Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965)
Stan Lee (writer)
Jack Kirby (artist)
Type of organization
The Helicarrier, Triskelion
S.H.I.E.L.D. is a fictional espionage, law-enforcement, and counter-terrorism
agency, it often deals with
paranormal and superhuman threats.
The acronym originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage,
Law-Enforcement Division. It was changed in 1991 to Strategic Hazard
Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate. Within the various films set in
the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as multiple animated and live-action
television series, the acronym stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention,
Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Fictional organizational history
Usually led by Nick Fury as executive director (although he reports to a
twelve-member council, whose identities even he does not know), 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. However, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been inconsistently portrayed as
under U.S., rather than U.N., control - for instance, in Astonishing X-Men #3,
Nick Fury explains S.H.I.E.L.D.'s inaction during an incident of genocide by
stating that it did not occur on American soil.
S.H.I.E.L.D. started off as a top secret international organization (Fury was
unaware of them when he was in the CIA) with a Supreme International Council
made up of top officials and minds from across the world, including Tony
Stark. Its first director was Rick Stoner, former head of the CIA, but he was
quickly assassinated by Hydra, and the President of the United States
recommended Nick Fury take the role. Later on, the ultimate authority of
S.H.I.E.L.D. is revealed to be a cabal of 12 mysterious men and women who give
Fury his orders and operational structure, leaving Fury to manage the actual
implementation of these orders and stratagems.
One of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s unique technological innovations, the LMD (Life Model
Decoy) — an extremely lifelike android used to replace people in imminent danger
of being killed — was the basis for two major upheavals. First, the supervillain
Scorpio stole the 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. and Hydra both, replacing key members until Fury
defeated them. This led to the disbanding of the original organization and its
replacement by a new task force with the same acronym under the control of the
U.N. ("Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate") The
new S.H.I.E.L.D. was meant to be more streamlined so Fury could personally
oversee it, but would soon become a large organization again.
In the wake of a disastrous unauthorized mission in Latveria, 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. A transcript of a
conversation between Hill and the President of the United States revealed
she was chosen for the post by United Nations consensus to keep Fury loyalists
out of the job and to keep relations with the superhero community to a
minimum.[volume & issue needed] The President also expected Hill — an American —
to be loyal first to the U.S., despite S.H.I.E.L.D. being a U.N.-chartered
organization.[volume & issue needed]
The passage of the United States' Superhuman Registration Act and the subsequent
superhero "Civil War" created an additional political and ethical irritant
between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the superhuman community, with S.H.I.E.L.D. tasked to
lead enforcement and to take on registered superheroes as operatives.
Toward the end of the conflict, Hill concluded she had been made director with
the intent that she fail at the job, and she proposes to Tony Stark that he
assume the post himself, with her as deputy. Stark accepts the
appointment as director upon the conclusion of the superhuman 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 armor designs, the
introduction of a daycare center in the Helicarrier, and an employee
suggestion-box. While accused of treating S.H.I.E.L.D. as a Stark Industries
subsidiary, he succeeded in streamlining the organization and raising
morale. S.H.I.E.L.D. fought a wave of global superhuman terrorism and was
manipulated into two international incidents that almost saw Director Stark
arrested, until they revealed the Mandarin to be behind it and stopped him from
committing genocide with an Extremis pathogen.
At the start of the Secret Invasion by the extraterrestrial shape-shifting race
the Skrulls, the Helicarrier is disabled by a Skrull virus and left floating and
disabled in the Bermuda Triangle. The Skrulls by this point have already
replaced a large number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including the high-ranking
Timothy "Dum-Dum" Dugan. After the invasion is repelled, the President of
the United States decides to dissolve S.H.I.E.L.D., and has it, the Fifty
State Initiative, and the Avengers replaced by the Thunderbolts Initiative,
which is placed under the supervision of Norman Osborn.
Osborn uses the opportunity to transform S.H.I.E.L.D. into a new organization
called "H.A.M.M.E.R.", formed by loyal agents of the Thunderbolts Initiative as
well as former agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. The Thunderbolts are
officially disbanded in the process as well and turned into a black-ops force
that answers only to Osborn. Meanwhile, H.A.M.M.E.R. also operates alongside the
newest, and only government-sponsored Avengers team, the Dark Avengers.
After the Invasion, Fury discovers that S.H.I.E.L.D. itself had been under the
control of the terrorist organization Hydra ostensibly from its very
After the conclusion of the Secret Warriors ongoing series, S.H.I.E.L.D. was
reformed with Fury leaving it under the control of its new director, Daisy
Johnson. The new S.H.I.E.L.D. subsequently saved US Army Ranger Marcus
Johnson from mercenaries hired by the Leviathan. When he discovered he was the
son of Nick Fury, Marcus (whose birth name was Nick Fury, Jr.) and his army
friend Phil Coulson joined S.H.I.E.L.D. Maria Hill and the rest of
S.H.I.E.L.D. later formed their incarnation of the Secret Avengers.
During the Avengers: Standoff! storyline, S.H.I.E.L.D. establishes a gated
community called Pleasant Hills to serve as a super villain prison. Using
technology derived from the Cosmic Cube called Kobik, S.H.I.E.L.D. converts the
inmates into the mild-mannered residents of Pleasant Hills.
Organizational structure and procedure
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Over the decades, various 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 (technician,
administrator, field agent, regional officer, special officer, regional
director, special director, executive director), although providing almost no
detail on other aspects of the Directorate's internal makeup. Years later, the
miniseries Agents of Atlas mentioned a position of "sub director", and seemed to
indicate that the administrative department of S.H.I.E.L.D. it itself referred
to simply as "Directorate".
Most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s agents are normal humans. At one point 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 latter two were
secretly agents of the criminal organization 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 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 not 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, containing a squadron of jet
fighters and housing 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 New Avengers ongoing series, was
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 de la Fontaine; Clay Quartermain (Agent 9); Jacob
Strzeszewski (Agent 10); Jasper Sitwell (Agent 12); 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.
Prior to the events of the Civil War, Captain America estimated there to be
3,000 agents on active duty.
Bases of operation
Although the various Helicarriers built over the years have long been considered
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s primary mobile home base, the Directorate also maintains a number
of land bases throughout the world, most notably "S.H.I.E.L.D. 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, with twenty-eight of these being known only to Nick Fury. During the
events of Civil War, 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 safe house.
The following organizations are related to S.H.I.E.L.D.:
A.R.M.O.R. (Altered-Reality Monitoring and Operational Response) is a sister agency to S.H.I.E.L.D. that monitors alternate reality incursions. In the comics it is stated that A.R.M.O.R. is so secret that it 'makes S.W.O.R.D. look like S.H.I.E.L.D., and S.H.I.E.L.D. look like the Post Office'.
H.A.M.M.E.R. replaces S.H.I.E.L.D. after it is dissolved when Norman Osborn is
appointed the new head following the conclusion of the Skrull attack. It was
not established what H.A.M.M.E.R. stands for; in Dark Avengers #1, Osborn told
Victoria Hand, the new Deputy Director, that it does stand for something, and
when she asked what it stands for, he told her, "Get to work on it for me. That
is one of the many things on your 'To Do' list". Former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents
and members of Hydra are hired as agents. H.A.M.M.E.R. promotes Osborn's
personal team of Avengers, a group composed mostly of former Thunderbolts
members and former members of the Mighty Avengers. Osborn also eliminates all of
Tony Stark's influence on S.H.I.E.L.D., including the Cape-Killer Armor and the
Red and Gold Helicarrier. He also replaces all agents loyal to Nick Fury,
Captain America, or Iron Man with agents loyal to himself. Also, in the Captain
America: Reborn Prelude, when Sin, who is captured by H.A.M.M.E.R, asks what it
stands for, the agent present says that it's classified and she does not have
In the pages of Avengers World, S.P.E.A.R. is a Chinese intelligence-gathering
organization created for home land security and has a flying headquarters called
the Circle. It was created by the Chinese government to be on the same level as
S.H.I.E.L.D. following Thanos' invasion of Earth. Falcon first encountered
S.P.E.A.R. and their director Xian Zheng at the time when Gorgon planned to
launch an attack on China using the giant dragon whose head is where Madripoor
grows out of. When the Hand attacked the Circle, they deployed their own
superhuman response team called the Ascendants which consists of Devastator III,
Monkey King, Sabre III, Vector II, and Weather Witch).
S.T.R.I.K.E. (Special Tactical Response for International Key Emergencies) was a
British agency, unrelated to but run along similar lines to S.H.I.E.L.D.
Disbanded after being infiltrated and taken over by a criminal organization, one
of its members was the future X-Man Psylocke. It was introduced in Marvel UK's
Captain Britain #17 (Feb. 2, 1977).
EuroM.I.N.D. and S.H.A.P.E.
EuroM.I.N.D. (European Monitoring Investigation and Enforcement Division) is a
European subdivision of S.H.I.E.L.D. that later fell under the control of the
S.H.A.P.E. (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) council. EuroM.I.N.D.'s
director is François Borillon. Its agents include the science reconnaissance
group Eurolab and the combat specialist Task Force group, who both then merged
into one group known as Euroforce.
S.T.A.K.E. is a S.H.I.E.L.D. subsidiary that specializes in dealing with
S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department), works with
S.H.I.E.L.D. but specializes in extraterrestrial threats. It is first introduced
in Astonishing X-Men (vol. 3) #6 (Dec. 2004), written by Joss Whedon. Dialogue
in the stories depicting both organizations has 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.
W.A.N.D. stands for Wizardry, Alchemy and Necromancy Department, and is a
division of S.H.I.E.L.D that specializes in matters relating to magic. It is
directed by Pandora Peters. First appearing in Thunderbolts Annual Vol.2 (2014),
in which the Thunderbolts are recruited to assassinate Doctor Strange, who is
eventually revealed as a faerie impostor called King Oberoth M'gozz.
Main article: Amalgam Comics
S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate) is
the Amalgam Comics equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Marvel Comics. They first
appeared in Bruce Wayne Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1, though in Amalgam continuity,
they first appeared in the metafictional Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. strip.
S.H.I.E.L.D. was first created by Nick Fury and Sgt. Rock after World War II in
order to tackle the danger posed by Hydra. Both founders later trained and
recruited Bruce Wayne into their ranks, who would become the new director of
Members of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Amalgam universe include:
Black Bat, Bruce Wayne's girlfriend
Moonwing, a superheroic agent
Tony Stark, disabled and bound to a wheelchair
Sgt. Rock, former leader
Nick Fury, former leader
Sue "Ace" Storm of the Challengers of the Fantastic
After Ross stepped down and retired, Nick Fury was then selected as the
organization's executive director. His first actions were to shut down Weapon X
and resurrect the Super Soldier program, commissioning Richard Parker, Dr. Bruce
Banner, Franklin Storm, and young intern Hank Pym 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. Also, the creation of the supervillains Sandman and
Electro are due to Hammer Industries attempting to recreate the Super Soldier
formula for S.H.I.E.L.D. Then S.H.I.E.L.D. 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. In Ultimate X-Men #65 (Jan. 2006), S.H.I.E.L.D. severed ties with
the X-Men. After the events of Ultimate Power, S.H.I.E.L.D. is under the
directorship of Carol Danvers, as Nick Fury was temporarily stranded in the
Supreme Power Universe. After "Ultimatum", Nick Fury becomes head of the
Black-Ops division in Ultimate Comics: Avengers. It is also revealed he is
plotting to take back his position as director. After a mysterious force
frames Danvers for selling super-soldiers to rival nations, it was revealed to
be a ploy by Gregory Stark to become Director, until Fury, the Avengers, and
Ultimates stop him, resulting in Thor electrocuting Dr. Stark to death.
After the Death of Spider-Man, Marvin Flumm was promoted to Director by the U.S.
President. After an arc called "Divided We Stand", a crossover involving
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics: X-Men, and Ultimate Comics:
Ultimates, Monica Chang (one of Nick Fury's ex-wives and 2nd Black Widow) was
promoted by Captain America to Director after Agent Flumm was dismissed.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is later disassembled after the events of Cataclysm, for although
the Ultimates were able to defeat Galactus, the destruction caused by Galactus's
attack and the loss of Captain America and Thor make it the last straw for the
United States Government, who immediately decide to shut S.H.I.E.L.D. down,
resulting in villains such as Norman Osborn (Green Goblin) and Victor Van Damme
(Doctor Doom), who are revealed to be alive, being released into the custody of
other federal agencies.
In the Ultimate Marvel universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. is controlled entirely by the
United States, but maintains ties with the European Defense Initiative and the
Main article: List of S.H.I.E.L.D. members § Ultimate S.H.I.E.L.D.
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.)
Bus (formerly, destroyed)
S.H.I.E.L.D. Jump Jet
Iliad (Robert Gonzales's faction, until merge)
Helicarrier No. 64 (during the Battle of New York)
New York Headquarters (formerly)