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The Comic Book History Of Marvel's Jimmy Woo Explained

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are likely familiar with the character Jimmy Woo. Initially referenced as one of Melinda May's contacts in season two of the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Woo's first on-screen appearance came in the 2018 film Ant-Man and the Wasp. Played by Fresh Off the Boat star Randall Park, Woo is the comical-but-competent FBI agent who oversees Scott Lang's house arrest, yet still respects him enough to learn his card trick. Woo later appears in the 2021 Disney+ series WandaVision, where he teams up with S.W.O.R.D. agent Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), who previously appeared as a kid in 2019's Captain Marvel, and physicist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who previously appeared in the first two Thor movies. Together, they work to uncover the mystery of why the sorceress Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has taken the town of Westview, New Jeresy under her control.

Ever since his appearance on WandaVision, Woo has become a favorite among MCU fans, many of whom have suggested he receive his own spin-off show. What those fans may not know, however, is that Woo's comic book counterpart is not only one of Marvel's first major Asian characters — he also predates many of their most iconic heroes. We're here to break down the comic book history of Marvel's Jimmy Woo, from his earliest appearance to the moment he becomes the leader of his own organization. 

Jimmy Woo's Cold War

Woo's first comic book appearance came in 1956's four-part miniseries Yellow Claw, which was published by Marvel when they were known as Atlas Comics. In this comic, Woo is a Chinese-American FBI agent tasked with hunting down the Yellow Claw, an ancient Chinese mystic who seeks to conquer the world. Unsurprisingly, this comic features many racist depictions of Asian people, with the Yellow Claw himself being a "yellow peril" caricature. Suave Jimmy Woo, however, is a "positive exception" to the "largely negative" depictions of Asian characters in comics of the era, as  "Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942–1986" exhibit curator Jeff Yang has detailed.

In a 2017 article about Woo, ComicsVerse described the first issue of Yellow Claw, written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Joe Maneely, as "a gritty Cold War espionage series with Chinese characters at the forefront." After famed Marvel artist Jack Kirby took over as the series' writer and illustrator, Woo was sent on an array of silly adventures that include meeting a group of mutants (who predate the X-Men by seven years), facing shadow creatures, and battling shrunken soldiers. Each story sees Woo foil the Claw's plan before he escapes. The Claw's niece Suwan, who he recruited to aid him in his quest for world domination, secretly helps Woo throughout the miniseries.

Joining S.H.I.E.L.D. and fighting Godzilla

Woo went dormant for 10 years following his debut. Then, in 1967's Strange Tales #160, he returned to Marvel Comics, which had successfully rebranded itself away from its Atlas days.

In this issue, Captain America brings Woo to Nick Fury at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, because he might have a lead on an ongoing case called Project Blackout. Fury then tells a story from two years prior, about how he and Cap investigated a mysterious force inside the Statue of Liberty. This enigmatic enemy planned on using an "Id-Paralyzer" to turn everyone on America's East Coast into obedient zombies. Woo reveals in the following issue that the mastermind behind this thwarted plan is the Yellow Claw, who was long thought to be dead. Strange Tales #165 and 167 reveal that this Yellow Claw is a robot created by Doctor Doom as part of a game he played with another robot called the Prime Mover. Cap and Fury eventually fight the real Yellow Claw in 1973's Captain America #164-167, who is furious that a robot impersonated him.

As for Woo, he officially joins S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1968's Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2. He even helps the agency fight Godzilla (yes, really) when the giant lizard attacks North America in the 24-issue Godzilla series, released between 1977 and 1979.

Replaced by a Life Model Decoy

Woo appears in a six-part miniseries from 1988, entitled Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. – or does he?

The first issue (or "book," as the issues refer to themselves, since they're all 48 pages) begins with an Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) ship filled with HYDRA agents attacking Fury's squad. They manage to steal a power core from a downed helicarrier. Fury tracks the core to the Roxxon Industrial Research Complex in New Jersey through a sleeper agent named Jack Rollins. Fury reports his findings to the S.H.I.E.L.D. executive board ... and they respond by sending Woo to kill Rollins. Woo and the board are actually advanced versions of S.H.I.E.L.D. androids called Life Model Decoys (LMDs), created by another LMD called the Deltite. As the S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite explodes near the end of the miniseries, the LMDs of Woo, Rollins, Jasper Sitwell, and Clay Quartermain decide to stay behind and die like humans.

Although the real Jimmy Woo was thought to be dead at this time, 1993's Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #43 and #44 reveal that he was one of four agents put in stasis and brainwashed by HYDRA. Fortunately, they are all deprogrammed in issue #47.

Youth regained, past forgotten

With the Agents of Atlas series that started in 2006, Woo led his first comic in almost 50 years.

The first issue of this series reveals that an elderly Woo went rogue and commanded a team of disenfranchised S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on a raid of the San Francisco branch of the fiendish Altas Foundation. They travelled into a secret room where the whole team was killed except Woo, who was put on life support. The only clues S.H.I.E.L.D. can gather link Woo's mission to a short-lived crime fighting group from the late 1950s called the G-Men. The agency's subdirector, Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan, brings in Gorilla Man, a member of the G-Men, for questioning, as he's the only G-Men member they can get a hold of.

Looking for answers, Gorilla Man secretly contacts two other G-Men members: A robot named M-11 and a super-powered human with genetically engineered Uranian physiology named Marvel Boy. They help break Woo out of the hidden S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Using his last mental impression of Woo, Marvel Boy restructures him, which restores Woo to his 1950s self ... at the expense of his memories from the last 50 years. 

Forming the Agents of Atlas

His youth regained, Agents of Atlas goes on to see Woo put the Agents of Atlas together to find more leads on the Atlas Foundation.

Derek Khanata, a Wakandan S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and investigator of Woo's case, travels to Woo's house in order to search for more clues, but the G-Men are already there. They initially intend to leave Khanata behind, until he says he knows the location of G-Men member Venus, who can affect men with her singing. The team travel to Africa where they meet Venus and fight a Yellow Claw robot. They later travel to Antarctica to find Namora, cousin of the Atlantean king Namor, who initially refused to join the G-Men and was long thought to be dead. Fortunately, she's very much alive, and joins the team this time after M-11 unfreezes her from her icy coffin. 

Woo and his team subsequently raid several shady organizations with the name "Atlas." They finally take a break in Fiji in Agents of Atlas #4, where they encounter the Yellow Claw, now known as the Golden Claw — he identifies his previous title as a "[slur] of the West." The team discovers that M-11 is a double agent, and after a fight breaks out between them, Woo asks M-11 to cut his connection to the Golden Claw.

Leader of the Atlas Foundation

The final issue of the 2006 Agents of Atlas series offers a major reveal for Jimmy Woo. 

The team enters the Atlas Foundation's secret room in San Francisco, where they confront a giant talking dragon named Mr. Lao, advisor to the Atlas Foundation's leader. He reveals the organization's origins in the Mongol Empire. He also explains that the Golden Claw's real name is Plan Chu, which translates to Master Plan, and that he is a descendent of Genghis Khan. Even more dramatically, it turns out that Woo, whose Chinese name is Woo Yen Jet, was chosen to be the Golden Claw's successor shortly after he was born. Woo's parents, however, wanted no involvement. They moved to America and urged their son to pursue law enforcement. Mr. Lao is crafty, however, and thought that if Woo could rise through the ranks of government, his reputation would grow exponentially. Thus, when Woo was an FBI agent during the 1950s, Atlas positioned the Yellow Claw as his nemesis, so that the American government would trust him and his profile would grow.

After learning the truth about who he really is, Woo finally takes his place as the C.E.O of the Atlas Foundation. The Golden Claw then enters Mr. Lao's mouth, sacrificing himself so that the rest of the organization will not question Woo's rule. With Khanata concealing the team's continued existence to S.H.I.E.L.D., Woo and the Agents of Atlas enter a strange new future.

Working with Spider-Man

Since the Atlas Foundation is still a criminal organization, the Agents of Atlas have to work to clean it up. One of their earliest missions, captured in 2007's Spider-Man Family #4, ends up involving their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane first meet the team, who are disguised as civilians, at a Broadway show entitled Animalia. This production is supposedly done with big puppets, similar to The Lion King. In reality, this show is the work of a rogue faction of the Atlas Foundation that disguises their totemic vessels as puppets and costumes. When combined with a person's life force (like, say, the members of the audience), these vessels become powerful automatons. 

Spidey and Woo's team decide to work together after fighting this faction at one of their shows. The Agents of Atlas explain that the organization hides in plain sight, and that they must use a psychic battery of some sort. Spidey determines that this source is the Atlas statue outside Rockefeller Center. After M-11 destroys the power source, Marvel Boy wipes everyone but the team's memory of the incident, including Spider-Man's ... who still manages to remember some of the details.

Fighting Suwan

In Issues #8-11 of the 2009 Agents of Atlas series, Woo decides to search for his long-lost love, Suwan.

Mr. Lao tells Woo that after Atlas lost track of him, Suwan threw herself into the work of the organization — and was quite good at it, too. The Golden Claw eventually let her run her own group, called the Great Wall. But after he asked Suwan to step down, her loyalists rebelled, causing a rift in the empire. Woo travels to China through the Dragon's Corridor, an alternate dimension controlled by the Atlas Foundation, to speak with Suwan, who now goes by the moniker Jade Claw. 

Since Woo has violated the Atlas-Great Wall treaty, the Jade Claw attempts to hold him hostage in exchange for the Spirit Banner of the First Khan. But, of course, Woo and his team fight back. The Jade Claw continues to attack the Atlas Foundation's operations until Woo's team once again attacks the Great Wall's home base. M-11 destroys the Jade Claw's bodyguard robot, M-21, after Marvel Boy wipes out the latter's power source. With her robot defeated, the Jade Claw surrenders, and Woo lets her live, to represent her people. Woo leaves his second-in-command Temugin, son of the Mandarin, to oversee the Great Wall and bring it in line with the new Atlas Foundation.

The Pan-Asian School for the Unusually Gifted

In 2013's Infinity: The Hunt #1, it is revealed that Woo has co-created a superhero school with former supervillain Sanjar Javeed, called the Pan-Asian School for the Unusually Gifted. This school is located in Mumbai, and recruits students from all over Asia. Wolverine suspects that Woo founded the school to recruit students into the Agents of Atlas, but it's never made clear if that is, in fact, the case.

This institution is one of many superhero schools chosen to compete in the Contest of Champions, a competition created by Hank Pym "to hone the skills of all students and extend an olive branch between schools." The three students selected to compete on behalf of the Pan-Asian School are the tech genius known as Gang, the tendril-generating being known as Pom Pom, and a modern incarnation of the Hindu god Durga, known as Shri. This initial meeting between schools is interrupted when Thanos' forces attack Earth. In the end, the students from each school work together to defend what's left of Wakanda.

Jimmy Woo and the Protectors

Issues #15-18 of 2016's The Totally Awesome Hulk see Woo team up with a variety of other Asian superheroes.

Here, the head of Atlas appears alongside Amadeus Cho's Hulk, Shang-Chi, Ms. Marvel, Silk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jake Oh at a charity event in Manhattan to raise awareness for Asian-American bone marrow donation. They then hang out in Koreatown and quickly become friends. Unfortunately, the group's evening is interrupted when the extraterrestrial Imperial Guard of the planet Seknarf Seven arrive in New York. Although these heroes initially beat the alien invaders, they (and the nearby civilians) are transported across the universe to Seknarf Seven. The team officially becomes the Protectors and (no pun intended) protect the others from the aliens until Alpha Flight arrives to pick them up.

The Protectors eventually fuse with another superhero team. During 2019's "War of the Realms" event, Woo invites the Protectors (sans Oh) to become the new Agents of Atlas, along with Luna Snow, White Fox, Crescent, Io, Aero, Wave, and Sword Master. Ms. Marvel does not fight with the team, however, and Raz Malhotra's Giant-Man joins later, in 2019's Agents of Atlas series. In 2020's Atlantis Attack, Woo introduces the new agents to the old agents, now including 3-D Man. In this series, Cho and Shang-Chi eventually leave the team, but they do recruit a hero who is coincidentally named the Protector. Hopefully, the Agents of Atlas will continue to grow over time.