Why do we care about Coulson?

Here’s your warning: major Marvel nerdiness and minor spoilers ahead.

So my husband and I have been making our way through the first season of “Agents of SHIELD.” Haven’t been super impressed so far. I mean, it’s okay, but the only reason I’ve stuck with it is to find out how Agent Coulson is still alive.

Last night, we watched the episodes where Coulson is taken by Centipede and stuff happens and you really, really super hate the creepy lady in the flower dress.

HOLY SMOKES, PEOPLE.

I’ll be honest, I was a little traumatized. If I were the crying type, I probably would have cried. Especially at the last bit, with Coulson and the doctor in the car . . .

All that emotional distress led to an interesting question:

Why the heck do we care about Phil Coulson?

Seriously. Him and his cellist from Portland. What is it about this little man with a receding hairline that made it so wrenching when he got an alien blade through the chest? He doesn’t have superpowers. He doesn’t have a cool bow with exploding arrows. He doesn’t deliver constant snappy one-liners. Why was his death such a blow?

My thoughts:

1. Familiarity. I love it when characters from one book (or movie) show up in another one that’s only loosely connected. As in, not a sequel or prequel. By the time we got to the Avengers, Coulson had shown up multiple times in the Marvel movies. It was always brief, but he was there. He was the thread tying them all together.

2. Character foil. In a universe of Hulk-sized egos and unbalanced superheroes raring for a fight, Coulson is quiet, efficient, and disarmingly friendly. He doesn’t rise to any bait. He doesn’t march around in a cape or a giant robot suit or a spangly outfit. He doesn’t even have a mysterious eye patch. He is a refreshing island of sanity in an ocean of super-sized egos.

3. Personality. Seriously, how can you not like the guy? I swear, he’s the only person in the Marvel movies that ever smiles. He’s a completely capable SHIELD agent while still being kind of a lovable dork. (Captain America trading cards, anyone?)

What do you think? Am I alone in my love of Agent Coulson? Are there any minor characters that you’ve liked better than the protagonist? What makes them so special?