The Red Guardian 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; since the fall of the Soviet Union, the name is no longer officially used, though at least two people have claimed the name.
Fictional character biography
Many people have taken up the mantle of Red Guardian:
Aleksey Lebedev, the Golden Age version of the Red Guardian, first appeared in Namor, The Sub-Mariner Annual #1. 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. He began his career during World War II and met the All-Winners Squad (formerly the Invaders) on only one recorded occasion, shortly after the war's end. Like the other crusaders of the same name, he was created as a Soviet counterpart to Captain America. He was later apparently killed during the purges of the 1950s, opposing the brutal experiments that would later create his successor.
The second Red Guardian
|First appearance||The Avengers #43 (Aug 1967)|
Roy Thomas (writer)|
John Buscema (artist)
|Alter ego||Alexei Shostakov|
Highly skilled athlete|
Master hand to hand combatant
Use of "belt-buckle" disc
Fictional character biography
Alexei Alanovich Shostakov was born in Moscow, and was the husband of Natasha Romanova. Both he and his wife became agents of the Soviets: she became the Black Widow while he became a test pilot and KGB agent and then trained as a Soviet counterpart to Captain America as the "Red Guardian".
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 Force 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 Natalie (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 Alexi 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 her 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. When the Black Widow noticed "something familiar" about him, he revealed his identity to her. 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 the laser blast caused the eruption of a long-dormant volcano.
Some time later, a Life Model Decoy was patterned after Shostakov. It was destroyed in its first battle with the Black Widow.
Shostakov was much later revealed to be alive and had risen very high up in power within Bulgaria as Ronin. He became responsible for a plot to capture his former wife, the Black Widow, and try her for her crimes as a Soviet super soldier. Natasha foiled his plan with the help of Daredevil and the Avengers.
Dr. Tania Belinsky
Dr. Tania Belinsky, a neurosurgeon from the USSR, later adopted the costumed identity of the Red Guardian and joined the Defenders. Created by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema, she first appeared in Defenders #35 (May 1976).
Petkus leads the Soviet Super Soldiers.
|First appearance||Captain America #352-353 (April–May 1989)|
|Alter ego||Josef Petkus|
|Notable aliases||Steel Guardian|
Highly skilled athlete|
Carries a steel shield
The character subsequently appears in Avengers #319-324 (July–October 1990), Incredible Hulk #393 (May 1992), and Soviet Super-Soldiers #1 (November 1992). The character subsequently appears as the Steel Guardian in Iron Man #9 (October 1998).
Red Guardian appeared as part of the "Supreme Soviets" entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update '89 #7.
Fictional character biography
The fourth Red Guardian, 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. The Supreme Soviets later became known as the People's Protectorate. Alongside the People's Protectorate, he teamed with the Avengers and Alpha Flight to battle the Peace Corpse, the Atlantean Army, and the Combine. Petkus later joined post-Soviet Russian super-team the Winter Guard, now calling himself the "Steel Guardian". While fighting off Dire Wraiths, he is killed in the line of duty.
A fifth Red Guardian, Krassno Granitsky, appeared in Maverick #10. He teamed up with the mercenary superhero Maverick to battle a crime lord.
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. He also appeared in the first issue of Ed Brubaker's Captain America, where he was executed by Aleksander Lukin.
The sixth Red Guardian, Anton, made his first appearance in the first issue of Jeph Loeb's Hulk series as a member of the Winter Guard. Anton claims to be an engineer and a former Crimson Dynamo pilot, and was later revealed to be (at least partially) a Life Model Decoy. He was decapitated by a Dire Wraith, although his head was kept in storage, seemingly still alive.
Nicolai Krylenko, also known as Vanguard, is the seventh Red Guardian, and leads the Winter Guard.
Powers and abilities
None of the Red Guardians have been revealed to possess superhuman powers or abilities, with the exception of Tania Belinsky after her mutation by the Presence, the Ultimate version, the seventh Red Guardian, and Krylenko. All are highly skilled athletes. Shostakov was an expert pilot and a master hand-to-hand combatant. 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 powers and abilities of the seventh Red Guardian have not yet been fully revealed, though he is an expert engineer, former Crimson Dynamo pilot, and has some degree of enhanced cybernetic strength. Krylenko's powers remain the same as with his identity as Vanguard.
In one of the Exiles realities, a Red Guardian in full body armor on Earth-3470 appears.
Civil War: House of M
A Red Guardian is seen as one of the many zombies roaming New York looking for victims.
In the mini-series Ultimate Nightmare, the Ultimate Marvel version of the character is a Russian super soldier codenamed "Captain Russia" meant to be the Russian version of Ultimate Captain America. After a fight between the two, Captain America defeats him, by stabbing him with splintered wood that acts as a stake through the chest, declaring "Fighting is about winning". This version is certifiably insane and uses a makeshift shield created partially from human remains, and possesses superhuman strength and durability.
Colonel Abdul al-Rahman from Iranian Azerbaijan (leader of Liberators) was based on the Red Guardian as the character was a parallel to Captain America, and wears a predominantly red costume and was transformed into a super-soldier by Russian scientists. He faces off against Steve Rogers in front of the White House, one on one but is defeated when the Hulk throws his shield to sever his hands and Rogers kills him with his weapon, resembling a double bladed lightsaber. His body is later taken into S.H.I.E.L.D.
According to Ultimate Black Widow's biography in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, she was once married to Alexi Shostakov, who is now deceased.
In other media
- A version of Red Guardian appears in the Avengers Assemble episode "Secret Avengers" voiced by Troy Baker in a Russian accent. He appears as a member of the Winter Guard. A misunderstanding between Captain America's group and the Winter Guard over a power source (which turned out to be the Russian Radioactive Man) incited a fight between them, Red Guardian and the Winter Guard ended up working with Captain America's group when the destabilizing Russian facility they were in was about to endanger a nearby village. Afterwards, Red Guardian is the one who explained to Captain America's group that the Winter Guard are Russia's superhero team and that they work for Central Command (which is the Russian counterpart of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
- In The Punisher video game, Black Widow mentions to Punisher that she'll take the "Red Guardian" (a stolen Russian freighter) while he takes the "Igor Baltivsky". The connection (if any) to any of the previous Red Guardians is unconfirmed.
- "Red Guardian (Russian, World War II, Captain America ally)". Marvunapp.com. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update 2010#4
- Avengers #43-44
- Daredevil, vol. 2, #64
- Captain America #352-353
- Avengers #319-324
- Iron Man vol. 3, #9
- Darkstar and the Winter Guard #2
- She-Hulk Vol 2. #35
- Hulk vol. 2, #1 (Jan. 2008)
- Hulk: Winter Guard 1 (December 2009), Marvel Comics
- Darkstar and the Winter Guard #2-3
- Exiles #84
- Civil War: House of M #2
- Ultimate Nightmere #1-4
- Ultimates 2 #1-13
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #1-2
- Bullet Points #5
- "Secret Avengers". Avengers Assemble. Season 2. Episode 17. May 10, 2015. Disney XD.
- Red Guardian (Alexei Shostakov) at Marvel.com
- Red Guardian at the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe