Although Iron Man was the first installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it functioned as a standalone superhero movie for the most part. It wasn't until the post-credits scene that Tony Stark learned from Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury that he was part of a much bigger universe, and the reason Jackson was able to score that role was because he learned that he'd been the model for a version of Fury in the comics.
The original Nick Fury, i.e. the one from the main Marvel Comics universe, Earth 616, is a white man, but in the Ultimate universe continuity, which launched in 2000, he's a black man who looks just like Samuel L. Jackson. That wasn't initially the case, but when writer Mark Millar began penning The Ultimates limited series in 2002, he decided to model Fury after Jackson, who was his favorite actor. As Millar told THR, he had no idea that Jackson was a comic book fan, and after seeing his likeness alongside these Marvel heroes, the actor called up his agents, who got in touch with Marvel. The company apologized and promised to include Jackson in future movie adaptations, should they even be made.
The rest, as they say, is history. Three years after Ultimate Nick Fury got his Samuel L. Jackson look, Marvel began planning to independently produce its own movies, thus allowing for more creative control. Thus Marvel Studios was born, and three years after that, Iron Man came out as its first movie. In the final minute of Tony Stark's origin story, there Samuel L. Jackson was wearing the eye patch and looking like Ultimate Nick Fury had jumped straight from the printed page into real life.
Now Nick Fury, like every other character in the MCU, is more famous than ever. In fact, as a result of the general public knowing Samuel L. Jackson as Fury, this journey has now gone full circle and affected the comics. A few years back, the original Nick Fury in the Earth 616 continuity became a cosmic figure called The Unseen. His son, Nick Fury Jr. (originally known as Marcus Johnson) was brought in to fill in his dad's place at S.H.I.E.L.D., and he also bears a strong resemblance to Jackson. Of course, this is just one of the many ways how the MCU's success has impacted how the Marvel Comics mythology over the last decade, from other characters' looks/backgrounds being altered to the Infinity Gems now being called Infinity Stones.
Although we now know Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury as one of the MCU's main connective threads, that wasn't always the plan for his character. Iron Man director Jon Favreau noted how the movie's post-credits scene was conceived as a fun Easter egg that wasn't originally in the script, and since Jackson and Marvel already had that prior arrangement, this was a good opportunity to bring him in. As many of you reading can likely recall by heart, Fury broke into Stark's mansion to inform him that he wasn't the only superhero in the world and chat with him about the Avengers Initiative.
But Nick Fury became much more than a simple Easter egg. Both he and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson were the glue that tied together the Phase 1 MCU movies, which culminated with 2012's The Avengers. Fury later had a prominent role in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which saw S.H.I.E.L.D. collapsing (on the big screen at least) and Nick Fury having to fake his death to resume his covert spy operations. He then returned for Avengers: Age of Ultron to offer some words of wisdom for Earth's Mightiest Heroes and help them evacuate Sokovian citizens during Ultron's attack.
That was the last we heard of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury until last year, when he and his second-in-command, Maria Hill, appeared in Avengers: Infinity War's post-credits scene. Unfortunately for those two, they were among the half of the universe that was wiped out by Thanos' Decimation, but before he turned to dust, Fury successfully transmitted a signal from a spruced-up pager displaying the Captain Marvel insignia.
This was a tease to the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, which will take place in 1995 and see Nick Fury crossing paths with Carol Danvers, i.e. his first interaction with a superhero. MCU fans are used to Fury as being a badass spy with a lot of secrets, the younger Fury is a low-level bureaucrat at S.H.I.E.L.D. who believes the best days of his career are behind him, but upon meeting Carol and seeing aliens, he'll take his first steps down the path that will lead to him forming the Avengers. It's also been confirmed that Captain Marvel will indeed show how Fury lost his eye, which, as he told Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, happened because of misplaced trust in someone.
While it remains to be seen if the present day Nick Fury will appear inAvengers: Endgame, those worried about his fate needn't worry any longer, as both he and Maria Hill are confirmed to show up in Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer, with Fury tasking Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio, to help the Web-Slinger battle the Elementals.
As for the future, while Samuel L. Jackson's current nine-picture deal with Marvel is now finished, he doesn't want to retire from playing Nick Fury anytime soon, even saying that he could be "the Alec Guinness of Marvel movies." Jackson fetches a heavier price than he did when he cameoed in Iron Man more than a decade ago, but if Marvel Studios can think of other ways to use Fury, perhaps plopping down that extra cash will be worth it.
You can see a two-eyed Nick Fury aid Carol Danvers when Captain Marvel is released in theaters on March 8, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for continuing coverage on that movie and the rest of the MCU. If you're curious about what this superhero franchise has coming down the pipeline, browse through our handy guide.