By Megan McCluskey
Updated: March 8, 2019 7:12 PM ET | Originally published: February 21, 2019

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury finally gets an origin story of his own in Captain Marvel. Ever since he broke into Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) mansion in the Iron Man post-credits scene, he has been an integral character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And in Captain Marvel, audiences learn how he found out about those super-villains — and lost his eye in the process.

As the head of the covert American military operation known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), Fury played a key role in the formation of the Avengers — a storyline that positioned his character as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s main connective threads.

Of the 21 Marvel movies that have been released as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jackson has appeared in nine: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel. Not to mention that he is already set to reprise the role of Fury in Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

But Jackson’s longtime involvement in the MCU is no coincidence. When the Marvel Comics limited series The Ultimates launched in 2002, it featured an updated version of the original Nick Fury character that writer Mark Millar had modeled after Jackson himself.

“Sam is famously the coolest man alive and both myself an artist Bryan Hitch just liberally used him without asking any kind of permission,” Millar told Business Insider in 2015. “You have to remember this was 2001 when we were putting this together. The idea that this might become a movie seemed preposterous as Marvel was just climbing out of bankruptcy at the time. What we didn’t know was that Sam was an avid comic fan and knew all about it.

Jackson discovered that his likeness was being used and nearly took legal action. But when Marvel instead offered to cast him as Fury if the character was ever featured in a movie, Jackson took the deal.

When we last saw Fury in Avengers: Infinity War‘s post-credits scene, he had just managed to transmit a signal to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) before becoming one of the victims of Thanos’ Infinity Stones-powered purge of half the universe.

In Captain Marvel — which is set in the 1990s — Jackson appears as a younger version of Fury who is still a low-level employee at S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Nick Fury we meet is sort of a bureaucrat in an interesting sort of way,” he told Entertainment Weekly in a September interview. “He hadn’t become jaded or a slave to the cynicism that we normally see. He sort of respects the people that are above him, more so than the Nick Fury that people are used to.”

When Fury’s superiors are infiltrated by an alien race called the Skrulls, Fury learns to become skeptical of the system. He also learns another hard lesson about trust when he befriends what he thinks is a feline named Goose. Goose, who looks like a house cat but turns out to be an alien called a Flerken, becomes a constant companion of Fury and Captain Marvel when they discover him at Captain Marvel’s mentor’s office.

Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL..Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019
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But when Fury tries to get too cuddly with the Flerken, Goose scratches his eye. But the two seem to reconcile by the end of the movie: Goose curls up on a cat bed in Fury’s office at the end of the film.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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