Agent Carter Comics: A Reader’s Guide
Can't wait for Agent Carter season 2? These Marvel comics should help get you through if you want to do some homework...
There was a time when Peggy Carter, a rarely seen Captain America supporting character, would have been just about the most unexpected Marvel player to get a television series, but here we are, eagerly awaiting the start of Agent Carter season 2. Peggy Carter hasn’t made that many appearances in comics over the years, and really, It was Sharon Carter, Peggy’s niece (and former sister…we’ll explain) who had the greatest impact on Cap’s life.
And while there aren’t very many Peggy Carter stories, and even fewer that you could genuinely call Agent Carter comics, there are lots of other places that the show turns to for inspiration. Stories set in World War II are some of the richest in Marvel history, and there are a ton of great comics to choose from, too.
We look at some notable Agent Carter comics stories, as well as others that illustrate the time period the show takes place in!
by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis (2015)
Operation S.I.N. began with a mysterious alien energy source found in Russia and ended with Peggy Carter and Howard Stark taking on a newly formed HYDRA. What the takeaway really is from this series (other than Kathryn Immonen can really write a killer Agent Carter story) is that this is the first comic that reflects the version of the character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Agent Carter TV series.
Without breaking established Marvel continuity, Operation S.I.N. features the Peggy and Howard dynamic TV fans are familiar with and shows off Peggy as the tough as nails agent she was in the post-Captain America world of the post war era. This is a series that both TV and classic comic fans can enjoy.
You can buy Operation S.I.N. on Amazon.
Agent Carter: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1
by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis (2015)
As you’ll see as we get deeper into this list, before Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter wasn’t really considered a huge part of SHIELD lore. She was more of a secondary Captain America character with the SHIELD agent honors going to her niece, Sharon. But that all changed after Agent Carter became a hit.
For SHIELD’s 50th anniversary, Marvel published a group of one-shots featuring some of the greatest SHIELD agents of every era. Thankfully, this celebration included Peggy, who starred in this spy yarn from the same team that delivered Operation S.I.N. This book featured Peggy’s recruitment by legendary SHIELD agent Dum Dum Dugan, and the fact that Marvel made Peggy Carter such a pivotal part of SHIELD’s golden anniversary celebration is pretty exciting.
Now we get to dig a little deeper…
Tales of Suspense #77 (1966)
By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
The history of Agent Carter began in this issue where Captain America reminisces about a blond woman he met while attempting to free France from the Nazis. When readers first met Peggy Carter, she was the heart of the action, leading an underground movement of French resistance fighters against the Nazis, a woman who stepped up to the Nazis guns a ‘blazing and in doing so, won Captain America’s heart. She was like Marvel’s version of DC’s classic battlefront leading lady Mademoiselle Marie and when she was taken hostage by the Nazis, Cap knew he had to save her.
Yeah, she was taken captive, but listen, this was 1966, and the fact that Lee and Kirby wrote Carter as a woman who unflinchingly ran headlong into danger made her one of the more progressive female characters of the era. When Hayley Atwell stepped onto screen as Peggy, the character was infused with the spirit and bravery introduced in this comic.
Sadly, in her debut comic appearance, Peggy got hit by an explosion and lost her memory in the same issue she was introduced. Cap lost his first love before he truly knew her.
This story was reprinted in Peggy Carter: Agent of SHIELD #1. Buy it on Amazon.
Captain America #161-162 (1973)
By Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema
These issues get a bit confusing so let us help guide you through. So at this point, Cap and Agent 13 (that’s Sharon Carter) were an item, in battle with Dr. Faustus (yes, the same Dr. Faustus whose machine Dr. Whitehall used to turn Agent 33 on Agents of SHIELD). When Faustus was defeated by the combined might of the Falcon, Cap, and Sharon, they discover that Peggy Carter, Sharon’s sister, was Faustus’ prisoner. Cap soon realized that Peggy was none other than that mysterious blond woman he fell in love with back in the War and now, he was in love with her sister.
Y’see, Peggy suffered brain damage after the explosion in World War II and really went off the deep end when Cap was lost. Now, she had her mind back and was on the road to recovery thanks to Cap and Sharon. Later, the much older Peggy would be retconned as Sharon’s aunt to explain the severe age difference between them.
What strikes a modern day reader about this issue (other than an awesome Jim Starlin cover) is the dignity which Englehart infused the older Carter with even after her ordeal. It was like she instantly became the elder statesperson for Marvel’s World War II generation. It was the same type of dignity we saw in her hospital scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m sure we have some Peggy/Sharon stuff coming down the road both on television and in film and this story is where that relationship was introduced.
Captain America #1 (2011)
By Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven
After her revival, Peggy Carter stuck around as a confidant to Captain America and an agent of the modern day SHIELD. She was also a part of the Avengers’ support staff until the team was torn apart in Avengers Disassembled.
This issue features the death of Peggy Carter, something we’ve yet to see on screen, but given her failing health in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it can’t be too far off, sadly. During Carter’s funeral, Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, Cap, and Sharon reminisce about Peggy’s life and her heroism. The issue even treats us to a flashback that saw Peggy fighting side by side with Cap and SHIELD in 1944. This issue and Brubaker’s run on Captain America in particular really set the tone for all the Captain America media that was to follow.
This story is available on Amazon.
Keep going for a bunch of Marvel Comics that expand the world of Agent Carter…even though they don’t feature Peggy herself!
The Invaders (1975-1979)
By Roy Thomas, Frank Robbins, Alan Kupperberg and other Marvel legends
I planned on recommending certain arcs of Marvel’s The Invaders, but I just can’t do that in good conscience. The series was just too darn awesome to recommend it piecemeal. If a fan psyched for Agent Carter is looking for a few reads to tide him or her over during the long wait between seasons, I can think of nothing better than doing a deep dive into this Roy Thomas Bronze Age masterpiece that set the standard for contemporary World War II superhero comics.
In The Invaders, Roy Thomas and his frequent artistic partner Frank Robbins did what they did best: deliver the Golden Age greatest in modern fashion and fleshed out the past of the Marvel Universe. The book featured World War II adventures of Marvel’s Golden Age greats, Captain America, Sub-Mariner, Bucky, Human Torch, and Toro as well as the Whizzer, Miss America, and the retconned additions of Union Jack and Spitfire. The series fleshed out the characters of Bucky, Toro, and the Torch for the first time in the modern age and also took the nearly forgotten Whizzer and Miss America and made them very important cogs in Marvel history.
The series also introduced many Axis influenced villains and I wouldn’t be shocked if some of these goose stepping heels didn’t eventually find their way onto Agent Carter. But it was the heroes of yesterday that truly shined in this series and let’s be honest, if Union Jack doesn’t pop up in a future season of Agent Carter, part of me will be very disappointed.
Buy The Invaders Complete Collection Vol. 1 on Amazon.
Captain America: Patriot #1-4 (2010)
By Karl Kesel and Mitch Breitweiser
Set in post-WWII days, just like Agent Carter, Captain America: Patriot deals with Jeff Mace, the superhero once known as the Patriot, as he becomes the third man to become Captain America. I bet you never knew you wanted to take a deep dive into the back story of the almost forgotten Golden Age hero The Patriot, but you’ll be glad you did because this mini-series was one of the best contemporary meditations on the Golden Age that you will ever read.
Agent Carter deals with the post-Captain America world of the Marvel Universe and shows just how important Steve Rogers was the nation. Patriot bridged the gap between World War II and the Cold War as Mace struggles to maintain his own identity while living up to the ideals of a true America legend. Many of the themes of Agent Carter focus on life without Cap in the pre-Cold War era and this book explored those themes to absolute perfection.
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 (1976), Marvel Two-In-One #20 (1976) Marvel Premiere #29-30 (1976)
By Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, and Don Heck
These might be a bit obscure, but all four issues are a wonderful celebration of the B-List characters that made the WWII era of Marvel so great. Sure, Captain America and the Invaders get the marquee, but Marvel had a dense pantheon of Golden Age characters, and in these issues, Golden Age historian Roy Thomas takes a welcome look into some of Marvel’s lesser known stalwarts and delivers a couple of stories that are a pure celebration of the time period.
In the pages of these books, Bronze Age Marvel fans were introduced to the nearly forgotten Golden Age goodness of the Thin Man, Red Raven, Jack Frost, and the Blue Diamond, showing that there was plenty of obscure coolness in Marvel’s pantheon of yesterday. Not only were fans introduced to these characters (along with Miss America and Whizzer), but they also got to witness them team with the Thing and become a part of the ever growing tapestry of the Marvel Universe.
Avengers 1959 (2011)
by Howard Chaykin
Agent Carter explores the same era of the Marvel Universe as this brilliant comic by the master of that time period Howard Chaykin. This series featured a team of Avengers first introduced in the pages of New Avengers, a freewheeling team of commie busters consisting of Nick Fury, Sabretooth (!), Kraven the Hunter (!!), Blond Phantom, Ulysses Bloodstone, Namora, and Dominic Fortune.
All of these members (well, except for Sabretooth and Kraven for obvious legal reasons) would make for awesome supporting characters should Agent Carter get even more seasons.
The Marvels Project (2009-2010)
By Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
The ultimate Golden Age tribute book, The Marvels Project took everything great about the Roy Thomas era of Marvel’s Golden Age and thrust it all into a very contemporary, feverishly paced story that is a perfect companion piece to Brubaker’s legendary Winter Sodier story arc. The creation and origins of all of Marvel’s major Golden Age heroes are told in this story as well as the tales of the men behind the origins of these heroes, men like Captain America’s creator Dr. Abraham Erskine and the creator of the original Human Torch Phineas Horton.
The series also features Marvel’s first costumed hero, the mustachioed non-mutant, the Angel, a character that I wouldn’t be shocked to see pop up on ABC television sooner rather than later, especially since this proto-hero was such a prominent character in this influential mini-series. The War-era paranoia of this series is palpable but so is the spirit of adventure that defines Marvel Comics!
Buy The Marvels Project on Amazon!
by Garth Ennis and Gorlan Parlov
This series was more like Cold War era Marvel by way of HBO but some of the historical drama of this series could be of interest to Agent Carter fans. Seriously, this series was an underappreciated, Eisner-worthy look at Nick Fury’s life during the early days of the Cold War.
The series takes place a bit later than Agent Carter will, but it is one hell of a read by the co-creator of Preacher. I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that this series was the best book featuring Nick Fury in the character’s rich history.
The book’s realistic approach to the era might be very different than Agent Carter but if you are looking forward to a Marvel story set around the Cold War, then by God, you owe it to yourself to check out Fury Max.
by Tom DeFalco and Todd Nauck
In Marvel’s futuristic MC2 Universe, Peggy Carter’s first cousin Shannon continues the heroic Carter legacy. After her parents died in a car crash, a wheelchair bound Shannon went to live with her cousin Peggy, who inspired Shannon with stories of her past fighting side by side with Captain America. Well, Shannon walked again and became the heroic American Dream.
Now, Marvel hasn’t really done much with its MC2 Universe as of late but it is a very nice thought that in some possible future the Carter legacy lives in another shield slinging patriotic hero.
Check out American Dream on Amazon.
This article first ran on January 16th, 2015. It has been updated with new information and entries since then. Agent Carter season 2 premieres on January 19th, 2016 at 9 pm.