When discussing Marvel's upcoming "S.H.I.E.L.D." TV series, fans are likely to be discouraged by the idea of characters from "The Avengers" making limited appearance (if any) and wondering how the comic book company and ABC could pull off the show without the presence of Nick Fury. There is a way in which they could turn the torch over from Fury to a S.H.I.E.L.D. team leader without compromising the integrity of the theatrical movies or contractual obligations. It all begins with a made-for-TV movie.
The contractSamuel L. Jackson has a movie deal with Marvel, which will ensure him appearing in at least nine movies. As a former business consultant, I have seen contracts for movie appearances, and they do not typically require an actor to be placed in theatrically released feature films. Marvel could easily place him in a made-for-TV movie in which he is assembling a special S.H.I.E.L.D. team for a particular project or removing himself from current command by installing a temporary leader for the organization so he can focus on the Avengers Initiative. This would meld with Jackson's contract and still allow him into the continuity with the Phase 2 Marvel movies.
New leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.A new leader for S.H.I.E.L.D. could anger many comic book fans who grew up with Fury being the group's commander. In continuity, though, it could work because Fury could still be working in the background without interfering in what they characters on the show were doing. At the same time, it could lift the character placed in charge of the organization to great heights and give fans a new major player in the Marvel Universe to pay attention to. At the same time, though, it could reduce the importance of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the movies since the focus would have to be placed solely on Jackson's character.
Subgroup of S.H.I.E.L.D.A subgroup for the secretive organization would make more sense and cause less friction with fans without compromising any part of the current continuity between media products. The new leader might be pressed to keep the characters more in line so Director Fury does not have to come in and straighten everything out. This could make the leader stricter with the crew and could cause for the characters to feel the grip of a potential antagonist on the inside of the organization. Fans would know the leader of the organization was around, but the strong leadership of the subgroup can keep him away.
Simply making the premiere of "S.H.I.E.L.D." an hour, as most dramatic premieres are, Marvel and ABC will be forced to tell a difficult story in a short amount of time. The creators have to ensure the continuity with Director Fury in some way without having to rewrite Jackson's contract. A made-for-TV "S.H.I.E.L.D." movie appears to be the strongest choice. Attempting to introduce an element of S.H.I.E.L.D. without involving Fury would just be silly and not align with the way the Marvel Universe works. It would be almost as silly as Tony Stark tossing around Mjolnir.
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