Comprised of the Marvel universe's most elite group of trained agents, S.H.I.E.L.D.-- also known as the "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division" was first introduced into the comic book world with the Strange Tales feature "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." Heavily inspired by the 1960s spy-fiction series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the catchy acronym for the world-wide law enforcement organization originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division before later becoming the "Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate." The name we know it by today orginated with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Recently renewed for a seventh season and raking in more viewers than any of the Netflix Marvel series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has revived the secret counter-intelligence agency by creating a mythology for the organization's operatives, setting it in Marvel's movie universe, though on a much smaller scale that scarcely crosses over directly with its big-screen counterparts.
Over the years, various figures have spearheaded the agency, from a seriously miscast David Hasselhoff version of Nick Fury to the revived Phil Coulson with his cybernetically improved prosthetic hand. With each new executive director, top-level assassin, or superhuman agent added to the cause, the look of S.H.I.E.L.D. has changed, although the basic governing rules have remained consistent. While the primary objective of saving the world remains first and foremost the most urgent part of the agency, there are still certain guidelines that must be obeyed by all agents.
Join us as we look at the 20 Crazy Rules S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Are Forced To Follow.
20 Operate Under the Orders of the World Security Council
The ominously depicted and mystery-shrouded World Security Council is an elite international organization operating above S.H.I.E.L.D.'s executive director. Consisting of a small room of influential figures known only to authorized agents, they regularly convene with the director to speak on urgent matters, often holding meetings over conference calls.
In the MCU, the Council became heavily involved in Nick Fury's operations shortly following S.H.I.E.L.D.'s acquisition of the Tesseract, recommending that the agency immediately commence procedures to develop Tesseract-powered weaponry. Shortly following Loki's attack on New York, Councilman Alexander Pierce, a disguised HYDRA operative, began plans to secretly eliminate the Council. Following a lethal attack on S.H.I.E.L.D., he succeeded in taking down many of its members, leaving the Council's future in question.
19 Fight Threats Beyond Typical National Security Standards
Originating in the 1960s when secret international intelligence agencies with catchy acronyms were trending, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s origins have changed over the years. First depicted under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, the organization was later said to fall under the power of the United Nations only to be revised later with twelve mysterious council members giving the orders.
Despite the exact origins being flimsy, S.H.I.E.L.D. has always remained a powerful agency with militaristic capabilities and endless technological weaponry at their disposal, making them an ally that doesn't have to always rely on superhumans. Due to their high level of intelligence about all matters foreign and domestic, as well as their unlimited funding, all operatives are tasked with handling threats beyond typical national security measures.
18 Provide Scientific Research Beyond Human Understanding
In its state-of-the-art facilities, S.H.I.E.L.D. houses some of Earth's most brilliant scientific minds and medical experts, expanding knowledge well beyond human understanding. Prior to the organization falling under the HYDRA Uprising, the newly recruited agents of the MCU trained within the security of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, with the most intellectually gifted cadets studying under the Academy of Science and Technology.
Utilizing extraterrestrial findings, knowledge of extra-dimensional realities, and an understanding of magical forces, the agency is able to reserve its most Earth-shattering discoveries for its agents. An example was exhibited in season one, when S.H.I.E.L.D. successfully resurrected Phil Coulson using a serum derived from the blood of a Kree.
17 All Agents Must Operate Within Their Clearance Level
Operating under a strategically created numerical system, the compartmentalization of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s various departments ensures that only authorized workers have access to certain classified information. Given clearance cards, every worker of a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility is permitted access to different rooms depending on their credentials. With ten levels of clearance in place, as well as three additional levels of clearance classified as Alpha, Omega, and Tango, agents with the highest levels of power are often given the most information regarding secret projects across the organization's various facilities.
After Phil Coulson took over as director in place of Nick Fury, he enacted a new clearance system dubbed the "Spectrum of Security," which uses colors instead of numbers as a way of assuring that no member feels "less than" their co-worker.
16 Swear an Oath as Humanity's Last Line of Defense
Following the HYDRA Uprising, Phil Coulson was appointed the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., tasked with preventing HYDRA from purging the organization's remaining loyalists. His efforts eventually resulted in him being labeled a fugitive by another faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. led by Robert Gonzalez. Despite the dwindling odds of rebuilding the organization, Coulson remained resolute as the rest of the world looked to be falling apart.
As an agent and protector of humanity, all S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives must swear an oath as the world's last line of defense, a fact which Coulson reiterates in season one of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If all other options fail, the agency must act as the guardian of the public, even when all hope seems lost.
15 Leave No One Behind
As a high-risk occupation, field agents are inevitably going to experience casualties throughout their careers; however, as a general rule, saving a fellow member from peril is an absolute necessity if the organization is going to remain strong. As soldier-in-arms, members must be trusted when battling alongside one another, which means agents place their lives on the line knowing their colleagues will protect them.
Given the qualifications of a field agent, which often requires a remarkable IQ, expert marksmanship, impeccable hand-to-hand combat, and a calm demeanor in times of desperation, the amount of highly efficient S.H.I.E.L.D. members only grows smaller with each life lost. Because of this, it remains paramount to leave no one behind.
14 Be Willing to Have Their Likeness Copied
Although S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Special Weaponry division is responsible for reverse engineering technologies from various resources, both terrestrial and otherworldly, creating some of Earth's most advanced weapons, nothing compares to their crowning achievement: the Life-Model Decoy. As an extremely reliable piece of tech, LMDs allows their agents to clone their likeness thanks to the extremely rare metal Epidurium, a resource considered more valuable than Vibranium or Adamantium in the Marvel universe. Capable of mimicking someone's exact appearance, the precious metal can duplicate its user so precisely that the person's robotic double will appear indistinguishable from the original.
Although S.H.I.E.L.D. has used LMDs since Nick Fury first stumbled onto Epidurium in 1961, they continue to be very useful, particularly when creating decoys against HYDRA, which continually attempts to assassinate many of the organization's members.
13 If An Abduction Happens, Another Agent Becomes Mission Leader
Briefly referenced by the God of War, Ares, in Hercules #113, Article IV, Section 106(C) of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Rules of Engagement defines the way an agent must respond in the presence of a potentially life-threatening situation against a partner. In the case that one's partner is incapacitated or put in harm's way, he or she is authorized to use lethal force against an enemy to save their partner's life.
Although this rule appears as simple logic, it also clarifies another major point regarding the commanding mission leader. If for whatever reason, the current mission leader of an assignment is unable to fulfill his or her duties due to an abduction or compromised position, it becomes the next acting agent's responsibility to assume the role of mission leader until the mission is carried out.
12 Beware Intervention from HYDRA
An authoritarian paramilitary group sworn to a legacy of evil, HYDRA debuted in 1965, spreading its influence throughout the world like the multi-headed serpent from which the group gets its name. Although the organization's origins predate mankind, its nefarious world domination tactics truly began under the control of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, whose modus operandi of seeking a neo-fascist New Order restructured the criminal organization's future outlook.
As technologically advanced as S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA has become its sworn enemy, infiltrating the government agency through its many members secretly working as double agents. Because the highly trained espionage members of HYDRA are always a threat, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must remain on alert at all times. Otherwise classified information may become a weapon against them.
11 Establish and Protect Facilities for Secret Projects
At the beginning of The Avengers, Loki infiltrated a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in the Mojave Desert. Entering through a wormhole caused by the Tesseract, he was able to retrieve the Infinity Stone, using his scepter to disrupt one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most highly guarded research programs.
Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., the operation approved by S.H.I.E.L.D. to research the Tesseract, is one of many projects which have appeared in the MCU. Other such operations have included Project T.A.H.I.T.I., which harvested an alien to resurrect Agent Phil Coulson, as well as Project G.O.L.I.A.T.H., which used Hank Pym's Pym Particles to experiment with expanding a person's body mass.
10 Always Have a Backup Plan
In an agency as heavily guarded as S.H.I.E.L.D., distrust is built into the organization, particularly when there's a reputation of double agents infiltrating the agency. Given the knowledge that plans often go awry, it's in the best interest of all agents to have a plan B before going into any mission with guns blazing.
In the MCU, under the leadership of Nick Fury, the Avengers Initiative began as an umbrella project to prevent global catastrophe. Enacted as a "code red" scenario should the world need it, it's since prevented the world from ending on at least two occasions, but as Fury hints at in Avengers: Infinity War, he had a back-up plan even for the Avengers, calling upon the services of Captain Marvel after Thanos finger-snapped half the universe to oblivion.
9 Agents Must Understand the Organization's Equipment
More than a special-enforcement espionage agency dealing in the superhuman and paranormal, S.H.I.E.L.D. is also home to some of Earth's most scientifically advanced facilities, specializing in technologies capable of reverse-engineering otherworldly powers for the betterment of mankind.
Apart from the Life-Model Decoys which have proven to be one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most reliable pieces of tech, agents have been seen using other notable but equally entertaining gadgets and weapons. Chief among them is Phil Coulson's flying 1962 Chevrolet Corvette, affectionately named Lola. Other notable pieces of equipment are the Destroyer Armor Prototype Gun created from the wreckage of the Asgardian automaton, known as the Destroyer, as well as the shotgun-axe crafted by Mack as both a capable firearm and melee weapon.
8 Keep Property Damage to a Minimum
Although city clean-up following a major catastrophic event doesn't fall under S.H.I.E.L.D.'s jurisdiction, it's common courtesy to prevent as many messes as possible. While S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a hand in repairing damages previously, it's often the duty of Damage Control, a joint venture between Tony Stark and the federal government, to handle such matters.
In the beginning of the MCU, prior to Tony Stark's involvement with the Avengers, Damage Control fell under the supervision of S.H.I.E.L.D. and oversaw the destruction of a highway immediately following the battle between Iron Man and Obadiah Stane. Although it's no longer the organization's responsibility, it's still important for all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to prevent costly mistakes down the line.
7 Use Lethal Force if Necessary
Although S.H.I.E.L.D. has a history of detaining enemies, often relocating them to solitary confinement in a remote, unspecified location for further evaluation, not every grim encounter with a villain can end harmlessly. Trained combatants are often given weapons capable of incapacitating an enemy, such as I.C.E.R. railguns which employ Dendrotoxin to stun opponents, but in an event that the enemy cannot be apprehended, some situations call for extreme measures to secure the safety of the public.
While this rule may seem like a no-brainer for many operatives, it's never in the best interest of the organization to develop a reputation as a threatening, overly aggressive agency. Lethal force should therefore only be a last resort.
6 Remain Open to Travel
As the world headquarters and capital ship of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Helicarrier was first proposed by Tony Stark as a way of defending S.H.I.E.L.D. from impending attacks. Capable of sustaining independently-powered flight through four massive engines, its mobility allows agents to perform a number of direct strike missions while maintaining stealth.
Since debuting in 1965, various versions of the Helicarrier has popped up throughout the Marvel universe, each with their own distinct abilities. From cloaking technologies capable of avoiding radar to ships that can split into three different vehicles, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s base of operations has seen its fair share of improvements. It always remains mobile, making travel an absolute necessity for any field agent.
5 Go Undercover With Multiple Secret Identities
Despite being a a covert espionage organization which heavily relies on agents' abilities to remain unrecognizable, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a well-known agency that's frequently in the public, complicating missions for some of the more identifiable agents. Still, for those agents whose identities haven't been exposed to the word, it's still important to operate under a code name and keep their personal identity guarded, operating under various personalities when going undercover.
As many of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top agents have demonstrated, it's helpful to be speak multiples languages fluently in order to exchange information with foreigners who may pop up on the agency's radar. It's also useful to build an extensive background story for all fake identities, memorizing every detail in case a target becomes suspicious.
4 Superhuman Agents are the back-up
Although S.H.I.E.L.D.'s covert tactics for taking down enemies are often sufficient to wave off any unnecessary back-up, the organization isn't above calling in some big guns from time to time. Over their decades-long history, the secret agency has rallied some of the Marvel universe's most prominent superheroes to join the cause.
Although the seismic-powered Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake, is perhaps S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most overpowered recurring superhuman in the MCU, thanks to her ability to manipulate vibrations capable of destroying planets, she isn't the organization's only seriously dangerous ally. In the comics, names as notable as Captain America, Man-Thing, Ant-Man, and the Hulk have worked as some of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top recruits.
3 Maintain Communication with Sister and Spinoff Organizations
Even with all its various departments committed to researching the world's most inexplicable cases, S.H.I.E.L.D. simply can't handle all of Earth's matters, which is why sister organizations and spinoffs exist.
Dealing with instances of extradimensional security, A.R.M.O.R. stands for Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response and is S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first sister organization, aiding in problems concerning alternate realities. Meanwhile, S.W.O.R.D., also known as the Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department, exists to deal with extraterrestrial issues. Apart from the sister teams, other spinoff agencies exist, such as S.T.R.I.K.E., S.A.F.E. and W.A.N.D., all of which S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must communicate with.
2 All Agents Must Obey the Director
As head honcho of S.H.I.E..L.D., it's the executive director's responsibilities to carry out the orders of the World Security Council, passing down assignments to qualified operatives for the protection of humanity. Over the years, various directors have added their own unique spin to the position, using their own characteristics for the agency's benefit.
In the MCU, Nick Fury's tenure began a long reign of secrecy within the organization. Under the belief that heavily compartmentalization would keep only the most qualified agents in the know, he was able to out-prepare and out-militarize any impending enemies by securing funds for secretive projects. Since his reign, others have continued protecting S.H.I.E.L.D.'s projects from the public, including Phil Coulson, who took over after Fury's departure.
1 Work with Superhuman Teams to Stop Global Threats
Although the Avengers of the MCU have remained relatively distant from S.H.I.E.L.D. unless called upon, other heroes have been more responsive, particularly Captain America, who was often seen working alongside Black Window as well as other S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives. Likewise, it's established that Nick Fury had a working relationship with Captain Marvel and will be seen again working alongside Spider-Man in the upcoming Spider-Man: Far from Home.
Could you follow these rules to become an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Let us know in the comments!