Who ever expected Peggy Carter to be the breakout character of Captain America: The First Avenger? Thanks to Hayley Atwell’s kickass yet compassionate performance, this once obscure supporting character will be headlining her own TV show on ABC. Agent Carter will act as a period piece prequel to Agents of SHIELD by showing the SSR of WWII before it upgraded to a cooler acronym. (Some sources say the show will take place between the first Captain America and the Agent Carter One-Shot.) Its eight-episode first season is slated to air during the middle hiatus of Agents of SHIELD’s second season.
Hopefully its showrunners, Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, will learn from the mistakes of Marvel Studios’ first foray into live action TV. Agents of SHIELD has the unfortunate habit of dealing with some nifty Marvel stuff in the most perfunctory manner possible, or wedging it between bland character work while it treads water. Agent Carter can hopefully avoid these pitfalls, especially if it surrounds Peggy with some dynamic characters from the comics. I’m acting under the assumption that anyone from the first Captain America who didn’t have a dramatic exit (Howard Stark, Colonel Chester Phillips, the Howling Commandos, Dr. Arnim Zola) is potentially in play, so this list is just for new characters to be introduced. Stark butler Edwin Jarvis is already confirmed to appear, making JARVIS 50% creepier now that we know Tony based it off a real person. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s timeline doesn’t exactly match up to Marvel’ Comics’ timeline (Nick Fury wasn’t old enough to be a Howling Commando in the movieverse despite starring in a book named Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos!), so I’m picking the characters that would best fill out the espionage action showcase even if they weren’t originally active during WWII. So who should Peggy Carter bring along with her when she inevitably conquers television?
12. Clay Quartermain
When I think of “generic SHIELD agents,” Clay Quartermain is the first thing that pops into my mind. I’m surprised he hasn’t been namedropped as a background character yet. He’s a blond,wholesome, lantern-jawed man of action. Too bad Captain America already fills out those traits and then some. The only really unique thing about Clay is that he once brough a lasso to a gunfight, but that doesn’t win him any points because he’s not Wonder Woman.
So why’d I put him on this list in the first place? So he can be built up as proto-SHIELD’s MVP only to be cut down by one of the show’s villains to raise the stakes. Granted, this tactic would be more shocking if the title didn’t already spoil who the main protagonist is. Nevertheless, being fridged would still be the most interesting thing to ever happen to Clay Quartermain.
11. Monica Rappaccini
Women in STEM careers don’t get enough recognition or representation, which makes Monica Rappaccini a suitable correction for this imbalance. Sure, she’s an amoral member of the criminal science cabal, AIM, but the fact that she made it to the rank of Scientist Supreme makes her a great career role model. Since the MCU’s AIM wasn’t founded until recently by Aldrich “How can I be The Mandarin without any alien power rings?” Killian, her affiliation would have to be switched to HYDRA. Somebody has to pick up the mad science slack after Zola’s defection!
Her forte is concocting biological and chemical weapons, which gives her underlings a reason to wear yellow hazmat suits (the easiest AIM fanservice that Iron Man 3 could’ve included). Monica even bioengineered superpowers into her daughter, so this show can foreshadow that fellow amoral scientist Raina from Agents of SHIELD is her granddaughter that she splices with Inhuman DNA. Monica could even be the key to the secrets of Skye’s secret heritage! Just kidding! They’ll never stop flogging that mysterious dead horse.
Don’t expect to see an episode with the full Invaders, the WWII Avengers, invade your DVR due to legal constraints. The original robot Human Torch only got a cameo in the first Cap flick because Fox has the rights to the nigh-identical-looking Human Torch of Fantastic Four. Universal is sitting on the Namor the Sub-Mariner rights because it apparently doesn’t like money. Spitfire, on the other hand, looks to be free and clear.
She’s the daughter of Union Jack, who already appeared as a Howling Commando but was unrecognizable because he wasn’t wearing a patriotic zentai. Spitfire has superhuman speed, which two The Flash series and Daphne Millbrook from Heroes demonstrate is a fun yet relatively affordable power for TV. Instead of dressing exactly like Firestar, she could wear something that evokes a Spitfire aeroplane. At least her name gives the costume department more to work with than The Whizzer.
9. Baron Blood
Speaking of Spitfire and Union Jack, Baron Blood is not only their archenemy but also the black sheep of their family. He’s an English aristocrat who gets turned into a vampire and becomes a Nazi collaborator whilst wearing a bizarre costume. A scaled-back version of his costume could be explained as a HYDRA containment suit to protect him from the deadly rays of the sun and help him glide over rooftops. Sadly, the show will probably drop the costume altogether and deliver a fanged fop. Since Marvel Studios refuses to feature anything supernatural until they get around to Dr. Strange even though they could’ve easily introduced magic in Thor, Baron Blood would probably be an artificial vampire created by science run amuck. So he’d end up being like Morbius the Living Vampire expect Marvel won’t have to share the vampire cashgrab with Sony.
8. Red Guardian
With HYDRA retreating after WWII, Agent Carter can start ramping up the Cold War. Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo are Marvel’s most famous Communist foes, but it doesn’t make sense to introduce them before Iron Man exists. More importantly, power armor is really expensive. Fortunately the Red Guardian, Russia’s answer to Captain America and leader of the Winter Guard (that can also appear in the Black Widow film once Marvel realizes that ScarJo has more fans than Ant-Man ever will), is budget friendly. He’s just Soviet propaganda incarnate!
Peggy could be sent to sabotage Project Red Room’s efforts to win the superhero arms race by enhancing him with bootlegged supersoldier serum. Red Guardian is a legacy hero in the sense that the Kremlin appoints a new mantle-bearer every time the previous one dies or is dishonored. A running joke could feature a different Red Guardian each episode with the explanation that each predecessor was sent to a gulag for failing Mother Russia. ABC can use the money they saved on Red Guardian(s) to hire a trained bear to back him up as his comrade, Ursa Major.
In the wake of two World Wars, it’s not unreasonable to consider uniting as a unified world without petty nationalism a solid strategy to avoiding a third. That’s Flag-Smasher’s noble goal. Sadly he tries to achieve as the leader of a violent terrorist group named ULTIMATUM (Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind). In addition to mopping up HYDRA, and spotlighting the rise of the Soviets, tossing ULTIMATUM into the mix would add to this spy show’s much needed political and moral complexity. ULTIMATUM could be a wildcard striking at both the Axis and the Allies.
Not only does he look like Space Ghost, Flag-Smasher lives up to his name by carrying a big mace with which to literally smash flags. Surprisingly, his ULTIMATUM mooks look much more suave than him in their white jackets and berets. The TV show would probably have him pilfer his underlings’ wardrobe so he can get the respect denied him in the comics.
Remember the Agent Carter One-Shot where Peggy easily separated some thugs from a vial of blue liquid with an ankh on the side called Scorpio? That can be foreshadowing to the supervillain Scorpio popping up in this show to cause mayhem with his Zodiac Key. Perhaps he can be an assassin HYDRA hires to get Carter? They can even use him to homage some classic Steranko art (maybe with German Epressionist film aesthetics subbing in for his swinging ’60s style to avoid anachronisms).
The original Scorpio was Nick Fury’s brother, but this version could be his uncle since movieverse Nick probably isn’t even in diapers yet. Zodiac has had a few costume redesigns over the years, but wardrobe can start from scratch as none of them are really iconic. His cosmic Zodiac Key could be explained as one of the Infinity Stones needed for the Infinity Gauntlet so they don’t need to introduce all of them in theatrical films. Wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace if something from one of Marvel’s TV shows influenced its movies instead of it being a one-way street?
Agents of SHIELD’s fight scenes tend to be lackluster when compared to (Green) Arrow, but Agent Carter can dodge that if it scoops up Taskmaster. His photographic reflexes allow him to mimic any fighting style he observes and master any weapon. Since he’s been wearing his Skeletor mask full time since before Skeletor existed, the show could cast a skilled stunt actor (or several, depending upon the variety of skills the series calls for) and dub him later.
Taskmaster started off as a SHIELD agent who lost his memory and went rogue after an experiment to perfect his ability. Now he’s a mercenary who trains the anonymous hordes of various criminal organizations to be slightly more competent cannon fodder. OOPS. Taskmaster could be one of the earliest examples of SHIELD’s penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
4. Jimmy Woo
Jimmy Woo debuted as a surprisingly non-offensive Chinese-American FBI agent way back in 1956 when Marvel was Atlas Comics, so he’s overdue for some live action exposure. Agent Carter can use his inclusion to show that WWII America still wasn’t great place for non-Caucasians even though it was fighting Nazis. To subvert the trope that Chinese men are all incrutable and loveless, the show can also include his lover, Suwan. Her father, the Golden Claw, is also her personal arch-nemesis who can appear in season 2.
Although Jimmy has gotten a popularity boost as the lead in Agents of Atlas, his teammates, particularly M-11 and Gorilla Man, probably won’t be joining him. To reference his pulpy roots, however, Jimmy can be the show’s expert on artifacts, aliens and conspiracies. Think of him as the Fox Mulder who can actually close a monster of the week case.
Much like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Viper could exist in the gray area where both Fox and Marvel Studios can use her so long as they don’t reference any studio exclusive IP. Luckily, that means TV Viper won’t be a mutant Poison Ivy impersonator like her movie namesake. Giving Viper the title of Madame Hydra would help reduce any confusion.
All you need to know about her is that she’s the more colorful inspiration for G.I. Joe’s Baroness. Her verdant coiffure and matching outfit is non-negotiable! The Captain America: Super Soldier video game already did a great WWII adaptation of her look that’d be a shame not to use. In between dodging her bullwhip and surgically implanted venomous fangs, Peggy can commiserate with her about glass ceilings in the espionage field on both sides of the war.
Of course there’s always the possibility that “Isabelle Hartly” is just a smokescreen for Lucy Lawless to play this HYDRA strikeforce commander on Agents of SHIELD. Why cast Lucy Lawless on a comic book show as a non-canon character whose name isn’t as dynamic as her own?
2. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
La Contessa Valentina “Val” Allegra de Fontaine is an Italian heiress who becomes a SHIELD spy after her parents were killed for their political activities. The show could make them fascists to ramp up the tension that Val could be a traitor. She’s known primarily as Nick Fury’s longtime girlfriend, but his absence could allow Val to finally stand on her own.
Not only will this fashionista fatale add some glamour to SHIELD’s bureaucracy, she’s also one of its greatest hand-to-hand combatants. She can be the Emma Peel of a new generation. While Peggy is the star, there’s no reason she has to be the SSR’s only badass female spy. I imagine Peggy and Val would butt heads early on as they come from very different backgrounds, but by the end of the season they should be one of the finest ass-kicking womances in television. Plus, her skunk stripe hair looks as spiffy on her as it does on Alexandra Cabot! Omitting it would be even worse than John Garrett without his signature pornstache.
1. Baron Zemo
Another gripe about Agents of SHIELD has been that it’s missing a strong central villain to root against. So Agent Carter needs to go straight to the top and snag Baron Heinrich Zemo as its Big Bad. Baron Zemo is a Nazi war criminal of aristocratic blood crazed with revenge ever since Captain America permanently glued his magenta ski mask to his face in a freak accident during WWII. (Surely the show can borrow Cap’s shield for a brief flashback even if Chris Evans is busy.) They can reveal that Zemo’s coffers kept HYDRA in business long after Red Skull disintegrated those Nazi site inspectors and declared himself bigger than Hitler.
Not only is Baron Zemo an imposing period-appropriate villain, he could also lay some crucial track for bridging Marvel’s TV shows with future films. Zemo can survive to the modern day either by using the longevity-expanding Infinity Formula or indoctrinating his son, Helmut, with his vengeful megalomania. Now that HYDRA has liberated the supervillain prisoners of The Fridge in the present, Baron Zemo can lead them against the Avengers as the Masters of Evil without needing to spend much time on his origin. James Gunn wants to do a Thunderbolts movie, so Zemo needs to be set up in advance for that to work.
While Marvel has tried to make his costume less flamboyant, his live-action costume should look as decadent as possible. How can we tell he’s a baron if he’s not bedecked in gold, purple, and ermine? Baron Zemo does not make fashion faux pas, because he was “born better” than everyone else on the planet. That’s the kind of love-to-hate arrogance that’ll make him TV’s next King Joffrey or Mason Verger. Agent Carter needs that extra spark to make her transition to television a ratings blockbuster! After all, it takes a villain to define a heroine.
You may remember Matthew Catania from such Daily Lists as
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