Alexei Shostakov was one of the Soviet Union's most acclaimed test pilots whose heroism caught the attention of the KGB. They arranged 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 arranged for a rocket Shostakov was supposedly piloting to exploded, giving the appearance of his apparent death.
Shostakov’s “death” drove Natasha deeper into the Red Room’s service, although, in reality Shostakov, was 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 become the property of the Red Room. Through the Red Guardian, the Russians hoped to hone a national hero to represent them just as Captain America (Steve Rogers) represented the USA. During Shostakov’s training the Black Widow, who was again using her maiden name turned against her superiors, and defected to the USA, becoming romantically involved with Hawkeye (Clint Barton) of the Avengers.