As a war hero, a spy, and the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury has always been a lynchpin of the Marvel Universe. From comic books to cartoons and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this super-spy has appeared in every medium. But regardless of where he shows up, his iconic eyepatch is a staple of the character.
However, the way that Fury got that eyepatch has evolved as the character and his backstory have gone through different permutations. Now, we’re taking a closer look at all of the ways that Marvel’s main comic book Nick Fury lost his eye.
In Marvel’s main universe, it wasn’t until Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #27, by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers, where fans learned the backstory behind his iconic eyepatch. In the issue, the Howling Commandos are airdropped into Germany in order to seek out and destroy a new Nazi weapon that threatens the Allied air forces. The Commandos are successful in their mission, but a Nazi soldier manages to throw a grenade at Fury and his men as an act of revenge. Nick moves quick enough to throw the grenade back and save his Commandos, but not so fast that he survives completely unscathed.
His eye is severely damaged, and the other Commandos are ordered to flee after fitting him with a rudimentary field dressing so that cover their escape. Upon returning base, the doctor offers him an emergency operation that would have saved his eye, but also would have kept him out of action for an entire year. This was unacceptable to Fury and he turned it down so that he could continue to serve alongside his Howling Commandos.
Things went quite differently for Fury in the Ultimate Marvel universe. In Mark Millar, Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert and Art Thibert’s Ultimate X-Men #11, the story of this Fury’s eyepatch was revealed. In a flashback, we see that Fury was a U.S. soldier assigned to the Weapon X division — the secret military unit associated with Wolverine — during the Gulf War. As Fury and his unit transport the future member of the X-Men, they are ambushed by Iraqi guerillas firing upon the caravan with RPGs.
Fury is caught in the blast of one of these projectiles and severely wounded. The guerillas proceed to loot the wreckage, but they are methodically picked off one at a time by Wolverine, who they had unknowingly freed. After dispatching the enemy soldiers, Logan finds Fury still alive among the wreckage. While Fury expects this mindless killing machine to slaughter him as he did the Iraqi soldiers, Logan carries Fury on his back to base camp for 17 hours. His eye was lost, but an unspoken bond was forged between the two characters.
While his father has been a staple of the Marvel Universe since 1963, it wasn’t until the Battle Scars miniseries in 2011 that we met Nick Fury, Jr. After the murder of his mother, Army Ranger Marcus Johnson is pulled into a conspiracy that changes everything he ever thought he knew about his life, but it isn’t until Chris Yost, Scot Eaton, and Andrew Hennessy’s Battle Scars #5 that we see get some answers on Johnson’s identity. After surviving encounters with Taskmaster, Deadpool and even the Serpent Society, Johnson comes face-to-face with the original Nick Fury and learns that he is really Fury’s son and his mother was killed by one of Nick’s enemies to get to him.
Both father and son are captured, and it is revealed that this enemy seeks to drain the Infinity Formula — the substance that has allowed Fury to remain active since World War II — from both men. Johnson’s eye is cut out as a tissue sample before he manages to escape captivity, but he returns in the following issue to free his father and take down his mother’s killers with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. After he recovers, Johnson starts to operate under his legal name, Nick Fury Jr., as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Regardless of how these different versions of Fury lost their eye, his eyepatch is just as much a part of his iconography as his connection with S.H.I.E.L.D. is.
Across the Marvel Universe, every major version of Nick Fury wears an eyepatch, but no two versions of the SHIELD super-spy do so for the same reason.