For the third installment of our Avengers Spotlight, we’ll be looking at the right hand man and woman to Director Nick Fury. Unlike the other members of ‘The Avengers’ cast, who all have long, storied histories, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Maria Hill and Phil Coulson are relatively new to the Marvel Universe. Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch created Hill in 2005. Her first appearance was in issue four of ‘New Avengers’. As for Coulson, he was created in 2008 for Jon Favreau’s ‘Iron Man’ and didn’t make his first appearance in a Marvel comic until 2010. Even though they’re the new kids on the block, they’re still essential parts of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers team.
Maria Hill was born in Chicago, Illinois. During childbirth, her mother passed away and her father always resented her for surviving. When she grew up, Maria joined the United States armed forces before becoming an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
After the events of ‘Secret War’ when Director Nick Fury is forced to go into hiding, Hill is appointed the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. As director, she established new policies on super-powered heroes at the request of the President of the United States. She even tried to prevent the Avengers from re-forming after a breakout at the Raft, but because Captain America is who he is and Spider-Woman is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap can form any team he wants for a mission and Spider-Woman can retrieve any intel for whatever team she happens to be on.
During Civil War, Hill was one of the biggest enforcers of the Superhuman Registration Act. She blackmailed Wonder Man into helping her hunt down the heroes opposed to the Registration Act. She also dispatched Noh-Varr and the Thunderbolts to capture the Runaways and Spider-Man, respectively. At the conclusion of ‘Civil War’, she steps down to the position of Deputy Director and works under the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony Stark.
After the events of ‘Siege’ at the start of the Heroic Age, Hill is appointed by Captain Steve Rogers to work with a new team of Avengers.
Agent Phil Coulson first hit the scene in ‘Iron Man’, where he tries speaking to Tony Stark about his time in captivity to debrief him. Since his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s become the S.H.I.E.L.D. presence on the big screen besides Nick Fury. From looking after Tony Stark while he’s under house arrest to leading a team of agents to uncover the mysteries behind the mysterious hammer in New Mexico, Coulson serves as S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury’s man about town. He’s a very disciplined and capable agent, and the non-super powered glue that holds larger than life personalities of The Avengers team together. Other than the instances where we see him working for S.H.I.E.L.D., little is known about the “Son of Coul” as of yet.
Shining Moment on the Page
During the Secret Invasion of the Skrulls, the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier is compromised by the Skrull invaders. Unable to tell who on the ship is a real agent and who is a Skrull, Hill is captured and executed by the invading forces that have completely taken over the ship. However, the Maria Hill that the Skrulls executed turned out to be a life model decoy deployed so that the real Maria Hill had time to activate the helicarrier’s self-destruct system, killing all the Skrulls on board while she escapes with a jet pack.
While Agent Coulson is primarily a fixture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s made a few appearances on the page as well in some MCU comic tie-ins. In 2010, Coulson starred in ‘Iron Man 2: Phil Coulson: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. He’s also made appearances in ‘Amazing Spider-Man Digital’ #13. Recently, he’s been a main character in ‘The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week’, which ties together all the Marvel movies by showing what Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Agent Coulson were up to when they weren’t onscreen.
Shining Moment on the Screen
Maria Hill hasn’t been seen much outside of the pages of Marvel comics. In Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’, she’ll be played by ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star Cobie Smulders. Until then, Hill can be seen in the animated series ‘The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ voiced by Kari Wührer. She appears as a central authority of S.H.I.E.L.D. and protégé of Nick Fury. When Fury goes missing unexpectedly, she takes over as director and tries to get the Avengers to register and become agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an endeavor that she has since been unsuccessful in.
Agent Coulson has appeared in practically every Marvel Studios picture, but he really shines in the Marvel One Shots, two short films that appeared as special features on the DVD releases of ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. While both show off Coulson as being a savvy agent, ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Thor’s Hammer’ shows off his badass side. This short takes place after Coulson leaves Tony Stark’s lab in ‘Iron Man 2’ and he’s en route to the crash site of Thor’s hammer. He takes a pit stop to fill his gas tank and get some snacks, but two robbers barge in to rob the place. As he’s about to hand over his pistol, he distracts the robbers and takes them both out before nonchalantly paying for his snacks and leaving. Coulson is always a sight for sore eyes whenever we see him, but seeing him kick butt for once was a pleasant change of pace. I hope to see more Coulson in action in ‘The Avengers’ come May 4th.
Now you know a little bit more about two of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s leading agents. To find out more about the organization’s director, Nick Fury, or The Avengers as a whole, check out my previous spotlights to hold you over until ‘The Avengers’ finally hits theaters.