and artist Jim Steranko, marked the credited writing debut of soon-to-become industry legend Steranko — who had begun on the feature as a penciler-inker of Kirby layouts in #151 (Dec. 1966), taken over the every-other-issue "Nick Fury" cover art with #153 two months later, and full writing with ##155 (April 1967), upon which Steranko quickly established the feature as one of comics history's most groundbreaking, innovative and acclaimed.[1]

The 12-page feature ran through Strange Tales #168 (sharing that "split book" with the occult feature "Doctor Strange" each issue), after which it was spun off onto its own series of the same title, running 15 issues (June 1968 - Nov. 1969), followed by three all-reprint issues beginning a year later (Nov. 1970 - March 1971). Steranko wrote and drew issues #1-3 and #5, and provided the cover art for #1-7.

In 1988, Marvel produced the six-issue Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries, following it up with a second Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. This second series lasted 47 issues (Sept. 1989 - May 1993); its pivotal was "the Deltite Affair", in which many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were replaced with Life Model Decoy androids in a takeover attempt.

In 1994, the Fury one-shot retconned the events of Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. and the second Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, recasting them as a series of staged events designed to distract Fury from the resurrection plans of HYDRA head von Strucker. The following year, Howard Chaykin wrote the four-issue miniseries Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (April-July 1995). Various publications have additionally focused on Nick Fury's personal adventures, such as in the graphic novel Wolverine, Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection (1989).

Fictional history

S.H.I.E.L.D. was created by Nicholas Joseph Fury after the end of World War II, but Fury abandoned the idea and left the draft that he created for the agency locked away, feeling the U.S. government wouldn't approve the formation of such an agency. Years later, during a secret meeting with members of the former superhero team the First Line after they had suffered a devastating and fatal attack, Fury again saw the need for an agency like S.H.I.E.L.D. At some unspecified point around this time, however, a United Nations-based international group dusted off the idea without Fury's knowledge. His recruitment to the post of executive director (the agency's second) marked his first knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s existence.

A rare quiet moment for Nick Fury: Strange Tales #168 (May 1968). Art by Jim Steranko and Joe Sinnott.

Usually led by Nick Fury as executive director, this organization often operates as much as a covert agency as a quasi-military one, initially depicted as affiliated with the United States government. Later, S.H.I.E.L.D. was depicted as under the jurisdiction of the United Nations, with vast technological resources at its disposal, with U.N. General Assembly Resolutions and legislation passed in signatory nations aiding many of their operations.[2]

During the time that Godzilla roamed the United States, S.H.I.E.L.D. formed a subunit, the "Godzilla Squad" to hunt the creature down, until it disappeared into the Atlantic sea. This unit, led by Dum Dum Dugan, employed such weapons as a giant robot called Red Ronin and a smaller version of the Helicarrier, known as The Behemoth.

One of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s unique technological innovations, the LMD (Life Model Decoy) — an extremely lifelike androids used to replace people in imminent danger of being killed — was the basis for two major upheavals. First, the supervillain Scorpio stole that technology and used it to create the second team of villains called the Zodiac. Later, some LMDs known as the Deltites achieved sentience and infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., replacing key members, until Fury defeated them. This led to the disbanding of the original organization and its replacement by a new taskforce with the same acronym.

In the wake of a disastrous unauthorized mission in Latveria, in the multi-title story arc "Nick Fury's Secret War", Fury effectively resigned as executive director, with international warrants out for his arrest. His first successor was not one of his closer associates but a relatively unknown newcomer to the S.H.I.E.L.D. hierarchy, Maria Hill. Little is known of Hill's history within and prior to joining S.H.I.E.L.D.

A transcript of a conversation between Hill and the President of the United States printed in Secret War #5 revealed she was chosen for the post by consensus of the U.N. heads of state specifically to achieve two main goals: to keep other, more qualified senior staff perceived as Fury loyalists out of the job, and to keep relations with the world's superhero community to a minimum. The President also expected Hill — a North American — to be loyal first to U.S., despite S.H.I.E.L.D. being an U.N.-chartered organization.

Agents Valentina Allegra di Fontaine and Dum Dum Dugan, Strange Tales #168 (May 1968). Art by Steranko and Sinnott.

In the series New Avengers, Madame Hydra notes that Fury, "by sheer willpower", had been keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. relatively autonomous and uncorrupted, and without him, the organization was starting to fall apart. The Avengers suspect elements of S.H.I.E.L.D. are behind such things as "stockpiling" supervillains in prison and using slave labor to mine the Savage Land.

An additional political and ethical irritant affecting the relationship between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the superhuman community was the passage of the United States' Super-Human Registration Act, as depicted in the series Civil War. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been tasked to lead its enforcement, and to take on registered superheroes as operatives.

Towards the end of that conflict, Hill concludes she had been made director with the intent that she fail at the job, and proposes to Stark that he assume the post himself, with her as deputy. Stark accepts the appointment as director upon the conclusion of the Civil War, and undertakes a series of initiatives, including the construction of a new gold-and-red Helicarrier in the motif of his Iron Man designs.

5 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents have been identified as some of the 142 registered superheroes who appear on the cover of the comic book Avengers: The Initiative #1.

Organizational structure and procedure

Over the decades, varying writers have depicted S.H.I.E.L.D.'s organizational structure in several different ways. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (first edition) describes an eight-level ranking structure, although providing almost no detail on other aspects of the Directorate's internal makeup.

Most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s agents are normal humans. Years ago the organization attempted to set up a team of superhuman agents, composed of Marvel Man (the future Quasar), Texas Twister, Blue Streak and the Vamp but the last two were secretly agents of the criminal organization called The Corporation, and the team broke apart before it had its first official mission. A second team organized years later also lasted only a short while.

S.H.I.E.L.D. does employ some superhumans, including in its its Psi-Division, composed of telepathic agents who deal with like menaces. S.H.I.E.L.D. also obtains help from independent heroes when their special abilities are needed. It has also accepted some superheroes and supervillains as members, but no longer in a separate unit. (See "Membership".)

Its headquarters is the Helicarrier, a massive flying aircraft carrier kept airborne at all times and, among other things, contained a squadron of jet fighters and housed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). In addition, S.H.I.E.L.D. maintains strong ties to the superhero community, especially Captain America, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four, and often calls upon that community for aid on particular missions.

In the 2000s, depictions of S.H.I.E.L.D. imply a hierarchy of security clearance levels used either in place of, or alongside, the previously described rank structure. The security-clearance hierarchy operates on a scale ranging from "Level One", the lowest, to "Level Ten", described by Maria Hill, executive director at the time, as the highest security clearance anyone of any government can have. Hill's own clearance, cited in the series New Avengers was Level Nine.

The first story arc in the series New Avengers (2005-   ), "Breakout", revealed an additional ranking, "Champion Status", that effectively removes them from the traditional S.H.I.E.L.D. hierarchy and, as Captain America comments, gives status-holder such as himself the right to assemble any team to carry out any mission he believes necessary. In addition, confusingly, Civil War #2 (Aug. 2006) established Nick Fury as the only "33rd-degree" S.H.I.E.L.D officer, meaning he is the only member of S.H.I.E.L.D, present or past, to know the full existence of 28 emergency, covert, back-up bases scattered across the globe. In that issue, he gave at least one of these bases to Captain America for the use of the anti-Superhero Registration Act resistance.

Prominent members

2001 trade-paperback collection, with repurposed cover art from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 (March 1968) by Jim Steranko.

Main article: List of S.H.I.E.L.D. members

Throughout its existence, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been most prominently led by Nick Fury, with Maria Hill succeeding him in mid-2000s stories. She voluntarily stepped down in a 2007 story, becoming deputy director to Tony Stark. Other historically prominent members, who have appeared from the earliest stories to the modern day, include Thaddeus "Dum Dum" Dugan and Gabriel "Gabe" Jones, both veterans of Fury's World War II Howling Commandos, though their youthful longevity has not, unlike Fury's, been explained in Marvel continuity; Contessa Valentina Allegra di Fontaine;[3] Clay Quartermain; Jasper Sitwell; and Sharon Carter (Agent 13), all introduced in the 1960s; and Jimmy Woo, introduced in the 1950s comic Yellow Claw and reintroduced in the ' 60s.

Bases of operation

Although the various Helicarriers built over the years have long been considered S.H.I.E.L.D.'s primary home base, the Directorate as maintains a number of land bases throughout the world, most notably "SHIELD Central" in New York City. While some of these bases are publicly accessible on a limited basis, most are not publicly disclosed for reasons of planetary security. There are several fully equipped S.H.I.E.L.D. fall-out shelters scattered around the world, their existence known only to Nick Fury. After the events of Secret War, it is widely speculated that Nick Fury was hiding in an American based shelter. He also divulged the location of one to Captain America, so the Resistance to the Superhuman Registration Act could use it as a safehouse.


Main article: S.W.O.R.D. (comics)

Astonishing X-Men vol.3, #6 (Dec. 2004), written by Joss Whedon introduced the governmental organization S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department), which works with S.H.I.E.L.D. but specializing in extraterrestrial threats. Dialogue in the stories depicting both organizations have been ambiguous on whether S.W.O.R.D. is a branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. or a sister agency.

Agent Abigail Brand, the S.W.O.R.D. agent the X-Men encountered, has green hair, a trait typical of agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s archenemy, HYDRA. This unusual characteristic did not go unremarked; Wolverine referred to her as "Hydra-Hair" in Astonishing X-Men vol.3, #6.

A similar group as S.W.O.R.D., likewise affiliated with the U.N., is Starcore, which has worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. on several projects of joint interest, including establishing and maintaining a crewed facility on Earth's Moon.


S.T.R.I.K.E. (Special Tactical Response for International Key Emergencies) was a sister agency to S.H.I.E.L.D., based in the United Kingdom. Disbanded after being infiltrated and taken over by a criminal organisation, one of its members was the future X-Man Psylocke. It was introduced in Marvel UK's Captain Britain #17.

Another European subdivision of SHIELD, called Euromind, was introduced in the Marvel Italia series Europa.


Introduced in Marvel's line of novels in the mid 1990s, S.A.F.E. (Strategic Action For Emergencies) is the United States' answer to S.H.I.E.L.D. It first appeared in Spider-Man & the Incredible Hulk: Rampage (Doom's Day Book 1), and may not be part of comics canon, although the novels it appears in have been referred to several times in Marvel's Handbooks. Whereas S.H.I.E.L.D. is a U.N.-chartered organization dealing with international incidents, S.A.F.E. is tasked with similar duties inside America's borders. It is run by Colonel Sean Morgan. A prominently featured agent is Joshua Ballard, who, among other things, survived an encounter with Doctor Doom and later Baron Zemo.

In the novel Secret of the Sinister Six, S.A.F.E. agent Clyde Fury (no relation to Nick Fury) distinguishes between espionage agencies (such as S.H.I.E.L.D.) and strategic action specialists such as S.A.F.E.

Depictions in translation

Clay Quartermain, from Strange Tales #167 (April 1968). Art by Steranko.

S.H.I.E.L.D. stories have been translated into several other languages, including French, Finnish and Italian. Occasionally, these translations will show S.H.I.E.L.D. with an altered name.

In the case of selected French editions, the name of the agency was depicted as S.E.R.V.O., which sounds like "brain" (cerveau) in French.

In Finnish the name that applies to S.H.I.E.L.D. in mainstream Marvel continuity is Y.P.K.V.V. (Ylimmäisen Päämajan Kansainvälisen Vakoilun Vastustamisjaos), a direct translation of the original English. In translations of the Ultimate Marvel comics, the name is K.I.L.P.I., with "kilpi" being the translation for the word (as opposed to the acronym) "shield".

In Greek, the organisation name is Α.Σ.Π.Ι.Δ.Α. (ASPIDA, as a word means "shield"). The initials stands for Highest Military and Political Foundation of International Espionage (Ανώτατο Στρατιωτικό Πολιτικό Ίδρυμα Διεθνούς Αντικατασκοπέιας)

In Portuguese, the name S.H.I.E.L.D. remains, but it is translated as "Superintendência Humana de Intervenção, Espionagem, Logística e Dissuasão", i. e., Human Superintendence for Intervention, Espionage, Logistics and Dissuasion.

In Dutch the name S.C.H.I.L.D. (schild = shield) has been used by the publisher Williams, but was dropped by Junior Press in favour of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In Spanish, initial publisher Vértice translated S.H.I.E.L.D. as "Escudo" (always without a determinant), but never showed the meaning. Later publisher Planeta DeAgostini used the name S.H.I.E.L.D., but translating the acronym as "Organización Internacional para la Ejecución y el Cumplimiento de la Ley". It has been suggested[citation needed], as a joke, that the acronym does not correspond to the meaning because the acronym itself is undercover. Now, Panini translates the acronym as "Servicio Homologado de Inteligencia, Espionaje, Logística y Defensa".

In Danish, S.H.I.E.L.D. was originally known as S.K.J.O.L.D., "Skjold" being the Danish word for a shield, though the meaning of the abbrevation would differ.

Ultimate S.H.I.E.L.D.

S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Ultimate Marvel parallel universe was first led by General "Thunderbolt" Ross. During the Gulf War, the Weapon X Project, headed by Colonel John Wraith, was sanctioned by S.H.I.E.L.D. and resulted in the creation of Wolverine.

After Ross' apparent death, Nick Fury was then selected as the organization's executive director. His first plan was to resurrect the Super Soldier program, commissioning Dr. Bruce Banner to try to recreate the formula that made Captain America. This failed and resulted in the creation of the Hulk when Banner injected his serum into himself. It was later revealed that the chemical called Oz, which turned Norman Osborn into the Green Goblin, was also created in hopes of recreating the Super Soldier formula. Spider-Man was also a product of the Oz formula. As well, the creation of the Sandman and Electro are due to Hammer Industries attempting to recreate the Super Soldier formula for S.H.I.E.L.D.

S.H.I.E.L.D. later created its own superhero team, the Ultimates. Later still, it brought the X-Men and Spider-Man under S.H.I.E.L.D. jurisdiction. As of Ultimate X-Men #65 (Jan. 2006), S.H.I.E.L.D. severed ties with the X-Men.

In the Ultimate Marvel universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. is controlled entirely by the United States. It maintains ties to a sister organization in Europe, the European Defense Initiative.


Main article: List of S.H.I.E.L.D. members § Ultimate S.H.I.E.L.D.


Other media

Other intelligence agencies

See also: List of government agencies in comics


  1. ^ Ron Goulart, in Comix: A History of Comic Books in America (Bonanza Books, New York, 1971; Library of Congres Catalog Card Number 75-169-104), wrote, "[E]ven the dullest of readers could sense that somethng new was happening. ... Which each passing issue Steranko's efforts became more and more innovative. Entire pages would be devoted to photocollages of drawings [that] ignored panel boundaries and instead worked together on planes of depth. The first pages ... became incredible production numbers similar in design to the San Francisco rock concert poster of the period". Larry Hama in his introduction to the trade paperback collection Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Who Is Scorpio? (Marvel Enterprises, 2001; ISBN 0-7851-0766-5), said Steranko "combined the figurative dynamism of Jack Kirby with modern design concepts. The graphic influences of Peter Max, Op Art and Andy Warhol were embedded into the design of the pages — and the pages were designed as a whole, not just as a series of panels. All this, executed in a crisp, hard-edged style, seething with drama and anatomical tension". The series won 1967 and 1968 Alley Awards, and was inducted in the latter year to the awards' Hall of Fame. Steranko himself was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  2. ^ Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2, # 7 (June 2005)
  3. ^ As spelled officially by Marvel Comics on its S.H.I.E.L.D. page, although misspelled with a male name and spelled with different Italian article as "Valentina Allegro de Fontaine" in her name's first two mentions, in Strange Tales #159, "Spy School", 10, panel 6, and Strange Tales #162, "So Evil, the Night p.3, panel 6.