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HYDRA

Hydra LogoHYDRA is a worldwide subversive organization dedicated to global domination. At its height, HYDRA was the most extensive, powerful, and dangerous such organization in history. HYDRA agents wear green costumes with cowls concealing their entire heads except for their mouths and chins. Their organization takes its name from the many-headed serpent-like monster of Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra, whose venom was lethal and who was known for its ability to grow two heads immediately to replace any head that was severed. (The Lernaean Hydra actually existed, and was slain by Hercules as one of his legendary Twelve Labors.) 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 over four decades.

During this time, however, HYDRA has undergone considerable structural and ideological changes, so much so that today's HYDRA bears only superficial similarities to the organization in its heyday.

The man most responsible for the creation of HYDRA was Baron Wolfgang Yon 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 the American commando Sgt. Nicholas Fury, and by Strucker's failure to execute the entire population of a French village, Adolf Hitler ordered the Gestapo to find and assassinate him. Strucker would have had little hope of escaping the Gestapo if not for the aid of the Red Skull, the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. The Skull intended to supplant Hitler eventually, or to achieve world domination himself if Hitler lost the war. To these ends the Skull assigned Strucker to create a power base in the Far East for him. (It was because the power base that Strucker helped create turned out to be HYDRA that years later the Red Skull claimed credit for HYDRA's creation. Obviously, however, the Skull's role in creating HYDRA was quite indirect.) With the aid of the Skull's men and some loyal men of his own, Strucker escaped Europe. The embittered Strucker had no intention of serving anyone but himself, however, and severed ties with the Skull on becomiSupreme 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. This secret society became known as HYDRA. Upon building HYDRA's army and arsenal to what he judged to be maximum strength, Strucker slew the original Supreme Hydra, who was Japanese, and became SHydra himself.

Strucker conceived of HYDRA as a strongly ideological fascist organization heavily influenced by Nazi philosophy. HYDRA's very name, a reference to Greek mythology, attests to the major role Strucker had in shaping the organization even before he became its leader. Its salute, "Hail HYDRA!", is an obvious variation on "Heil Hitler!" The full form of the salute reflects the fascist near-religious idealization and of submission to the power of the state, or, in HYDRA's case, the organization: "Hail HYDRA! Immortal HYDRA! We shall never be destroyed! Cut off one limb and two more shall take its place! We serve the Supreme Hydra, as the world shall soon serve us!" In keeping with Nazism's male supremacist ethic, HYDRA restricted its membership to men. Only decades later would Strucker's HYDRA permit exceptions to this rule, most notably. Laura Brown, daughter of Imperial Hydra Arnold Brown, and Madame Hydra, who was later known as the Viper. Strucker created a cult of personality about himself as the Supreme Hydra, comparable to that of Hitler's in Germany. There was a heavy ideological emphasis on the anonymity of other HYDRA agents, who generally remained masked whenever they were among one another, and were usually ed by numbers.

Strucker soon began construction of a fortress on a small Pacific island, which became HYDRA's principal base upon its completion, and was known as HYDRA Island. While building HYDRA's arsenal, Strucker had also recruited a staff of brilliant scientists, who would later become the nucleus of the HYDRA branch known as the Advanced Idea Mechanics, or AIM. HYDRA was close to obtaining nuclear weaponry, and thus achieving the means to conquer the Earth, when HYDRA Island was invaded by Captain Simon Savage's U.S. Marine commandos, the Leatherneck Raiders, and their Japanese counterparts, the so-called Samurai Squad. The HYDRA Island base was destroyed, but Strucker escaped. (All of this happened while World War II wl continuing.)

Strucker slowly and quietly rebuilt HYDRA in the years following World War II, this time using as its nucleus the best remaining men of the Nazi Schutz-Staffel (S.S.). As a result, and because of Nazi Germany's defeat, Strucker more emphatically regarded HYDRA as the heir to the Third Reich. 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 made the United States the center of HYDRA's operations, although HYDRA spread its influence around the world. Although HYDRA's ideology, ceremonies, and organization remained fascistic, Strucker concealed its connections to Nazism. He created a new central committee, code-named THEM within HYDRA, which would supervise the operations of HYDRA and its sister societies. Strucker made himself Grand Imperator of THEM, its highest petition, and masqueraded under a number of aliases in public life, most prominently, the multimillionaire socialite Don Antonio Caballero. Only a small fraction of HYDRA agents knew of the Grand Imperator's existence, and fewer still k true identity.

THEM appointed Arnold Brown, executive Secretary to Leslie Farrington, one of the directions of Imperial Industries International, to be Supreme Hydra, or, as Brown was also called, perhaps because he was not HYDRA's true leader, Imperial Hydra. Brown's principal usefulness to HYDRA Was in draining resources for HYDRA from Imperial Industries International, and in managing HYDRA's day-to-day operations. Ultimate power, however, remained in Strucker's hands. Under Brown's leadership, HYDRA developed an arsenal of weaponry, submarines, and fighter aircraft greater than those of most nations. HYDRA now had agents out the globe.

To meet the threat of HYDRA, SHIELD (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division) was created; HYDRA assassinated SHIELD's first Public Director, who was replaced by Colonel Nicholas Fury of the CIA, Strucker's greatest wartime foe. Soon after Fury became Public Director, HYDRA attempted to blackmail the world with its orbiting Betatron Bomb, which could release lethal radiation upon the Earth. While inventor Anthony Stark deactivated the bomb, Fury captured HYDRA's New York City headquarters. Brown was murdered by his own men, who seemingly failed to recognize him as Imperial Hydrat 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, AIM and the original Secret Empire. While its enemies were thus distracted, HYDRA itself secretly regrouped and its strength.

With the defeats of AIM and the Secret Empire, HYDRA reemerged as an open opponent of SHIELD and the world. Strucker in effect abolished THEM by again making himself Supreme Hydra and by making the other members of THEM into HYDRA's new central committee, who were still completely subject to himself. Strucker launched the Overkill Horn, which would have set off every nuclear explosive on Earth; HYDRA legions, supposedly safe in their special shelters, were to emerge later and take control of the devastated planet. Fury and SHIELD d this scheme.

Then, impersonating SHIELD agent John Bronson, whom HYDRA had secretly captured, Strucker smuggled the so-called Death Spore bomb aboard SHIELD's airborne Heli-Carrier headquarters. When the bomb exploded, it would destroy the Heli-Carrier and release deadly spores, which air currents would carry throughout the world. By now Strucker had built a new HYDRA Island, a "synthetic atoll" on the site of the original island. Here was gathered HYDRA's leadership and elite guard, since the new fortress's impenetrable dome would afford maximum protection from the Death Spore. (Other HYDRA agents around the world were presumably protected within special shelters.) In a telecast from the island Strucker, still disguised as Bronson but proclaiming himself to be the Supreme Hydra, demanded that the world surrender to HYDRA, for only those nations which surrendered would be Supplied with antidoor the spores.

However, Fury had found the Death Spore bomb on the Heli-Carrier, singly invaded HYDRA Island, and planted the bomb there. Fury was captured and Strucker nearly executed him at a mass meeting of HYDRA agents on the island, before whom he revealed his true identity. But Fury escaped execution, and as a result of the ensuing battle between Fury and Strucker within the island base, Strucker unwittingly fled into a nuclear reactor chamber and was immediately incinerated. Fury fled the island just before the Death Spore bomb, which had been triggered by the unsuspecting Strucker, detonated, virtually completely sinking the island. The dome prevented any of the spores from escaping to the outside world. All HYDRA members present on thd were killed.

HYDRA has never since regained the power it had under Strucker. The bulk of the organization, including its most brilliant and all capable members were wiped out on HYDRA Island. All that remained were HYDRA agents who had either been meant to hide it from the Spore in smaller shelters, or had been left to their fate. The worldwide HYDRA organization fragmented. Those who arose to lead the various HYDRA factions were usually mediocrities, most of whom pretentiously referred to themselves as Supreme Hydras. AIM seceded from HYDRA, and the Secret Empire was later revived independently of HYDRA. The remnant of HYDRA in the New York City area was led first by Madame Hydra, and later by the Grim Reaper and the Space. 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 American crime boss Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, and his son Richard also known as the Schemer. The Fisks were unaware of the Skull's involvement, and the Kingpin opposed the Skull on learning the Skull was the fs true leader.

The first major attempt to rebuild HYDRA was made by surviving HYDRA members based on the United States East Coast, who decided to turn HYDRA into a less ideological organization, which would still seek world domination, but which would be structured along the lines of American organized crime. In keeping with this idea, these HYDRA leaders recruited Silvio "Silvermane" Manfredi, the leader of a Maggia "family," as the new Supreme Hydra. Silvermiane quickly built this East Coastbased HYDRA into a large, well-organized and well-equipped fighting force. He established a large secret HYDRA base in New York City, and recruited numerous costumed criminals to serve as HYDRA division leaders, including his own son Blackwing, Commander Kraken, the Fixer, the Fox, Jackhammer, El Jaguar, Man-Killer, and Mentallo (the Fixer and Mentallo had previously worked for Strucker's HYDRA). Silvermane and his recruits from the American criminal underworld, however, were ultimately out of their depth in running a major subversive organization like HYDRA, and new East Coast HYDRA was easily defeated by Fury and SHIELD. This HYDRA organization thereso fragmented.

Finally, HYDRA was reorganized under radically different lines by unknown criminals, presumably American. Although this new HYDRA has worldwide influence, it seems centered in the United States to a far greater extent than Strucker's HYDRA ever was. As always, this HYDRA is dedicated to world domination, but it has abandoned the traditional fascist HYDRA ideology entirely. The only clear link between the current HYDRA and Strucker's HYDRA is the fact that the current organization's members dress in the traditional HYDRA costumes. Women are now allowed into the organization in large numbers, and can hold important positions in it. Agents are often addressed by their real names, and HYDRA officials often appear unmaskad before their colleagues and subordinates in the organization. There is no apparent cult of personality surroundiSupreme Hydra.

This current HYDRA is organized along the lines of a major contemporary corporation. Agents can work full time or part time for the organization. They are paid high salaries and receive medical and other benefits. HYDRA now recruits many ordinary American citizens into its organization as a result. Enticed by the financial rewards, these citizens blind themselves to the full extent of HYDRA's criminal and subversive nature. Of course, even within the new HYDRA, failure in a major assignment is punishable by death. It is not known who the currenme Hydra is.

But although HYDRA has thus rebuilt itself, its power and reputation are far below what they were during the height of the Strucker period. Even Strucker's own children, Andrea and Andreas, have nothing to do with today's HYDRA and have instead founded their own organization, Fenris. HYDRA has launched no truly formidable assault on SHIELD or the world since Strucker's death, nor, since his demise, has it produced a weapon comparable to the Overkill Horn or Betatron and Death Spore bombs, or HYDRA's Dreadnaught robots. Today HYDRA, once the most dangerous and powerful subversive organization Earth, is no more formidable or impressive than many other such groups, such as Fenris and AIM. Whether HYDRA will ever return to greatness ns to be seen.

First Appearance: STRANGE TALES #13

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