One of the most poignant moments of 2012’s The Avengers was when everyman S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson played by Clark Gregg was killed in action while trying to stop Loki’s escape. It’s pivitol because Coulson’s death glavanized the team to put aside their own damage and fight the good fight to defeat Loki and his alien army; it was a bittersweet moment, but it defined what it mean to be an Avenger. And then ABC was looking to make a series called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it needed an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to lead them, so Gregg got the call and Coulson came back from the dead. Naturally, the guy that killed Coulson in the first place, wasn’t pleased.
While talking to Mental Floss, Avengers director Joss Whedon discussed his mixed emotions when Marvel decided that Coulson was of no use to them dead.
A lot of people come back in The Winter Soldier. It’s a grand Marvel tradition. Bucky was supposed to die. And the Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe. As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead.
But I have to say, watching the first one with my kids—I had not watched the first one since it came out—and then watching it with my kids and watching Coulson die but [thinking], “Yeah, but I know that he kind of isn’t,” it did take some of the punch out of it for me. Of course, I spent a lot of time making sure he didn’t. And at the time it seemed inoffensive, as long as it wasn’t referenced in the second movie, which it isn’t.
There’s a thing where you can do that so many times and there’s nothing at stake. But it’s difficult because you’re living in franchise world—not just Marvel, but in most big films—where you can’t kill anyone, or anybody significant. And now I find myself with a huge crew of people and, although I’m not as bloodthirsty as some people like to pretend, I think it’s disingenuous to say we’re going to fight this great battle, but there’s not going to be any loss. So my feeling in these situations with Marvel is that if somebody has to be placed on the altar and sacrificed, I’ll let you guys decide if they stay there.
Interesting. Whedon makes a good poi… Wait a minute. Didn’t Whedon co-create Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and executive produces the series? Ah well, at least he admits that he himself left the door open for a comeback, and at the end of the day, we must also admit that when it comes to comic books, there’s an ever decreasing list of characters who have died and remained dead through the history of a given book.
I guess this is also a back-handed way of telling fans that anyone expecting Coulson to pop up in Avengers: Age of Ultron and say, “Guess what guys? I’m alive!” are barking up the wrong tree. If Coulson is dead to Whedon, so far as the movies are concerned anyway, then it’s unlikely that Gregg will appear in a cameo despite repeated teases and rumors to the contrary. Age of Ultron begins opening overseas today, so we’ll know definitively once the spoilers start spilling out.
In the meantime, you can watch Coulson and the other Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. every Tuesday at 9 pm EST on ABC.