Joss Whedon’s upcoming Avengers spin-off TV series focuses on the Marvel universe’s dominant superspy operation S.H.I.E.L.D. Appropriately, the show has been shrouded in secrecy, barring the occasional promise from Whedon that the show would run alongside Marvel’s cinematic universe but with less of a superhero focus. But earlier today at New York Comic-Con, Marvel officially announced that a member of the Avengers cast would be making an appearance on the show…despite the fact that, well, the character didn’t seem to have much of a future after Avengers. Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson appeared to die in the movie — oh, spoiler alert, blah blah, it’s the third highest-grossing movie ever — but rumors have persisted that Coulson would reappear in some form.
The Marvel TV panel at NYCC made the news official. Gregg appeared onstage, nominally to talk about his role on the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man. But then attendees were treated to a video showing Whedon and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, proclaiming that Coulson would return in the series (currently titled Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D.) According to Comic Book Resources, Whedon and Feige made it clear that Coulson wouldn’t just be appearing in some kind of flashback/Obi-Wan role: Feige said, “There was never going to be a S.H.I.E.L.D.‘ show without Agent Phil Coulson!” while Whedon added “He’s headlining the S.H.I.E.L.D. show and always was.”
News about Coulson’s return retroactively lessens the impact of the closing act of Avengers — and it also confirms that characters stay dead in Marvel’s onscreen universe about as often as in the comic book universe. (Read: Never.) However, speaking as a longtime Phil Coulson fan, it’s exciting to hear that Gregg will be participating in the S.H.I.E.L.D. project, if only because he’s the rare actor involved in the Marvelverse who genuinely seems to dig comic books. (Not only that: He digs Jim Starlin. Swoon!)
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