When Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comes to ABC this fall, fans of The Avengers — and the films that preceded it — will feel right at home. But how much will that world cross over with Marvel's upcoming Phase 2, which includes Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World and The Avengers movie sequel?
"There will be as much [crossover] as we can allow," executive producer Joss Whedon said at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews on Sunday. "We're still working that out. The important thing is it's a fun opportunity. It's not the reason for the show. We don't want to be an Easter egg farm. This show has to work for those people who haven't seen those movies and won't be seeing them."
On the TV show, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a select group of agents to form the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. — Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division — which investigates strange and unknown occurrences around the globe. That's right, Agent Coulson lives — which you can read about here — but how remains to be seen. "We refer to that as a Level-7 question and we can't really declassify that," executive producer Jeph Loeb said.
"We will be dealing with the issue," Whedon added. "That will be part of the thread of the story." Many, including TVGuide.com, suspect that this Coulson could be a Life Model Decoy. "I'm not going to confirm or deny anybody's ideas," Whedon said. "I've heard more than a dozen ideas. Somebody at some point is going to be right, but I'm never going to say when that happens. I'm not even going to blink."
But don't expect to get answers too soon because even Coulson's new team doesn't know the truth about how he's alive. The team includes Agents Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), techies Fitz (Ian De Caestrecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), as well as opponent-turned-ally Skye (Chloe Bennet), who will first come across an Extremis-like substance in the pilot, meaning the show picks up after the events of The Avengers, but either concurrently or shortly after Iron Man 3.
"What's great about S.H.I.E.L.D. is we have this organization and this history from the comic book, but these guys are out there by themselves," Whedon said, noting that there will be no mass clean-up crew to fix everything at the end of each episode, which plays with a procedural element as the team tracks down new superheroes, villains or devices each week. "They don't have every resource. It's up to these guys. That's what really makes this group bond and that's the sort of thing I like to write."
However, there will be an overarching mythology, with nods to the Marvel Universe, but none that will confuse or alienate non-fans. For instance, executive producer Jeffrey Bell noted that they can choose a name from the vast Marvel world for a character, which will be a nice touch for die-hards, but won't mean anything specific to non-fans. "We hope this is big and broad enough for everybody, but there's little specific things that people can identify with," Bell said.
That being said, that aspect of the series is much like Whedon's reasoning for taking a look at the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization on television rather than the superhero side of things, especially in a post-Avengers world where the rest of the world now questions where they fit in. "The thing that appeared to me is the idea of people who didn't have superpowers," said Whedon, who noted he'll be as involved with the series as possible while busy making the next Avengers film. "Everybody matters."
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on ABC. Will you be watching?