Now that we know when Agent Carter will air — there's even a clip from the first episode and an appearance in next week's episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — perhaps it's time for us to take a look at the history and evolution of Peggy Carter.
The first mention of Peggy was actually by Sharon Carter, her then sister, in Tales of Suspense #75. This issue was published in 1966, only 21 years after the end of World War II, which made Sharon as Peggy's younger sister more plausible. As timed passed, however, "sister" became "aunt" became "great aunt."
It wasn't until Tales of Suspense #77 (1966) that we get an actual appearance by Peggy Carter, although she remains unnamed.
Peggy was a French Resistance fighter who was imprisoned by the Gestapo until Captain America helped her escape. At the end of their week long adventure (after they had fallen in love), however, Peggy was hit by some shrapnel and became amnesiac.
A few years later, in Cap's own comic, Steve Englehart was able to bring Peggy back in a storyline involving Doctor Faustus. It was revealed that Peggy returned home to America after her injury, but when she heard the Captain America was dead, she became grief-stricken and barely left her room. After a while, nobody told her that Cap was alive again, because they thought she would go into shock (yeah, real nice everyone, don't tell her that the love of her life is still alive).
At the end of the adventure, Peggy's memories and sanity are restored and eventually, she decides to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and, during the Secret Empire storyline, she and Gabe Jones were revealed to be working undercover in the Secret Empire.
(This was in 1974, so it was still 29 years after the end of World War II. Assuming she was at least 18 when she was in the French Resistance, that would make her around 48 to 50 years old when she was in S.H.I.E.L.D. Not bad.)
After that, she didn't really make many appearances until S.H.I.E.L.D. disbanded — Nick Fury explained that it had become too big, that it was too corrupt, he couldn't control it any longer. (S.H.I.E.L.D. being corrupt was echoed later on by Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors and by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
After S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded, Peggy settled down with Gabe Jones and was even able to get another job...as the communications officer for the Avengers.
She made several appearances after Avengers #300 and worked with both the East Coast and West Coast teams. This lasted until the Avengers themselves disbanded (even though it was put together again almost immediately) and from then on, Peggy made sporadic appearances, mainly as flashbacks to World War II, where the week she spent with Cap was gradually lengthened until they had numerous adventures together.
Marvel's sliding timeline eventually caught up with her and in Captain America: Reborn she was shown in a special care facility for former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
Since then, the very last appearance of Present Day Peggy Carter was Captain America Vol. 5 #1, which started out like this:
Yes, poor Peggy Carter died, after having served in the French Resistance, S.H.I.E.L.D., and as Communications Officer for the Avengers.
Of course, none of that is true of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Peggy Carter, who wasn't American, wasn't part of the French Resistance, and actually was a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. So perhaps we don't need to know any of that to watch the show which premieres on January 6, 2015. But it's fun to compare and contrast!
Perhaps to capitalize on her current popularity, Marvel will be releasing a mini-series starring Peggy Carter: Operation S.I.N., by writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Rich Ellis, set during the 1950s and costarring Howard Stark and Woodrow McCord, the "Man on the Wall" introduced in the crossover Original Sin. It certainly looks awesome.