Through it all he's emerged as a key figure at Marvel and a galvanizing force for the heroes as they battle villains, aliens, mutants and gods. Living an extended life thanks to an experimental serum known as the Infinity Formula, he's one of the few Marvel heroes without powers but has been able to stand up to pretty much anyone -- hero or villain.
"He's an ordinary man in a world of super-soldiers and Asgardian gods who nonetheless stands on the same level with them," notes Tom Brevoort, Marvel's Senior Vice President of Publishing. "He's a 'greatest generation' soldier who now leads in the modern day. He's a bottom-line, two-fisted sort of player in the world of international espionage -- the anti-James Bond. And he's got an eyepatch!"
Earning the eyepatch from a battle injury during World War II, it's become an integral part of Nick Fury and his determined nature. Of all the Marvel characters, Fury is one who's changed over time and evolved into different roles. When first introduced he was a WWII operative on the frontlines. In 1965, the original Marvel architects Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought him back for a post-war career as a C.I.A. agent.
"I love the idea that Stan and Jack took the character from his World War II surroundings and found this new life for him after the war," explains Howard Chaykin, who's written and drawn Fury stories for almost 30 years. "The character's lived an exciting life. He's an average guy who grew up in New York's Lower East side, and pulled himself up by his bootstraps and kicked, clawed and punched his way to where he is now."
After a short tenure in the C.I.A., Fury fell into place as the head of the covert military organization S.H.I.E.L.D. As the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and frequent liaison to heroes on behalf of the government, Nick Fury has connections with virtually every superhero and team in the Marvel Universe. But his relentless pursuit of justice has sometimes put him at odds with heroes and even his own government, forcing him out in the cold and actively fighting against a maligned S.H.I.E.L.D. organization on more than one occasion. His resourcefulness, with or without a Helicarrier on his side, has been what's made the character great.
"He's definitely got a certain gravitas about him -- even when removed from the trappings of office and operating on his own," Brevoort explains. "It's assumed that he's planned three or four steps ahead of the bad guys at all times."
From his leading role in the recently concluded "Secret Warriors" series to his own solo titles in years past, Fury's defiantly become a man working on his own terms. When asked about which series or stories best exemplify who Nick Fury is as a character, everyone points to Jim Steranko's work on "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." from the late 1960s.
"That combination of 1960s Op-Art stylings and mind-bending graphics contrasted against Fury's rock-solid personality and the backdrop of the spy craze," says Brevoort.
"Steranko's stuff was great," remarks Chaykin. "It really changed how people view the character and how people view comics."
In addition to Steranko's seminal work, Howard Chaykin points to several other stories from Marvel's history that show Nick Fury at his best.
"The Nick Fury stories Michael Golden drew in "Marvel Fanfare," teaming with the Hulk, are very special to me," reveals the writer/artist. "I'm also digging what Brian Michael Bendis has done with him in recent years. He really gets the character."
Nick Fury has gone through variations in his appearances in the main Marvel comics line, the Ultimate Comics line and in movies, but deep down he's the same Nick Fury, according to Tom Brevoort.
"Nick Fury fills the same role as in the comics these days: Being the guy to give the superheroes their missions," the long-time Marvel editor explains. "But I was always more fond of the version of Nick who'd go out on the missions himself. I liked him as a field operative more than as [the leader]."
Although he currently sits in the head chair both in comics and films, comics readers can attest that Fury isn't above getting his hands dirty and you can never truly count him out.