I think I’m overdue for a comic book post.
For years, Marvel comics readers have known of S.H.I.E.L.D, the American super-spy organization formerly run by Nick Fury (pictured on the left, he’s the cool-looking guy with the eye-patch, not the freaky green guy who is probably a minion of HYDRA).
As a big fan of the super-spy concept, the idea of SHIELD always had intuitive appeal to me, which is why I became very excited when I found out that superstar writer Jonathan Hickman was writing a new series called S.H.I.E.L.D which would dive into the history of the SHIELD organization and how it dates back to the time of Ancient Egypt as a secret society of polymaths who sought to protect the world.
In the first issue alone (cover pictured on the right), we have already seen such famous historical (and fictional) polymaths (translation: genius in multiple fields) as:
- Pharoah Imhotep
- Zhang Heng
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Galileo Galilei
- Nathaniel Richards, father of scientific super-genius Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards of the Fantastic Four
- Howard Stark, father of industrialist genius Tony “Iron Man” Stark
The idea of history’s greatest geniuses as superheroes in a historical secret society is an idea that this fanboy/nerd can’t help but love (not to mention the thrill from the incorporation of the Asian polymath Zhang Heng in a comic with a predominantly Western audience), and it got me thinking, who else would it be awesome to have on this team of super-luminaries? We already know that Nostradamus and Sir Isaac Newton will play heavily in the rest of the series, but who else? The comics blog the Weekly Crisis took a quick stab at it, but I thought I’d also make my own list :-):
- Joan of Arc – (shared with the Weekly Crisis) How does a peasant girl who hear voices from God take command of the French army and overthrow the British? Duh, she had to have been a SHIELD agent – perhaps even a telepath or someone with precognition (can see the future)?
- Benjamin Franklin – (shared with the Weekly Crisis) Scientist. Inventor. Writer. How does SHIELD pass up recruiting a guy with this much chops? And, obviously, you would place this guy in the New World to deal with any emerging threats there!
- Archimedes – A man so brilliant that the general of the invading Roman armies issued an order to capture him unharmed. History says that he died when an invading Roman soldier ignored his general’s orders. I say it was just a pretense to bring him over to SHIELD.
- Hypatia – Potentially the first widely regarded female polymaths, Hypatia was the daughter of one of the last scholars associated with the Musaeum at Alexandria, one of the great repositories of ancient knowledge. Would it be so hard to believe, then, that she would have had access to the knowledge of SHIELD?
- Abbas ibn Firnas – Best known for possibly attempting the first human heavier-than-air flight, ibn Firnas was a brilliant inventor and was even said to have a “room in which spectators witnessed stars, clouds, thunder, and lightning, which were produced by mechanisms located in his basement laboratory” – sounds like a possible headquarters for SHIELD operations, no?
- Jābir ibn Hayyān – The first experimental alchemist, ibn Hayyan is widely considered the “Father of Chemistry.” So ahead-of-his-time was ibn Hayyan, that it is believed that the word “gibberish” was derived from a Latinized version of “Jabir” to describe the complexity of his writings. ibn Hayyan would’ve brought significant credibility and expertise to an 8th-9th century SHIELD.
- Shen Kuo – A prolific scientist and inventor ahead of his times, Shen not only devised the magnetic compass and new methods of studying space but was known for documenting UFOs! If that doesn’t spell, SHIELD extraterrestrial expert, I don’t know what does.
- Thomas Young – While Einstein was a brilliant physicist, Young was a brilliant physicist, linguist, and doctor. What earned him the most fame was his contributions to the deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics through the Rosetta stone. But, he was also famous for deducing that light had wave-like properties, for understanding the nature of elasticity, for figuring out how human vision works (even concluding that human color vision depends on three different color sensors), and figuring out the nature of surface tension and capillary action. How does SHIELD pass someone like this up?
Of course, I’m not a writer – so who knows if any of these suggestions would actually make great stories (although I obviously think they will). Regardless, I’m very excited to read the coming issues of this series, and would recommend it to anyone else who has a taste for seeing major historical geniuses take on threats to the safety of the human race!
So, which other polymath/geniuses or major historical figures would you want in SHIELD?