The elderly Nick Fury is coming back -- and he has something that will "forever change" his son whose taken over much of his duties as the top spy in the Marvel U.
The last time readers saw Nick Fury, Sr., he had become trapped on the moon as “the Unseen,” something of a replacement for Uatu, the Watcher, who died in Original Sin. Now, Fury, Sr. is returning, to reunite with his son, Nick Fury, Jr. in Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary.
Helming the reunion of the Furys is Cyborg writer David Walker, September 23's Fury aims to bridge the gap between Fury, Sr.’s old guard, and the new S.H.I.E.L.D. of Fury, Jr. Newsarama spoke to Walker about what it’s like working for both DC and Marvel, what artist Lee Ferguson brings to the table (hint: according to Walker, it’s a lot), and the challenges of helping to establish Nick Fury, Jr. as an integral part of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s future.
Newsarama: David, you’ve only done one previous story for Marvel, as part of the Secret Wars: Battleworld anthology. How did you wind up getting the Fury gig?
David Walker: The story I did for Secret Wars: Battleworld was something of an audition. I wrote a Howard the Duck versus Blade story, which was something that’s been in my mind for a very long time. I kept emailing my editor saying, “You know, we could expand this into a mini-series.” I think he asked me about doing the S.H.I.E.L.D. one-shot as a way to keep me from pestering him. I was throwing out some other weird ideas as well, that in hindsight might have seemed a bit outside the box. I mean who thinks it would be a good idea to have Howard the Duck team up with Blade. But I suspect it was that kind of thinking that had my editor ask, “You got any ideas for a Nick Fury story?” And rather than me coming back with a pitch that starred one or the other, I came back with an unlikely idea that teamed the two of them up.
Nrama: The solicitations for Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1 mention that both Nick Fury, Jr. and Nick Fury, Sr. will team up for this mission. The last time we saw Nick Fury, Sr. he was trapped on the moon after the events of Original Sin. Will that come into play at all here?
Walker: Without giving too much of the story away, I will say that there is a reasonable chance that the current state of Fury Sr. will possibly factor into the story somewhere. Maybe. I really want to make sure that we get a sense of who Fury Sr. was, and who he is now, and the contrast between the two. He has a complex history, and there had to be some acknowledgement of that.
Nrama: Your story features both Nick Furys going up against a threat from the past. Can you shed any light on what that threat might be?
Nrama: Shedding light on the threat would require some huge spoilers. What I will say is that there is a villain that has been around for many years, in various incarnations, and he’s got something sinister up his sleeve. But the villain is really more of an excuse to bring these two men together, and to see how they operate. I will say that the threat that both men face is something that is very timely and topical - both in 1965 and 2015. I wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between these two eras that are separated by fifty years, but bound by some of the same problems. I love reading about history, and I tend to do a lot of research - it is my preferred form of procrastination - and when I went into this project, I wanted to find a way to tie these two eras together.
Nrama: With Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe bringing the character to a much wider audience than ever before, how do you feel about the work Marvel has done to make the comic book version of Fury as strong a character of color as the one we see onscreen?
Walker: There’s been some really interesting stuff done to introduce a version of Nick Fury into the 616 that looks more like the Ultimate Universe incarnation, which of course inspired the Fury of the MCU. The Battle Scars mini-series a few years ago did a great job of introducing Fury Jr., and the character has had some great moments in books like Secret Avengers. The thing I find interesting about Fury, Jr. is that there is a lot of room to develop the character. He isn’t burdened with as much history as his father.
As far as him being a strong character of color, I think Fury Jr. is still being defined as a character in the 616 in a way that differentiates him from his father. His race is part of the story, but there is never a moment where he becomes the sort of black character we see a bit too often in comics, where he says something to reinforce what is already known and obvious. In other words, he’s not running around calling himself Black Fury, nor do I think anyone else is calling him that—though I must admit, a character named Black Fury would be badass. There is room to grow Fury Jr. in the 616, but I see it more as room to grow him as a character who can stand on his own, and happens to be black, as well as ex-military, as well as someone who grew up without a father.
I grew up bi-racial, being indentified as black - because that’s how things were done back in the olden days - but I also grew up without a father. Not having a dad defined me as much if not more than my racial identity. So many great characters in comics are defined by either the tragic or the dysfunctional relationships with their families. The loss of Uncle Ben defines Peter Parker more than his being white. Thor’s relationship with both Odin and Loki has shaped his character, while his race is inconsequential in defining him. If race is the key component in defining any character, then that is a poorly developed character. Good characters have depth and dimension, in addition to some of the more obvious identifiers like race or gender—which aren’t always that obvious.
Nrama: You’re the ongoing writer of Cyborg over at DC. What’s it like being one of the few creators right now who’s able to find a home at both Marvel and DC?
Walker: It is like being a very lucky writer, who has to schedule his time carefully. I look at someone like Cullen Bunn, who writes for three or four publishers, and puts out about fifty books a month, and I try to figure out how he does it. I suspect he has a clone or two that he keeps in his basement, working around the clock. But seriously, it is a great honor to be doing work at both companies. You put in a lot of time and energy doing projects that are either self-published or put out through other companies, and you hope that one day you get the chance to work for one of the Big Two, but to get to do work at both is about a dozen kinds of awesome.
Nrama: The solicitation for Fury says this is a story “50 years in the making.” Obviously, with this being S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 50th anniversary, there’s a huge legacy to uphold. How do you honor S.H.I.E.L.D.’s past in the form of Nick Fury, Sr. while also building the future with Nick Fury, Jr.?
Walker: How do I answer that question without spoilers? The key with this story was to make sure that Fury, Jr. was in a different place from where he started. That’s to say that he had to go through something that would forever change him, and give him insight into his father that he never had. The story definitely honors Fury, Sr. and the legacy of S.H.I.E.L.D., but this is Junior’s story. The biggest challenge was finding enough balance between the two men, so that fans of both would feel satisfied with the story. When it comes to the character of Nick Fury, there are two very distinct types of fans. There are those that love the original, Howlin’ Commando Nick Fury, and then there are those that know him mostly from the movies and the Ultimate universe. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t know that there was once a white Nick Fury, or how many that don’t know that the two men named Nick Fury are related.
Nrama: Tell us about your experience working with Lee Ferguson. How does he capture the spy-fi style inherent to S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Walker: I first saw Lee’s work in a Flash Gordon book he did for Dynamite, and was really impressed with his line work. He’s got a really strong visual style and a great sense of panel composition. Just looking at his inked pages made me really want to see a version of this book in black and white, because he uses shadows and negative space to really set the mood for the story. There was a moment, when looking at his art, that I was reminded of Greg Toland, the cinematographer that shot Citizen Kane. Toland used shadows so well, and Lee does the same thing, so that shadows are something more - they are places where secrets go to hide from the light of truth. I had been concerned that once color was introduced to the pages the shadows would lose some of their impact, but that isn’t the case.
Nrama: What’s next for you? You’ve got Cyborg ongoing at DC. Is there any more Marvel work in your future?
Walker: There is some stuff in development, but you know how it is—these publishers make you sign these nondisclosure agreements, and make you take a blood oath. I will say that there is some interesting stuff in the near future. My guess is that there will be an announcement or two at the New York Comic Con. I’m also developing some creator-owned projects that I hope will see the light of day in 201