Argue if you must, but this fourth season of #AgentsofSHIELD might be its best. The show has seized the traditional comic book formula of contained story arcs, even titling each arc like a crisp, new issue of the series. First, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider and now Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD — each with its own opening sequence, as well. It’s been a revelation for the show.
Another revelation? John Hannah, the actor who portrays slick mad scientist Holden Radcliffe. Genre fans might remember Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan from 1999’s The Mummy and it’s sequel. His turn as Radcliffe on S.H.I.E.L.D. is a callback to that old rogue — with a dash of reckless abandon and technological genius.
This Radcliffe Is Way Nicer Than His Comic Book Version
Hannah’s Radcliffe is much different than his #Marvel Comics counterpart. Both versions harbor a dangerous passion for creating artificial life — Life Model Decoys (LMDs) on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cybernetic soldiers in the comics — but the TV version is a whole lot warmer.
”Radcliffe in the comics was the nastiest of old men,” says Marc Sumerak, writer and co-creator of Marvel’s comic book version of Radcliffe. “But John Hannah has brought so much life and levity to the character that you can't help root for him — even though you know he'll probably replace you with a robot doppelgänger someday.”
Sitting Down With Marvel Writer And Editor Marc Sumerak
You might know Sumerak for his work on Marvel Comics' Power Pack and the Eisner & Harvey Award nominated Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius (with Chris Eliopoulos). He has also written multiple Marvel Adventures titles and anthology stories, one-shots, and limited series, as well as creating Marvel’s Guardians and Machine Teen.
I had a chance to ask Sumerak a few questions about how his Radcliffe compares to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. version, as well as where he thinks this season might go:
How does your Holden Radcliffe differ from the TV version? What do you think of the differences?
Marc Sumerak (MS): "Holden Radcliffe was introduced in the comic Machine Teen, where he served as the primary antagonist. He was a former general whose private defense firm specialized in developing advanced technology for military application. One of the projects under his purview was a prototype for an artificially intelligent android soldier, who went on to become the series' titular character."
"In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Radcliffe's background is more mad scientist than military, but his trans-humanist views eventually led him to the same basic endpoint — the development of artificially intelligent LMD androids for S.H.I.E.L.D."
Radcliffe really looked like a good guy there for a while, but now it looks like Radcliffe and AIDA might be among LMD's Big Bads. Do you think they'll stay bad for long?
MS: "I'll admit, I was a bit surprised when he broke good! In the comics, he's pretty unrepentant in his mission to build soldiers, despite the cost. It doesn't make him a bad person, but he isn't the slightest bit concerned with the morality of what an AI "feels." Just what it can do for his profit margins. I like that this portrayal is walking the gray area a bit more, yet his recent shift into darker territory does bring him closer to how he was originally depicted. I don't know what his plans are, but I can't wait to find out!"
What advice would you give S.H.I.E.L.D. writers about Radcliffe? Or, better still, what advice would you give Coulson about Radcliffe if he asked for a briefing on the good doctor?
MS: "I would advise Coulson never to trust him. Both in the comics and on the show, his agendas are his own, and when someone gets in the way of what he's trying to achieve, there's a good chance they'll pay for their intrusion. Just like poor Nathanson."
"I wouldn't give any advice to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. writing staff, as I'm pretty thrilled with what they’ve done so far."
As a fan, what's your speculation on Radcliffe's next move? What do you think he's trying to do? And is AIDA on his side? Or is she using him, too?
MS: "Honestly, I'm not trying to get too far ahead of the show. I know what my version of Radcliffe would be trying to do, but I love the fact that this version has veered onto unexpected new paths that, while parallel, have kept me wondering."
"I do believe there's a nugget of good driving all of his decisions. He's not an evil mastermind looking to dismantle S.H.I.E.L.D.. I just think he's the kind of guy who sees the ultimate ends as far more important than the means, which is evidenced by the actions he's taken in the past few episodes. As to what those ends may be in this particular case, I'm just as curious as everyone else."
Finally, what projects are you working on or have just released that we should be looking for?
MS: "My next big release is an over-sized hardcover from Insight Editions that celebrates nearly 50 years of Guardians of the Galaxy comics. It's jam-packed with creator interviews, gorgeous art, and a look back at the team's greatest adventures. It should be out in April 2017."
Check out the promo for the next episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. below: