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Joss Whedon's Marvel 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' Series: Five Questions and Possibilities

Now that ABC has ordered a pilot about the super law enforcement agency from the "Avengers" director, there are plenty of issues to ponder.

Joss Whedon and Samuel L. Jackson

Disney and Marvel are officially all-in investors in the Joss Whedon business.

After you take a moment to ponder just how unlikely that would have sounded just a few years ago, when Whedon was a geek god but oft-canceled TV producer, put on your fanboy cap and get ready to do some critical thinking and projecting. With the announcement that ABC ordered a pilot about S.H.I.E.L.D., the Nick Fury-led top secret law enforcement agency at the heart of The Avengers and Marvel's related individual hero properties, there are some serious questions to be answered.

1. What connection will it have to the movies?

During a talk on Tuesday, Whedon said that the TV series will be "autonomous" in its storylines, meaning that it doesn't depend on the long roster of Avengers-connected franchises currently in various stages of production. That being said, one could also make the case that the upcoming Captain America, Iron Man and Thor films are also semi-autonomous. While they will stay truthful to the narrative thread that led up to and strung through the first Avengers film, they'll also allow their title heroes to go off on solo adventures that do not ruin the long, winding storyline that will lead to the second teamup film, but will not necessarily impact it much, either.

After all, it's important to remember that Whedon will also be writing and directing the Avengers sequel, meaning that he has a big stake in the future of all Marvel properties. And how, exactly, could they have one gigantic universe -- they're already marketing the next generation of movies as Phase 2 -- and not include a big budget, prime time TV series that could go on for years?

Thus, it's likely that the S.H.I.E.L.D. series will have some connection to the films; how deep, of course, remains to be seen.

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2. Who will star in the series?

Samuel L. Jackson spent years making cameos in the first generation of Marvel films so that they could properly establish his character, S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury, in the cinematic universe. As such, he's the man most associated with the agency, so it would be strange not to have him involved. Then again, he's also perhaps the busiest film actor in Hollywood, so will he really want to take a full-time role in a TV series? Perhaps guest arcs and cameos are more likely in his future.

His assistant in the film, Cobie Smulders, is a full-time actress on How I Met Your Mother, but that series will probably wrap up in the next two years. Could she handle being in both shows? And, would she want to stick in TV full-time, even as her cinematic star is beginning to ascend? She just signed on to co-star with Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt in the English-language remake of the French Canadian hit Starbuck, and should get more and more film work.

3. Will Coulson live?

The tragedy that pulled the bickering Avengers heroes together -- and stuck a knife in the gut of Marvel fans -- was the death of Agent Coulson, the mild-mannered S.H.I.E.L.D. agent played by Clark Gregg. He also spent years taking roles in Marvel films in order to set up his Avengers part, and fans have taken to tweeting and graffiting the phrase "Coulson Lives" since the film came out. Is there a way to bring Coulson back? This is a comic book universe, after all; no one is really dead forever.

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4. What about the rest of the Avengers?

There's a reason why they're not calling this TV series The Avengers: it's not about that misfit team of superheroes. If only! But they certainly have a role in S.H.I.E.L.D., so will we see cameos from Chris Evans' Captain America, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth's Thor, Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow?

Sounds like a good sweeps week strategy, to say the least. And by the way, how does this connect, if at all, with ABC's Hulk series, which is still in development?

5. What about the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic book series?

S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't begin and end with Fury and the Avengers. There's a whole history to the group, which is currently being explored in the comic book series titled, you guessed it, S.H.I.E.L.D. We're talking Ancient Egypt reaches of history, here. Will that book provide storylines for the show? Will it even be the basis of the show? And, could that spin off into its own movie?

Bonus 6: What about all the other acronyms?

Marvel really loves its bureacracy. Not only is there S.H.I.E.L.D., but they've also got S.T.R.I.K.E.; A.R.M.O.R. (for alternate reality threats); S.W.O.R.D. (for aliens -- Whedon himself introduced this group in 2004); and H.A.M.M.E.R., for when Norman Osborne gets control.