If there were one character whose absence was felt even more so than Hulk or Thor during Captain America: Civil War, it was Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury’s.
The big daddy of the Avengers Initiative, Captain Fury is the one who brought the team together back in The Avengers, and he’s been floating around in the MCU since the very beginning, first appearing in the Iron Man post-credits scene.
But who exactly is Nick Fury and — more importantly — what’s up with that eye patch? Here we take a dive into his history to see if we can work out just what happened to Nick Fury’s eye.
A (Very) Short History Of Nick Fury
Within the pages of the Marvel comics there is in fact a very straight-forward answer to the question of how Nick Fury lost his eye.
The original Nick Fury of Earth-616 — also known as the white Nick Fury, who possessed a fine head of hair — fought in World War II as part of the Howling Commandos, the elite team who you may remember from Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter.
Together with Dum Dum Dugan, Fury fought alongside the likes of Captain America, Bucky Barnes and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) against Axis villains Red Skull, Baron Zemo and Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker.
While on a mission with the Commandos, Captain Fury again demonstrated his endless badassery by catching a grenade thrown at him by a Nazi soldier, but was just a tad slow in throwing it back. The shrapnel he was hit with was what caused the damage that would slowly deteriorate the vision in his left eye, eventually leaving him almost completely blind in that eye.
Fury later stumbled across a landmine, which led to him being injected with the Infinity Formula, which dramatically slowed his aging process but left him requiring regular injections of the serum in order to stay alive.
Ultimate Marvel Nick Fury
Then we have the Ultimate Marvel Nick Fury — the black Nick Fury — who was modeled upon the man who would eventually portray him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe : Samuel L. Jackson.
In the Ultimate Universe Fury’s injured eye was the result of a bombing he was caught in alongside James Howlett — a.k.a. Wolverine/Logan — during the Gulf War, but unlike his Earth-616 counterpart, he completely lost the eyeball and was left with bad scarring around the now empty socket.
Like the original Nick Fury, he has an anti-ageing ability, as he was one of the first test subjects for the super soldier serum as part of Project: Rebirth. Because of this he also possesses superhuman strength, speed, and agility, though he’s nowhere near as strong as the likes of Captain America.
The MCU Nick Fury
But what of our MCU Fury? How did his eye become damaged, and does he possess the same slowed aging that is a staple of his character? What about parallels with his Ultimate counterpart, with his superhuman strength, speed, and agility?
Well, there’s no official answer to these questions right now. And though there’s plenty of room for theory and speculation about it, until such a time comes as we learn more of Fury’s official backstory it’s unlikely we’ll find out for sure.
What we do know is this: Someone betrayed Nick Fury, and his left eye was blinded and badly scarred as a result. As he tells Captain America in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, “Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.”
But for now, let’s take a look at the most likely explanations for that mysterious black eye patch, drawing from the comic book origins of both the original Nick Fury and the Ultimate Fury, and what we’ve seen of him so far in the MCU.
Theory 1: The Cold War
The most likely theory behind the damage caused to Fury’s eye in the MCU is one that runs parallel to his comic book counterpart. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is known by his full title of Colonel Nicholas Fury, as he was a US army officer and CIA spy operating during the Cold War.
He later joined S.H.I.E.L.D and quickly rose to the rank of director, but before that he was a full-time field agent for both the army and the CIA. The Cold War — which emerged in the wake of WWII and lasted from the mid 1940s until the beginning of the ’90s — wasn’t so much an all-out war as a time of military and political tension between the USA and the former Soviet Union.
The main struggles of the Cold War were comprised of regional pockets of fighting and a massive network of intelligence operatives. Spies replaced soldiers, and intelligence was more valuable than bullets. It’s out of this time of tension that other Marvel characters such as Black Widow and the Winter Soldier emerged, and we know at least as much that Agent Fury was a part of this silent war.
The most likely explanation is that Agent Fury suffered an injury that affected his left eye during this time of turmoil when he was operating in the field — and we can actually start to put a timeline in place when looking outside of the films and TV shows.
The comic book Nick Fury: Spies Like Us — which is canonically part of the MCU — reveals Agent Fury operating as part of the CIA on a mission to Budapest during the last years of the Cold War in the late ’80s, and he already had the black eye patch at this time. So in terms of canonical time we know that he’s had the damaged eye for nearly 30 years.
But Spies Like Us also contains an interesting hint towards the potential for the MCU Fury also possessing the anti-aging facet of his comic book counterpart, when Fury tells Comrade Verliecki, “You couldn’t hurt me if you tried.” Maybe it’s macho-talk, maybe it’s a hint towards Fury having a previous run with the super-solider serum, that stuff gets everywhere in the MCU.
Theory 2: Wolverine
As you probably noticed the scarring around Fury’s damaged eye does seem to resemble three claw marks of scar tissue. This may bring a certain snarling mutant to mind, given the previous mention of Ultimate Wolverine whom Ultimate Fury fought alongside during World War II.
Wolverine (then known as James Howlett) was a Canadian paratrooper at this time, and during the Invasion of Sicily encountered Private Fury and another American Private whilst looting a house. They were discovered by military police and captured. At this time Fury was entered into Project: Rebirth — where he received the super-strength serum before escaping — and Howlett was sent to the Weapon X facility.
They met again during the Gulf War, by which time Howlett had become “Mutant Zero” — Weapon X — used as a military weapon by the mutant-hating Colonel Wraith whilst Fury himself was drafted into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Weapon X program.
Whilst transporting Howlett/Weapon X through the desert the US forces were attacked by Iraqi soldiers, freeing Weapon X from his cage. Fury was the only survivor of the ambush and Wolverine, who recognised him from their previous encounter during WWII, carried the badly wounded Fury across the desert to safety. It was during this ambush that Fury lost his eye to a bomb blast.
So, could the three claw marks across his face point towards a Wolverine connection? Despite how incredibly badass this would be, it’s very unlikely to be the case due to those pesky rights issues, with Wolverine being firmly tied up in licensing for 20th Century Fox and their Fox-Marvel Universe, meaning Marvel aren’t currently able to utilize him for the MCU.
But could it perhaps be an Easter Egg, a nod to the comics for those who know of Fury’s history with Logan? Or did Fury just piss off an actual wolverine, cause you don’t want to mess with those ferocious little bastards.
Theory 3: Does He Look Like A Bitch!?
Let’s end this post on a fun note. This theory comes from Redditor SuperFungi343, who has put together an interesting argument for the MCU Nick Fury being a call-back to one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most iconic roles — that of Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction.
The scripture-quoting Jules was a hitman for gangster Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, but his character arc leaves him disillusioned with his work. As the film wraps up it becomes clear that he intends to quit and leave to “walk the earth”, as he tells his associate Vic Vega:
Jules: I’ll just walk the earth. Vincent: What’cha mean walk the earth? Jules: You know, walk the earth, meet people… get into adventures. Like Caine from “Kung Fu.”
Being a hitman for a mobster we can assume that Marcellus wasn’t about to let Jules wander off scot free, so the theory goes that Marcellus is the one who caused the damage to Fury’s eye as a form of punishment. This could be the person Fury trusted, the trust of whom cost him his eye.
I know, I know. But this fun idea isn’t just tied together by the fact that Jackson plays both characters, there’s actually some interesting parallels between the two characters as SuperFungi343 points out.
His name, Nicholas Fury — Nicholas is a biblical name, and the word “fury” could be lifted directly from Jules’ famous Ezekiel 25:17 speech, which includes the phrase: “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers.”
There’s a number of other parts of the Ezekiel 25:17 passage which could be seen to apply to the MCU Nick Fury, if you squint real hard. For example — “Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children” — could be a reference to the Avengers, and Jules’ desire to become “the shepherd” chimes with his role as the one who brings the Avengers together and heads up S.H.I.E.L.D.
Alright, so it’s not a perfect theory. But we can’t help but think that Samuel L. Jackson would quite like that one.
Do you have a theory about how the MCU Nick Fury lost his eye? Tell us in the comments below!