Another in our continuing series featuring the OMW (Obscure Marvel Women) of the OMU (Original Marvel Universe). This international woman of mystery has her secrets revealed at last as her top-secret bio is finally declassified.
The sultry spy Contessa Valentina Allegra de La Fontaine was born in northern Italy in 1928. Her father was a French nobleman, Le Comte de La Fontaine, who had married an Italian woman and settled in her homeland, where Val grew up. Although the nation was under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Val’s parents supported the pro-democracy movement, and being nobles, pledged their allegiance to King Vittorio Emanuele III rather than whomever happened to be running the government. However, they became embittered when Italy joined with Nazi Germany in declaring war on France in 1940.
In late 1943, Val’s parents were both murdered by the Nazis for having given aid and comfort to the Italian Resistance movement. Devastated by her loss, the teen-age Val nevertheless joined the Resistance and waged a reckless guerilla war against both the Nazis and the fascist Italian troops who remained loyal to Mussolini after his ouster. All through 1944, she proved herself to be an effective fighter and gained a fearsome reputation. Finally, in April 1945, the war came to an end and Val returned home, claiming her title as a contessa.
Now 17 years old, Val decided to attend a university in the United States of America. While there, she was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency, based on her wartime exploits. When she graduated from college in 1950, Val returned to Italy and, at the behest of the CIA, she took an administrative position at SIFAR (Servizio Informazioni Forze Armate), the new Italian intelligence service which was formed under CIA direction and control.
After a few years, she resigned in frustration over the fact that she was not permitted to be a field agent or, indeed, much more than a secretary. Using her family fortune, Val became a member of the emerging “jet set,” attending glamorous parties and elegant social affairs across Europe and North America. Eventually, though, she grew bored and dissatisfied with this life of indolent luxury and conspicuous consumption, and she sought a way to once more serve the cause of international justice.
Then, in the early weeks of 1963, she was recruited into the newly-formed international intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. as part of its first class of agents. She jumped at the chance and enthusiastically underwent one year of specialized training. During this period, she befriended fellow recruit Clay Quartermain. Val finished her training and became a full-fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in February 1964. Around this same time she met the agency’s Executive Director, Nick Fury. The two felt strongly attracted to each other, and before long they became lovers.
Val quickly rose through the ranks, and in 1965 she was assigned to a taskforce of female agents, which came to be dubbed the “Femme Force.” She was soon promoted to a leadership position, and led her squad on numerous operations around the world. After a few years, however, the taskforce was disbanded and Val, reaching her 45th birthday, was assigned a desk job as head of the S.H.I.E.L.D. public relations department. She served with the agency until it was dismantled in 1974 following the infamous Deltite Affair.
After a brief stint in the CIA, Contessa Valentina Allegra de La Fontaine joined Nick Fury’s all-new S.H.I.E.L.D., even though their sexual relationship had ended. With her many years of experience, she was a valuable asset to the streamlined agency.
Val is pictured above in her official S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform from the agency’s heyday in the early 1970s.
First Appearance: Strange Tales #159
Final Appearance: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. v.2 #14