Brevoort on Bringing MARVEL Comics Closer to MARVEL Movies

[The following article contains spoilers for Battle Scars #6.]


Battle Scars #6, written by Chris Yost with Matt Fraction and Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Scot Eaton, went on sale Wednesday, nine days before the Avengers debuts in theaters. In the comic, set in the conventional Marvel Universe, Army Ranger Marcus Johnson — the previously unrevealed son of long-running character Nick Fury — is revealed to have the given name of "Nick Fury, Jr." and ends the series with a bald head, missing eye and goatee, looking quite similar to the Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson in multiple Marvel Studios productions.

In that same comic, Johnson's partner "Cheese" is revealed to be Phil Coulson, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent played by Clark Gregg in the Marvel Studios films, and another prominent character in Avengers. Like Harley Quinn and Firestar before him, Coulson was originally introduced in a comic book adaptation — first seen in 2008's Iron Man movie — and has now been established as a full-time resident in comic book continuity.

Newsarama talked to Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort about what motivated the decision to bring Agent Coulson to the classic Marvel Universe, the process of introducing an equivalent to the movie Nick Fury, where we might see the duo next, and what the future holds for the original Nick Fury — who, as of Battle Scars #6, is now out of the Infinity Formula that for years has slowed the aging of the World War II veteran.


Newsarama: Tom, what can you say about what motivated Marvel to introduce Agent Coulson and a Samuel L. Jackson-as-Nick Fury equivalent to the Marvel Universe in Battle Scars? At what point did Marvel recognize it as a necessary step?

Tom Brevoort: I don't know if it was a necessary step so much as it just became a wise step. It's not like anybody said, "You have to do this," but certainly in a world where the incarnation of that character that's appearing in film, and animation, and consumer products, toys — everywhere else — is black, it kind of makes sense for us to not be completely out of step with that. And yet, the Marvel Universe Nick Fury is a storied character, he's been around forever, close to 50 years at this point. It's not like you can just have another guy come in and step into his shoes. That's not really what we're doing here with Marcus, per se, but we are building a newer, younger, more active Nick who can be closer, at least visually, to the incarnation that people know from other media.

In terms of how long the idea’s been around, Battle Scars was originally going to be part of Fear Itself: The Fearless, so at least as far back as somewhere in the early to middle part of Fear Itself. I'm pretty sure it was Joe Quesada who first started the conversation going, the notion that maybe Nick could have a son out there somewhere that we didn't know about, who would become our "new Nick Fury." As we got into Fear Itself: The Fearless, we discovered we had too many different threads to actually service in the space we had, so we chose to break them into two separate projects. 


Nrama: How much of a challenge was it to market Battle Scars while keeping these major elements under wraps? I think it took a lot of people by surprise, both the actual developments and where it was coming from.

Brevoort: Well, obviously we like taking people by surprise. We also like it when our books sell well. It was definitely an issue, and I suspect that Battle Scars all along has been kind of under-ordered consequently. It's a problem just in the nature of comic book promotion. We tell you every month that every comic we publish is going to be an absolute, can't-miss critical masterpiece. So saying, "There's an important character coming here! Something's going on here!" isn't always necessarily enough to convince readers or retailers to check it out or take a position, because they just don't know. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, things don’t go off the way we had hoped or planned. It was definitely something that we considered. We were hoping that just being able to press the mystery and the secret of "Who is this guy? Where does he come from? What's he all about?" would be enough to drive people's interest into the series.


Nrama: With a new character established as "Nick Fury," people are wondering what's going to become of the classic version of Nick Fury. He's already been operating mostly in the shadows for the past several years — will he still be around going forward? Is this kind of a way of Marvel having their cake and eating it, getting a new Nick Fury closer to the movie version, but keeping the classic one around, too?

Brevoort: I don't know that he's going to be more around than he has been. I don't know that necessarily he's going to be around less. He's certainly appearing regularly in Ed [Brubaker]'s Winter Soldier series. There's been talk about Matt [Fraction] using him over in Defenders. And obviously we're doing the Fury MAX series — it's MAX, so it's set aside from Marvel continuity, but it's the classic incarnation of the character.

I don't think, necessarily, the advent of Marcus-Nick Fury means, inevitably, that you're looking at the demise of classic Nick Fury. You'll no doubt tend to see more of new Nick than older Nick in the days ahead. But honestly, even the roles that I see them playing are a little bit different from one another. For whatever reason, and it probably had a lot to do with the fact that he stopped being the star of his own series, when he was initially conceived, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a guy who strapped on some Steranko gear and went out and mixed it up with Hydra agents and A.I.M. guys. By the inevitably of not having a book of his own, over the last 10 or 20 years, Nick's role has generally been to knock on a superhero's door, and say, "Hey, superhero, I have a mission for you," and be a very easy way to get a character into a story that they otherwise wouldn't be connected to. Much more of a supporting player role.


In terms of where "Marcus" Fury is set up at the end of Battle Scars, he's not the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he is an agent. In my perfect world, he'll go out there and do all the kinds of stuff that Nick used to do back in the day. He won't be a guy that'll show up with a mission for a superhero, he'll be on a mission and team up with a superhero. That means you can still have old Nick in that role that he's been playing. It is kind of a way to eat our cake and have it too.

Ultimately, new Nick comes from the publishing world to begin with, he just comes by a circuitous route, starting in the Ultimate Universe, and then winding through the films and animation, to come back to Marvel publishing. But any time it seems like what we're doing is following the lead of other divisions, our fans just have a hard time accepting it. They don't like it. It was the same sort of situation on a much smaller level when we gave Spider-Man the organic web-shooters. That too was a case where, "Man, everybody has seen these films." Then he had the organic web-shooters for a number of years, and at a certain point going into "Brand New Day," we decided, "OK, let's go back and give him the mechanical web-shooters again," and then a different bunch of people were upset about that. It's always kind of a dicey thing when you're shifting things up this way, but to me the challenge is, "Make new Nick an interesting, viable character. Don't just make him a clone of old Nick in blackface and a goatee, make him a character unto himself." The good thing about new Nick is, at least at this point, he's had very little interaction with any of the characters in the Marvel Universe, so you've got the opportunity to introduce him to Spider-Man, and to Daredevil, and to Iron Man, to Thor, and the Hulk and everybody — and get a different perspective, and let him have a different set of experiences than the ones that older Nick had, and hopefully create some interesting story possibilities and directions for things moving ahead.

We're definitely going to do more with the character; we're definitely going to do more with Coulson in the months and weeks ahead.


Nrama: Following Battle Scars #6, what's the next comic the two characters will appear in?

Brevoort: The most immediate place, and it's a very small appearance, is in Scarlet Spider in just a few weeks. It's there as much as anything because Chris writes that series, and he's about as invested in those two characters as anybody, having spent so much time writing them. We're not quite ready to say exactly where they're going to be thereafter, but there's definitely some interesting stuff on the horizon.

Nrama: So while the Nick Fury decision seemed somewhat difficult to maneuver, how much of a no-brainer was introducing Agent Coulson to the Marvel Universe? Was it a matter of, "here's a popular character from the movies, why don't we put him in the comics"?

Brevoort: Yeah, pretty much. Even the notion that he would be Marcus' partner, that too came out of the early conversations with Joe, and the ideas that had sparked with him. That whole structure of, "People will probably figure out pretty early that that guy is going to be Nick Fury, but they may not see the other guy being Coulson coming" was something that went back to the stuff that Joe was spitballing a year, year-and-a-half ago.

I think he was a surprising character to everybody. Certainly, when his role was written for the first Iron Man film, I can't imagine that anybody thought that he'd become as crucial to the film franchise as he has. Clearly, Clark Gregg gave a great performance; clearly the Marvel Studios guys liked him and felt simpatico enough to keep bringing him back, and to start featuring him outside of the Iron Man films.

Where In The (Comics) World Is Coulson?
Where In The (Comics) World Is Coulson?

He really is the glue that binds that whole cinematic universe together. And it's not like it's a difficult character to introduce into the Marvel Universe. He's an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. They have hundreds of agents. The notion that you could turn a corner and he would just be there, that would be perfectly acceptable. It was absolutely a no-brainer. It was inevitable that we would get to him sooner or later, and BATTLE SCARS just seemed like a good place to do two for the price of one. It sets Nick and Coulson up in a nice relationship that's not exactly their relationship in the films and elsewhere, but it parallels it enough that it's comfortable for people who come from that world.


Nrama: Battle Scars #6 made it fairly clear, but just to clarify, the next time we see Marcus Johnson, he will be "Nick Fury," correct?

Brevoort: He will be Nick Fury. It's not impossible that here and there either Coulson or other people that knew him as Marcus Johnson over the years will make reference to that. He's got a past, he's got a history, he was an Army Ranger, he did serve in Afghanistan, and presumably he served with other people who might know him as Marcus Johnson. But he's going to be Nick Fury. He will grudgingly and ultimately acceptingly embrace that moniker that is his actual name, he just didn't really know it until this point.

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