Did you ever think you would be treated to a TV series set in the Golden Age of Marvel? Neither did we, but damn, Marvel’s Agent Carter season 1 was one of the most surprising and refreshing series on network TV. Marvel and ABC pulled out all the stops to make sure that Agent Carter was one of the smartest shows on TV, and it was also a tour through the Marvel Universe of yesteryear as there were tons of winks and nods to the history of the Marvel Universe.
So take our hand as we give you a whirlwind tour of some of the great retro Marvel moments that took place during the first season of Agent Carter.
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 1 “Now Is Not the End”
Agent Peggy Carter is perhaps the most unlikely Marvel star to ever receive this much media exposure. Truthfully, as wonderful as Peggy is both in film and on TV, she just wasn’t that much of a big deal in the comics.
Peggy Carter first appeared in Tales of Suspense #77 (May 1966) and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. When Captain America first met Peggy, she was a member of the French Resistance. Steve Rogers quickly fell in love with the beautiful and deadly Nazi fighter and the two had a whirlwind romance behind enemy lines.
It was a star-crossed romance to be sure as some stray shrapnel robbed Peggy of her memory. She lived in this amnesiac state until she reunited with Cap years later. Peggy wasn’t featured in many stories, by the time and by the time Cap found her again, she was in her golden years. In a way, this made Cap feel her loss in a way that we’ve mostly seen Peggy feel Cap’s loss on the show. Either way, it was never meant to be for these two.
Edwin Jarvis first appeared in Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov 1964) and was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. He has been a constant and vital part of Avengers history since his debut. It’s so good to see the old chap get his proper due in a live action media as Jarvis’ welcome inclusion gave Agent Carter a nice synergy with the Iron Man films.
We have had a few hints and clues about Jarvis’ past over the decades, but the version on Agent Carter is a relatively unexplored commodity. Rest assured, he is one of the most important characters in Avengers history and his service to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes goes way beyond serving Thor finger sandwiches. It’s really cool that Marvel is taking the Jarvis legacy way beyond the computer voice in Stark’s helmet.
After all, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, JARVIS also became the consciousness that brings the heroic Vision to life. So in a sense, the heroic legacy of Vision begins with Peggy Carter’s pal.
– This episode gave us a mention of “vita-rays” which made me cheer out loud. Of course, vita-rays were the special type of radiation used to create Captain America, something Carter was uniquely qualified to understand and track.
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 2 “Bridge and Tunnel”
The organization known as Leviathan was first revealed in Secret Warriors #11 (February 2010). In the same way HYDRA grew out of the Third Reich, Leviathan grew out of Soviet operatives during the Cold War.
In the comics, Leviathan once struck a deal with HYDRA, SHIELD, and the Hand (you know, that group of ninjas that make life difficult for Daredevil). Together, the four ultra-secret organizations tried to decide what to do with alien technology designed to create super soldiers. It was all sort of like a NATO for deep black ops organizations with SHIELD there to try to control the other three budding threats. Of course Leviathan betrayed its comrades and decades of a super secret war was fought between the four groupings.
Secret Warriors (written by Jonathan Hickman) can tell the tale of Leviathan better than I ever could, but, within its pages you will discover that Leviathan is a terrifying organization with tons of sleeper agents and its inclusion in Peggy’s world can old spell trouble for Cap’s best gal.
Speaking of Russia, this episode also saw the reintroduction of Anton Vanko. Sharp eyed Marvelities will recognize Vanko from Iron Man 2, a film that established Vanko as a former partner of Howard Stark. Of course, Anton’s son Ivan would go on to avenge his father as Whiplash, who was totally badass but easily defeatable. I mean, like, Stark kicked his ass in like three seconds in both their big screen battles.
Anyway, in the comics, the Vanko name was tied into the Crimson Dynamo, the Soviet version of Iron Man. As the Dynamo, Vanko first appeared in Tales of Suspense #46 (October 1963) and was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. After the initial battle with Stark, Vanko defected to the US and became a friend and employee of Tony Stark.
In fact, in one of the Black Widow’s first appearances, she was sent by her Russian superiors to kill Vanko. Her mission succeeded and the world was introduced to just how lethal Natasha Romanov could be. So the Vanko from the Marvel Cinematic Universe kind of parallels the comic Vanko in that he left Soviet Russia to join with a Stark. In the comics, Vanko never had a chance to betray any Stark because of the Widow’s deadly sting.
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 3 “Time and Tide”
This episode gives us the revelation that the dead Leviathan operative was Russian connects this version of the shadow organization to the one in the comics. Of course, this would all lead to the TV introduction of the Red Room, a locale which would get major play in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It’s pretty cool how such an important concept that would play such a huge role in Age of Ultron got its first appearance on Agent Carter. Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, and many Marvel films can potentially exploit characters from the Red Room in future installments.
Characters from the comics that spring to mind that can come out of the cinematic Red Room are the second Black Widow Yelena Belova, the Russian mistress of shadow Darkstar, Red Guardian (he’s like a Russian Cap, it’s awesome-plus there was also a female version and man, could this show get mileage with that bit of business or what), or the Soviet Super Soldiers. One of the Soviet Super Soldiers is named Ursa Major and he can turn into a bear. I really need to see that. Agent Carter versus a bear. Take that Brienne!
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 4 “The Blitzkrieg Button”
Making Howard Stark so pivotal in the creation of Captain America was a great idea. The combining of the Stark and Rogers legacies makes for some nice dual history between two of Marvel’s biggest icons.
Howard Stark first appeared in Iron Man #28 (August 1970) and was created by Archie Goodwin and Don Heck. Like Peggy herself, Howard never really had a great impact on the comic book legend of Tony Stark. Howard is often mentioned but up until the modern age, Tony’s pop was very rarely seen.
Like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the comic Howard and his wife Maria were killed in a suspicious car wreck. Howard was also an alcoholic who had trouble relating to his brilliant son. Howard Stark has long been a more cautionary tale to Tony rather than an Uncle Ben like angelic mentor figure. I’m sure, thanks to the pithy and fun performance of Dominic Cooper, the legend of Howard Stark will soon infiltrate the pages of Marvel Comics to a much greater degree.
We were treated to the most shoe horned in Stan Lee cameo to date. Excelsior!
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 5 “The Iron Ceiling”
A bit of a breakdown on the featured Howling Commandos:
Other than Nick Fury, the most iconic Howling Commando and SHIELD agent has long been the mustachioed, derby wearing Dum Dum Dugan. Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader “Dum Dum” Dugan first appeared in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963) and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Dugan was a former circus strongman who has long been Nick Fury’s good right hand. Wherever Fury went, so did Dugan, but Dugan had a fascinating career of his own. He once headed a SHIELD task force assigned to take down –wait, for it now- Godzilla! Yeah, that’s right, Dugan and his mustache had the grapefruits to try and take down God-frakkin’-zilla!
Recently, it was revealed that the original Dugan died in 1966 and the Dugan that Marvel fans had followed for decades was actually a Life Model Decoy of the derby wearing Howler. Since then, the android Dugan has become the head of a group of government sponsored super monsters, the Howling Commandos of SHIELD.
Neal McDonough just kicks ass in the role of Dum Dum Dugan and I wouldn’t mind if they played the LMD card in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so McDonough’s Dugan can pop up in the modern era and fight side by side with Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury. There is just something off about seeing any Nick Fury without this old walrus at his side.
Junior Juniper first appeared in Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos #1 (1963) and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Junior has the distinction of getting killed in action, a huge deal back in 1963 where such a thing just didn’t happen. It was mirrored in this episode as Juniper fell in battle, which was a nice tribute to a seminal Silver Age Marvel moment.
Happy Sam Sawyer also first appeared in Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos #1 (1963). In the original comics, Sawyer gave Nick Fury and the Howlers their marching orders. Sawyer also appeared in Captain Savage and his Battlefield Raiders and Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen so he was kind of the go to military figure of Marvel’s war books.
In Agent Carter, Sawyer was an African American soldier who did not seem to be a commanding officer. But, he did have his signature scowl and persnickety demeanor, so this old school Marvel fan was happy.
Pinky Pinkerton was a Howling Commando mainstay and first appeared in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos vol. 1 #8 (1964). He was a flamboyant character who always sported his signature beret. Years later, Stan Lee confided that Pinkerton was always supposed to be homosexual although that was never acknowledged on the page. What was acknowledged was Pinky’s combat prowess and courage under fire, attributes that were fully on display in Agent Carter.
This episode also introduced Doctor Ivchenko, a character that would later be revealed to be the classic Captain America villain Doctor Faustus. Faustus, real name Johann Fennhoff, first appeared in Captain America #107 (Nov 1968) and was created by (say it with me now) Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
The comic book Faustus may look like the evil version of Dum Dum Dugan but he is so much more. Faustus calls himself the Master of Men’s Minds and has lived up to that terrifying reputation on many occasions. Unlike TV’s Faustus, the comic book Faustus is of Wilson Fisk like immense stature and can hold his own against Cap and other Marvel heroes even without his mind manipulation techniques. Agent Carter really did capture just how dangerous Doctor Faustus can be even if TV’s Faustus is not physically intimidating. Faustus’ most recent comic appearances saw him mentally manipulating Bucky Barnes into once again becoming an assassin. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if somewhere along the lines it is revealed that it was Fennhoff who was instrumental in helping HYDRA transform the film version of Bucky into the Winter Soldier.
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 6 “A Sin to Err”
Peggy still has that vial of Captain America’s blood. I thought that this Super Soldier Serum laden plasma could somehow end up back in Russia and be used to create the Winter Soldier? ‘Twas a good thought, but not to be.
That little vial of blood could have been tied into any number of Marvel mainstays like the Abomination or even the Hulk himself. Really, any mutated, irradiated, or enhanced villain could have been tied to it.
Even Baron Zemo, the upcoming baddie in Captain America: Civil War could have gotten his enhanced abilities from that blood if Peggy had not bravely disposed of it in the season finale. Maybe we could have some super soldier fish coming up?
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 7 “SNAFU”
Ivchenko was reading The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe at the beginning of the episode which was pretty much the final confirmation that Ivchenko was indeed the Dr. Faustus we mentioned above.
Ivchenko also has similar powers to Ant-Man villain the Voice, but I’m really taking a deep nerd dive on that one.
So Howard Stark built armor with a self sufficient power source, huh? Could Tony Stark have had those designs in mind when he built his armor in a certain cave? Man, there would be a certain tragedy if the Iron Man legacy began with the first proto-Iron Man suit being instrumental in the death of poor Agent Dooley, huh?
Agent Carter Season 1 Episode 8 “Valediction”
Of course, we saw Arnim Zola as a little wink and nod to the Marvel films. One of my dreams is to see Zola, in all his glory, appear somewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Seriously, how could you not want to see this?
Arnim Zola, the Bio-Fanatic, first appeared in Captain America #208 (Apr 1977) and was a solo creation of Jack Kirby. Zola is also one of the King’s most batshit insane designs. The classic Zola is a nightmare of biology and technology and plays a key role in Rick Remender’s recent run as writer on the Captain America comics.
If there’s stuff we’re still missing, let us know in the comments!