Mike Gold: U.N.C.L.E. S.H.I.E.L.D?
Here’s the inevitable backstory. In the late spring of 1965, Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. replaced The Human Torch in Marvel’s Strange Tales monthly. I liked the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, but this series was sadly second-rate. I also liked Nick Fury and his contemporary appearance in the just Big-Banged Marvel Universe. But I really loved the teevee series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (damn; typing all those damn dots is gonna wear real thin) so the new Nick Fury was met with a minor adolescent fangasm.
Timing is everything. U.N.C.L.E. was just ending its first season, and the next two would suck the chrome off of a mid-sixties Buick. Over at Marvel, Stan and Jack were just warming up. A couple years later Jim Steranko would take S.H.I.E.L.D., and comics, to a whole ‘nother level. My feelings towards U.N.C.L.E. remained positive, but in a more hopeful sense. That hope actually paid off in the show’s final half-season, and the series remains iconographic to this day.
Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. became a critical part of the Marvel Universe – but attempts at maintaining it as an ongoing series proved unsuccessful. It attracted some great talent, but not great sales. I doubt most humans were aware of the organization until Iron Man 1 came along.
Maybe it was the success of the Marvel movies that finally got the Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie off the ground. I hope so, as that appeals to my sense of Cosmic Balance. Guy Richie is directing it, and Tom Cruise and Armie Hammer are starring as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, respectively.
I can’t say anything about Mr. Hammer except that his great-grandfather, Armand Hammer, became the world’s wealthiest man by selling lots of stuff to the Soviets. This appeals to my Cosmic Balance thing. Nonetheless, he is barely noticed in the trailers to the upcoming movie The Lone Ranger, in which he plays the lead but Johnny Depp plays the Star. But I can say a lot about Mr. Cruise.
Tom Cruise is, in my opinion, a good actor. Sometimes great. He stars as the continuing lead in the Mission: Impossible series. He stars as the continuing lead in the Jack Reacher series. In both series, as well as most of his movies I’ve seen, he doesn’t play the character, he makes the character Tom Cruise. That’s fine for M:I – his character is original, even though the series is not. But, as noted, I have a fondness for Napoleon Solo, the human being spy who kidnapped other human beings to engage them in adventures that even Alfred Hitchcock would find amazing. If the movie is called The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I want to see Solo on the screen and not Cruise.
I also have a fondness for S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, who earned those feelings in a whole lotta recent Marvel movies. The same guy, Clark Gregg, is playing the character in the new teevee series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Perhaps that Cosmic Balance can be described by the old sawhorse “What goes around comes around.” But I gotta tell you, my fanboy reaction to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of great anticipation.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie? Not so much.
But I hope I’m wrong.
THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases