Red Guardian

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Red Guardian
Avengers-43.jpg
Cover to The Avengers #43 (1967) featuring Alexei Shostakov as Red Guardian
Art by John Buscema and George Roussos
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceThe Avengers #43 (Aug. 1967)
Created byRoy Thomas
John Buscema
In-story information
Alter egoAlexei Shostakov | Алексей Шостаков
Team affiliationsWinter Guard
Soviet Super-Soldiers
KGB
Notable aliasesRonin
AbilitiesHighly skilled athlete
Master hand to hand combatant
Expert pilot
Use of "belt-buckle" disc

Red Guardian (Russian: Красный страж, Krasnyy Strazh) is the name of several fictional superheroes appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The Red Guardian is an identity that was created as the Soviet equivalent of Captain America, although its use has continued after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Aleksei Shostakov incarnation of Red Guardian has made scattered appearances in animated media and video games, with David Harbour portraying him in the 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Widow.[1]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Aleksey Lebedev[edit]

Aleksey Lebedev (Russian: Алексей Лебедев), the Golden Age version of Red Guardian, first appeared in Namor, The Sub-Mariner Annual #1 (June 1991), created by writers Dana Moreshead and Mike Thomas, and artist Phil Hester. Very little is known of him, but he fought alongside Captain America (William Naslund) and the Sub-Mariner at the Potsdam Conference, in July 1945.[2] He began his career during World War II, and met the All-Winners Squad (formerly the Invaders) on only one recorded occasion, clashing with them shortly after the war's end where he taunted Captain America (secretly the Patriot) that he was 'slowing down' after he was able to catch Captain America's shield.[3] Like the other crusaders of the same name, he was created as a Soviet counterpart to Captain America.[volume & issue needed] He was later apparently killed during the purges of the 1950s, opposing the brutal experiments that would later create his successor.[4]

Alexei Shostakov[edit]

Alexei Andreevich Shostakov was the first version of Red Guardian, and was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, first appearing in Avengers #43 (Jan. 1967).

Alexei Shostakov was born in Moscow, and was the husband of Natasha Romanova. Both he and his wife were agents of the Soviets: the latter as the Black Widow while the former became a test pilot and KGB agent and then trained as a Soviet counterpart to Captain America known as the "Red Guardian".[volume & issue needed]

Alexei Shostakov was one of the Soviet Union's most acclaimed pilots. During World War II on the Eastern Front, he shot down a large number of Luftwaffe fighter planes in aerial battles and was credited for helping the Soviet Air Forces win air supremacy over the skies of Stalingrad and Kursk. Because of his extraordinary skill, Shostakov was chosen for the most secret and dangerous tests and new aircraft for the Soviet Union. This included being the first pilot to test fly the MiG-15. The Soviet state controlled news media greatly publicized this and certain other missions of his such as his aerial battles against the U.S. Air Force over MiG Alley during the Korean War. As a result, Shostakov was decorated as a hero of the Soviet Union. Shostakov was also successful in his private life, having married the equally famous ballerina Natalia (familiarly known as Natasha) Romanova.

As the Cold War flared up in the 1950s, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev realized that the Soviet Union needed its own equivalent to Captain America. Khrushchev chose Alexei Shostakov over Yuri Gagarin who would later become the first man in space. The KGB faked his death and trained him in secret, keeping his survival a secret from Natasha. He became a master of hand-to-hand combat and a highly skilled athlete. In addition, he carried a throwing disc on his belt which could be used against an opponent. Magnetic force returned the disc after throwing. The disc had the yellow hammer and sickle symbol on it and his costume was red with a star on his chest to symbolise the Soviet flag. While the Black Widow became disillusioned with KGB masters and defected to the United States, the Red Guardian remained loyal and became more ruthless and vindictive. The Red Guardian battled the Avengers with his Chinese ally Colonel Ling, to protect a Communist Chinese secret weapon located at a secret military base at an unrevealed location in the People's Republic of China, encountering the Black Widow and Captain America (Steve Rogers). When the Black Widow noticed "something familiar" about him, Red Guardian revealed his identity. He was shot and mortally wounded minutes later by Colonel Ling while saving the lives of the Black Widow and Captain America. He was buried under molten lava when a laser blast caused the eruption of a long-dormant volcano.[5]

Some time later, a Life Model Decoy patterned after the character was introduced in the "Widow Maker" crossover between the Hawkeye & Mockingbird and Black Widow titles as Ronin.[6] The LMD initially started assassinating spies and eventually targeted Mockingbird and the Black Widow. After he was seemingly destroyed in his first battle with the Black Widow,[7] the LMD was later revealed to be alive and had risen very high up in power within Bulgaria as Ronin. The LMD was responsible for a plot to capture and try his "former wife" for crimes as a Soviet super soldier, but his plan was foiled with the help of Daredevil and the Avengers.[8]

Dr. Tania Belinsky[edit]

Dr. Tania Belinsky, a neurosurgeon from the USSR, later adopted the Red Guardian identity and joined the Defenders. Created by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema, she first appeared in The Defenders #35 (May 1976).

Josef Petkus[edit]

Josef Petkus is the fourth version of Red Guardian, first appearing in Captain America #352 (April 1989), and was created by writer Mark Gruenwald and artist Kieron Dwyer. The character subsequently appears in The Avengers #319-324 (July–Oct. 1990), The Incredible Hulk vol. 2 #393 (May 1992), and Soviet Super-Soldiers #1 (Nov. 1992). The character subsequently appears as the Steel Guardian in Iron Man #9 (Oct. 1998). Petkus appeared as part of the "Supreme Soviets" entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update '89 #7.

Josef Petkus was a special operative for the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union, and appeared as a member of the militant Supreme Soviets. Alongside the Supreme Soviets, he attacked the Soviet Super-Soldiers for defecting from the Soviet Union. Alongside Captain America, he later battled a bear-like creature composed of the Darkforce.[9] The Supreme Soviets were later renamed the post-Soviet Russian super-team called the Winter Guard. Alongside this confederacy, he teamed with the Avengers and Alpha Flight to battle the Peace Corpse, the Atlantean Army, and the Combine.[10] Petkus later joined a Winter Guard splinter group called the People's Protectorate, now calling himself the "Steel Guardian".[11] He and his team went off in search of the timelord Immortus, hoping to find a way to resurrect Vanguard's sister Lanyia. They agreed to fight off Dire Wraiths invading Immortus' realm in exchange for this favor; Josef being killed while in the line of duty.[12]

Krassno Granitsky[edit]

Krassno Granitsky, a fifth version of Red Guardian, appeared in Maverick #10 (June 1998), and was created by writer Jorge Gonzales and artist Leo Fernandez. The name "Krassno Granitsky" comes from the James Bond novel From Russia With Love; it is the Russianized name of the assassin Donovan "Red" Grant.[citation needed] He teamed up with the mercenary superhero Maverick to battle a crime lord. He also appeared in the first issue of Ed Brubaker's Captain America, where he was executed by Aleksander Lukin.[13]

Anton[edit]

Anton, the sixth version of Red Guardian,[14] made his first appearance in the first issue of Jeph Loeb's Hulk series as a member of the Winter Guard.[15] Anton claims to be an engineer and a former pilot of the Crimson Dynamo armor, and was later revealed to be (at least partially) a Life Model Decoy.[16] He was decapitated by a Dire Wraith, although his head was kept in storage, seemingly still alive.[17]

Nikolai Krylenko[edit]

Nikolai Krylenko (also known as Vanguard) is the seventh version of Red Guardian, and leads the Winter Guard.[17]

Powers and abilities[edit]

None of the Red Guardian's various identity users have been revealed to possess superhuman powers or abilities, with the exception of Tania Belinsky after her mutation by the Presence, the Ultimate version, and Krylenko, the seventh Red Guardian. All are highly skilled athletes. Shostakov was an expert pilot, a master hand-to-hand combatant, and was trained in espionage techniques by the KGB.[18] All of the Guardians but Alexei and Tania have used a steel shield similar to that used by Captain America. Alexei and Tania used a "belt-buckle" disc, a hurling weapon which magnetically returned to the wearer's hand when thrown, and was a part of their costume's belt buckle. The fourth Red Guardian, Josef Petkus, often employed an energized sword as a secondary weapon alongside his shield.[19] The sixth Red Guardian was an LMD named Anton, whose powers are cybernetic based. His falsified backstory was that he was an expert engineer and former Crimson Dynamo pilot; his real strength lies in his moderate degree of enhanced cybernetic physicality. The latest Red Guardian is Nikolai Krylenko/Vanguard, brother to Laynia Petrovna, whose powers are derived from his mutation.[20] which stems to a fullbody force field that repels electromagnetic and kinetic energy, forces he can best guide and direct through a medium like the technically advanced vibranium shield supplied to him by the Executive Security Committee.[21] or through a crux like the former symbol of his home country, a hammer and sickle.[22] He also directs this force against the earth itself to obtain flight. Nikolai wears a more advanced suit than previous Red Guardians, which is lined with circuitry that works in conjunction with the compact computer on his shield, not only enabling the guided flight and return through their digital connection, but the amplification of the effects of his own energy field.[23]

Other versions[edit]

Exiles/Earth-3470[edit]

In one of the Exiles realities, a Red Guardian in full body armor on Earth-3470 appears.[24]

Civil War: House of M[edit]

Red Guardian was seen as a member of the Soviet Super Soldiers.[25]

Ultimate Marvel[edit]

The Ultimate Marvel version of Alexei Shostakov is a Russian super soldier codenamed "Captain Russia". Meant to be the Russian version of Captain America, this version is certifiably insane and uses a makeshift shield created partially from human remains, and possesses superhuman strength and durability. A fight between the two results in Captain America defeating him, by stabbing him with splintered wood that acts as a stake through the chest, declaring "Fighting is about winning."[26] Shostakov was once married to Black Widow and is now deceased.[27]

Further reading

Colonel Abdul al-Rahman from Azerbaijan (leader of the Liberators) was based on the Red Guardian. As the character was a parallel to Captain America, he wears a predominantly red costume and was transformed into a super-soldier by Russian scientists as well as uses a weapon which resembles a double bladed lightsaber. He faces off against Steve Rogers in front of the White House, one on one but is defeated when the Hulk throws the shield to sever his hands and Rogers kills him with his own weapon. His body is later taken into S.H.I.E.L.D.[28]

Bullet Points[edit]

In the Bullet Points reality, Alexei Shostakov was shown as many of the heroes stopping Galactus.[29]

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

Film[edit]

David Harbour promoting Black Widow at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

The Alexei Shostakov incarnation of Red Guardian appears in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Widow (2021), portrayed by David Harbour.[33] This version is the Russian super-soldier counterpart to Captain America and a father-figure to Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova.[34][35] Harbour said Shostakov has "tons of cracks all over him. And he's not the heroic, noble man that [people] want him to be. He both comically and tragically has a lot of flaws".[36] For Harbour's portrayal, he and director Cate Shortland discussed Ricky Gervais' performance in The Office and Philip Seymour Hoffman's in The Savages (2007), "comedy that comes out of real domestic need".[37] Years prior, Shostakov allied himself with General Dreykov of the Red Room, who sent him on a mission to the United States alongside Melina Vostokoff, Romanoff, and Belova. After concluding the mission however, Dreykov had Shostakov incarcerated in the Seventh Circle Prison. In the present, Romanoff and Belova free Shostakov to help them and Vostokoff destroy the Red Room.

Video games[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Everything We Know About BLACK WIDOW". Nerdist. Retrieved 2019-07-21.
  2. ^ "Red Guardian (Russian, World War II, Captain America ally)". Marvunapp.com. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  3. ^ Captain America: Patriot #2
  4. ^ The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update 2010 #4
  5. ^ The Avengers #43-44
  6. ^ Widowmaker #1 (Feb. 2011)
  7. ^ Marvel Graphic Novel #61
  8. ^ Daredevil vol. 2 #64
  9. ^ Captain America #352-353
  10. ^ The Avengers #319-324
  11. ^ Iron Man vol. 3 #9
  12. ^ Darkstar and the Winter Guard #2
  13. ^ Captain America vol. 5 #1
  14. ^ She-Hulk vol 2. #35
  15. ^ Hulk vol. 2 #1 (Jan. 2008)
  16. ^ Hulk: Winter Guard #1 (Dec. 2009), Marvel Comics
  17. ^ a b Darkstar and the Winter Guard #2-3
  18. ^ Marvel Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded.
  19. ^ The Incredible Hulk #393 (May 1, 1992)
  20. ^ Soviet Super Soldiers #1 (Nov. 1992)
  21. ^ Darkstar and the Winter Guard #2–3 2010
  22. ^ Iron Man #109-112 (1978)
  23. ^ Age of Heroes #3 (Jul 21 2010)
  24. ^ Exiles #84
  25. ^ Civil War: House of M #2
  26. ^ Ultimate Nightmere #1-4
  27. ^ The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #1-2
  28. ^ The Ultimates 2 #1-13
  29. ^ Bullet Points #5
  30. ^ "Voice Of Red Guardian - Marvel Universe". Behind The Voice Actors. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved August 24, 2019. Check mark indicates role has been confirmed using screenshots of closing credits and other reliable sources{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  31. ^ "Secret Avengers". Avengers Assemble. Season 2. Episode 17. May 10, 2015. Disney XD.
  32. ^ "Behind The Voice Actors – Marvel Future Avengers". Behind The Voice Actors.
  33. ^ Hayes, Jackson (July 21, 2019). "Red Guardian: David Harbour's Black Widow movie role, Explained". CBR. Archived from the original on July 22, 2019. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  34. ^ Coggan, Devan (July 20, 2019). "Black Widow hits Comic-Con with first details of Scarlett Johansson film". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  35. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 3, 2019). "David Harbour Set For Disney/Marvel 'Black Widow' Standalone". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  36. ^ Gonzales, Umberto; Mass, Jennifer (January 12, 2020). "David Harbour Says Red Guardian in 'Black Widow' 'Was the Captain America of His Day for Russia'". TheWrap. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  37. ^ O'Hara, Helen. "Against the Odds". Empire. No. May 2020. United Kingdom: Bauer Media Group. pp. 58–65.
  38. ^ "Tier List for Marvel Future Fight".
  39. ^ New Character - Red Guardian (Alexei Shostakov)
  40. ^ "Marvel Strike Force: Winter Storm Warning".

External links[edit]