Ian Fleming's iconic James Bond is the obvious role model most think of for Nick Fury, but the long lived Marvel creation takes inspiration from a number of other sources as well.

Sgt. Fury & His Merry Men
Seen in the context of his first appearance in
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #1, Fury's relationship with the supporting cast of the First Attack Squad is in keeping with the traditional group leader mold of Robin Hood. Tall, mustached and muscled Dum Dum's relationship with Fury is not unlike that of Robin Hood and Little John. Likewise Gabe Jones tooting his horn into battle evokes the traditional image of the musical Will Scarlet with his flute or guitar. The frequency of the adversarial role of Baron Von Strucker is not unlike that of the duels between Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood, however the obsessive level Von Strucker takes the rivalry in the later SHIELD stories matches it with that of Moriariaty with Sherlock Holmes. The specter of Richanbacher Falls is especially evident in the one-on-one battle set against the sinking of HYDRA Island, two foes locked in near deadly combat with the treat of drowning ever present.

The Joe Palooka/Fury Connection
To read Fury's first appearance in Sgt Fury, one sees little sign of the Steranko-styled suave super agent; Stan Lee's original creation was rougher around the edges, a product of Depression-era NYC streets. Fury's average, street-tough personality is similar to the popular Depression era comic strip hero Joe Palooka. Making his comic debut in 1930, cartoonist Hammond Fisher's good-natured heavyweight prizefighter was the first American comic strip character to "enlist" in the war effort. The focus of the Palooka strip quickly went from ringside knockouts to war action and shootouts in France, North Africa, and Yugoslavia. At first joining the French Foreign Legion, Palooka later joined the US Army, while Fury traveled to England with best friend Red Hardgrove to train British pilots and later joining the Army. Like Fury, Palooka was somewhat inarticulate with a penchant for blunt and simple speech, an uneasy trait when trying to woo the girl of his dreams Ann, a tycoon's daughter, herself not unlike Fury's ladylove Lady Pamela Hawley both in social status and work during the war (Ann would become a Red Cross Volunteer). Where Fury never truly realized his pulgist's dreams, Palooka turned heavyweight champ before joining the war effort. Palooka's commando missions behind enemy lines rank with the most daring efforts of the First Attack Squad. Both characters even shared an Irish American sidekick, although Palooka's smarmy but endearing manager Knooby Walsh was quite the opposite of Fury's tough, larger then life acrobatic second-in-command Dum Dum Dugan.

Fury's Distinguished Competition: DC Comics Influence
The rest of Fury's supporting cast from the Howling Commandos, a motley crew of characters were similar in their diversity to Will Eisner's Blackhawk. Lead by their Polish leader, the Blackhawks were an international crew fighting the Nazi menace in their amazing jet planes. Premiering in Military Comics in 1941, Blackhawk enjoyed a good run through Quality and DC Comics. Like Fury, Blackhawk made the jump from fighting Nazis to super villains, although his transition was less successful then Fury's. A year after Marvel cancelled Sgt Fury, DC picked up again with Blackhawk for a short-lived series that took them back to their WWII roots. Ironically the same creator who helped bring Nick Fury into the 1970's and later the 80's, Howard Chaykin, restyled Blackhawk into more espionage laced storylines that served Fury so well. However DC's tough as nails Sgt. Rock of Easy Company, brainchild of Robert Kanigher and Bob Haney, is probably the best WWII era equivalent to Nick Fury from the distinguished competition, and his predecessor by at least five years. Not as light-hearted as Sgt Rock, Sgt Fury was in fact subtitled "the war mag for those who hate war" to distinguish itself from other war titles. Despite the light-hearted tone in much of the issue, Sgt Fury was just as exciting and hard hitting as previous war titles such as EC's Frontline Combat.

The James Bond/Nick Fury Connection
Among the comic strip inspiration for Fury and most of the super spies of the 1960's one can not discount the Dashell Hammet/Alex Raymond collaboration Secret Agent X-9. First published by King Features in 1934, the titular character worked for an unnamed independent intelligence agency, akin to SHIELD in being separate from government intelligence. However his villains tended to be more on the realistic side, with such luminaries as Hammet, the hard-boiled crime vibe of Agent X could be seen as an influence on such Nick Fury stories as 'Dark Moon Rise, Hell Hound Kill!'. The aforementioned Steranko story also featured another influence, that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, with its gothic mystery and its villain named Mycroft.

However we return to James Bond for Fury's SHIELD career. Film and television having a profound influence on the visual style of the comic, the popularity of 007 in print is the origin for the super spy phenomena that Nick Fury eventually became a part of. Quartermaster Boothroyd not called by name till 1979's The Spy Who Loved Me was making appearances in Strange Tales and outfitting Fury with more elaborate toys then Bond ever had. Even 007 himself was making house calls, turned away off panel somehow in the name of comedy. Fury, under Steranko and in the image of Bond, refined his speech and behavior to fit the desirable suave spy mold. However where Bond was a lone hero for the most part in his adventures, Nick Fury was always a team player with the organization SHIELD as backdrop.

Nick Fury is not the only SHIELD agent to have pulp roots however. The character of Jimmy Woo made his debut in 1956 in the pages of Marvel's Yellow Claw. Woo, the titular villain and his niece take cues from the Sax Rohmer novels of Fu Manchu. The integration of Woo into the SHIELD canon by Steranko in Strange Tales (1) was an interesting nod to the debt the then current espionage fad owed to the the larger then life villain of Fu Manchu. Even Bond villains like Dr. No and Blofeld owed a debt to success of the Fu Manchu adventures. Those seeking to read up on Woo's pre-SHIELD adventures would do well to seek out Yellow Claw reprints in the pages of Marvel's 1970s Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #1-5.