|First appearance:||Strange Tales #135|
- Lara Brown
- Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
- Red Skull (Johann Shmidt)
- Edgar Lascombe Brainwashed agents-
Hydra is a world-wide subversive organization dedicated to global domination. At its height, Hydra was the most extensive, powerful, and dangerous organization in history. Hydra is almost entirely composed of men, with some notable exceptions, such as former member Lara Brown, the daughter of a Supreme Hydra, and so-called Madame Hydra, who later became known as the Viper. Hydra agents wear green costumes with cowls concealing the entire head except for the mouth and chin. Their organization takes its name from the many-headed serpent-like monster known for its ability to grow two heads immediately to replace any head that was severed. Hydra prides itself on its ability to regroup and rebuild itself, allegedly mightier than before, after any major defeat. Indeed, the organization has now endured for four decades.
The man most responsible for the creation of Hydra was Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the Prussian aristocrat who served as wing commander of Nazi Germany’s infamous Death’s Head Squadron, and later as leader of its Blitzkrieg Squad of commandos. Infuriated by Strucker’s defeats by American commando Sgt. Nicholas Fury, and by Strucker’s refusal to execute the entire population of a French village, Adolf Hitler ordered the Gestapo to find and assassinate him. Strucker escaped Germany with the help of some of its men, and more importantly, with that of the Third Reich’s second most powerful leader, the Red Skull. The Skull eventually intended to challenge Hitler himself, and assigned Strucker to build a power base for him in the Far East. The embittered Strucker had no intention of serving anyone but himself, however, and severed ties with the Skull on becoming the Supreme Hydra.
On arriving in Japan, Strucker made contact with Japanese subversives who informed him that they were forming a secret society bent on world conquest. Strucker rapidly became the mastermind behind this society’s rise to power. He planned and led raids on major war plants and military equipment storehouses throughout the world. Although the Hydra uniforms bear something of an oriental look, Hydra’s organization along fascist lines attests to Strucker’s role in shaping the society. Hydra’s very name is the clear mark of a Westerner, and its salute, “Hail Hydra!” is an obvious variation on “Heil Hitler!” Upon building Hydra’s army and arsenal to what he judged to be a maximum strength, Strucker blew the original Supreme Hydra, who was Japanese, and became Supreme Hydra himself. He soon began construction of a fortress on a small Pacific island, which became Hydra’s principal base upon its completion a year later. While building Hydra’s arsenal, Strucker had also recruited a staff of brilliant scientists, who would later become the nucleus of the Hydra branch called Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.). Hydra was close to obtaining nuclear weaponry, and thus achieving the means to conquer Earth, when Hydra Island was invaded by Capitan Simon Savage’s U.S. Marine commandos and their Japanese counterparts, the so-called Samurai Squad. Hydra Island was destroyed, but Strucker escaped.
Strucker slowly and quietly rebuilt Hydra in the years following World War II, this time using its nucleus the best remaining men of the Nazi Schutz-Staffel (S.S.). However, after nearly being killed in an encounter with the young Charles Xavier and Magneto, Strucker decided to remain behind the scenes from then on. He moved Hydra’s principal base to America, and created a new core organization code-named THEM, which would supervise operations of Hydra and its sister societies. Strucker made himself Grand Imperator of THEM, its highest position, and masqueraded under a number of aliases in public life, most prominently, the multimillionaire Don Guy Antonio Caballero. Only a small fraction of Hydra knew of the Grand Imperator’s existence.
THEM appointed a businessman named Arnold Brown to Supreme Hydra. Brown’s principal usefulness to Hydra was in draining resources from the corporation he worked for, Imperial Industries International, and in managing Hydra’s day-to-day operations. Under Brown’s leadership, Hydra developed an arsenal of weaponry, submarines, and fighter aircraft greater than those of most nations. Hydra now had agents throughout the globe.
To meet the threat of Hydra, SHIELD was created. Hydra assassinated S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first Director, who was replaced by Colonel Nicholas Fury of the C.I.A., coincidentally Strucker’s greatest wartime foe. Soon after Fury became Director, Hydra attempted to blackmail the world with its orbiting Betatron Bomb, which could release lethal radiation upon the Earth. While Tony Stark deactivated the bomb, Fury captured Hydra’s New York City headquarters. Brown was murdered by his own man, who seemingly failed to recognize Supreme Hydra without his costume.
Immediately after Brown’s defeat, THEM set into action, directing subversive activities against SHIELD and the U.S. government by its two subdivisions, A.I.M. and the original Secret Empire. While its enemies were thus distracted, Hydra itself regrouped and rebuilt its strength.
With the defeats of A.I.M. and the Secret Empire, Hydra re-emerged as an open opponent of S.H.I.E.L.D and the world. Strucker, posing first as Caballero, then as the Emir Ali Bey and finally as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent John Bronson, reassumed the post of Supreme Hydra. Strucker launched Overkill Horn, which would have set off every nuclear explosive on Earth if not for Nick Fury and SHIELD Then Strucker demanded that the world surrender to Hydra or he would trigger Death-Spore bomb. By now Strucker had build a new Hydra Island, a “synthetic atoll” on the site of the original. Here was gathered Hydra’s leadership and elite guard, since the new fortress’ impenetrable dome would offer protection from the Death Spore. Here Strucker finally revealed his true identity to Hydra. Fury invaded Hydra Island alone and planted the Spore bomb there. The force of explosion virtually sank the island, but none of the spores escaped. Strucker had already been incinerated within a nuclear reactor chamber following a battle with Fury.
Hydra has never since achieved the power it has under Strucker. The bulk of the organization, including its most brilliant and capable members, was wiped out on Hydra Island. All that remained were fragments of the organization which had either been meant to hide out from the Spore in smaller shelters, or had been left to their fate. Those who arose to lead the various Hydra factions were usually mediocrities, each of whom pretentiously referred to himself as Supreme Hydra. A.I.M. seceded from Hydra, and the Secret Empire was later revived independently from Hydra. The remnant of Hydra in New York City area was led by first by Madame Hydra, and then by the Grim Reaper and Space Phantom. A western European faction was led by Count Otto Vermis. Another Hydra remnant centered in Las Vegas came under the control of the Red Skull, who managed it through the Kingpin and his son, although neither knew of the Skull’s role. Since Strucker’s demise, however, there has not yet been a leader of sufficient skill and power to return Hydra to greatness.