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There is no terrorist organization more malevolent, nor influential, than Hydra. Having some of the most evil villains in history among its ranks, Hydra has been wreaking havoc around the globe since World War II.

To combat this threat, S.H.I.E.L.D. rose up as its equal, but opposing, organization. Despite the heroic forces resisting Hydra’s efforts, the dark syndicate continues to sow chaos and disorder across the world.

Dark Origin

Hydra’s name refers to the mythical many-headed Greek creature, and Hydra agents are known to say that if you cut off one head, two more shall take its place—just like the serpent beast once defeated by Hercules. The battle cry of “Hail Hydra!” is another iconic saying within the organization, along with the green and yellow uniforms its agents often wear.

While it is suspected that Hydra originated thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, the modern-day organization was founded during World War II by Nazi agent Wolfgang von Strucker. Von Strucker, who failed to execute the population of the French town Cherbeaux due to the intervention of American commando Nick Fury, later joined forces with the Red Skull. Together, they set up a new base of power in Japan, which the Skull intended to lead himself in case Germany lost the war.

Strucker contacted a secret society within the Japanese underworld, which included members of the Hand ninja cult who had once aided him in an earlier assignment in Madripoor. Strucker joined their ranks and helped them choose the name Hydra.

Hydra comic

The first leader of Hydra declared himself “Supreme Hydra” and outfitted his men with matching green uniform. He also instituted what became (with minor variations over the years) their pledge: “Hail Hydra! Immortal Hydra! We shall never be destroyed! Cut off a limb and two more shall take its place! We serve none but the master—as the world shall soon serve us! Hail Hydra!”

The Many Heads

Hydra’s power lies in its hundreds of leaders, operatives, and supporters. While usually working alone, Hydra has allied itself with other criminal organizations, including A.I.M., (Advanced Idea Mechanics). This group is comprised of the most brilliant criminal scientists on Earth, beginning during World War II as a way for Baron von Strucker to obtain futuristic weapons for Hydra.

Von Strucker also once ruled an inner council, known simply as THEM, which would supervise operations of Hydra and its sister societies. Strucker made himself Grand Imperator of THEM and masqueraded under a number of aliases in public life including, most prominently, the multimillionaire Don Guy Antonio Caballero. Only a small fraction of Hydra even knew of the Grand Imperator’s existence.

Hydra even allied itself with Norman Osborn’s law enforcement agency known as H.A.M.M.E.R., following the secret Skrull invasion of Earth. When Osborn was defeated by the Avengers, longtime Hydra leader Madame Hydra took over as the organization’s head.

Hydra assembling

Recently, it was revealed that a version of Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, had been a secret agent for Hydra. In reality, his past was rewritten courtesy of the Red Skull, giving him the role of Hydra Supreme and causing him to attempt a takeover the world. Hydra Cap, however, was eventually defeated by the true, original Captain America, and the evil organization’s Secret Empire collapsed.

Affiliates

Over the years, Hydra has had dozens of members with some of the most notable including Kingpin (Wilson Fisk), Absorbing Man (Carl Creel), Batroc the Leaper, Bullseye, Chameleon (Dmitri Kravinoff), Crossbones (Brock Rumlow), and Fenris (Andrea and Andreas von Strucker).

Currently, the group is led by Edgar Lascombe, Madame Hydra (AKA Viper), Gerald Richter, and Wolfgang von Strucker. Active agents include Kalee Batrei, Bowman, Connely, Dreadnoughts, Horst Eisele, Vincente Fortunato, Garotte (Tyrannus Cordin), Hammer, Militant, Cassandra Romulus, Erik Saltz, Scylla, Tactical Force, and Arthur Woodman.

Resistors

The Super-Soldier Captain America is traditionally Hydra’s greatest foil. He opposes them countless times, often assisting S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers on missions to battle von Strucker or to shut down Hydra superweapons.

Likewise, the international espionage organization S.H.I.E.L.D. itself serves as the philosophical and operational force that opposes Hydra’s activities across the globe.

Monstrous Journey

After U.S. Marines attacked their island base in the Pacific during World War II, Hydra became decentralized, making it much harder to locate and take down. Following the war, Strucker recruited former Nazi officers to join the group, generally keeping a low profile in the following decades. At one point, he attempted to refinance Hydra by locating a lost stronghold of Nazi gold, but he was opposed by the mutants Charles Xavier and Magneto, with the latter taking all of the gold for himself.

Hydra comic

Strucker subsequently led a number of missions, until he slayed the Supreme Hydra and took his place. Strucker kept all of Hydra’s organizations operating together under a central committee he called THEM. To do this, he stepped back from most of Hydra’s operations, having Hydra follow the directives of Arnold Brown, the Imperial Hydra. Strucker worked instead as Grand Imperator, quietly rebuilding Hydra Island into a synthetic city upon the site of the original base.

The Imperial Hydra divided his followers into specialized divisions, each identified by an animal: beavers for engineers, camels for supplies, falcons for air action, foxes for diplomacy, leopards for reconnaissance, moles for administration, owls for planning, rhinos for heavy weapons, sea dragons for naval action, and tigers for assassins. By this time, Hydra had a major presence across the globe. They had operatives in all key countries in the world, which meant that governments around the globe also noticed the threat.

Over the years, many have taken charge of the syndicate, including Madame Hydra (AKA Ophelia Sarkissian or Viper) and Edgar Lascombe, a pharmaceutical magnate who rebuilt Hydra and established himself as Supreme Hydra when Strucker once entered stasis. In particular, Lascombe felt that Hydra had lost its way, as it had devolved into drug running and money laundering. As part of his revitalization, he created genetically-modified agents called the Hydra Four. These members (whom Lascombe would send to wreak havoc in New York City) had powers similar to those of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. Their names were Bowman, Tactical Force, Hammer, and Militant.

Hydra twice attempted to blackmail the world, first with a Betatron bomb and later with a biological weapon. Spider-Woman worked for both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. as a double agent, until she was revealed to actually be the Skrull queen Veranke. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury later discovered that Hydra had actually had agents within S.H.I.E.L.D., the U.S. government, and other international intelligence organizations for decades, allowing Hydra to exert control over these entities.

Following the catastrophic events of Maria Hill’s Pleasant Hill initiative (in which all the greatest villains of the world were kept unaware in a shadow community where they could be monitored), the human iteration of the Cosmic Cube—Kobik—infected Captain America’s past, present, and future with Hydra ideals. When this was revealed to the world, heroes from across the universe joined forces to tackle the threat. During Hydra’s attempt to set up their no longer Secret Empire, Super Heroes fought the Hydra Cap, until the original Captain America finally reemerged to take down his evil doppelganger.

Hydra, once more, receded into the darkness.

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Essential Reading
Hydra
Hydra holds the title as Marvel's most mysterious and diabolical agency. As the antagonist to peacekeeping S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra represents the cutting edge of weaponry and terrorism. Named for the mythological creature with regenerating heads, Hydra is equally difficult to kill. Cut off a limb and two more shall take its place. Hail Hydra.
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