Agent Carter, Marvel’s post-WWII mini-series, has been renewed for another season after a period of uncertainty regarding its return. Lauded as a show with a strong female lead that takes a hard look at the sexism faced by women in a male dominated workplace, it has created a very loyal fanbase who spent weeks tweeting #RenewAgentCarter as they waited for news on its return.
As praised as the show is, it does have its blind spots: mainly, it’s very straight, white, and cis. That criticism prompted Mikki Kendall, an author and creator of the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, to tweet:
Someone should create a #DiversifyAgentCarter tag & fill it with facts about the 40’s in New York so the writers have no excuse.
— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) May 8, 2015
It kicked off a flurry of mostly agreement, and people began adding stories and photos of women and minorities who played integral roles during World War II and the post-war period, painting a much less white New York City than the one Agent Carter depicts, from Drag Balls to integrated government agencies to plenty of women spies. The hashtag is worth checking out if you’re interested in learning about some forgotten heroes of history.
But what about the comics Agent Carter comes from? Well, while comics printed during WWII weren’t necessarily diverse, Marvel comics depicting the years of 1940s and 1950s have some choice characters that would feel right at home with Peggy and Jarvis.
The upside of bringing in more Howling Commandos is that they already exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and thus are already familiar to the audience. While Jim Morita made a cameo with Peggy in the season two premiere of Agents of SHIELD, only Dum Dum Dugan has made it to New York City. It would be great to see Morita again to get a look at Japanese-Americans navigating a post-war America. A minor Howling Commando in the comics, Morita served in a regiment of Nisei before joining the Howling Commandos, and the boost in prominence to his character should be capitalized on.
Gabe Jones, so far unseen on Marvel television shows, is the obvious choice to bring in as a reoccurring character—not only is he played by the dashingly handsome Derek Luke (who’s been heating things up on Empire), Gabe and Peggy had a romantic relationship in the comics. Jones is also a well-regarded jazz trumpeter, so he would be a perfect character to open the door for more diverse settings and the characters that come along with them.
The other Howling Commando we should see on screen is Isadore “Izzy” Cohen. The MCU in general has a shocking lack of explicitly Jewish characters, with the most prominent being Anne Jarvis, a character who never appears on screen. Post-war, the 616 version of Izzy is a mechanic for a while, and what secret agent doesn’t need a discrete mechanic?
Okay, they may not have the comics history of the Howling Commandos, but this squadron of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), introduced in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s first run of Captain Marvel, would be a perfect addition to the world of Agent Carter. Described by DeConnick as “the Howling Commandos in lipstick,” these girls would probably be fast friends with Carter, if not savvy allies. Bijoux “Bee” Kawasaki is an American with a Japanese father and a French mother, and checks off the “historical accuracy” box by representing the real Asian-American women who served as WASPs. Rivka Braverman is the group’s Izzy Cohen analog and could be a heavy-hitting ally for Peggy since she totes a submachine gun.
Gwenny Lou Subuki/Golden Girl and David Mitchell/The Human Top: These two were introduced in Invaders, a comic that followed the eponymous team (the core characters being Captain America, Namor, Toro, The Human Torch, and Bucky) as they fought their way through World War II. In issue #26, Gwenny Lou and her scientist father, Dr. Sam Subuki, are kidnapped from an internment camp by Agent Axis (a villain who was, well, an agent of the Axis powers). In the inevitable fight scene, one of Dr. Subuki’s machines explodes and imbued the imprisoned Gwenny Lou and Davey Mitchell with the powers of radiant energy and spinning like a top, respectively. These two ended up in their own superhero team, the Kid Commandos, and eventually end up in the V Battalion—a secret organization that had none other than Howard Stark as an operative. Their backstory is probably too expansive to include into something like Agent Carter, but I can definitely see these two characters popping up as colleagues of Howard Stark or even being powered by an unfortunate Stark accident.
Jack Casey: What’s a good comic book story without at least one meddling reporter? Casey works for The Daily Bugle, as a colleague of the first Patriot Jeffrey Mace, and Miss Patriot, Mary Morgan. He was also a Navy photographer who was discharged due to being a homosexual. He finds post-war life impossible to navigate, being unable to find a job, and eventually commits suicide. Agent Carter is probably not the best show to deal with his full storyline, but the addition of a gay character would be welcome and provide an unique perspective on prejudices at the time.
Isaiah Bradley and Faith Shabazz: Jeffrey Mace once donned the costume and name of Captain America, and so did Isaiah Bradley. The MCU has provided some tantalizing opportunities to introduce the government’s quest to recreate the Super Soldier Serum that gave the world Captain America. Agent Carter has already shown us the importance of Steve Rogers’ blood, and Isaiah Bradley’s story of being a secret subject for unethical government testing seems exactly like what Carter feared might happen. While Bradley languished in prison after his heroic efforts as Captain America, his wife Faith made sure to keep advocating for his release. She also eventually lives with her grandson Eli Bradley as he finishes high school. He ends up becoming Patriot, completing a full circle of comics name-swapping and leading the Young Avengers. While it’s unlikely Bradley will make it to the MCU, at least with his full backstory from TRUTH: Red, White, & Black intact (although it’s possible), the confirmation that Cassie Lang, another Young Avenger, is in Ant-Man, means I’m holding out hope that the Black Captain America won’t be forgotten. Agent Carter would be the perfect opportunity to investigate the mystery of the serum testing and to introduce some depth to the franchise.
Jimmy Woo: Aside from the Howling Commandos, Jimmy Woo is the character I think would be the most likely to appear in the MCU. While in comics canon he works at the FBI in the 1950s, I don’t think bumping his employment back a few years would make a huge difference in his character. And while Woo’s base is in California, I would love to see him as a visiting agent to New York, working with the SSR to take down a villain. Or, equally plausible, he could get called in as a favor for Howard Stark: in the comics, he served a member of a team called the Stark Seven, which included Dum Dum Dugan. The Stark Seven’s mission involved aliens and a Stark child, so that part should probably stay far off-screen. But the team also had Nessa, an African-American card shark who would also be a great minor character to see pop up in Agent Carter.
Speaking of minor characters, the MCU isn’t afraid to bring in some deep cuts, so I figured I would throw in these last two characters. Along with being Easter eggs for the hardcore Golden Age fans, these characters would be interesting additions to Agent Carter.
First, there’s Jay Littlebear, a professional wrestler who first appeared in Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders. The Leathernecks were Marines who often crossed paths with the Howling Commandos, and including a Native American character on Agent Carter could introduce some history of Native American involvement in World War II.
Then there’s the mysterious Mr. Wu, a Timely character and Marvel/Timely’s first Asian hero. He was an “Asian-Indian” private detective, introduced in All-Select Comics #11 in 1946. Now, how would he fit into the world of Agent Carter? Howard Stark, of course. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark’s trusted friend and surgeon is named Dr. Wu, who could plausibly be related to someone we meet on Agent Carter. Of course, it’s a stretch, but so is a New York City as white as the one in the show.
Comics history is not always full of respectful diversity, but the post-war world Peggy Carter sprang from wasn’t lily white, and Marvel made sure to include diversity in teams like the Howling Commandos. Agent Carter is, of course, not obligated to use anyone from Earth-616, but that also doesn’t mean it’s limited to only brand new characters, either. We’ve already been introduced to a few characters of color, but they’ve thus far all been one shots. If Agent Carter doesn’t pull its diversity from comic books, maybe Vera from the boarding house (goodness knows that this list is woefully dude-heavy, so the more ladies the better) and Agent Rick Ramirez from the SSR can make a few more appearances in season two, and maybe they’ll bring along some of our forgotten friends. If last Friday’s Twitter-storm is any indication, the fans are more than ready.