Who is J. August Richards playing in Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Feature James Hunt 24 May 2013 - 07:00

James looks at the possible roles Angel's J. August Richards could be playing in the Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot...

The first trailer for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was released a few days ago, and while it didn't give too much away it did leave us with one particularly pressing question to chew on: Who is J. August Richards playing?

Richards (probably best known as Gunn from Joss Whedon's Buffy spin-off Angel) hasn't been granted the status of a serious regular - at least, not yet - but he has been confirmed as a major guest star in the pilot. Given that he's clearly the only person in the trailer who is definitely manifesting superpowers, it's safe to assume that he'll be the subject of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team's first investigation. But further than that, there's also a good chance he'll be playing someone from the established Marvel Universe.

Everyone associated with the show has been tight-lipped on whether that's the case or not, but if ABC wants to demonstrate that yes, this show IS going to explore the Marvel Universe outside of the films, it'd make sense to put an established character front-and-centre in the first episode. And that makes Richards the most likely candidate. After all, as Coulson says in the trailer "That's a superhero."

So assuming he's not an original creation, who could he be? We can't help but speculate. To keep ourselves from having too wide a range of possibilities, we'll stick to established African-American characters only, but other than that, everything's on the table.

Guess #1: Luke Cage (Power Man)

Bald(ish)? Check. Apparent superhuman durability? Check. Down to earth attitude? Check. Okay, he's not as buff as Luke Cage, and he isn't wearing the shirt, but he does appear to be a family man (even if his kid is older than Cage's in the comics) and Luke Cage would certainly be capable of jumping out of a building and leaving the pavement more damaged than he is. Anyone who's read an Avengers comic in the last ten years can't help but want this to be true, if only so we can hear the words "Sweet Christmas" on screen.

There are two big problems with this theory, though. The first is that Luke Cage is quite clearly a character big enough to carry his own movie or TV show (if not alone, then alongside Iron Fist and/or Jessica Jones as Heroes for Hire) so it's unlikely they'll gamble the character on a task so small as accumulating audience brownie points for a S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. And the second, much larger problem is that it's already been officially denied. Rats.

Guess #2: Eli Bradley (Patriot)

In the comics, the African-American soldier Isaiah Bradley was used as a guinea pig during WW2 in attempts to recreate the Super Soldier formula that gave Captain America his powers. In the present day, his grandson Eli Bradley honours his grandfather by assuming the identity of Patriot, gaining powers after a blood transfusion from Isaiah imbues him with the same serum. In the comic world, Several Marvel editors and writers have confirmed that the reason Patriot was absent from the relaunch of his usual home series, Young Avengers, is that he's "off the board", which normally means there are specific plans for him elsewhere.

If Richards IS playing Patriot in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, that would certainly explain why Marvel is keeping the character close to their chest at the moment. And although it's a joke, Richards' character does ask "I should carry a shield?" (Patriot carries a shield!) Of course, Richards is much older than Eli, so it's also possible that he's playing Josiah X, Isaiah's son and Eli's Uncle. Nothing we've seen so far openly contradicts either possibility, but the evidence in favour is circumstantial at best.

Guess #3: Miles Morales (Ultimate Spider-Man)

Oh, how badly we want this to be true. As we all know, Spider-Man is off the board due to a licensing deal with Sony. But we don't know all of the specifics of how that deal works. There's a chance that it only refers to Peter Parker. Miles Morales, the second Ultimate Spider-Man, was created AFTER the Sony license was hammered out. Maybe Sony don't have the rights to this incarnation of the character, which would free him for use in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. Richards is first seen rescuing someone from a burning building, which is one of archetypical Spider-Man rescues. And what's this thing on Richards' arm? Is it a stretch to say it might be some kind of Chitauri-derived web-shooter?

Well, yeah, probably. But of all the choices this would be the coolest by far. Even if he can't be Spider-Man, there's a chance he might be Miles Morales using another superheroic identity. The recent "Spider-Men" crossover hinted that a version of Morales does exist in the "real" Marvel Universe, where he'd be older (i.e. not a teenager, i.e. look like Richards) so maybe this is that version of him. It'd be a bold move to debut Morales on TV – not least because of the phonecalls Disney's lawyers would get from Sony – but as much as we want it to happen, we doubt that it will.

Guess #4: Elvin Daryl Haliday (Rage)

Discount the characters that might have a movie or their own TV show potentially in development and you're left with a reasonably big barrel to scrape. One name that has recently floated to the top is Rage, a fairly obscure character who has nonetheless been a New Warrior and an Avenger, so he's not entirely small-time (even if he does a terrible name and generic "exposed to chemicals" origin). Supporting evidence that Richards is playing Rage comes from Marvel's ident.

Most of us know that the comics used in the Marvel ident tend to reflect the film they appear before (i.e. it's exclusively Iron Man comics in the Marvel ident used before the Iron Man films) and eagle-eyed obsessives spotted a panel containing Rage in the S.H.I.E.L.D. trailer's ident. Red herring, coincidence, or something more meaningful?

Another supporting factor is that part of Rage's origin involves him being artificially aged to look like he's in his thirties - the same age Richards is now. It's not the most interesting choice of character, admittedly, but we're under no illusions that any Marvel TV series is going to have to cast the net far and wide when picking out guest stars.

Guess #5: Triathlon (Delroy Garrett)

Aside from the sheer awfulness of the character's superhero name (and, for that matter, his costume) this actually wouldn't be a bad choice. Triathlon has fairly generic powers – he's as strong/fast/smart as three men - but that makes him easy to do on TV. And unlike the other characters on this list, he has super-speed, which is something the trailer shows Richards' character using.

There's also well-developed story around the character involving the "Triune Understanding" – a pseudo-religious cult for which he's the poster-child. This would provide nice fodder for an ongoing story. We can actually see this working on TV, not least because he's a hero with a built-in, story-centric expiration date, so you're not going to end up with a situation where you have to explain where he is during Avengers 2. We're well into the realm of pure speculation here, but as choices go it wouldn't be a bad one at all.

Finally, here are a few of Marvel's black superheroes who we've discarded as possible candidates for one reason or another:

Aegis: Powered by a magical breastplate, without which the name makes no sense. I didn't see a breastplate.
Black Panther: Whoever Richards is playing, he's clearly a suburban guy. Plus T'Challa has his own film in some stage of development.
The Falcon: Confirmed as appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so he's off the table.
War Machine: Already spoken for in the Iron Man franchise.
Blade: The rights are probably back with Marvel by now, but there's no way they cast Richards as a vampire hunter (again). Besides which, he can carry his own movie.
White Tiger III: Let's face it, Kaspar Cole might have been the third White Tiger, but he's probably the least popular of them all. And there's a prominent female White Tiger in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, brand synergy must be maintained.
Cloak: Wrong power set. No cloak, for a start!
Goliath: Again, the wrong powers. Goliath is a size-changer.
Blue Marvel: It's not impossible, but the character has so many powers just one appearance could blow the effects budget for the entire series.
Charcoal: In legal limbo – and again, the wrong powers.
Synch: Mutant characters belong to Fox (and who would he "sync" with?)
Bishop: Again, off the table because he's a mutant licensed to Fox.
Night Thrasher: I didn't see a skateboard in that trailer, did you?
Brother Voodoo: No dreads = No Voodoo.
Coal Tiger: Now you're just being stupid.

Thoughts? Opinions? Anyone we missed? Or are we barking up the wrong tree and Richards will be playing an entirely new character? Let us know what you think…

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I'm astonished there are really black superheroes called "Charcoal" and "Coal Tiger".

Maybe he's none of them? Maybe he's an average chap that gets some weird alien devices that gives him super-powers and he loses them at the end of the episode as Shield lock away the device 'for the good of human-kind'

Maybe it will play out like Warehouse 13 'Mild Mannered' Super-powered underwear!

i think this is most likely, the thing on his arm seems to be a source of power. Alien tech would relate to finale of The Avengers and was also featured in the SHIELD focused Marvel One-Shot 'Item 47'.

I'm thinking the show might be a bit like the first series of Smallville - an overal story arc but also with 'bad guys of the week', but instead of being created by the meators it will relate to the alien tech. An 'in-universe' organisation like AIM, Hydra or even Roxxon can be behind it all...

Does it need to be a black character?

It doesn't, but it suggests in the article that to avoid just listing every character to appear in a Marvel comic ever, they were limiting their field for their own proposals. That said, I think Patriot is a fair possibility, given Agent Coulson's already admitted fandom of Captain America; that could tie in quite well. I do think Miles would be a very cool thing to see though.

I agree with you both. It would be great if there was a tie-in to an established character but I think, certainly to begin with, most of it will focus on the cleanup of New York with all the Alien Tech floating around and the trouble it causes.

No doubt other heroes may rise up to fight the 'bad guy' of the week and we'll see something familiar introduced around that perhaps.

Patriot would be interesting - another Super Soldier derived character (Cap, Red Skull, Hulk, Abomination...)

Whedon: "You know, he’s just a guy. I mean, the whole point of this show is, they’re just guys. They’re not The Avengers, they’re not the fancy ones. They’re the people that got sort of hit in the blowback of this super-world. So he’s kind of an everyman. He appears to be a very fierce everyman!"

In fairness "He's just a regular guy who gets superpowers" is pretty much the basis for every Marvel hero, including those listed above. I'm not saying he definitely IS an established character, but Whedon saying that doesn't mean he definitely isn't one!

The Prowler is a real possibility.

That's what happens when white guys name ethnically different characters (at least prior to 1990)!

True, that's what makes the speculation fun.

However, I think he is a regular guy and it's the alien tech that is key here. I think certain characters from this will go into the MCU films and vice versa but I'm not sure this guy will be overly important in the long run.

Any news as to when the UK will be able to see this show?

Dont forget black panther. Falcon and war machine are cool names. Luke Cage? That's not superhero sounding. Sounds Hollywood, wrestling, or pornish. Or first and last name. Just normal. Should have been called Unbreakable.

Might get sued by Al or Jesse on that one. "Kkkkhhhh, all cara be on the lookout for a black male, between 5'7 and... 6'8, over


Exactly. Having a plot-device (Hellmouth) gives a reason for things to happen that the writers can then twist into whatever shape is required to progress some character development. It's a bit trite but if you have to churn out 22 episodes a year you need some sort of fallback to keep you sane.

Hey Walking Cuban, you watched 3 Days of the Condor yet?

Yep just the other day. Really good. My favorite thing about had to be the Lithuanian. That guy was as professional as it gets; he wouldn't even kill condor when he had the chance just cuz he wasn't the job anymore. A more vindictive bag man would have taken it personally. Without getting into it, I hope they consider this movie whilst film the winter soldier.

Well Luke Cage's name in the comics was Power Man, which also sounds like a wrestling or porn name.

And it sounds like a knockoff superman. Can't win for losing. Spawn. Now THAT'S a cool name.

Not. Every. Mutant. Is. Licensed To. Fox. It's a silly rumor, they have the X-Men rights, but not every mutant is a part of the X-Men saga. For instance... Spider-Man. :P

Oh please let him be Spider-Man...

Eh? Are you joking? Spider-Man isn't a mutant. And while not every mutant is licensed to Fox, anyone who debuted in an X-Men comic or joined an X-Men team is. So that's basically all of them except Franklin Richards.

Uh.......Nick Fury DUH.

Sorry but you're wrong. On both counts actually. Spider-Man is indeed a mutant. His specific power is the absorb and adapt radiation, it's how and why the radioactive spider game him powers. (Cite: See Coming Home).

Homo Superior (Mutants) also shows up outside the X-Series chronology quite a lot, One major example is the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom messes around quite a lot with the Homo Superior evolution (he in fact in one continuity ends the world by unleashing a device that evolves everyone into Homo Superior).

Thanos is a Mutant of the Eternal race.

Reed Richard's son, Franklin is a Mutant.

May Parker, the only child of MJ and Peter Parker in one Marvel continuity is a Mutant. (Because Peter is a Mutant).

I can go on, but Homo Superior is a building block of superpowers in the Marvel universe, no one contract gives any studio exclusive rights to them, the rights in question are character rights to specific series. (For the record, the rights to X-Force, X-Factor, etc, are all still with Marvel / Disney).

You're either hugely mistaken or deliberately trolling. Either way, we're done.

Or I'm right and you can't handle being wrong. :)

I'm sure all that jazz was made up in the comics after Disney bought marvel, and if I'm wrong, who cares? It's practically pop culture now that xmen and their mutant badguys are mutants and everyone else is something else.

As for xfactor, but more importantly xforce, I actually hope you're wrong because I think they would fit nicely with what fox is doing. They've made mistakes, ie x3 and wolverine origins, but I've always pictured cable in days of future past. Stephen Lang as Cable. Milla Jovovich as Domino. That is all

Sorry, but the Coming Home arc I cited is from 2001, Disney didn't acquire Marvel until years later. As was M-Day. Also, it's pop culture that Mutants are a signature piece of Marvel, not JUST X-Men. And the X-Men and their lot often cross over into a lot of other series due to mutants showing up in them. Spider-Man is actually a huge example of this, both for his ties to the X-Men when attempting to figure out his genetic mutation and his centerpiece as the man who stood between the Avengers and the X-Men in the Civil War, due to being a Mutant who was commonly identified as something else and being the first one to reveal his identity to the world.

I think you're trying to show a stretch of fandom but forgetting that some people might just be obsessed enough to be armed with facts that can't easily be written off?

When I say xmen I assure you I mean mutants in general. And I'm pretty sure Spider-Man didn't lose his powers as a result of mday. My point is the general public isn't pretty sure or any other kind of sure and doesn't know these things or even that Sony fox and Disney are at enmity between themselves and will not share heroes.

So sure, I am trying to show a stretch of fandom, forgetting that some people might just be obsessed enough to be armed with facts. Facts that can easily be written off. Not by you, you're obviously a loyal fan, but by non nerds. Go show your findings to Mickey Mouse, maybe he'll have something to work with.

It's adorable that you're trying to hard to be right that you had to devolve into being insulting to try and seem like you know what you're talking about. Let's list your mistakes.

1. Again, X-Men and Mutants, while deeply involved, are not exclusive to one another. As this entire conversation has been over whether or not Sony has exclusive rights to Mutants, let's stop trying to redefine them. They do not.

2. Funny you should claim they don't want to share heroes. Since Sony just gave Disney all live action TV Rights, allowing Spider-Man to legally be used in Agents of SHIELD.

3. There are 6 M-Days, you're specifically referring to the Apocalypse M-Day where all Mutant Powers were removed. You can't be pretty sure about anything there, Spider-Man wasn't shown in the run. I was referring to Dr. Doom's M-Day (as I previously mentioned), where he caused all of Earth's humans to become Mutants. Spider-Man was shown specifically not being affect by the change. (Because he was already a Mutant). This run was in 1999, since this is long, long before Disney, you can stop trying to pretend it was a Disney insert.

Regardless of who owns it now, the canon of the comics remains canon, so trying to write it off by going "lol Disney" just shows your purposed ignorance. Present evidence that shows my claims to be false, or walk away, your personal opinion means nothing, I've cited resources which prove my statements, you've cited nothing.

I did insult you. Sorry. I don't like insulting people. As for the other stuff you said, that's great. I personally try to read as many as I can on my down time from work, but honestly the opportunity rarely presents itself. Not that I'm trying to make friends with you. That line has been crossed I'm sure. My point is, as with the walking dead, someone can say, "(insert walking dead tv show spoiler) didn't happen until (insert walking dead comic spoiler)! This is blasphemy!" By all means, walking dead comic fan, watch something not based on it. Otherwise you will be disappointed.

the directors said it will begin with M so... spiderman, miles morales? .-.

I thought all of Marvel's Black Superheroes were former criminals... oops yeah they are. Luke Cage = former gang member. Storm = former thief. Falcon = former pimp.
Patriot = drug addict. Rage = murderer. Triathlon = Olympic cheat/cultist. and so on and so on. Yes there is a long list of dark skinned never do wells who have been 'civilized' by the likes of Captain America, Tony Stark and even malefactors like the Red Skull. Yes I'm proud to read about hoodlums in capes, super-strong lummoxes and straight up bold-faced racism in the guise of comic book characters. It is my hope that Mr. August be something that rarely comes out of the house that Stan and Jack built... a black character that is not standing on the foundation of racial phobia and intolerance.

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