Who is Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Agent Phil Coulson: “I’ve been authorized by Director Fury to use any means necessary to keep you on premises. If you attempt to leave, or play any games, I will taze you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet. Okay?
Tony Stark: “I think I got it. Yeah.”
Coulson: “Enjoy your evening’s entertainment.”

Iron Man 2

A S.H.I.E.L.D. facility is in chaos. Reports are coming in from across the country. Captain America is fighting a HYDRA insurgency in Washington D.C. The Hulk is rampaging through Las Vegas. Iron Man’s armor has been hacked. And no one’s sure why every building in Cleveland sprouted legs and ran away, but it probably isn’t good.

A voice rings out in the center of the madness. An unassuming man wearing a suit starts directing the government agents to deal with the crises. The agents run to fulfill their missions leaving Agent Coulson to muse about how Nick Fury owes him a raise.

Phil Coulson is an oddity. He first appeared as a supporting character in 2008’s Iron Man and has since become one of Marvel’s biggest stars. How big? He has more screen time than all of the Avengers combined. So who is he? Why’s he such a big deal? Let’s find out.

Fury’s Good Eye: Coulson’s Backstory

Coulson: “I’m Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.”
Pepper: “That’s quite a mouthful.”
Coulson: “I know. We’re working on it.”

– Iron Man (2008)

Clark Gregg made his debut as Coulson in 2008’s Iron Man. Coulson was created for the movies and proved popular enough to get brought into the comics.

Agent Coulson was ordered to debrief Tony Stark, who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan. He later accompanied Stark’s secretary Pepper on an investigation into an employee’s connections to a terrorist group. The pair discovered the employee developing a suit called the Iron Monger and survived long enough for Iron Man to save them. Coulson left after that fracas and revealed he worked for an organization called S.H.I.E.L.D.

That was Coulson’s first of many appearances into the MCU.

Coulson reappeared in Iron Man 2 where he helped Stark create a new element. The Son of Coul next appeared in Thor investigating a strange hammer that not even Stan Lee could move. A blond lunatic finally managed to lift the hammer and revealed he was the Norse thunder god, Thor. Coulson finally appeared in The Avengers and was murdered by Thor’s wicked brother, Loki.

Project Tahiti: Coulson’s History

Lady Sif: “What dark magic is this? Thor said you perished at the hand of Loki.”
Agent Coulson: “And he was right. For a while anyway. But Loki wasn’t the only one with some tricks up his sleeve. Turns out S.H.I.E.L.D. had a few of their own.” – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Yes Men” (Season 1, Episode 15)

While the Avengers stomped a hole in Loki’s arse, Nick Fury spirited Coulson’s body away. Coulson was put through the Tahiti Program, resurrected through an infusion of Kree blood. His memories of the resurrection were replaced with false memories of a vacation in Tahiti and a compulsion to refer to it as “a magical place”.

Director Fury gave Coulson a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and random assignments to keep him distracted. Coulson also recruited a hacktivist named Skye (Chloe Bennet) who he came to view as a surrogate daughter.

Coulson and his team have dealt with many threats. The return of the Super Nazis HYDRA, the Inhumans, tracking down The Darkhold and Ghost Rider, dealing with an android insurrection, and even winding up on an alien space station in the future. Yikes, I would hate to see the shark this show jumps. It’s probably covered in chainsaws and has Stan Lee’s face. Stan Shark.

Underestimated Badass: Coulson’s Powers and Personality

Aida:Don’t you get it? You can’t kill me.”
Coulson:Maybe not. But I’m pretty sure he can.” (transforms into Ghost Rider))

– Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “World’s End” (Season 4, Episode 22

Coulson looks like the average G-Man actor Clark Gregg played as a recurring character on The West Wing. He’s got S.H.I.E.L.D. technology and army training. He commonly uses a “night night” gun that tranquilizes targets, an energy gun made from the Asgardian Destroyer Armor, and a flying ‘62 Corvette called Lola.

Later events in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. caused Coulson to get a cybernetic hand. This handy tool gives him a measure of super strength, a concealed night-night gun, and an energy shield that resembles Captain America’s. At one point Coulson channeled a Spirit of Vengeance, transforming him into the Ghost Rider. Sadly, he didn’t get to keep that upgrade.

Coulson is the working stiff in a universe of gods and superheroes. He’s often left cleaning up after the films and dealing with threats that aren’t movie-worthy. Off duty he acts like a dork, geeking out over his car, vintage spy tools, and random superheroes.

Coulson has been exclusively played by Clark Gregg.

Didya Get All That?

The Agent behind the superheroes.

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