[Update: Cobie Smulders has been cast as Agent Maria hill in The Avengers]

Samuel L. Jackson let it slip earlier this week that Nick Fury will have a female sidekick in director Joss Whedon’s The Avengers and there’s been a fair amount of speculation since, concerning who the character might be.

It’s now been revealed that the gal in question is none other than S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, and the current frontrunner to snag the part is actress Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame.

Deadline says that Whedon was actually familiar with Smulder prior to her screen testing to play Miss Hill yesterday, and had considered her as a possibility to play Wonder Woman back when he was set to bring the comic book heroine to the big screen. Smulders could be a lock for the part before the weekend is out and will have beaten out the likes of graphic novel movie star Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World) and Morena Baccarin (a veteran of Whedon’s short-lived Firefly), who also tried out for the role.

In the original Avengers comics, Maria Hill was the interim executive director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and known for being an effective but ruthless figure who was more than willing to match wits with any superheroes that messed with her authority (Tony Stark/Iron Man in particular has butted heads with her on more than one occasion).

Here’s how Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment Joe Quesada describes her:

“[Hill] is such a strong personality, she’s like a force of nature and quite frankly, while perhaps not immediately loved by all involved, she’s certainly as strong and imposing a figure as Nick Fury… what’s different is that we aren’t quite clear about her motives.”

This announcement doesn’t guarantee that fan favorites like Janet van Dyne/The Wasp , Agent 13/Sharon Carter, or any other potential Avengers female characters won’t be appearing in some form in the film – merely that Hill will be the one calling the shots, right next to Jackson’s Fury.

What do you think of Smulders as Maria Hill?

The Avengers hits theaters on May 4th, 2012

Source: Deadline