Forget Iron Man and Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye, Thor and the Hulk. You can even forget mercurial villain Loki, whom fans love. The REAL hero that fans have embraced above all others is Agent Coulson, who we'll be seeing soon in Marvel's upcoming pilot for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Don't believe me? Do a Google search for "Agent Phil Coulson" and check out the fan-generated memes out there.
No one can really explain why Agent Coulson has become the one character Avengers fans have rallied around like no other, not even actor himself. Perhaps because Gregg loves his character so much and was just so grateful to be a part of the Avengers experience. Perhaps it's because he was the perfect, deadpan foil to the other Avengers. Maybe it's because while the rest of the team was getting to swoop in and save the day, he was busy doing all the tedious dirty work that had to get done, for little to no glory. Or maybe it was simply because he was an ordinary guy just like us, with ordinary powers, who just happened to be part of an extraordinary thing. There's no real answer why, but what matters is that Marvel has recognized we fans have circled the wagons and demanded they can't take him from us, and so he will live on in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Since the internet has already speculated at great length about how the hell Agent Coulson is still alive, I won't rehash what we've all probably read at least 397 times already (I counted). Instead, I'm going to talk about a year-old, little-known fan theory that started on Tumblr and somehow makes why-didn't-we-see-this-before-it's-so-perfect sense.
Comicbook.com dredged up this tidbit from the dark recesses of the internet where fan theories go to die, and it's so great that we wanted to share it. It all started on Tumblr about a year ago, when a fan pointed out a snippet in Captain America: The First Avenger that we all overlooked: There is a brief scene among a montage where a little kid is running around outside with a garbage can lid painted to look like Cap's shield, when the mom calls out to him, "Phil, time for dinner!" The fan offhandedly said, hey, wouldn't it be cool if Coulson actually was this old? And that was all the further it went, because Coulson was far too young to have been that boy.
But then, BUT THEN, a thoughtful fan took it a few steps further and expanded on that casual observation:
My first reaction was "Nice thought but there's no way, Coulson is much younger than..." and then I stopped mid-thought.
Because you know what.
You know what.
After Steve, the US government had to keep trying to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum.
would be the FIRST DAMN PERSON IN LINE to volunteer?
They told us it never worked again. And that was kind of true. They never again recreated the super-strength or the gleaming pecs. But other things, they got right. They got the vastly delayed aging. And the kind of reflexes that make a man able to take out two armed thugs with a bag of flour. And the talent for leading through example. And they got the most important part, Erskine’s favorite part: the magnification of moral fiber, taking the loyalty and selflessness of a loyal and selfless man and making him into something spectacular.
Coulson didn’t buy those vintage cards on Ebay.
He’s had them since he was a little boy.
That little boy right there.
Even though I know Marvel isn't this forward-thinking, particularly as they didn't plan on bringing Agent Coulson back until well after The Avengers and subsequent fan outcry, I'm still sitting here with this amazed little smile on my face, because, really...how perfect and awesome would that be for an explanation? Honestly, if I were the writing team for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I'd be all over this, rewriting the explanation for Agent Coulson dodging death's bullet, which has ranged from the almost insultingly lazy "he and Nick Fury faked it" to the leading theory "he's been an LMD all along".
In any case, it's fun to speculate about, and we have a few more months to work ourselves into a fan frenzy before the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot airs on Tuesday, September 24th at 8pm EST on ABC. You know what to do: Click [[follow]] and we'll bring you all the news and crazy fan theories as they break.
You can follow Alisha on the Twitter machine @alishagrauso.