Agent Coulson is a unique Marvel creation. Prior to his first appearance on screen he had no connection to any Marvel comic. Clark Gregg’s on screen delivery and cool demeanor instantly made him a fan favorite. Throughout certain films his role expanded and when it was time for him to die he was blessed with a meaningful demise. Thankfully comic movie deaths, just like comic book deaths, don’t always stick and Coulson returned for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. Despite a slow start the show has really found itself and Season 2, becoming a riveting spy thriller with roots deeply entrenched in Marvel comic lore.
In the beginning Coulson’s popularity was a bit mystifying. If there’s one thing I remember about growing up in the 80’s and 90’s it is that S.H.I.E.L.D. was pretty lame and any comics featuring the organization or Nick Fury just didn’t sell well and so they didn’t last long. Oh and David Hasselhoff didn’t help. Coulson helped change all that. The fact is Marvel needed a character just like him. If you want to get fans invested in government agency characters that exist in a super-hero world you need solid writing. Marvel has had its bumps along the way but now it seems to be working.
Rewatching Avengers and Captain America 2, it is easy to see why Coulson/S.H.I.E.L.D. is popular. He worships his heroes like any comic reader does and he’s a collector. As I mentioned above, his death was a meaningful part of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Bringing him back has also paved the way for the introduction to the Inhumans which is a critical part of Marvel’s future plans. Agent Coulson and the way in which S.H.I.E.L.D. was explored in Cap 2 have convinced me to go back and read Tales of Suspense, Steranko’s work and a host of others. Many of the characters and places used in the TV show have origins tied to works that were introduced long before I started reading comics. Agent Coulson remains a popular, modern character who is now firmly anchored in the Marvel Universe. It remains to be seen if his key comics will ever appreciate in value. But if he’s this generation’s Fury I suspect certain books will do well over the long run making a Coulson a cheap, long term investment.
So if you want to collect Coulson here is what I would buy:
Last week I discussed this rare mini for another reason. After some extensive research this book is confirmed as Agent Coulson’s first comic appearance.
As I mentioned last week Security Measures was only reprinted in this TPB:
IRON MAN / INCREDIBLE HULK / NICK FURY 2009
This 2009 comic is Agent Coulson’s first appearance in a traditional comic though not in the 616.
IRON MAN: I AM IRON MAN 1-2
Coulson appears next in this two issue mini. Remember though Security Measures is NOT printed in either issue but is included in the TPB for these issues!
And he appeared in issues 1 and 3 of this series:
IRON MAN 2: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 1
This next issue from 2010 is key. This comic features Coulson’s first cover! Now that could be him on the cover of Security Measures but the fact that the agents are in shadows means we cannot confirm or deny if it is him.
BATTLE SCARS 1,6
Though this series didn’t do well it remains a key Marvel mini-series which changes Marvel forever by introducing Agent Coulson and Nick Fury Jr. into the 616.
The only part of Coulson’s origin I don’t like is his nickname. “ Cheese” as he is referred to by his friend is the only way he is referenced in issue 1. He is named in issue 6.
Note: This is NOT Nick Fury Jr’s first appearance
SCARLET SPIDER 5
Yost includes Coulson in this issue, his first appearance in any title besides Battle Scars in the Mainstream Marvel Universe
As you can see there aren’t a ton of key issues for Agent Coulson which is not necessarily a bad thing! Finally his first appearance in the Ultimate Universe: