Whether you are a Marvel fan or not, you may well have heard about the ABC TV show Agent Carter. Peggy Carter originally appeared in comics as early as 1966, when she was shown as Captain America’s (aka Steve Roger’s) love interest, and she similarly appeared as Steve’s foil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Captain America movie in 2011. Based on the popularity of Hayley Atwell’s embodiment of the character in that movie, Marvel decided to develop a series following her exploits after World War II, which debuted in January of 2015. Originally conceived of as a one-time miniseries, the show proved popular with fans (and particularly on Tumblr) and is returning tonight for its second season in large part due to this fan support.
Whew! So that is the 30 second summary of Peggy Carter as a character, but what are some of the reasons why she has captured the imagination of Marvel fans? Well, there are several reasons. Peggy is a great character who is strong and faces period-accurate professional discrimination and sexism throughout her exploits but still manages to persevere. She cannot only hold her own in a physical altercation, but is also skilled at facing down colleagues who belittle her abilities or doubt that a woman can make a difference. She is always ready with the perfect bon mot or cutting rejoinder, perhaps most famously when she responded to her colleagues’ doubts about her by saying: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Particularly as played by Hayley Atwell, this makes Peggy Carter a relatable and yet inspiring figure.
Though the strength of her character is an important part of her popularity, it is safe to assume that another big part of her popularity is the stylish look of the show and, in particular, Carter’s clothing. When the first season debuted last year, fans were quick to track down her retro-style and very striking red lipstick and many fans started to cosplay using her iconic red fedora and blue suit. Though Carter’s costumes particularly jump out throughout the show, every character is clothed in a way that highlights the post-war style and pulls the viewer into Peggy Carter’s world. Given all of these elements, it is hardly surprising that the show quickly developed a strong following.
Having said all of that, as with far too many media properties, Agent Carter is not without its issues. Many fans were particularly distressed by the show’s lack of diversity, something that was at times glaring given that the show was set in New York City in the post-World War II era. As the second season starts, many will be watching to see whether the creative team has responded to this critique.
Given the popularity of this character, what can libraries do to appeal to fans of Agent Carter? As a first step, if you want to learn more about the character, check out the Marvel Wiki and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, for additional biographical details about the character both in print and on screen.
You can also add some Peggy Carter-centric comics to your library’s collection to appeal to fans of the show. Though Peggy has appeared many times since her debut, here are some good options to start to add her to your comic collection:
Operation S.I.N.: Agent Carter – This book follows Peggy Carter and Howard Stark (Tony Stark’s father) as they team up to track down a new alien energy source and ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands.
House of M – This 2005 series takes place in an alternate universe where Steve Rogers is never frozen and instead ends up marrying Peggy Carter. It is an interesting alternate take on the world, particularly for those who are fans of Steve and Peggy’s relationship.
Captain America: Peggy Carter Agent of Shield – This volume from 2014 collects stories of Peggy’s espionage career during World War II and is perfect for readers who want to fill in more of her background before the show.
Along with these Peggy Carter-related books, Agent Carter offers some great options for creating tie-in exhibits and reading lists on the actual history of these periods. These displays and lists can be particularly helpful to fill in the aspects of this time period that aren’t covered in the show or to highlight the diversity of the period that was missing in the first season of the show.
Whether you want to start watching Agent Carter as the new season debuts or just want to better understand the fans who stop by your library, I hope this information will be of use! If I missed anything important (or if you just want to share your love of the show) let me know in the comments!
– Carli Spina, currently reading Lost Stars by Claudia Gray