VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
So you've seen the new Black Widow trailer and you're curious as to who this Red Guardian guy is? Don't worry we've got you covered! For this video we'll be looking at the Comic Book origins of the newest MCU character Red Guardian AKA Alexei Shostakov.
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Who needs a shield when you have the power of Mother Russia on your side? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be exploring the comic book origins of Alexei Alanovich Shostakov, better known to the world and comic-fans alike as the Red Guardian.
While not the first to bear the title, Shostakov’s run as the crimson-clad soldier in service to the Soviet Union is arguably the most significant, not only due to the character's endurance and legacy over the years, but also because of the tangled relationship and bitter history he shares with Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow.
First appearing in Avengers #43 back in 1967, the Red Guardian made his debut as an enemy to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, his attire and skillset made to stand out as a Soviet counterpart to that of Captain America, only without a shield and way more communism. While you might think of him as a gimmick character at first glance, it’s who was under the mask that proved to be the real kicker – Black Widow’s late husband.
That’s right, Natasha and Shostakov were once an item; successful and happy when they were kicking it back in Russia…until the KGB got involved. Turns out, the powers that be wanted to make good use of the pairs’ talents as a ballerina and fighter pilot - by turning them into weapons of war. In order to do so, they faked Shostakov’s death and trained him in secret. While in time this would bring him to the peak of human strength and combat ability, the fallout from his departure was devastating for his “widow”, who in her grief saw no other choice but to become yet another edition to the Red Room, and in doing so became the master assassin we all know and love.
The pair wouldn’t meet again until after Natasha’s defection to the west, with her former hubby now something of a violent poster boy that only lived to spread the glory of his country. This messy divorce would eventually lead to a brutal exchange between the two alongside the other Avengers, before Shostakov would ultimately meet his end while protecting the love of his life in a last-second moment of redemption against the equally radical Colonel Ling.
While this would put the kibosh on his time as the Red Guardian in the comics (later to be replaced by the likes of Tania Belinsky, Josef Petkus and numerous other crusaders for the USSR) Shostakov has still found ways to appear throughout the years, more often than not as a deadly thorn in the side for his ex-wife. A key example being 2010’s Widow Maker, where an android version of the Soviet spy was revealed, now adorning the moniker of Ronin; a sword-wielding slayer that was previously used by Natasha’s on again, off again love interest Hawkeye.
As wacko as that would be to see on screen, the upcoming Black Widow movie appears to be taking Shostakov’s back to his roots, the trailer seemingly portraying him as a disgruntled and disgraced embodiment of the past, poking holes at just how much of a parody he used to be. Of course, with the likes of the exceptional David Harbour at the helm, we’re already getting hints of what promises to be a larger than life personality and something of a sympathetic character disposition. Let’s just hope his time as Russia’s scarlet killing machine doesn’t do him as much of a disservice as Hellboy.