Marvel Studios has given us tons of likeable characters; as well as actors who completely embody their comic book counter parts: the snark of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, the brilliance and ferocity of Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, the pure heartedness of Chris Evan’s Captain America and the . . . GODLY stature that only Chris Hemsworth can bring to the role of Thor. All of these characters – Nick Fury, Black Widow, etc included – are amazingly portrayed by their acting counterparts. So how does someone – who has no prior role in the comics – not only compete with these powerhouses; but also gains so much love and support that he was brought back to life? Simple, if you’re Clark Gregg.
So what exactly is it about Agent – I mean Director – Phil Coulson that makes us like him so much? Also, how much of it is Clark Gregg himself? Well, let’s find out!
The Sassy Deadpan Humor:
Remember when we first met Agent Phil Coulson in Ironman (2008). He was calm, matter of fact, and didn’t seem to partake in humor at all. Just a calm smile and he’d be on his way. Compared to Robert Downey Jr he seemed like the straight man in one huge comedy act. Though that would all change in Ironman 2 when the man of few words put Tony Stark in his place with one of the greatest lines ever.
If you attempt to leave or play any games, I will tase you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet. Kay? – Agent Phil Coulson
Till this day, this is one of the most popular/funniest lines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though it’s not so much what Coulson said; but how he said it. Sure it’s one of the most humorous and oddly specific threats you’d ever hear; but it’s Coulson deadpan and matter-of-fact way he delivers these lines that make it absolutely perfect. Coulson’s humor does exist; and the sass is strong with this one!
I could go on and on about all the times Coulson displayed Level 7 Sassiness. Speaking of which, remember that time when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered and he dramatically walked out of the darkness to tell Ward “Welcome to Level 7” after being thought dead?
From finally answering the “How was Tahiti?” question with “It sucked” rather than “It’s a magical place” to telling Nick Furry that Agent Garrett really “kicked it up a notch” in regards to his crazy, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a treasure trove of Coulson’s Sass and again could have an article of its own. Whether among friends, getting shot at or trash talking ‘gods’, Coulson deadpan sassy humor WILL be there – and we love him more and more for it!
As we learned in The Avengers, Agent Coulson is the ULTIMATE fanboy – especially when it comes to Captain America. From the Captain America trading cards he kept in his locker to his geeking out over Howling Commando’s gear with Agent Triplett, Coulson has shown himself to not only be a top ranking member of SHIELD; but also – in a sense – a Marvel fan himself. In many ways, Agent Coulson is just like us.
Admit it. If you could be written into the Marvel Universe, you’d want to be someone like Agent Coulson. He interacts with all of these heroes, yet doesn’t initially belong to their world. I’ll go into more detail about this later; but Coulson basically represents the diehard fan – much like how the ‘companion’ in Doctor Who represents the audience. We can’t be along for the adventure ourselves; but Coulson is that heroic guy whom we get to live vicariously through.
A Genuine Caring Individual:
If there is one thing that Agent Coulson is most known for, it’s sadly his death. As the first character ‘death’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everyone was taken off guard. Sure he wasn’t one of the title characters; but everyone’s reactions were the same: “No, not Coulson!”. This moment was so powerful that it not only hurt the audience; but also catalyzed the Avengers to work together. Though why did Coulson’s death matter so much more to the Avengers than any other S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent?
Well the easy answer is that Coulson got to directly interact with each other them; but it’s actually much more than that. Thor called him “Son of Coul”, acknowledging him as one of Earth’s champions and as an equal. Coulson helped Tony with a lot of his legal issues and became best friends with Pepper – talking about romantic lives and such. Coulson went above and beyond the call of duty for ‘job’ and honestly sought to help those not only under his protection; but anyone along the way.
This trait can of course best be seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., such as when he develops a very paternal relationship to Skye. This isn’t because his job dictates it, but rather because he wants to be that positive influence in her life. Even when all of S.H.I.E.L.D. was collapsing around him, he remained the pillar of hope., which is why Fury trusted him alone to rebuild the organization.
“I don’t know May, I don’t know! There’s got to be something here. This means something. This HAS to mean something! The world needs us. Hydra is out there. We cannot let them win! We cannot let them define us! Do you understand that? We are not ‘Agents of Nothing’, we are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; and that still carries weight. It HAS to carry weight, after EVERYTHING we’ve been through. THAT HAS TO CARRY WEIGHT!!” – Coulson
Speaking of the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., seeing Coulson go through all of this was one of the most powerful moments in all of Season One of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. . He does so much good for so many; and yet the forces of good seem to be losing the war. Everything he thought he could believe in is shattered; and yet he never lost hope or stop helping people. To many, he will forever be “the only light in the darkness”.
A Badass In an Organization of Badasses:
Whether taking on Gods, breaking up a convenience store robbery or going toe to toe with the Beetle (in Ultimate Spiderman), Agent Coulson is always quite the badass. This character trait kind of speaks for itself; but in case you can’t personally remember any moments of badassery, then here’s the Marvel One Shot “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer”
Agent Coulson = Clark Gregg
Much like how Samuel L Jackson has now become the new face of Nick Fury – in films, cartoons, etc -; Clark Gregg has become the face of Agent Coulson. Though as I started to mention earlier, Agent Coulson never existed in the comics or any other form of the Marvel Universe . . . until now. No matter where you go or what medium you prefer, you will find Agent Coulson – and Clark Gregg.
That’s right! Whether in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ultimate Spiderman (the cartoon) or LEGO Marvel Superheroes (the video game), you will not only find Agent Coulson; but also Clark Gregg voicing him each time. It’s that kind of dedication and continuity that is not only commendable; but also extremely exciting for a fan of the series. Unlike DC or other combined universes that either get stereotyped knockoffs or completely ignore other works, Marvel strives to remind viewers that even if the stories and continuities are different, this is still one big unified universe.
Additionally, have you ever seen any of Clark Gregg’s other works? Take for example his recent film Trust Me, which he not only starred in; but also directed. Now sure the film has a lot of laughs; but it’s actually a well-written film that once again shows Gregg’s character as a sassy caring individual. Sound familiar? It’s basically an alternate reality of what if Agent Coulson became a Hollywood Child Talent Agent – and Justin Hammer was his competition.
Then again, let’s forget films, tv shows, and comics for a second and just look at Clark Gregg himself. He’s a huge comic fan – specifically Marvel – who always goes out of his way to celebrate with fans and geek out over amazing stuff happening. At the end of the day, the only distinction between these two is the presence of a badge – and being brought back from the death with some Kree DNA.
Clark Gregg/Agent Coulson is that amazing character that not only shows us what we can be; but enjoys helping people achieve it. Whether joining us as we nerd out or allowing us to live vicariously through him, Agent Coulson/Clark Gregg is our deepest connection to the Marvel World because he is simultaneously the person we want to be and the person we’ve been all along.