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Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - portrait

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Val is one of the better-established supporting characters for Marvel’s Nick Fury. She appeared in 1967, during the landmark Steranko  run. Back then, pop espionage stories sort of had to feature gorgeous women agents with exotic nobility titles.

This profile covers everything from then up to the 1988 Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries, where said organisation was thoroughly destroyed. It is done as an emergent history profile. That is, in order to present the evolution of the character, it uses *no* information from after 1984. Such as the big 2011 twiiist.

(As you’ve just deduced she didn’t appear between 1984 and 1988. Gosh, you should have been a spy !).

I remain convinced that Val should be a cool character. Unfortunately, the operative word here is “should”. During this era, she’s little more than set dressing.


Background

  • Real Name: Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine.
  • Note: Her last name is frequently misspelled “Allegro” during this era.
  • Other Aliases: Agent 14.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Unnamed parents (deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., former commander of Femme Force.
  • Base of Operations: S.H.I.E.L.D. bases and helicarriers.
  • Height: 5’8″ Weight: 130 lbs
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black with a white streak.

Dang ’em fancy foreigners

Val is a Countess. In the Italian system this is a senior title ; two more “steps up” and she’d be a Duchess. On the other hand, Italian nobility has lost any legal meaning decades ago, so the title is a courtesy one.

“De la Fontaine” is a Francophone title, not an Italophone one. That doesn’t mean much in itself. There was extensive interpenetration between France and what is now Northern Italy since forever. To my knowledge there are multiple “de la Fontaine” lineages in France. One of their scions, Jean de la Fontaine , collected and wrote fables that are part of the Francophone literary canon.

Furthermore, it is common in Golden and Silver Age  US comic books to mix up France and nearby countries, especially Italy.

“Allegra” is thus her family name. It means “joyful, upbeat”. Though it’s not common, it’s well-established both in Italy and in France (in the form of “Allègre”).


Powers & Abilities

Valentina Allegra is a fully trained agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and was one of the highest-scoring recruits who graduated in 1967.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - Steranko assault

1986 sourcebooks list her as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Director. This is a Level 2 position, so just under Fury. But during the 1970s, her position seemed more junior than that.

In some stories, her pistol is lighter and sleeker than the normal S.H.I.E.L.D. plasma handgun. Perhaps the Gaffer built her a custom piece emphasising accuracy and better suited to her hands. But most of the time she operates the standard model.

Andiamo !

This era doesn’t see her in action much, but :

  • She’s a better fighter than ordinary S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, with a focus on unarmed combat and handgun operation.
  • She has unclear but robust skills in stealth, shadowing, intelligence analysis, surveillance – and presumably related activities.
  • She’s an excellent pilot of skycycles, and presumably other S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles.
  • She’s of course fluent in Italian, and perhaps other languages.
  • She has superior deductive intelligence, power of observation, grace under pressure and mental speed. Apparently on the level of a minor super-hero.

Yet she seldom gets to shine. In DC Heroes RPG terms, she has good abilities but a crappy Hero Points  score.


History

De la Fontaine reportedly was a gifted and bored Italian jet set lass. During the 1960s, she decided to have a more useful role in life. Thus, she applied to international law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D.. It was a recent creation – its then-current Director, Nick Fury, had only joined in 1965.

(“When was S.H.I.E.L.D. founded ?” has a complex answer full of unknowns, so let’s dodge that for now. Let’s tackle another mess instead.)

Holding back the years, part 1

De la Fontaine stated that both her parents had been executed for “aiding the Resistance”. She added that it made her life meaningless, and that she chose to carry on fighting the good fight in their stead.

This was discreetly retconned  out by Marvel. Just like modern Agent Carter was retconned into being the niece of the 1940s Agent Carter, de la Fontaine couldn’t have her roots in the 1940s. Since she’s clearly under 35.

Even in 1967, the chronology was unworkable. At the latest her parents were killed by the Nazis in 1945, and at her youngest Val was perhaps 15 at that point. So even with a lot of wiggling she was born in 1930. She more likely is but a few years younger than Fury.

Holding back the years, part 2

We can suggest three approaches.

The first is the one explained in our Ageing in the Marvel Universe article. The Countess is a bearer of the Leòn Genetic Sequence. She was born circa 1928, saw her parents die when she was about 16, joined a suitable outfit (presumably the Servizio Informazioni Forze Armate military intelligence agency) in 1950, essentially stopped ageing a few years later, and transferred to S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1966 for a 1967 graduation.

The second is that by “the Resistance” Val wasn’t referring to World War Two, but to the Leaden Years in Italy . Both the various Communist and various Fascist terror organisations could conceivably refer to their struggle as “the Resistance”. However, that approach only shifts the problem by two decades. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that S.H.I.E.L.D. would recruit somebody with this background.

The third is to do jazz hands, then the homemade Scooby Doo transition effect , then use the Marvel time sliding scale. Though doing all three might be redundant, yeah.

New kids on the block

In 1967, Allegra was among the top six agents of her class. All six were fully trained *and* demonstrated extraordinary ability in their speciality. Among this group also were :

  1. Sidney “the Gaffer” Levine, an American veteran who doubled as a gifted inventor and technologist.
  2. Clay Quartermain, a real-life action hero and model agent.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - first appearance

Gaffer is the one with the glasses, and Quartermain is the blond.

Just after her graduation, Val and her cohort watched Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Nick Fury sparring. Fury was accidentally taken down by an explosive charge. De la Fontaine unhesitatingly leapt into the arena to apply first aid. Yet Fury foolishly stood up anyway, refusing treatment and giving her some misogynist crap. The irritated Allegra sent him flying with a jiu jitsu throw and walked away.

Fury tried to make it up to her, and they managed to develop a better working relationship. As one of the highest potentials among the rookies, Allegra would work directly with the Director. Therefore, it was best to avoid mistrust.

Into the fray

Allegra seemed to be handling intelligence for the cases Fury was on, much like the Gaffer was building Fury’s personal weapons and vehicles. When muscle was needed to back Fury in the field, Allegra sent in Quartermain.

However, she also was on the S.H.I.E.L.D. “suicide squad”, an elite assault force that was essentially Fury’s personal cavalry. Other agents in this commando included Quartermain, the Gaffer, “Dum Dum” Dugan and Gabe Jones, plus eight or ten masked stormtroopers. Jasper Sitwell likely also was a member. This team helped take down the troops of the fake Yellow Claw – actually a robot built by Doctor Doom.

Val and the others also assisted during Fury’s original clash with Scorpio (Jake Fury).

By 1968, Allegra and Fury were shown to have become lovers in unchronicled circumstances. However, they seemingly broke up a few months later. This happened when Allegra didn’t trust Fury during a complex Hydra gambit to make Fury look like a traitor. Fury resumed dating Laura Brown during that time.

Apparently, Allegra and Fury’s relationship remained off again, on again for decades.

Femme Force

In 1971, S.H.I.E.LD. authorised an experimental all-women assault unit called Femme Force. The goal of the FF members was to prove to a sceptical brass that female agents deserved equal treatment when it came to tactical details. Fury was opposed to this experiment, and was less than collaborative.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - Femme Force attack

The Force was apparently made up of nine agents, with the unofficial battle cry “right on, sisters !”. It was commanded by Agent 13 (Sharon Carter), with Valentina as her second-in-command. This implies a demotion for Allegra, and she and Carter seemed to be feuding for leadership of the unit.

In 1972, one of the Femme Force clashes with Hydra nearly went wrong. One of their own, Agent 22, turned out to be a Hydra plant. She broke cover to allow for an in-flight boarding action of the S.H.I.E.L.D. passenger jet ferrying the Force. The rest of Femme Force and Captain America managed to take down the assaulters and save the plane, but Carter was badly wounded.

Allegra likely saved Carter’s life through first aid, then prevented Cap from badly wounding Hydra troopers out of grief. However, another Hydra unit kidnapped Carter before her hospital room could be secured.

As an enraged Cap charged in to rescue Carter, Allegra took command of Femme Force and shadowed him. This worked, and Femme Force stormed a large Hydra base to create a diversion for Cap to exploit.

This ain’t no hymn

Val and her girls were badly outnumbered. But the opposition reacted like idiots as they couldn’t treat women soldiers seriously. Furthermore, this wasn’t the actual Hydra, but the splinter that had fallen under the command of the Kingpin (Wilson Fisk). This meant inadequate orders and coordination, and Cap and Femme Force stood victorious.

The Red Skull (Johann Shmidt) then unveiled his plan. He had manipulated the situation so he could take control of the fifth Sleeper, a Nazi doomsday robot, and use it to raze Las Vegas. Femme Force attempted to stop the giant mecha with but jetpacks and handguns, since there was no other unit on hand.

This proved unworkable and they took casualties. This forced them to refocus on evacuating civilians whilst heavier weaponry was en route.

In the following weeks, Carter quit S.H.I.E.L.D. to focus on her relationship with Rogers. The increasingly erratic Fury also physically lashed out against Rogers, resenting his youth. He further resented that Allegra was visibly attracted toward Rogers, even though Fury had dumped her.

After the Cap vs. Fury brawl, the Countess yelled at Fury until he would stop his crap. Then the two decided to get back together.

Back S.H.I.E.L.D. !

In 1973, S.H.I.E.L.D. got into another clash with the Yellow Claw. Fury was grievously wounded.

Valentina stayed by his bedside, correctly hoping that his incredible will to live would allow him to endure seemingly fatal wounds. Thus, she stopped a Yellow Claw assassin disguised as a nurse. Howbeit, the man killed himself once it was clear he couldn’t get past her.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - in white with Fury and Dum-Dum

Mere weeks later, the dread Dormammu started fusing his Dark Dimension with the Earth Dimension. People were randomly turning into giant demons as reality broke down. Led by a still convalescent Fury plus Allegra and Dugan, S.H.I.E.L.D. did what it could with stun weapons.

Early in the fight, Valentina was herself turned into a demon, but Fury took her down with his non-lethal artillery. Doctor Strange and the Avengers eventually repelled Dormammu, and everything returned to normal.

Sicilians and Celts

In 1975, Valentina was part of the teams who stomped another Hydra splinter commanded by a mobster. Silvermane had taken over Hydra assets, and recruited costumed leaders such as El Jaguar or Man-Killer for his new soldiers.

But like the Kingpin before, he was out of his depth. S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and the Black Widow (Natalia Romanova) made that amply clear.

Soon after that, Allegra was part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. force that put an end to the menace of Dredmund Druid.

Let the sunshine in

However, S.H.I.E.L.D. was then taken cold by Deadly Nightshade. As they were focused on Druid, she took control of a S.H.I.E.L.D. base thanks to a serum controlling men. She tried to have Captain America kill the Falcon (Sam Wilson).

The Contessa wasn’t affected, but she was the only S.H.I.E.L.D. lady agent on the base. Thus, Nightshade controlled everybody else, and just had the hypnotised blokes handle Val.

Allegra escaped, accessed S.H.I.E.L.D. databases, speed-read her way through the files about Nightshade, then used the intercom to rendezvous with Cap and the Falcon within the base’s solarium. The Contessa had deduced why Nightshade had fled during a previous fight with Cap – sunlight broke her mind control chemical.

Valentina’s colleagues were indeed freed soon after stepping into the solarium, and Nightshade was easily arrested.

Split infinity

Over time, the Contessa had noticed that Fury was acting peculiar at a set date every year. In 1976, she investigated further. She discovered that on that date, Fury would correspond with one Professor Sternberg, who brewed the Infinity Formula keeping the Colonel young.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - Saving Nick Fury from age

Fury paid Sternberg to receive an annual booster, lest he swiftly age by decades. Fury had little choice but to go along, and Sternberg had only ever asked for reasonable amounts.

However, a criminal named Harris, who was also receiving the formula, tracked Sternberg down. He killed the scientist, then greatly ramped up the extortion process. This led to a brutal clash with Fury. Shadowing Nick, Valentina stole the formula from Harris’ men. She then injected the Colonel in the nick of time.

This also apparently rekindled their relationship, as they had seemingly broken up again.

Why did it have to be snakes ?

In 1979, S.H.I.E.L.D. went through a bad crisis as the Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian) took over the Helicarrier and mind-controlled all aboard. This time, this included Valentina. The Contessa again took field command of Femme Force (though she referred to it as “Strike Force”) as they hunted for the Black Widow, who had escaped.

The Widow, now an amnesiac, had allied with Spider-Man (Peter Parker). Allegra and Femme Force took Spider-Man down, but were then taken by surprise by the Widow. Eventually, a task force of heroes defeated the Viper and freed the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from her mental control.

But though this had been bad, this was nothing compared to what would happen in 1988.


Description

As far as we can tell – yes, her hair is naturally like that.

During the 1960s, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the field have a tight, industrial orange jumpsuit. Yet somehow, Val operates in what is essentially a blue bikini. At other times she has a sort of white jumpsuit. One gets the impression that S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t ready for women agents and had no uniforms ready, so she made do with what she could scare up.

Later on she wears standard S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms. Her physique makes it obvious that these jumpsuits now exist in women’s version. There are occasional reappearances of outfit showing a lot of skin, but these come across more like continuity mistakes.


Personality

Early on, essentially none. She’s The Girl™, and thus interchangeable with nearly any female character in then-contemporary super-hero Marvel comics. At first it looks like she’s going to be defiant and hard-nosed. But then she’s essentially Fury’s young, pretty secretary.

1970s

Then she randomly switches to being an underhanded, girl-bullying minx with a childish feud against Sharon Carter. She’s spouting caricature of women’s lib  talking points. She also was intent on stealing Steve Rogers away from Carter. This may sound terrible, but really it wasn’t. It was worse.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine of SHIELD (Marvel Comics) classic - Nick Fury apartment

Eventually, she explained that she was trying to make Fury jealous by putting the moves on Rogers, as revenge for having been dumped in favour of Brown. But that backfired since a/ she fell in love in Cap, and b/ she actually liked Carter and felt bad over hurting her feelings.

The Countess eventually had a talk with Agent 13, and they buried the hatchet.

Later 1970s

Later on, during her brief appearances under Englehart , she’s portrayed as by-the-book and remarkably hostile toward anybody hurting Fury – including Cap.

She’s collateral damage of writers alternating between Fury-as-a-hostile-martinet-working-for-the-Man and Fury-as-a-heroic-defender-of-democracy. Thus the Colonel, his close associates such as the Contessa, and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. oscillate wildly between close-minded hostility and eager collaboration.

Though there isn’t much characterisation material, a tendency toward knee-jerk jealousy when it comes to Fury frequenting other women seems established. But presumably, it’s only the case when their relationship is on rather than off. And, well, it did come across as a cliché about Italians.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

La Contessa de la Fontaine

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Wealth: 004
Init: 015 HP: 010

Skills:
Acrobatics (Climbing): 04, Acrobatics (Dodging): 02, Martial Artist: 04, Medicine (First aid): 04, Military science (Camouflage, cartography, danger recognition, demolition, field command): 05, Scientist (Observation): 05, Vehicles (SEAL): 04, Vehicles (Skycycles): 05, Thief: 05, Weaponry (S.H.I.E.L.D. weapons): 04, Weaponry (Handguns): 06

Advantages:
Credentials (S.H.I.E.L.D., High), Expertise (Surveillance, Intelligence analysis, S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment and protocols), Language (Italian).

Connections:
S.H.I.E.L.D. (High, from Credentials) and presumably others.

Drawbacks:
MIA toward romantic possessiveness.

Equipment:

  • S.H.I.E.L.D. UNIFORM [BODY 08, Flame immunity: 03, Radio communications: 05, Skin armor: 02, Limitation: Skin armor only vs. piercing and slashing attacks].
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. plasma pistol [BODY 03, Energy blast: 07, R#4].
  • FEMME FORCE SKYCYLE [STR 02 BODY (Hardened Defenses) 07, Flight: 07, R#2]. These almost ovoid skycycles are fast, agile, can be piloted with one hand, and offer a surprisingly stable platform to fire from. They are also well-armoured, and definitely can be used for ramming manoeuvres. Perhaps having lighter riders allowed for extra plating and reinforcements. The vehicle is open-framed, but offers decent cover from the front (Jacket-level Partial Coverage).
    When Femme Force couldn’t deploy their signature mounts, they used high-performance jetpacks with an unusual range. Essentially, they’re aircav that can dismount to become shock infantry.

Design notes

The stats — especially the Skills — are what she logically should have, since we see so little of her in action.



Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine — Averaged PL6

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
00 01 02 03 04 03 02 01

Combat Advantages

Accurate Attack, Defensive Roll 1, Grabbing Finesse, Improved Trip, Ranged Attack 3.

Other Advantages

Assessment, Attractive, Benefit 2 (Senior S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance), Connected, Contacts, Equipment 9, Language (Italian), Well-informed.

Skills

Acrobatics 2 (+4), Athletics 6 (+6), Deception 2 (+3), Expertise (Espionage) 7 (+10), Expertise (Commando) 5 (+8), Insight 4 (+6), Investigation 3 (+6), Perception 4 (+6), Persuasion 1 (+2), Ranged combat (Handguns) 4 (+10), Stealth 6 (+8), Technology 4 (+7) (Limited 1 to Operating, Demolitions, Security), Treatment 2 (+5) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), Vehicles 3 (+6)

Equipment

S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform Protection 4 (Quirk – not against blunt/unarmed Descriptors), Feature (Tactical radio) ● 5 points
S.H.I.E.L.D. plasma pistol Ranged energy Damage 6 ● 12 points

Offense

Initiative +2
Unarmed +6, Close, Damage 0
S.H.I.E.L.D. long arms +6, effects by type
Plasma pistol +10, Ranged, Damage 6

Defence

Dodge 6 Fortitude 3
Parry 5 Toughness 1*/2/6**
Will 5

* Without Defensive Roll
** With Defensive Roll and uniform, not against blunt/unarmed

Complications

  • Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Val does a dangerous job for an agency that doesn’t always run too well, and has extraordinarily competent enemies.
  • Caro mio Allegra tends to be romantically possessive.

Powers Levels

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 8, Dodge/Toughness PL 6, Parry/Toughness PL 5, Fort/Will PL 4.
  • Points total 91. Abilities 32, Defences 10, Skills 25, Powers 0, Devices 0, Advantages 20. Equiv. PL 7.

Femme Force ovoid skycyles

Size M, Strength 1, Speed 7, Defense 10, Toughness 9 ● 27 points

These almost ovoid skycycles are fast, agile, can be piloted with one hand, and offer a surprisingly stable platform to fire from. They are also well-armoured, and definitely can be used for ramming manoeuvres. Perhaps having lighter riders allowed for extra plating and reinforcements. The vehicle is open-framed, but offers decent cover from the front (-4 Circumstance Penalty).

When Femme Force couldn’t deploy their signature mounts, they used high-performance jetpacks with an unusual range. Essentially, they’re aircav that can dismount to become shock infantry.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 9th of October, 2017.

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