Hydra (comics)

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Hydra symbol.png
Symbol of Hydra as shown on Captain America: Steve Rogers #19 (July 2017)
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceStrange Tales #135 (Aug 1965)
Created byStan Lee (writer)
Jack Kirby (artist)
In-story information
Baron Strucker
Red Skull
Employee(s)Current members:
Baron Helmut Zemo[1]
Arnim Zola
Former members:
Werner von Strucker
Bob, Agent of Hydra

Hydra is a fictional terrorist organization appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The name "Hydra" is an allusion to the mythical Lernaean Hydra.[2] The organization's motto references the myth of the Hydra, stating that "If a head is cut off, two more shall take its place", proclaiming their resilience and growing strength in the face of resistance. Originally a Nazi organization led by the Red Skull during World War II, it is turned into a Neo-Nazi international crime syndicate by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker once he seized control. Hydra agents often wear distinctive green garb featuring a serpent motif. The organization is one of the recurring threats fought by the Marvel Universe superheroes and the intelligence organization, S.H.I.E.L.D., who regularly foil Hydra's plans for world domination.

Hydra has appeared in various media adaptations, including films, television series and video games. The organization also plays a major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Publication history[edit]

Hydra agents

Hydra first appeared in Strange Tales #135 (August 1965).[3] In its original continuity, it is headed by nondescript businessman Arnold Brown, who is killed as S.H.I.E.L.D. apparently crushed the organization. Hydra soon returned, however, headed by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, with the support of the Nazi Red Skull; Hydra's changing origin is one of Marvel's earliest retcons. After its initial defeat, several of its branches, such as its scientific branch A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and the Secret Empire, became independent.

Crypt of Shadows #3, published in 1973, reprinted a story from Menace #10 (1954), but with a change to a line of dialogue that erroneously implied that Hydra is premier mentioned is in a 1954 issue. In the reprint, an agent of an unspecified enemy government is changed to identify himself as working for Hydra when he paid off a scientist named Dr. Nostrum for information about a cobalt bomb that turned people into monsters. Dr. Nostrum shot all the other scientists on his team after they were turned into monsters, then shot himself after his son put an image from a monster magazine on his mirror.


"Hail, Hydra! Immortal Hydra! We shall never be destroyed! Cut off a limb and two more shall take its place! We serve none but the Master—as the world shall soon serve us! Hail Hydra!"

—The Hydra oath from Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965)

Before the evolution of mankind, a cabal of immortal hooded reptoids came to Earth, planning to start a legacy of evil.[4] Millions of years later, they corrupted an Asian secret society of geniuses known as the Brotherhood of the Spear, which resulted in that group being called "the Beast" by the Brotherhood of the Shield.[5] The corrupted Brotherhood of the Spear spread out, ingraining itself like a multi-headed serpent into all facets of human society, from science to magic to politics. As time wore on, the organization's name changed and it included the Cathari sect, as well as the Thule Society.[6] The Nazi sub-group, funded by the Thule Society, is brought into the main Hydra fold after the end of World War II.[7]

One of the Nazi members, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, quickly seized control of the Hydra organization and restructured it to be dedicated to world domination through terrorist and subversive activities on various fronts, resulting in a global neo-fascist New World Order. To this end, Baron von Strucker used his personal fortune, based on his recovered hoard of Nazi plunder from World War II, and funds established by the original leaders of the Japanese secret society that became part of the old Hydra.[7] However, after von Strucker's first death, Hydra broke into factions (such as A.I.M., the Secret Empire, THEM, etc.) that each adopted its own reorganized modus operandi.[7] Eventually, this fragmentation would lead to a Hydra civil war, even after von Strucker's resurrection.

According to the files discovered by Nick Fury, Hydra is split into four independent sectors:

  • International Corporations (Fronts created using a legitimate business to conceal illicit activities)
  • Government Assets (Individuals within the chain of command. Long-term resources that benefit from the minimal turnover inherent in bureaucracies)
  • Global Criminal Groups (Subsidiary organizations created for short-term goals. Also used to deflect unwanted interest from the global law enforcement community)
  • Intelligence Gathering (S.H.I.E.L.D. and all their underlying resources)[7] Hydra regards S.H.I.E.L.D. as their "most valuable proactive intelligence asset" while its government assets include the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the FBI, and the NSA, as well as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the GRU and SVR of Russia.[7]

Nick Fury theorized that his previous successes against Hydra were either feints to make him believe that he is making headway against the group or manipulation by Hydra to eliminate any possible competition or possible rogue sub-organizations.[8]

In the aftermath of the Secret Invasion and Baron von Strucker's second death, there followed a series of power struggles, which eventually left Hydra without a formal leader.[9] The splintering of Hydra accelerated, with various cells operating seemingly independently.[10][11][12] Eventually, the Red Skull, returning to his Nazi beliefs, started building a new Hydra from the ground up. However, this brought him into conflict with Baron Zemo, who is attempting to control what remains of the old Hydra.[13][14]

The Red Skull convinced his now-aware Cosmic Cube, Kobik, to cooperate with S.H.I.E.L.D. in creating Pleasant Hill and discovered that Kobik could alter people's memories to make them believe they had been members of the Hydra of which the Red Skull had told them stories.[15] However, the Red Skull failed to realize that the Hydra he is building and the Hydra Kobik had created false memories of were two different things, with the now-Hydra Captain America disobeying the Red Skull and planning something else.[14]


Hydra's level of technology is as highly advanced as that of any on Earth, based in part on technology of the alien Gnobians discovered by Baron von Strucker in 1944. Hydra uses various advanced experimental vehicles and devices in its activities, and various conventional military vehicles, seacraft, aircraft, pistols and standard concussive force blasters, and conventional communications equipment.

Hydra personnel are issued cowled jumpsuits, which have included a number of designs over the years. Originally, the jumpsuits were green with a yellow H design, and later incorporated a red and brown color scheme, but in time were changed back to green with a serpent motif.

Fictional organization history[edit]

Hydra's history as depicted in Marvel Universe continuity is a long, tumultuous and convoluted one, spanning millennia, and going back to the Third Dynasty of Egypt, with all references to the ancient group disappearing around the Renaissance.[7] The modern incarnation of Hydra originates when the Nazi spymaster known as the Red Skull took control of an Asian secret society, the Brotherhood of the Spear, merging it with a German occult organization, the Thule Society.

Some time before 1943, the Red Skull started creating a Hydra cell in Japan, merging several underground Japanese secret societies, including a faction of the Hand, with several fugitive members of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, to become the modern Hydra.[7] This incarnation of Hydra operated in Japan, directed by a Japanese militarist called the Supreme Hydra, and in Germany, under the control of the Red Skull and Arnim Zola. However, after joining Hydra, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker seized control of the organization and constructed the Hydra base Tsunami - called Hydra Island.[7] The original Hydra Island is invaded by the Leatherneck Raiders and the Japanese Samurai Squad, and the base is destroyed.[16] Strucker then slowly steered the organization towards the goal of world domination. That campaign brought him into conflict with Charles Xavier and the future Magneto, among others, and once Hydra became more brazenly public in its operations, eventually led to the creation of the original agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically to counter Hydra's threat to world security. After Hydra apparently assassinated S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first executive director, Col. Rick Stoner, Nick Fury is appointed as executive director. Hydra agents attempted to assassinate Nick Fury before his appointment as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s director, but failed.[17]

After several failed Hydra campaigns, including the failure of the world blackmail attempt using the Betatron Bomb, the creation of the Overkill Horn (designed to detonate all nuclear explosives worldwide), and the bio-engineered "Death-Spore" Bomb, which led directly to Strucker's first death at the hands of Fury, and several deceived Hydra operatives. In the wake of Strucker's first death, the surviving elements of Hydra broke into factions that each adopted its own reorganized modus operandi. Several of these factions developed "super-agents" that would occasionally break away in turn to become freelance operatives, or, in some rarer cases, superheroes such as the first Spider-Woman. During this era, Hydra's collective threat is mitigated by not only occasionally infighting among themselves, but their operating policy of punishing failure with death, often led to their killing of each other more often than their intended victims. Hydra frequently found itself defeated by S.H.I.E.L.D., various superheroes, and even apparently unpowered civilians, like the motorcycle racing team, Team America. Strucker is revived, and he reunites several of the Hydra factions under his leadership, renewing his campaign against S.H.I.E.L.D. and humanity for several more years.

Despite his reorganization of the group, various independent Hydra factions continued to operate around the Marvel Universe, and a Hydra Civil War would later result. While Baron Helmut Zemo had Strucker placed in stasis for his own ends, the Gorgon and Strucker's second wife, Elsbeth von Strucker, mystically created a clone of Strucker, whom they set up to fail, allowing for a public execution of him, after which, as part of an alliance with the Hand, they utilized an army of brainwashed superheroes and supervillains, including Northstar and Elektra, to launch a massive assault on S.H.I.E.L.D. The assault is repelled, and Wolverine will go on to kill the Gorgon.

Hydra later planned an all-out attack on the United States by smuggling missiles into New York for use in a planned bio-weapon assault on the Ogallala Aquifer. They formed a distraction through using a team that had the duplicated powers of several Avengers, (Iron Man and Captain America, and former Avengers Thor and Hawkeye), but were inevitably foiled by Spider-Man and the other New Avengers.

Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) is captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. during the events of Civil War, Hydra stormed the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and frees her. Spider-Woman, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and member of the Avengers, had been working undercover for Hydra under the orders of Nick Fury, now deposed as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. following the events of Secret War, to whom she is still loyal. Hydra revealed that they knew of her betrayal, and wanted her to replace the Viper as their current leader, as she is unstable. Spider-Woman refused their offer, destroying in an explosion the Hydra base to which she had been taken.

As Spider-Woman revealed her true identity as Queen Veranke of the Skrull Empire, Hydra is left with a void in its control organization, filled by Congressman Woodman. Under his rule, the young Hardball, empowered by the Power Broker, is appointed as a double agent, acting both as an Initiative recruit and as a Hydra spy, with the role of gathering information about the Initiative and doing errands for Hydra in exchange for secrecy and the expensive health care needed by his brother, a former UCWF wrestler, who is crippled in the ring.

Hardball, however, deeply hurt and shamed by the compromises Woodman forced him to endure and Komodo's attempt to bail him out of Hydra by telling his secrets to his field leader Gravity, mercilessly killed Congressman Woodman in front of his subordinates. His ersatz coup d'état paid off, and Hardball is appointed as the new Supreme Leader of the organization, severing every tie with his former life.[18] His joining Hydra, however, is revealed to be caused simply by his having nowhere else to go. He surrendered to the Shadow Initiative, and is sent to the Negative Zone prison, destroying his Hydra cell.[19]

After the events of "Secret Invasion", Nick Fury discovered that S.H.I.E.L.D. is under the control of Hydra, and apparently had been from the beginning. He also discovered a number of organizations under Hydra's alleged control, including the United States' FBI Science and Technology Branch, the NSA, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, along with the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate and Foreign Intelligence Service, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.[7]

Meanwhile, after having destroyed Hydra's undersea headquarters, Ichor, due to its having been infiltrated by the Skrull invasion force, Strucker rebuilt Hydra from the ground up, and after his discovery that Fury had learned the truth, reconvened the other main heads of Hydra: the Viper, Madame Hydra, Kraken, and the Hive, as well as resurrecting the Gorgon for the purpose of showing Hydra's "true self" to the world.[8]

Hydra (alongside A.I.M.) later appeared in an alliance with H.A.M.M.E.R.[20] Following the defeat of Norman Osborn, H.A.M.M.E.R. disbands, with Madame Hydra using the remaining members to reinforce Hydra.[21]

After the existence of Pleasant Hill, a top-secret community where Maria Hill incarcerated various supervillains (after brainwashing them to believe they were regular civilians via a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik), is exposed and subsequently shut down, the Red Skull's clone used the subsequent backlash in the intelligence community to assemble a new version of Hydra, starting with Sin and Crossbones.[22] Although his efforts were still focused on rebuilding the organization, he had already scored a significant victory, after the sentient Cosmic Cube, having been "raised" by the Red Skull in the form of a young girl, to see Hydra as a great organization, altered Steve Rogers' memories so that he believed he had been a Hydra sleeper agent since childhood.[15]

"Secret Empire" is about Hydra's goal, as the mind-altered Steve Rogers uses the Planetary Defense Shield, to entrap the Chitauri opposition, stranding them beyond the Shield. Baron Zemo would use the Darkhold to enhance Blackout's powers to entrap all of Manhattan within the Darkforce, following the fight between the superheroes there and Baron Zemo's Army of Evil.[23] Having taken political and military control of the United States, Hydra proceeds to round up and incarcerate all Inhumans, and all mutants are condemned to the western California territory of New Tian. Becoming the Hydra Supreme, Captain America forms Hydra's version of the Avengers, consisting of the Scarlet Witch who is possessed by Chthon, the Vision who is suffering from an A.I. Virus created by Arnim Zola, Odinson, the Taskmaster, Deadpool, Eric O'Grady's Life Model Decoy counterpart the Black Ant, and Doctor Octopus' form of the Superior Octopus. Throughout this period, Hydra encountered resistance from the Underground.[24] Sam Wilson, the original Falcon, and currently the All-New Captain America, brought hope to the resistance with a plan to bring their real Captain America back by using the remaining Cosmic Cube, under Scott Lang and the Winter Soldier's hand on the Hydra Supreme's Cosmic Cube-infused Hydra suit. As Hydra began to fall, most of Hydra's Avengers members, Odinson, the Taskmaster, and the Black Ant, began to betray Hydra, joining the resistance, while the Vision and the Scarlet Witch were freed from the villains' control.[25] Deadpool came to regret his betrayal of his friends, having killed Phil Coulson and Emily Preston and having lied to Emily's family, with Maria Hill having given him a painful lesson.[26] Kobik returned the real Captain America with his memories intact, and with the Hydra Supreme defeated, Hydra's reign over the United States came to an end, with major casualties being Rick Jones, Phil Coulson, and the Black Widow, who had been killed.[27] The Hydra Supreme is imprisoned in the Shadow Pillar as he is visited by Captain America to bring up the fact that he will stand trial for his crimes. After leaving, the Hydra Supreme is chained up as one of the guards whispered "Hail Hydra" into his ear.[28]

Due to the Hydra Supreme's imprisonment, Baron Zemo had to keep Hydra active. He planned to spring the Hydra Supreme from the Shadow Pillar, only to meet opposition from the Punisher in the War Machine Armor. After the attempted jailbreak is thwarted, the Hydra Supreme is apprehended, while Baron Zemo got away.[29]

During the "Spider-Geddon" storyline, Arnim Zola led a bio-duplicate of the Gorgon and some Hydra agents to the Superior Octopus' lair, where Arnim Zola tried to get the Superior Octopus to help rebuild Hydra. The Superior Octopus turned him down, stating that he had upheld his bargain to Hydra, as Arnim Zola claimed that one does not leave Hydra until their death. After defeating the Hydra Agents, the bio-duplicate of the Gorgon, and Arnim Zola, the Superior Octopus had Arnim Zola spread the word to Hydra to never come after him again.[30]

During the "Iron Man 2020" event, Pepper Potts infiltrates Hydra Base Omicron to look for Tony Stark's biological father Jude and get a DNA sample from him. She also meets a rookie Hydra agent named Robbie Fleckman. After a ride in the elevator, she follows a Hydra agent into a meeting with Dr. M. As Pepper gets a glimpse of Jude, Dr. M. unveils his Hydra-Bot. To demonstrate the Hydra-Bots abilities, Dr. M volunteers Robbie for the demonstration. Before he can demonstrate the cutting off of a part of Robbie's ear and the cauterizing, the Hydra-Bot goes berserk and cuts off half of Dr. M's left arm claiming that it has no need for a master. Pepper changes into Rescue as she reprimands Hydra for building a robot during the A.I. Army's activities. After rescuing Robbie, Rescue fights her way past smaller Hydra-Bots and has H.A.P.P.Y. scan the building for Jude. As Rescue confronts Jude and tries to explain why she's here, Robbie runs in stating that Hydra Base Omicron is locking down. When the Hydra-Bot attacks and grabs Jude, Robbie tries to save him by throwing a pocketknife only for a tiny part of Jude's right pinkie to accidentally get cut off. Rescue passes herself as a fellow robot to confuse the Hydra-Bot. As the Hydra-Bot starts to self-destruct, Rescue advises Robbie and Jude to flee as she claims the pinkie fragment. Upon fleeing the exploding Hydra base, Rescue contacts Bethany telling her that she's got Jude's DNA sample and to prep the lab for her arrival.[31]


Other versions[edit]

Amalgam Comics[edit]

An alternate version of Hydra has appeared in Amalgam Comics. They are very similar to the mainstream version of Hydra and wear the same green and yellow outfits, but with black eyes instead of red. They first appear in Super-Soldier #1 (April 1996) and are led by the Green Skull, alias Lex Luthor (a cross between Luthor and the Red Skull).


Another alternate version of Hydra appears throughout Exiles #91-94, where they are well underway with their plan to take over the world. This version is being led by Madame Hydra (Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman in the regular Marvel universe) and her lover, Wolverine. Various other superhumans, including Captain America (now Captain Hydra) and Slaymaster, are agents of Hydra in this world.[32]

Secret Wars (2015)[edit]

During the Secret Wars storyline, there were different versions of Hydra that resided on Battleworld:

  • One version of Hydra ruled the Battleworld domain of the Hydra Empire, which was based on the remnants of Earth-85826. The members of this Hydra consisted of Arnim Zola, Grant Ward, Dum Dum Dugan, Nick Fury Jr., and the Toad. In addition to female assassins possessed by Hydra's version of the symbiotes called Vipers, Hydra also had its own version of the Avengers, consisting of Captain Hydra (Leopold Zola), Chancellor Cassandra, Doctor Mindbubble, the Iron Baron (Baron Strucker), Lord Drain, and Venom.[33]
  • Another version of Hydra resided in the Battleworld domain called the Walled City of New York, which is based on the remnants of Earth-21722. The members of this Hydra were Arnim Zola, Baron Strucker, Baron Heinrich Zemo, Hank Johnson, MODOK, the Red Skull, and the Viper. Hydra controlled one section of the Walled City of New York in opposition to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s section.[34]

Ultimate Marvel[edit]

The Ultimate Marvel version of Hydra appears as an "anti-government" organization (though their political philosophy is left deliberately vague). Following the events of the Ultimatum storyline. J. Jonah Jameson recalled the time when the original Spider-Man stopped from an attack by Hydra led by the Viper.[35] Modi (Thor's son) is later seen in allegiance and acquiring weapons from Project Pegasus, including Modi using the Mind Gem on Director Flumm (to attempt to kill the U.S. President), and Giant-Woman attacking the second Spider-Man (until stopped by his "venom-strike").[36] They are defeated by both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates, although some members escaped.[37] Hydra's collateral damage resulted in the deaths of Jake Miller's family.[38] The Death's Head Camp is led by the Commander Crimson to which Nick Fury masqueraded as Scorpio and infiltrated Hydra and came across Hydra soldier Abigail Brand.[39] After the demises of Commander Crimson and the Death's Head Camp, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Monica Chang grants allows the Howling Commandos to stop Hydra's remnants.[40]

In other media[edit]


  • Hydra's forces appear in The Incredible Hulk animated series episode "Enter: She-Hulk", fighting the Hulk and She-Hulk.
  • Hydra appears in the X-Men: Evolution animated series episodes "X-23" and "Target X". This iteration of the organization created X-23 from Wolverine's DNA. Viper appears to be the Supreme Hydra while Omega Red and Gauntlet are depicted as mercenaries working for Hydra.
  • Hydra appears as a recurring foe in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series. First appearing in the episode "Meet Captain America", Hydra is a branch of Nazi Germany under Baron Heinrich Zemo, with Red Skull as the group's super soldier and Baron Strucker working under him.[41] In the present, Baron Strucker took over as leader, with Grim Reaper and Viper serving under him while Baron Zemo and Arnim Zola have distanced themselves from Hydra.
  • Hydra makes several appearances in the Avengers Assemble animated series.
  • Hydra appears in live-action media set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Hydra is prominently featured in series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The organization is introduced in the season one episode "Turn, Turn, Turn" as part of a tie-in with the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Besides Dr. List, as well as a younger Jasper Sitwell and Baron von Strucker being shown in a flashback, its featured members are John Garrett (portrayed by Bill Paxton), double-agent Grant Ward (portrayed by Brett Dalton), Daniel Whitehall (portrayed by Reed Diamond), Sunil Bakshi (portrayed by Simon Kassianides), Werner von Strucker (portrayed by Spencer Treat Clark), Gideon Malick (portrayed by Powers Boothe), Gideon's father Wilfred (portrayed by Darren Barnet and Neal Bledsoe), General Hale (portrayed by Catherine Dent), and General Hale's genetically-engineered daughter Ruby (portrayed by Dove Cameron). In the first season, Garrett is the mastermind behind Project Centipede, a subset of the S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrator faction, but was killed by Phil Coulson in the season one finale after being betrayed by his bodyguard Deathlok. Introduced in season two, Whitehall and Bakshi's faction sought to find a lost city associated with an Inhuman Diviner while using Hydra Industries as a front. Introduced in season three, Ward's short-lived faction, which included Werner, attempts to unite Hydra while planning revenge on Coulson's group. Gideon's faction, the original Hydra movement, is a fanatical cult that worships an ancient, powerful Inhuman entity called Hive. Introduced in season five, General Hale's faction wanted S.H.I.E.L.D. to unite with them and the Confederacy due to Thanos' impending attack. Introduced in season seven, Wilfred starts out as a lowly doorman in the 1930s and is initially unaware of his connection to Hydra until he is tasked with delivering what would become the Red Skull's super-soldier serum to them before going on to become a high-ranking agent of Hydra, and ostensibly S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Hydra appears in a flashback in the WandaVision episode "Previously On". While experimenting on Wanda Maximoff and the Mind Stone, they observe the two coming into contact.
  • Hydra appears in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. Known members are Arnim Zola, Crossbones, Baron Mordo, and Dr. Michael Morbius. Hydra plays a major role in the fourth season, backing Doctor Octopus's formation of a new iteration of the Sinister Six. They also create the Carnage symbiote and the Spider-Slayers.[42]
  • Hydra appears as recurring antagonists in the Marvel Future Avengers anime series, with Red Skull as a known member. This iteration works in collaboration with Kang the Conqueror's Masters of Evil and have kidnapped and genetically manipulated several children to turn them into loyal super-soldiers who believe the Avengers are villains. Three of the children, Makoto, Adi, and Chloe however discover the truth and defect to the Avengers, while a fourth named Bruno is recruited by the Masters of Evil.
  • Hydra appears in the Spider-Man animated series episode "Spider-Island" Pt. 2, Arnim Zola hires Crossbones to steal a large quantity of Vibranium for one of his schemes, but they are thwarted by Spider-Man and Black Widow who retrieve the Vibranium and defeat Crossbones while Zola and several Hydra operatives escape.[43]


Video games[edit]

Live performance[edit]

Hydra agents appear in the Marvel Universe: LIVE! stage show.[51]

See also[edit]

  • SS-Totenkopfverbände – A real-life organization in Nazi Germany responsible for running the concentration camps and death camps. This group also used a skull in its insignia.


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  36. ^ Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #16
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External links[edit]