Every comic book fan loves to read about their favorite hero/heroine (and sometimes even their favorite villain). The main characters always have some kind of amazing power or cool gadget, and (most of the time) the best looks. Who can blame the fans if these are the people they choose to focus on and obsess over? After all, no one reads just for the occasional appearance of a background character, right?
When Marvel began producing the live-action movie adaptations of some of its most well-known heroes in the early 2000s, fans around the world were ecstatic. Getting to see Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Incredible Hulk (what we hoped would be a better performance than the last attempt) on the big screen was the culmination of decades of nerdy love at its finest. Little did we know that we would find ourselves falling for the some of the (seemingly) minor characters, and that they would become heroes in their own right.
When Iron Man premiered in 2008, we were shown quite a few of Tony Stark’s technological wonders; from the Iron Man suit itself, to JARVIS (the AI system that runs his entire house). But for this writer, it was the robotic assistant Dummy (or DUM-E, as shown in Iron Man 2) that was one of the highlights of the film. Dummy often lives up to his name, resulting in Tony threatening to donate him to “a city college.” While it seems impossible for a mechanical arm to have personality, Dummy still manages to convey a range of emotions. He perks up and lifts his “head” when he is addressed affectionately, droops and whirs sadly when he is scolded, and regards his surroundings curiously. Despite the threats to get rid of him, Tony is shown as being somewhat affectionate with the bot, telling him, “Good boy,” when Dummy saves his life, and explaining to him why he is in time-out (in Iron Man 3). This writer is not ashamed to say that she shed a few tears when Tony’s Malibu mansion was attacked in the latest installment, and Dummy and his brother You (U) are seen trying to help one another before they fall into the ocean.
One of the biggest surprises, however, was how important Agent Phil Coulson of SHIELD became to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While he started out simply as a way to connect all of the movies before the heroes actually met, Coulson’s role came to a head in Marvel’s The Avengers. During the siege on the helicarrier, Coulson is apparently killed by Loki. This becomes the event that finally unites the team, allowing them to defeat Loki’s alien army and save New York City. Many fans were devastated by the loss of Coulson (another MCU moment that made this writer cry), and quite a few denied that he was truly dead. Some speculated that the paramedics that went to the scene never “called” Coulson’s death, as they had only just arrived when Nick Fury made the announcement. On the internet, the Coulson Lives campaign was born, grew, and thrived. People made t-shirts, pins, stickers, and other merchandise as a way to spread the word.
When it was announced that an Agents of SHIELD TV show was in the works, and that Agent Coulson would be part of it, fans were just as excited as when the first MCU films were released. The worldwide celebration, however, did not begin until it was confirmed that the show would take place after the events of The Avengers. For the first time, a character who had become a fan-favorite had survived Joss Whedon’s directing (Whedon often kills off the most beloved supporting character in his shows), and those of us who are emotionally-invested in the MCU were as happy as when the other heroes succeeded in defeating their villain of the week. Despite his humble beginnings as a side character, Coulson has become a hero in his own right.