An "X-Force" To Be Reckoned With - Marvel's Mutant Militia Turns 25
This was my first introduction into THE SOVIET SUPER SOLDIERS – Ursa Major, Darkstar, and Vanguard – the team that would eventually become THE WINTER GUARD. I was only a few months into collecting and reading comics at that point – and I got the book admittedly because of the Speedball cameo in the beginning of the story. As a teenager, I found the cover disturbing – could the Avengers really have murdered this team of Russian superheroes? The truth, of course, was a little more complex – and, of course, I was hooked on the revelation!
Behind the dastardly demise of the SOVIET SUPER SOLDIERS was none other than the SUPREME SOVIETS – Red Guardian, Perun, Crimson Dynamo, Sputnik, and Fantasma. This team, who would later become the PEOPLE’S PROTECTORATE, wasn’t bad in the traditional sense – they acted more like analogues to characters like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Vision, and Scarlet Witch. They certainly weren’t the most complex characters in the Marvel stable, but in my young mind, these were characters whose futures had yet to be truly written.
Based on the strength of those two issues, I was hooked on the further adventures of Marvel’s Russian superhero teams.
And, I continued to follow their appearances throughout the Marvel Universe – watching as both teams developed and evolved.
As I picked up their various appearances, I found that through their limited history, both teams fought valiantly against foes like the Hulk, the Dire Wraiths, The Combine, and The Presence!
As the political climate changed, the internal structures of both teams evolved – and the groups soon merged into THE WINTER GUARD. In IRON MAN #9, Vol 3, Kurt Busiek re-introduced readers to characters like Powersurge, Sibercat, Steel Guardian (previously the Red Guardian), Ursa Major, Vanguard, Vostok (previously Sputnik), and Darkstar – and it was cool to read about them again in the pages of MAXIMUM SECURITY, and THE AVENGERS.
But, as the Marvel timeline progressed so did the character’s personal storylines! Darkstar was murdered by Fantomex in the pages of NEW X-MEN. Steel Guardian disappeared – only to be replaced by a Red Guardian who was slain at the hands of Aleksander Lukin. Vanguard, Perun, Powersurge, Sibercat, and Vostok all went missing, while Crimson Dynamo had several different pilots and several different adventures (and even briefly a limited series illustrated by HIGH MOON’s Steve Ellis).
Years later, when THE WINTER GUARD appeared again in the pages of HULK #1 – the core membership had changed once more – suddenly there was a new Red Guardian and a new Darkstar – and a new era was born!
As months went by, the WINTER GUARD would appear again in WAR MACHINE: WEAPON OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and SHE-HULK. All of which sets the stage for the upcoming HULK: WINTER GUARD one-shot – written by myself and illustrated by the hyper-talented Steve Ellis!
Due out in December, HULK: WINTER GUARD one-shot examines the lives of four brave Russian heroes – The Red Guardian, Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, and Ursa Major. Who are they? What are they? Those are the central themes to a story that stars a were-bear, a patriot, a high tech hero, and darkness-wielding heroine. There is shield-slinging, biting, gnashing, chomping, blasting – and some wicked twists and turns! It is written with affection towards these characters – acknowledging their pasts – while looking towards their futures.
And, in December, you’ll see why the Winter Guard aren’t the Russian Avengers –
But rather something far more glorious.