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There is always something beneath the surface.
Behind it all, behind the amazing, the incredible, the fantastic and even the uncanny, there exists dangers and threats that are rarely seen because they hide in the shadows or are too massive for most of the world to comprehend. Yet there is one organization that has taken it upon itself to safeguard the human race against the known and unknown. They are security, they are shelter... they are the SHIELD.
S.H.I.E.L.D. the source of most, if not all of the Spy Fiction with the Marvel Universe, the nebulous espionage organization that for decades has known as the 'House that Nick Fury built'. It first appeared in "Strange Tales" #135 (August, 1965). The organization is a UN or sometimes United States backed paramilitary and intelligence organization who acronym originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division but was changed in the 1990s to stand for Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has its own S.H.I.E.L.D., taking the full name of "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division".
A recently created (first debuted in 2005) arm of the organization known as S.W.O.R.D which stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department, that deals primarily with alien activity within the range of Earth and its containment. They are meant to work together with S.H.I.E.L.D although due to the time of their introduction and S.H.I.E.L.D only being recently revived with the Marvel Universe after a period of absence, not much interaction between the two has been shown.
There have been numerous series revolving around and featuring S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the years, including long standing feature in multiple Captain America runs. Two series that have started taking a closer look at S.H.I.E.L.D. directly within recent years were Secret Warriors and a bimonthly S.H.I.E.L.D. mini-series.
S.H.I.E.L.D. provides examples of:
- Arc Words / Badass Creed: "This is not how the world ends".
- Ancient Conspiracy
- Applied Phlebotinum
- Badass Normal: Most agents don't have superpowers but that doesn't stop them from being a force to be reckoned with in a world filled with mutants, gods, and super soldiers.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: This is pretty much the entire point of the 2010 series. Major characters include Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, Galileo, and Michelangelo as a god-like being.
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: fending off Galactus seems to require a massive human sacrifice. Although it should be noted that said sacrifices all basically knew the risks
- Call Back: It's not explicitly pointed out or obvious, but when Nathaniel Richards, Howard Stark and the Night Machine get sent forward in time, Richards keeps gazing at a statue in the distance. It's a statue of Immortus, a.k.a. Rama Tut, a.k.a. Kang the Conqueror, whom he may eventually become depending on the timeline and/or universe.
- Also, the Celestials' plan involves the baby Celestial incubating inside the Earth.
- Canon Immigrant: Agent Phillip Coulson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Cloak and Dagger
- Clock Punk: Leonardo's space suit, the machine used against Galactus
- Depending on the Writer: Their sense of integrity and competence can highly vary between the stories they are in (both comics and adaptations) as they can be a highly effective team against the forces of evil or a Lawful Stupid force that is more of a hindrance to other heroes than help. Sometimes, it simply depends on which agent you're dealing with.
- The Everyman and Audience Surrogate: Leonid
- First Contact Math: The Star Child early on seems to communicate in only mathematical equations.
- Fun with Acronyms: One of the most notorious examples of it. This extends to related organizations S.T.R.I.K.E., S.W.O.R.D., A.R.M.O.R., and H.A.M.M.E.R. (Notably, H.A.M.M.E.R.'s founder Norman Osborn came up with the acronym first and told an underling to figure out what it stands for).
- Go Mad From the Revelation: Implied with Newton
- Good Is Not Nice: They often like to go by this motto even in their more favorable depictions. Though of course whether the "Good" part has any credibility is Depending on the Writer.
- Government Agency of Fiction
- Half-Human Hybrid: Leonid is half human half Deviant
- Hubcap Hovercraft: Their hovercars are often depicted as working this way.
- Human Sacrifice: Apparently the cost of trying to make a new Earth, as might be needed if the world were to end.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: To appease the Vatican, the early appearance and defeat of Galactus is covered up by the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, thus erasing the events from "ever happening".
- Jerkass: This appears to actually be a requirement if you want a job with this group.
- MacGuffin: Has had many of them, the latest being the Human Machine in the new series
- The Omniscient: The Glowing Man aka Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti who also play The Chessmaster setting up a number of events in the 2011 series.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: SHIELD usually has one of these in the background pulling their strings, even when Nick Fury was in charge.
- Overly Long Name: The organization's full name in the comics has varied, but the movies present it as the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Iron Man used it as a Running Gag and, until the acronym was officially adopted at the end, a Stealth Pun.
- Parental Substitute: Nikola Tesla
- Retcon: Technically, SHIELD itself started with a retcon reviving WW 2 hero Nick Fury to be both their top agent and partial creator. Recently it has come across two more in its history thanks to Johnathan Hickman, the first was revealed in Secret Warriors SHIELD has always been a secret division of the HYDRA organization and the second was revealed in the most recent(2010) SHIELD series SHIELD or an organisation which will one day become it has been around since ancient Egypt and had various of history's greatest minds as members.
- To tie these two retcons together a HYDRA agent in Secret Warriors refers to the organisation as "the Spear", and SHIELD has the Brotherhood of the East represented by a spear, just as the Brotherhood of the West is represented by a shield.
- There's also Howard Stark (father of Tony Stark) and Nathaniel Richards (father of Reed Richards and/or a previous incarnation of Kang the Conqueror) as SHIELD agents.
- Major Marvel Universe threats show up long before they canonically ever noticed Earth, such as Ancient Egypt being attacked by the Brood, a Celestial in China, and friggin' Galactus showing up in Renaissance Italy.
- Ridiculously-Human Robots: Life Model Decoys
- Science Hero: Leonardo da Vinci.
- Spy Catsuit
- Too Dumb to Live: They have had their moments, especially in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions when they tried to use Carnage and give it a lot more power and it worked as well as one would think it would.
- United Nations Is a Super Power: Inconsistent between this and being a United States force.