|Valentina Allegra de Fontaine|
|First appearance||Strange Tales #159 (August 1967)|
|Created by||Jim Steranko (writer/artist)|
|Alter ego||Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine|
|Notable aliases||Madame Hydra|
La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine is a fictional espionage agent appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-artist Jim Steranko, she first appeared in the "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." feature in Strange Tales #159 (August 1967).
The Contessa appeared prominently throughout creator Jim Steranko's run of the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature that ran through Strange Tales #168 (May 1968) and in the same-name comic-book series that began the following month.
An agent who literally[clarification needed] threw S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Nick Fury for a loop upon their initial meeting, she quickly became his love interest, and was featured in a silent, one-page seduction sequence in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 that famously had two panels changed, at the behest of the Comics Code Authority. In the third-to-last panel, de facto Marvel art director John Romita, Sr. redrew a telephone that had been taken off the hook for privacy, placing the receiver back in the cradle; in the last panel, an image was removed and replaced with a closeup of an item from earlier in the page — a phallic long-barreled gun in a holster:
So one panel had the stereo in Fury's apartment to show there was music playing, cigarettes in the ash tray in one, there was a sequence of intercut shots where she moved closer to him, much more intimately, there was a kiss, there was a rose, and then there was one panel with the telephone off the hook, which the comic book code [sic; "Comics Code"] made him put back on ... [T]he last panel on that page had Nick and his old lady kneeling, with their arms around each other, and that was entirely too much for the Code, so the panel was replaced with a picture of a gun in its holster.
The story was reprinted as published in Nick Fury Special Edition #1 (Dec. 1983). When reprinted again, in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Who Is Scorpio? (Marvel Enterprises, 2001; ISBN 978-0-7851-0766-8), however, Steranko's original final panel was reinserted. In a black-and-white long shot with screentone shading, the couple is beginning to embrace, with Fury standing and the Contessa on one knee, getting up.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine was a member of the European jet set and a citizen of Italy. After both her parents were killed for aiding some unspecified resistance movement, the Contessa found her life meaningless. Desiring to carry on in their places so their deaths would not be in vain, she eventually was contacted by the international espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and entered a training program to become an agent.
She first encountered its executive director, Nick Fury, aboard S.H.I.E.L.D.'s airborne headquarters, the Helicarrier, toward the end of her training, impressing Fury by tossing him head-over-heels with a judo throw after his uttering an untoward remark about female agents.[volume & issue needed] The two eventually became lovers,[volume & issue needed] and their relationship continued for many years.
As a result of the Contessa's remarkable talents and skills in many areas, she quickly became a leading member of S.H.I.E.L.D. She was also at one point appointed as the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Femme Force.[volume & issue needed]
She was eventually reassigned to the position of S.H.I.E.L.D. Liaison to the United Kingdom. In that capacity, she was tasked with providing support to British superhero Union Jack, Israeli superhero Sabra, and Saudi superhero Arabian Knight in thwarting a Radically Advanced Ideas in Destruction (RAID) terrorist attack on London, England. Shortly thereafter, she worked with Commodore Lance Hunter and Alistaire Stuart on creating the British version of the Superhuman Registration Act. She then met with Joseph Hauer, Pete Wisdom, Captain Britain, and Union Jack to brief them on the Act's ramifications on the British superhuman population.
At some point, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine approached Amanda Armstrong where she informed her that her late father was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. She accepted Valentina's offer while using her band as a cover for her double life.
It is revealed that shortly after the Secret War, a Skrull agent posed as Contessa de la Fontaine in order to spy on Nick Fury and learn as many secrets as possible. However, Fury grew suspicious and killed the agent, who then reverted to her true shape, thus revealing the Invasion to Fury.
After the death of Captain America, a second impostor posing as the Contessa approached Dum Dum Dugan with the intent of learning the location of Fury, whom the Skrulls are seeking. After he reveals he doesn't know, the impostor stabs Dugan with claws resembling those of the X-Man, Wolverine. After Dugan's body is thrown into the ocean, the impostor takes his place.[volume & issue needed]
Both Dugan and the Contessa are later shown alive and healthy. They are freed from captivity along with the other humans kidnapped and replaced by Skrulls.
In the premiere of the Secret Warriors series, where Nick Fury is fighting back against Norman Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R., it is shown Hydra has always controlled S.H.I.E.L.D., right from the start. Fontaine becomes the new Madame Hydra, and is revealed to have been a Russian mole recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. She is working for the formerly Soviet espionage group called Leviathan. This betrayal is known to Fury, who is working on bringing down Hydra and Leviathan. Fontaine kills the current Madame Hydra, who is revived in a new form. After her defeat, Nick Fury tries to rescue Contessa from jail.
In the pages of the "Ravencroft" miniseries, Valentina is seen as a member of J.A.N.U.S.
In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine is the chairman of the OXE Group, currently the largest holding company in the World. She's part of the secret Kratos Club, a group of industrial multimillionaires whose goal is to use their influence to ensure that the right things get done, no matter what.
In recent history leading up to Earth X, she was still an active member of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Norman Osborn takes control of the United States of America. When Nick Fury refused to deal with Osborn, Osborn had created the parasitic Hydra creatures from information he gained from the Bloodstone files. The Hydra were sent to attack and take down SHIELD's helicarrier, causing it to crash. Many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Contessa among them, were transformed into host bodies for the Hydra organism.[volume & issue needed]
Like all people infected with the Hydra, Contessa was killed and her body usurped by the Hydra parasite that clings to the chest of her body. While her soul was transported to the Realm of the Dead where it would relive moments of her history, her physical body became a member of the Hydra group led by the "Madam Hydra" which controlled the body of She-Hulk.[volume & issue needed]
Most Hydra's ended up in New York, where they would be seemingly killed by the Skull's invading army, however the group would survive and return to a secret base. There, the Hydra would be banished to Limbo by Captain America, who armed with Rom's blaster.[volume & issue needed]
Contessa's soul would be inducted in Mar-Vel's army of the dead in a final battle against Death, Thanos and Mephisto. Later she would be granted a place in Mar-Vel's Paradise, following this her current whereabouts are unknown.
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