With three entertaining seasons under its belt, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become a dab hand at the old Easter egg game, regularly throwing in fan-pleasing comics references and nods to the wider MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).
With all three seasons to date available to watch now on demand, we've assembled a list of our favourite Easter eggs so far, from obscure name-drops to under-the-radar comic cameos and blink-and-you'll-miss-it shout-outs.
In Season 1, J. August Richards plays Mike Peterson, an injured factory worker who becomes a powerful cyborg known as Deathlok (a character created in 1974) after his involvement with Project Centipede. Other than his glowing red eye, Peterson doesn't look that much like his comics counterpart, until Skye requests a “multi-spectrum overlay” on Deathlok that reveals what he looks like under his skin.
Skye is actually Daisy Johnson
You have to hand it to the creative team behind the show. It's quite a neat trick to suddenly reveal that your central character is actually a fully-fledged superhero in her own right. In Season 2, it was revealed that Skye's (Chloe Bennett) real name was Daisy Johnson and, having given her superpowers, the show has steadily moved her towards her comics identity as earthquake-producing superhero Quake.
During the Season 1 finale, a cameoing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) provides Coulson with a familiar-looking weapon: the Destroyer Gun. Developed by S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists from the wreckage of the Destroyer robot in the first Thor movie, the gun famously made an appearance in The Avengers, when Loki kills Coulson just after he fires it for the first time. You'd think Fury might be a bit more sensitive about something like that, under the circumstances.
The Absorbing Man's ball and chain
For long-term comics fans, the appearance of supervillain The Absorbing Man in Season 2 was a proper punch-the-air moment. The producers of the show promptly topped that by including a scene where he wields his trademark ball and chain in a battle against the Agents. That's proper fan-service, that is.
Journey Into Mystery
The writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are fond of shoe-horning in phrases associated with Marvel, even if they occasionally feel a little clumsy. One of the most awkward examples occurs in the pilot episode, when Simmons asks Agent Ward, “Are you excited to be coming on our journey into mystery?” Journey Into Mystery was the title of Marvel comic that introduced Thor as a comic book character, which is a nice reference, given all the Asgardian-related action in Season 1.
Stan Lee cameo
Marvel legend Stan Lee is well known for his traditional cameo appearances in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies, so it felt like the show getting a proper seal of approval when Lee turned up in the Season 1 episode T.R.A.C.K.S. Flanked by two model-types, the 93 year-old interrupts Simmons and Coulson mid-fake-argument when they are posing undercover on a train.
In the Season 1 episode Nothing Personal, guest star Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is seen on the phone, talking to Pepper Potts about the hearings she's having to sit through as a result of the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Reeling off a list of questions she's been asked by Congress, she says, “Who or what is a Man-Thing?”, a reference to an obscure comics character (an empathetic humanoid swamp monster, no less) first created in 1971. Marvel are clearly quite keen to establish Man-Thing's existence in the MCU, as his girlfriend, Ellen Brandt briefly appeared in Iron Man 3.
With great power comes...
You can always rely on Joss Whedon to toss in a few cheeky Marvel gags. During the Whedon-scripted pilot episode, Skye says to a frightened Mike Peterson, “With great power comes...a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with”, a nice subversion of the famous Spider-Man mantra “With great power comes great responsibility”.
The show has an interesting approach to its supervillains. Sometimes the reference is immediately obvious and name-checked appropriately, as with Creel/The Absorbing Man. However, the show also likes to throw in more obscure comics characters whose names will only be picked up on by hard-core comics fans. The best example of this occurs with the introduction of student Donnie Gill in Season 1 episode Seeds, who messes with a weather machine and ends up with ice powers. In the comics, Gill is the real name of Iron Man villain Blizzard, though he's never referred to as such in the show.
Another nice touch that cleverly indicates that the show takes place in the MCU is the appearance of William Sadler, who plays President Ellis in Iron Man 3. He’s named after author Warren Ellis, who had an acclaimed run on the Iron Man comic.
Ego, the Living Planet
One of Marvel's more outlandish creations is Ego, the Living Planet. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in an issue of Thor in 1966. Given that the planet Simmons gets stranded on in Season 3 is apparently sentient (it stretches canyons and blocks out the sun), it's not unreasonable to assume that it is at the very least a tribute to the comics character, even if a) the planet is eventually named as Maveth, and b) we don't actually see its face.
Shout-out to Daredevil
So far, there has been no official crossover between Marvel's network TV shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Agent Carter) and the Netflix shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage) other than veiled references to the MCU. However, a tiny shout-out to Daredevil occurs during the Season 3 episode Watchdogs, when a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it crawl on a news broadcast reads “Gang war rages in Hell's Kitchen. Authorities searching for solution”. Given that the news broadcast is meant to be local news in Idaho, it seems odd that they're reporting on Hell's Kitchen, but we'll take the shout-outs where we can get them.
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seasons 1-3 are available to watch now. Find it in On Demand > Box Sets > Drama
Recommended for you