Marvel Comics; 30¢

Until the Samuel L. Jackson era of Nick Fury firmly took hold due to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the most frequently asked questions in the original (that is, comic book) Marvel Universe revolved around Nick Fury.

It went something like this: How is it that Col. Nick Fury was able to fight the Nazis during WWII, serve in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War, then become the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., and still remain as strong and vital as the day he stepped out to meet his Howling Commandos?

Of course in the earliest days of S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, the tales were being told only about 20 years after World War II concluded. It made sense that a character like Fury would have continued to serve and to move up the ranks, doing what needed to be done. But since time generally passes very differently in comics than it does in reality, and the final days of the war got further and further away, something had to explain how Fury could keep so spry as his counterparts aged.

Marvel handled the notion to writer Jim Starlin and artist Howard Chaykin, and their answer to the problem was a one-shot story in Marvel Spotlight #31.

First, a little background: This volume of Marvel Spotlight had begun with a one-shot featuring Red Wolf. It then hosted three issues of Werewolf By Night, became home for Ghost Rider for seven issues (including his origin in #5), and then Son of Satan for 13 issues. From Marvel Spotlight #25 through the end of the run, excepting a two-issue stint for Moon Knight, the title rattled off a series of one-shots, most of them very intriguing. The answer to the biggest mystery around Nick Fury was one of them.

During a routine mission through the French countryside at the height of World War II, Fury stumbled into a minefield and was critically injured. He would have died right there in France if a group of partisans hadn’t brought him to one Doctor Sternberg for treatment. While treating him, Sternberg used Fury as a guinea pig for an experimental serum that greatly retarded the aging process. The downside? Once taken, the patient – in this case, Fury – was permanently addicted to it, making him ripe for blackmail. 

– J.C. Vaughn