Everything’s Coming Up Phil: Why We Love Agent Coulson
It was the shot heard ’round the internet this week, when at New York Comic Con this weekend Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb announced the return of Agent Phil Coulson in ABC’s upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Played by actor-screenwriter-director Clark Gregg, ever since his first appearance in Iron Man as the G-man looking to meddle into Tony Stark’s superhero business, Phil Coulson has become a deeply loved fan-favorite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As his character was expanded on in reoccurring roles in Iron Man 2 and Thor, his very dedicated fan base grew, spawning everything from t-shirts to amazing works of art. (I, for one, have been proudly displaying my Agent Coulson Lives button all year.) Probably the greatest show of support came from the annual DragonCon parade, when Coulson fans made their stance on his supposed death in The Avengers known.
Now Coulson has a regular appearance on Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man and a major role in this year’s six-part miniseries Battle Scars thrust him into mainstream comic continuity. With the big news coming out of NYCC this week, it looks like things are only going to get bigger and bigger for what started off as a one-note character. So why all the love? What is it about Phil Coulson that makes him so endearing, and has exploded into the fandom phenomena that he’s become? Why is everything coming up Phil for us fan-girls and -boys?
1. Because he’s like us.
Agent Coulson is the consummate Every Man. In a crazy world of super soldiers, demi-gods, iron guys and big green monsters, he acts as the viewer’s through-line into the fantasy to keep it grounded. He’s cool, he’s funny, he’s professional, but still relatable, interacting with all the heroes in very different ways. From his comfortable rapport with Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, to his fanboyish admiration for Steve Rogers, and the sense of trust and total respect he has for his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, we get these flashes of bigger stories in every movie, and it makes him very real to us. Coulson is a little bit of everything to everybody, and he brings a bit of heart along with the humor to the table.
2. Because Coulson’s story is brimming with potential.
There’s so little we know for sure about Coulson’s backstory, it’s exciting to see what comes next. In the Battle Scars miniseries, writers Matt Fraction and Christopher Yost depict him as an Army Ranger who aids friend and fellow Ranger Marcus Johnson, the secret son of Nick Fury, before they both join S.H.I.E.L.D. On Ultimate Spider-Man he’s undercover as the principal of Midtown High, tasked with keeping Spider-Man, Nova, Power Man, Iron Fist and White Tiger out of trouble as the young heroes complete their S.H.I.E.L.D. training. The character is so flexible, while still retaining his sense of humor about him, that the possibilities really are endless.
3. Because Clark Gregg is a flawless human being.
Follow him on Twitter if you need evidence of this. I’ve been stalking him from afar like a wounded gazelle and it’s been a highlight of my internet existence.
4. Because Coulson is a badass
Look, I know being a badass is a superficial and highly subjective thing. It’s not a term I throw around all willy-nilly. But, in this case, he is just a freaking badass.
But, before we all get ahead of our selves, let’s all just take this moment to bask in the glory of knowing that — even after his tragic loss and months of stanning in the face of certain Whedon-esque doom — Coulson, most assuredly, lives.