Captain America: The First Avenger was the movie that made me feel excited to explore the world of superhero comics. Steve Rogers was no small part of that – I enjoy a hero who isn’t brooding and the pleasant manners are a plus – but Peggy Carter factored into my enthusiasm, too. Played by Hayley Atwell, Carter was the right mix of physically capable and feminine. Films, especially genre ones, occasionally have a hard time presenting multifaceted female characters, but that wasn’t the case here. She showed her confidence when she picked up a gun to test Cap’s shield and fired it without hesitation, but she also didn’t shy away from showing her feelings for the scrawny guy turned superhero.
Fans reacted so positively to Peggy Carter that Marvel created a one shot focused on her; the Agent Carter short was released on the Iron Man 3 DVD/Blu-ray. Atwell reprised her role in the short which takes place after the events of the The First Avenger. It shows her joining the Strategic Scientific Reserve and becoming Agent Carter. Though the man in charge wants her doing nothing but handling data and paperwork, she takes matters into her own hands and saves the day. Because she rocks. Her actions lead to a position with the newly created S.H.I.E.L.D.
The one shot was also received warmly, and a television series is supposedly being developed. Rumors have flown about the possibility of a period piece starring Carter, and Atwell has expressed interested in participating if it ever happens. As of January, The Hollywood Reporter confirms Atwell and writers and showrunners are on board and even that a pilot has been written. The news is awesome, and I’d love to see the series make it to the screen, but Marvel has a lot of properties in “development.” It’s hard to predict which will actually move out of the initial let’s maybe do this stage to the actually has an air date stage. I’m excited but with reservations.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has carved an intriguing role for Peggy, but the comics are a little lacking. When I turned to the biggest Captain America fan I know to ask for recommendations for Peggy-centric titles, the list was short. He dug through his memory, his collection, and the web to make sure he wasn’t missing anything, but at the end of day, she just hasn’t appeared a ton in comics over the last several decades. It was surprising to me to see the sparse history since she made such a big splash in The First Avenger.
Her first appearance might be in Tales of Suspense #77, but Captain America mentions her in Tales of Suspense #75. Peggy meets Captain America while fighting the war in France. She didn’t know the man beneath the mask in this story or in the later Captain America and The First Thirteen. This version of Carter is still very much a force to be reckoned with. In the Tales of Suspense flashback, she’s captured by Nazis.
Being held hostage is a terrifying experience (or so I imagine), but she doesn’t give up anything. She refuses to betray her comrades and tells them she’d rather die. On her way to being executed, the Allies swoop in and the distraction allows Peggy to overpower one of her kidnappers. Unfortunately, the blast that would give her the opportunity to get away also wipes out her memory and leaves her unable to reconnect with Captain America.
Fast forward to Captain America and The First Thirteen when Peggy is known as Agent 13, and if anything, she’s even more of a badass. She joined the French Resistance during the war and also encounters Cap for the first time while he’s overseas. Also? She has a snazzy beret.
I enjoyed the comic book portrayals of her that I could track down, but if I had to choose between those stories and the Peggy Carter I saw in The First Avenger, the latter option wins. She’s there to get the job done and does so with class, serious weaponry skills, and red lipstick and lovely hairdo. As far as her relationship with Cap, she not only knows Captain America’s true identity, she saw how he changed. I’d argue that she fell for Steve Rogers before he got super muscles because she appreciated Rogers’ bravery and heart. They have a lot of similar qualities.
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