Every universe has someone mysterious and influential enough to have power despite not having superpowers, and Marvel Universe has Nick Fury. The director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the most iconic characters of the Marvel Universe, and his influence is always felt during the biggest events. Of course, the great actor, Samuel L. Jackson, immortalized the character on the big screen and is considered one of the driving forces behind MCU. However, until that point, Nick Fury was a white man, and with the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, Nick Fury race-swapped to a black American man. Jackson’s Fury was a catalyst for changing the characters’ lore in the Marvel Universe, which we will discuss more in the article.
Marvel race-swapped Nick Fury because, in the Ultimate series of Marvel Comics in 2002, Earth-1610’s Nick Fury was black and inspired by Samuel L. Jackson. The writer of Ultimate Comics, Mark Millar, designed the alternate version of Nick Fury with Samuel L. Jackson in mind, and when the actor discovered that fact, he contacted Marvel and got promised to play the live-action of Nick Fury in the future. After Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Nick Fury in MCU, Marvel Comics worked hard to adapt the comic book version of the character according to MCU Nick Fury, ultimately deciding that the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a black man.
The Ultimate Comics in the 2000s was Marvel’s attempt to refresh some of the existing characters in the alternate universe, and Nick Fury was among those characters. In the end, we got black Nick Fury in Earth-616, and Earth-199999, making his character one of the rare ones that comics adapted from the big screens. Of course, why Ultimate Comics was even launched at that time is another interesting topic, and we will mention both in this article.
Why was the Ultimate Marvel series launched?
The comic book media has gone through a lot in the last few decades. From censorships in the 1950s and 1960s and the notorious change in tone in the 1970s, both DC and Marvel continuously found ways to try and find a suitable “formula” to sell their comics.
Of course, huge comic book events kept the comic publishers afloat, but the 1990s marked declining sales in the US comic book industry. While DC managed to claw its way out of the crisis, Marvel Comics almost went under, with many artists leaving the company.
However, the last attempt at saving Marvel Comics was hiring Brian Michael Bendis to create fresh content for Marvel Universe. The writers were faced with a really hard task – the Marvel Comics continuity was too long for new readers to follow, while some previous, shocking story tropes weren’t that interesting to the fans.
Marvel Comics had to think of something to save their company and bring new readers to their content. Before Bendis even started working on Marvel content, Bill Jemas thought of the idea of resetting some of the characters.
Bendis wrote Ultimate Spider-Man and gained critical and commercial success worldwide, breaking records in sales and propelling a new universe with fresh outlooks on characters.
Basically, the Ultimate Marvel series saved the Marvel publishing company, and simultaneously, it kickstarted new comic book runs within the Ultimate Universe – Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the Ultimates, Earth-1610’s version of the Avengers.
Among the character reimagining, Nick Fury was redesigned differently from the Earth-616 version – he was a black man in Earth-1610. This brings us to the main topic of the article.
Why was Nick Fury’s character race-swapped in Marvel Comics?
Artist Frank Millar designed a new version of Nick Fury inspired by the famous actor Samuel L. Jackson. When the actor discovered that he inspired the new Nick Fury, he contacted Marvel and permitted them to use his likeness. Jackson also made a deal with Marvel if they ever wanted to adapt the character of Nick Fury to the big screen, he should be first in line to portray the character.
Interestingly enough, that actually happened. A few years later, we saw Nick Fury’s character (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) in the post-credit scene of the first Iron Man movie. Fans were happy seeing Jackson in the role, which only strengthened the decision to fully change Nick Fury’s character in the comics.
Of course, Nick Fury was a white man in Marvel Comics, but Marvel decided to keep the original character in the continuity and create a new storyline revolving around white and black Nick Fury’s origin stories, making the original Fury a long-lost father of new Fury.
This might be confusing, but it really isn’t. In the comic book run called Battle Scars from 2012, we see the origin story of Markus Johnson, the son of CIA agent Nia Jones and none other than Nick Fury.
Nick and Nia loved each other, but Nick had to hide his pregnant partner from the dangers of his job, which prompted Nia to move to Atlanta and live under a new identity – Nia Johnson. Soon after, Nia gives birth to a baby and calls him Marcus.
Marcus was a really good student and a great athlete. However, he still didn’t know that his father was Nick Fury, from whom he also inherited the Infinity Formula, which self-generated within Marcus’ body.
Nevertheless, the secret of Marcus’ origins reaches a notorious foe of Nick Fury, Orion, who uses the information to kill Nia and draw the youngster out. During his mother’s death, Marcus was in Afghanistan and eventually returned home to attend his mother’s funeral.
Taskmaster later targeted Marcus but was saved by Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., who also heard of Marcus’ origins story.
Nevertheless, after escaping S.H.I.E.L.D.’s custody, Marcus meets Nick Fury, who tells his son the truth. They later team up to defeat Orion and Leviathan group, and Nick Fury tells Marcus the whole story about their family. A young man accepts his parents’ decision to hide their lifestyle from him and is encouraged by his father for a new direction in life; Marcus Johnson resumes the lifestyle and name of his father, becoming Nicholas Joseph “Nick” Fury Jr.
The older Nick Fury also reveals to his son that his legal name is actually Nick Fury; hence, we have a distinction between father and son, with senior and junior monickers. Since the Battle Scars storyline 2012, we have a black version of Nick Fury, essentially the biological son of white Nick Fury.
From the “innocent” character design inspired by the famous actor to the same man responsible for iconic character redesign, Nicholas J. Fury is a character that fans have welcomed with open arms. Of course, there is always a minority of people against everything new, but Marvel fully committed to the character redesign that was ultimately successful.