Russian test pilot Alexei Shostakov joins the KGB as one of their intelligence agents. A patriot to his country through and through, he becomes the Red Guardian, Russia’s take on the United States’ Captain America.
From Pilot to KGB Spy
Russian test pilot Alexei Shostakov heroism catches the attention of the KGB. They arrange for Shostakov to wed Natasha Romanoff, a top agent of the secret Red Room Academy later known as the Black Widow. Intending to manipulate Natasha, years after the couple’s marriage the KGB arranges for a rocket Shostakov was supposedly piloting to explode, seemingly killing him. Shostakov’s “death” drives Natasha deeper into the Red Room’s service, but in reality, Shostakov remained alive and recruited into the KGB.
He was given the identity of the Red Guardian, a costumed heroic guise first assigned to Aleksey Lebedev, AKA Volodymyr Fomin, during World War II by Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, but the costume had since become property of the Red Room. Through the Red Guardian, the Russians hoped to hone a national hero to represent them just as Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, represented the United States of America. During Shostakov’s training, the Black Widow turned against her superiors and defected to the USA, becoming romantically involved with Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, of the Avengers.
Expert Pilot & Combatant
Shostakov is an accomplished pilot. As the Red Guardian, he goes through extensive training in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. He wears a costume lined with unidentified materials and a metal disc on his belt that can be thrown at opponents and returned to him via magnetic devices inside the disc and belt.
Internal and External Enemies
Alexei spends years in an arranged marriage with fellow KGB agent and super-spy Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, who defected. After Alexei’s death is faked by the KGB, he becomes the Red Guardian and goes up against Black Widow and her Avenger allies. But when his KGB ally and China’s Colonel Wai Ling shoots at her, he stands in the way and takes the bullet. He also stopped Ling from shooting Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, in the back. He eventually agrees to be friends with Natasha.
Who to Trust
Shostakov trusts his orders on high from the KGB but occasionally will go against them if it involves his wife Natasha, despite her defection.
I Spy With My Little Eye
Shostakov’s superior General Yuri Brushov assigned him to an installation atop a dormant volcano in China to assist in developing the Psychotron, a hallucination-inducing device made by China’s Colonel Wai Ling. Word of the Psychotron reached the intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., which sent the Black Widow to investigate. Ling and Brushov’s men captured the Black Widow, who was soon followed by Hawkeye and Heracles, AKA Hercules; the Red Guardian bested Hawkeye in hand-to-hand combat, then disabled Hercules using the Psychotron. Shostakov unmasked before the Black Widow, revealing his identity; however, a team of Avengers led by Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, came to rescue their comrades, engaging Brushov and Ling’s forces. Shostakov was eager to battle Captain America, but Ling cut the skirmish short by electrifying the grid Rogers was standing on, knocking him unconscious. When the Black Widow tried to destroy the Psychotron, Ling attempted to kill her. The Red Guardian defended his wife and put himself between her and Ling, only for Ling to shoot him instead. The Black Widow wrecked the Psychotron, setting off a chain reaction that destroyed the facility and awakened the dormant volcano beneath; as the Avengers escaped, Ling tried to shoot Captain America from behind, but Shostakov fell upon Ling and stopped him as the base was destroyed.
Shostakov narrowly survived, a fact the Russian authorities once again concealed. He retired the Red Guardian identity, which was subsequently adopted by various other heroes. Taking a new identity, Shostakov became an influential adviser to the Bulgarian government. At one point, ex-KGB agents created an android replica of Shostakov and tricked the Black Widow into serving them with the promise of a reunion with her husband. The Widow captured S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Life Model Decoy (LMD) technology for the spies, which they used to improve their Shostakov android and pit against the Widow, but the Black Widow destroyed the mockery of her spouse.
During the years he was thought dead, Shostakov was seemingly among the Legion of the Unliving gathered by En Dwi Gast, AKA Grandmaster, and Eric Williams, AKA Grim Reaper; his presence in these groups is unexplained, but was presumably a deception.
After Bulgarian authorities took Ophelia Sarkissian, AKA Viper, into custody, the United States government tried to secure her release; Shostakov had Bulgaria demand the Black Widow in exchange, but the operation to capture the Widow failed and the authorities involved on both sides of the arrangement were exposed by S.H.I.E.L.D. The Black Widow led a joint team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Avengers into Bulgaria and arrested Shostakov, whose survival was no longer a secret. After his release from custody, Shostakov met with Natasha and the two agreed to be friends.
Having dropped the Red Guardian guise, Alexei adopted the moniker Ronin and became an assassin for the Dark Ocean Society. He recruited several comrades starting with a young girl possessing illusion abilities to be the new Fantasma and others with similar power sets and armor to the Supreme Soviet members Crimson Dynamo, Perun, and Vostok.
Though he returned to his Red Guardian moniker and suit, and joined a released Viper and other villains to attempt a worldwide power grab. To do so successfully, they’d have to recondition the one person that could stop them: Black Widow. Their reconditioning was a success. When Shostakov observed the new Natasha, placated as a mother and housewife with a normal job, he was shocked and questioned what they had done to her. When Black Widow returned to her normal assassin self, she attacked the group with Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, and Yelena Belova at her back. Shostakov protected her from Viper’s attack, and claimed he was only with the group to protect her. She allowed him to leave the premises though he was jailed by S.H.I.E.L.D., despite them no longer existing.
While jailed at a former S.H.I.E.L.D. Black Ops site in the Antarctic, he was found by Yelena Belova, now going by the White Widow alias, and became convinced to infiltrate Russia to find data on Operation Snowblind. Breaking their way out of the facility, with Shostakov using his martial arts skills and his favorite toy, his boomerang, they escaped. He then stole state files by sabotaging the Crimson Dynamo armor. Meanwhile, Winter Guard, Russia’s premier agents, received a tip that the Operation Snowblind data drive was with Dracula, a political refugee under the state’s protection, but Shostakov got to it first. Shostakov soon turned on Yelena and went head-to-head with Winter Guard. In the process the data drive was destroyed, and Shostakov fled to Madripoor.