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In the MCU, we were first introduced to Nick Fury. As of the Avengers, we were introduced to Maria Hill. And as of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we were introduced to Victoria Hand.

All three characters seem to have some kind of top-level oversight role. I remember the term "director" being tossed around a few times. But what are the details?

  • What is the chain of command between these three?
  • What are their official titles?
  • What responsibilities and powers does each have?
  • What level of clearance does each have? (Either officially, or described in vague terms about what secrets they're privy to.)
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Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Victoria Hand have not been given much background in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each of the characters has an extensive dossier in the canon Marvel Earth-616. Unfortunately, their profiles are quite divergent, so for the sake of reference, I will only use the Marvel Cinematic Universe notations.

Nick Fury is the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He is the top dog in the overall organization and the tactical leader of any S.H.I.E.L.D. op he wants to control. Fury's clearance allows him access to almost any government level military secrets and technology and he answers to a mysterious council of world leaders whose identities remain unknown.

The Marvel Cinematic Wiki is the source of all of the following references:

  • Nicholas "Nick" Fury is an officer of the US Army and espionage veteran of the Cold War who now leads S.H.I.E.L.D., a covert international peacekeeping organization which operates as humanity's first line of defense against Earth's most dangerous enemies. His job as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. led him to all sorts of unusual adventures, including dealing with superhumans and extraterrestrials.

  • Fury's extraordinary military and espionage skills won him the position of the executive head of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, an international peacekeeping organization. Fury is also credited as a possible co-creator/designer of the Avengers Initiative as well as the special operations commander.

Maria Hill is the Deputy Director and answers directly to Nick Fury. She is often in control of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier when Director Fury isn't at home. She holds the rank of Commander and often addressed as such.

  • Maria Hill is the Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and also bears the title of "Commander". She enjoys a well-deserved reputation as tough-minded and by the book. Her clear-headed pragmatism is a valued source of reason during the critical discourse surrounding the Avengers Initiative.

Victoria Hand is a high ranking agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a level 8 security clearance level. She is considered an excellent operative and demands excellence from her staff and agents who report to her.

  • Victoria Hand is a high-ranking Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with level 8 clearance. Hand is well-known to lower ranking agents and has a reputation for brusqueness and expects promptness from agents under her.
  • It is difficult to determine what information these three operatives would have in relationship to real world information management agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

  • S.H.I.E.L.D. would be considered having access to information from such agencies in addition to their own specialized information databases regarding metahuman and extraterrestrial threats. Since metahumans engage and cross over into activities that most intelligence agencies are involved in, S.H.I.E.L.D. would likely be involved.

  • The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, better known by its acronym S.H.I.E.L.D., is a secret United States extra-governmental military counter-terrorism and intelligence agency. With its advanced weapons and extraordinary agents, S.H.I.E.L.D. is maybe the greatest military power on Earth. Run by Nick Fury in the modern age, S.H.I.E.L.D. has to deal with all kinds of superhumans, gods, and extraterrestrials.

Marvel Earth-616

Because these characters have quite extensive histories in the Marvel Universe, I have included links for anyone interested in historical references to the characters.

Nick Fury

Maria Hill

Victoria Hand

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This is an interesting question! In the regular Marvel Universe Maria Hill, Victoria Hand, and Nick Fury have defined roles (ex. Maria Hill's role as Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) while in the Marvel Cinematic Universe things are different.

I reviewed The Agents of SHIELD wiki with this question in mind, though I didn't find many details here's what I did discover regarding rank for each of these characters:

  • Nicholas "Nick" Fury - Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Maria Hill - An Assistant Director for S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Victoria Hand - Level 8 S.H.I.E.L.D. Operative

At this point in the Agents of SHIELD series, and Marvel movie franchise, it looks like this is all there is to know. It's more-then-likely that eventually the powers that be will expand on these characters and their duties. I, for one, would like to understand more about the role of Assistant Director and why we are lead to believe that this might be a role that several hold...

  • Isn’t Coulson a Level 8 Operative? (see, for example, the first 5 seconds of youtube.com/watch?v=wMJOJDCa8rg) – alexwlchan Jan 27 '14 at 9:36
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    I see your point but Victoria Hand is level 8 and it seemed she is ranked higher then Coulson. Plus this dialogue makes it appear that Coulson might be seven as well -Ward: Uh, yeah. I'm clearance Level Six. I know that... Agent Coulson was killed in action before the battle of New York. Got the full report. -Coulson: [Steps out of the dark] Welcome to Level Seven. [Beat] Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself; I think there's a bulb out. – 22nd Century Fza Jan 27 '14 at 10:07
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    @22ndCenturyFza Coulson is definitely level 8. See the dialogue where he tried to access the files on his death. – Ayrx Jan 28 '14 at 3:02
  • Thanks Terry, I checked that out and it looks like you're right. – 22nd Century Fza Jan 28 '14 at 3:54

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