RONIN

Real Name: Alexi Andreovitch Shostakov

Identity/Class: Human mutate (World War II, 1945-1959, pre-modern to moder era);
   citizen of Russia (formerly Soviet Union)

Occupation: Assassin, terrorist; former intelligence agent, test pilot

Group Membership: Dark Ocean Society (Madame, others); formerly KGB

Affiliations: General Yuri Brushov, Nikita Khrushchev, Madame Hydra (Ophelia Sarkissian), Colonel Wai Ling, Supreme Soviets imposters (Crimson Dynamos, Fantasma, Peruns, Sputniks)

Enemies: Avengers (Captain America/Steve Rogers, Goliath/Hank Pym, Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Hercules/Heracles, Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff, Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff, Wasp/Janet Van Dyne), Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), Andrei Egorav, Mikhail Egorav, Viktor Egorav, Jason Harasumi, Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Ambassador Masuda, S.H.I.E.L.D., World Counterterrorism Agency (Dominic Fortune, Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse, Twitch, others)

Known Relatives: Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff, estranged wife)

Aliases: Red Guardian

Base of Operations: Iturup, Kuril Islands (between Russia and Japan);
   formerly Bulgaria;
   formerly a hidden base atop a dormant volcano in China;
   formerly Moscow, USSR (place of birth)

First Appearance: (As Red Guardian) Avengers I#43 (August, 1967); (first name revealed) Avengers I#44 (September, 1967); (full name revealed) Black Widow: The Coldest War (April, 1990); (as Ronin) Widowmaker#1 (February, 2011)

Powers/Abilities: As the Red Guardian, and later the Ronin, Alexi Shostakov received extensive training in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, as well as usage of many types of weapons, including ancient Japanese weapons like a kusarigama. As the Red Guardian, Alexi used a metal disc on his belt that he could control magnetically. Shostakov has received a serum (likely a version of the Infinity Formula) that has given him extraordinarily long life and, perhaps, a healing factor. Alexi is an accomplished pilot. When allied with resources like the KGB, the Bulgarian government, or the Dark Ocean Society, Alexi has wielded tremendous political influence and has had access to advanced weaponry.

Height: 6'2"
Weight: 220 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Red; formerly gray

History:
(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#13 - Red Guardian I) - One of the Soviet Union's most acclaimed test pilots Alexi Shostakov was often chosen for the most secret and dangerous tests of new aircrafts. The state-controlled news media however greatly publicized certain other missions of his that made him a decorated hero of the Soviet Union.

(Avengers Assemble I#1 (fb) - BTS) - Alexi Shostakov caught the attention of the KGB.

(Black Widow: Deadly Origin#2 (fb) ) - <1957> Alexi and Natalia had an arranged meeting in General Puhskin's office in Moscow. Pushkin left the two young lovebirds alone so they could get acquainted with each other. Alexi introduced himself to Natalia, whom he started calling Natasha. Due to her constant brainwashing she could hardly distinguish between her fake life as a ballerina and her life as one of 28 Black Widow agents trained in the Red Room. Alexi had a hard time believing her.

(Marvel Fanfare I#10 (fb) - BTS) - Young Natasha, a prodigy of the Red Room training to be a spy, met Alexi Shostakov while at the academy.

(Black Widow: Deadly Origin#2 (fb) - BTS) - The KGB arranged for Alexi and Natasha Romanoff to marry.

(Black Widow I#1 (fb) - BTS) - Alexi gave Natasha a photograph of the two of them and wrote on it, I still can't believe you said "Yes", my Natalia! Love always, Alexi.

(Avengers I#44 (fb) ) - Alexi married Natasha Romanova. In the Russian military, he became famous as a test pilot, known for his extraordinary skills, and frequently assigned to test the most secret and dangerous aircrafts.

(Black Widow: The Coldest War (fb) ) - Alexi took his bride to a mountain cabin where they made love next to the fire.

(Web of Black Widow#3 (fb) ) - Natasha, who was the operative Black Widow, confided in Alexi about the Headmistress of the Red Room sending new operative Toma into action. He comforted her, complimenting her skills in combat and saying maybe Toma could learn from her.

(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#13 - Red Guardian I) - The KGB decided that Alexi would also make a good special operative.

(Avengers I#44 (fb) - BTS) - Alexi was selected by the Soviet government to be their new super-soldier, the Red Guardian. Needing to free him from his former life so he could enter intensive training, they faked his death.

(Avengers I#44 (fb) - BTS/ Black Widow: Deadly Origin#2 - BTS) <1963> - Natasha was told by Nikita Krushchev that Alexi was killed when an experimental rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrone he piloted exploded.

(Black Widow: Deadly Origin#2 (fb) ) - After Natasha was told about Alexi's alleged death, Alexi joined Krushchev in his office. Krushchev felt sorry for Alexi, but told him that it was the best for both of them. Alexi cried, but not because he would miss Natasha, but because it was so hard to live with her, a woman that wanted to be a mother but was unable to conceive a child as a result of experiments done on her by the government. Alexi and Krushchev had a drink afterward.

(Avengers I#44 (fb) - BTS) - The Red Guardian went through years of training. Wearing a bright red uniform with a red star on the chest, Alexi reached the peak of athleticism, and he learned to control a magnetic belt buckle that he could propel through the air to hit others, much like Captain America's shield. Alexi completed missions for Soviet intelligence, though the details of the remain unrevealed.

(Widowmaker#3 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, Alexi was given an anti-aging serum, likely something similar to what kept Black Widow alive over decades.

(Avengers Assemble I#1 (fb) - BTS) - Alexi's superior General Yuri Brushov sent Red Guardian to guard an installation on top of a dormant volcano in China, where Colonel Wai Ling was developing the doomsday weapon, the Psychotron, which was capable of inducing mass hallucinations.

(Avengers I#43 (fb) - BTS) - During a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission in China Black Widow was apprehended and placed in a stasis tube in Colonel Wai Ling's laboratory.

(Avengers I#43) - Colonel Ling welcomed General Brushov to his base, where Brushov sought to obtain the Psychotron. Brushov was unimpressed with Alexi until Red Guardian threw his magnetically controlled belt emblem to knock Brushov out of his chair, then he rushed forward to catch Brushov before he could fall. Red Guardian further proved his skills by fighting off a group of Ling's armored soldiers. Brushov took over the operation and grew determined to lure Captain America there so that Red Guardian could defeat him. When Hawkeye and Hercules attacked, Red Guardian knocked Hawkeye out with his emblem, then he avoided blows from Hercules long enough to draw him into the chamber of the Psychotron, where Hercules was subjected to visions of monsters, distracting him from further battle. Hawkeye attacked again, demanding to know where the Black Widow was, saying he loved her, so Red Guardian knocked Hawkeye out again and placed him in a stasis tube next to the Widow. As Hawkeye awakened, Red Guardian finally unmasked, and Widow reacted with shock to see Alexi alive. Alexi boasted that they would both see the defeat of Captain America soon.

(Avengers I#44) - As Red Guardian taunted Hawkeye and Black Widow, Ling and Brushov entered, pleased that Hercules was fooled by the Psychotron. The men discussed their plans to use the Psychotron to achieve world domination, then submitted Black Widow to a lie detector test to determine her loyalty to Russia. Determining she as loyal, they let Black Widow free, and Red Guardian said he would be happy to have her as a wife again. The men reviewed Black Widow's stolen plans for an American submarine. When the Avengers attacked, the military forces working for Ling and Brushov briefly held them back, then Captain America was apprehended. Cap broke free and Red Guardian eagerly attacked him, determined to prove his superiority. Cap proved Red Guardian's best until Cap was knocked back by Ling and Brushov electrifying the floor, infuriating Red Guardian. When Ling fired at Black Widow, who was seeking to destroy the Psychotron, Red Guardian intercepted the bullet. The machine was destroyed, Hercules was freed, and the Avengers were escaping. When Ling tried killing the escaping Avengers, Red Guardian leapt on the gun and it misfired, causing an explosion that enveloped the entire base, and Red Guardian was believed killed. Black Widow began to realize that Alexi had never been killed, but had secretly entered training as the Red Guardian.

(Avengers Annual I#16 - BTS) - A Red Guardian simulacra was summoned by the Grandmaster as part of the Legion of the Unliving to battle the Avengers.

(Black Widow: The Coldest War - BTS) - A Red Guardian android was created by ex-KGB agents to trick Black Widow into serving them. It was partially destroyed in battle with Black Widow.

(Avengers I#353-354 - BTS) - A Red Guardian fascimile was created by the Grim Reaper with the power granted to him by Lloigoroth to fight against the Avengers as part of a new Legion of the Unliving.

(Daredevil II#64 (fb) - BTS) - Secretly alive, Shostakov relocated to Bulgaria, where he built a power base over several years, keeping his existence there secret.

(Daredevil II#61 - BTS) - Behind the scenes, Shostakov saw the Avengers apprehend Madame Hydra. Shostakov had his men tell the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. that they would only allow Madame Hydra to be removed from the country if Black Widow was extradited to them in Bulgaria to stand trial for her crimes.

(Daredevil II#62 - BTS) - Shostakov was frustrated to learn that Black Widow was "hiding in plain sight" by teaming up with Daredevil, who had media following him everywhere. He put pressure on the C.I.A. director to bring her in.

(Daredevil II#64 - BTS) - Working with S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Widow got the C.I.A. director to stop trying to bring her in, threatening to expose the dirty deal. In retaliation, Shostakov let Madame Hydra go free.

(Daredevil II#64) - Black Widow returned to Bulgaria and confronted Shostakov directly, shocked he was alive. When she asked him why he had revealed his existence just to go after her, he admitted that he didn't like her all that much. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Avengers then stormed the building to arrest Shostakov.

(Avengers Assemble I#1 - Red Guardian profile) - Alexi was released from custody.

(Black Widow: Deadly Origin#4 (fb) ) - Natasha arranged a meeting with Alexi in Moscow. Over a glass of wine he apologized for what had happened and that was anough for Natasha to agree to stay friends with him. They talked about the long life granted to them by a serum and how their age as a result of it made them see the world differently.

(Black Widow: Deadly Origin#4 (fb) - BTS) - During the meeting Natasha accidentally infected Alexi with nanites.

(Black Widow: Deadly Origin#4 (fb) - BTS) - As soon as Black Widow found out what had happened Alexi was the first she saved from the nanites' effect.

(Widowmaker#3 (fb) - BTS) - Alexi grew bitter against the Russian government, which he now saw as a soft and weak democracy, and he began making plans to overthrow the government. He costumed himself as the Ronin, the ancient title of the leader of the Dark Ocean Society, a Japanese terrorist group with a long history. Realizing he could renew the Dark Ocean as their leader, Ronin allied himself with the Madame, a long-lived Japanese assassin and brothel owner, who had affiliations with the Dark Ocean Society. He complained about Black Widow to the Madame, and promised her a place in his new empire once he had destroyed parts of Russia and Japan. Ronin realized he needed to kill all the those who besmirched the title of the Ronin, including Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Maya Lopez/Echo, so he made plans to lure Hawkeye to him through Mockingbird, his former wife and a mere pawn in his plan. He also planned to lure Black Widow to him to make her see what he had accomplished before killing her. Ronin recruited a young girl with illusion powers and dubbed her his agent Fantasma, then he equipped a number of warriors to have the powers and appearances of Sputnik, Perun, and the Crimson Dynamo, calling them his Supreme Soviets. Ronin ordered his agents in the Dark Ocean Society to begin killing spies around the world, which would disrupt peace talks between Russia and Japan.

(Widowmaker#4 (fb) - BTS) - Ronin funded his ventures through cyber-crimes and, while he hoped no innocents would be killed in his venture, he saw spies as acceptable collateral damage.

(Widowmaker#1 (fb) - BTS) - Dozens of spies around the world were killed with ancient Japanese weapons. The list was leaked to Captain America, who assigned Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and the World Counterterrorism Agency, to investigate.

(Widowmaker#1) - On Iturup, of the South Kuril Islands, a land with a long history of dispute between Russia and Japan, Ronin struck, killing several government agents, including Ambassador Masuda (of Japan) and Viktor Egorav (of the KGB), as well as his aids Andrei and Mikhail, killing 15 total. Hawkeye and Mockingbird found another spy dead, Jason Harasumi, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, then they discovered clues to more spies in danger in old Red Room facilities in Russia. They met Black Widow there, and learned that both she and Mockingbird were on the kill list, and they soon drew ties to the Dark Ocean Society; the heroes soon battled members of the fake Supreme Soviets. Meanwhile, Ronin and his aides prepared to kill another Russian ambassador as well as staff members in St. Petersburg.

(Widowmaker#2) - The staff of the ambassador were killed by Ronin and his men, but Black Widow and Captain America, remotely, got the ambassador to safety. Later, when one of the aides walked in on Ronin with his mask off, Ronin beheaded him, then returned to staring at his wall of targets.

(Widowmaker#3) - Ronin met Black Widow, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and Dominic Fortune back on Iturup, where Widow attacked and pulled Ronin's mask off, having determined who he was previously. Ronin freed himself and boasted of his grand plans, then he assembled his Supreme Soviets and had them fire into a volcano, causing a dramatic eruption.

(Widowmaker#4) - Ronin was shocked when the heroes seemed to flee from the battle, but they used a series of explosions to divert the lava flow, defeating many of the counterfeit Supreme Soviets. The heroes then pressed their attack against the Dark Ocean fighters while Widow attacked Ronin, and he soon believed he had beheaded her before realizing that Fantasma had turned against him and it had been an illusion. Widow shot Ronin through the back several times and then got him medical care while cleaning up his criminal organization.

Comments: Created by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler) and George Bell (inker).

In Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday's Web#1 (December, 1992) Black Widow remembered how she was told of the death of her husband, the Red Guardian. In the original flashback in Avengers I#44 she was not aware that Alexi was the Red Guardian and his faked death was actually part of the cover-up to turn him into the Red Guardian. She probably just misremembered.
--Markus Raymond

The spelling of his first name often switches between Alexi and Alexei.
--Markus Raymond

A man in a Ronin costume showed up in Defenders V#10 alongside many super heroes to fight super villains. This could have been Shostakov but it seems unlikely.

The same photo from Black Widow I#1 (June, 1999) also appeared in Black Widow II#1 (January, 2001).

It has long been established as canon that many of the characters who served in the various Legions of the Unliving were not actual heroes and villains, but instead simalucrums or demons given various forms and powers. Since Red Guardian was not dead, it is unlikely that he was a member of the Legions assembled by Grandmaster or Grim Reaper. Further below are summaries of those appearances, but they are not part of Red Guardian's own history.

Shostakov had profiles as Red Guardian in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#14 (March, 1984), Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition#19 (December, 1987), Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Master Edition#17 (1992) and Avengers Assemble I#1 (July, 2010).

Thanks to Markus Raymond for adding his Black Widow: Deadly Origin appearances and information from the original handbook profile.

Profile by Chadman.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Ronin/Red Guardian (Alexi Shostakov) should not be confused with:


Red Guardian (simulacra)

(Avengers Annual I#16) - The Grandmaster summoned a Legion of the Unliving consisting of many seemingly deceased super-powered operatives, including Swordsman, Nighthawk, Executioner, Dracula, Bucky, Black Knight (Sir Percy), Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), Terrax, Hyperion, Baron Blood, the Green Goblin, Death Adder, Drax the Destroyer, Korvac, and Red Guardian, to face off against two teams of Avengers, the main team (Black Knight/Dane Whitman, Captain America/Steve Rogers, Captain Marvel/Monica Rambeau, Doctor Druid, She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters, Thor/Odinson) and the Avengers West Coast (Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Mockingbird/Bobbi Barton, Tigra, Wonder Man, Henry Pym, Iron Man/Tony Stark, Moon Knight/Marc Spector, Wasp/Janet Van Dyne), as well as Silver Surfer. Ordering his operativs to obtain a "Life-bomb" in combat, Grandmaster split them into teams to battle the Avengers in different environments. Red Guardian and Dracula were sent to a ravaged alien planet to fight against Iron Man, Mockingbird, the Black Knight, and Dr. Druid. Red Guardian attacked Mockingbird, insulting her by calling her a weak woman, but she got him riled up and then knocked him unconscious. The Grandmaster soon returned his Legion to their lives and deaths.

--Avengers Annual I#16


Red Guardian (fascimile)

(Avengers I#353) - To fight the Avengers, the demonic Grim Reaper assembled with the power granted to him by the demon Lloigoroth a new Legion of the Unliving, making simulacra of dead villains from the corpses of a plane crash he had caused. These simulacra including Heinrich Zemo, Black Knight (Nathan Garrett), Red Guardian, Nebulon, Amenhotep, Inferno (Joseph Conroy), Count Nefaria, Star-Stalker, and Necrodamus. They then attacked the Avengers (Black Knight/Dane Whitman, Crystal, Hercules, Vision, Sersi).

(Avengers I#354) - Black Knight (Garrett), Baron Zemo, and Red Guardian attacked Black Knight (Dane Whitman), with Red Guardian biting the hero's flesh, until Grim Reaper's power reduced and they turned back on the Reaper, who ended up consumed by the demon Lloigoroth.

--Avengers I#353 (Avengers I#353-354


images: (without ads)
Widowmaker#3, p17, pan4 (Ronin, mask on)
Widowmaker#3, p19, pan4 (Ronin, mask off)
Marvel Fanfare I#10, p8, pan3 (young Alexi and Natasha)
Black Widow I#1, p4, pan5 (photo with Natasha)
Avengers I#43, cover (Red Guardian)
Daredevil II#64, p20, pan1 (older)
Deadly Origin image needed?
Widowmaker#1, p3, pan3 (Ronin)
Avengers Annual I#16, p5, pan1 (Red Guardian simulacra)
Avengers I#354, p14, pan1 (Red Guardian fascimile, zombie version)


Appearances:
Avengers I#43 (August, 1967) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler), George Bell (inker), Stan Lee (editor)
Avengers I#44 (September, 1967) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler), Vince Colletta (inker), Stan Lee (editor)
Marvel Fanfare I#10 (August, 1983) - Ralph Macchio (writer), George Perez, Bob Layton, Luke McDonnell (pencilers), Brett Breeding (inker), Al Milgrom (editor)
Avengers Annual I#16 (October, 1987) - Tom DeFalco (writer), Bob Hall, John Romita Jr, Keith Pollard, Marshall Rogers, Jackson Guice, Ron Frenz (pencilers), Tom Palmer, Bill Sienkiewicz, Al Williamson, Bob Layton, Kevin Nowlan, Bob Wiacek (inkers), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
Black Widow: The Coldest War (April, 1990) - Gerry Conway (writer), George Freeman (penciler), Ernie Colon, Mark Farmer, George Freeman, Mike Harris, Val Mayerik, Joe Rubinstein (inkers), Terry Kavanagh (editor)
Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday's Web#1 (December, 1992) - D.G. Chichester (writer), Larry Stroman (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Nelson Yomtov (editor)
Avengers I#353 (late September, 1992) - Leb Kaminski (writer), M.C. Wyman (penciler), Ariane (inker), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Avengers I#354 (early October, 1992) - Len Kaminski (writer), M.C. Wyman (penciler), Alexandrov & Ariane (inkers), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Black Widow I#1 (June, 1999) - Devin Grayson (writer), J.G. Jones (artist), Nanci Dakesian (editor)
Daredevil II#61-62 (August-September, 2004) - Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), Jennifer Lee (editor)
Daredevil II#64 (November, 2004) - Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), Jennifer Lee (editor)
Black Widow: Deadly Origin#2 (February, 2010) - Paul Cornell (writer), Tom Raney, John Paul Leon (pencilers), Scott Hanna (inker), Bill Rosemann (editor)
Black Widow: Deadly Origin#4 (April, 2010) - Paul Cornell (writer), Tom Raney, John Paul Leon (pencilers), Scott Hanna (inker), Bill Rosemann (editor)
Widowmaker#1 (February, 2011) - Jim McCann (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Álvaro López (inker), Bill Rosemann (editor)
Widowmaker#2 (February, 2011) - Duane Swierczynski (writer), Manual Garcia (penciler), Lorenzo Ruggeiro, Bit (inkers), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Widowmaker#3 (March, 2011) - Jim McCann (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Álvaro López (inker), Bill Rosemann (editor)
Widowmaker#4 (April, 2011) - Duane Swierczynski (writer), Manuel Garcia (penciler), Lorenzo Ruggiero (inker), Bill Rosemann (editor)
Web of Black Widow#3 (January, 2020) - Jody Houser (writer), Stephen Mooney (artist), Sarah Brunstad (editor)


First Posted: 12/22/2019
Last updated: 12/22/2019

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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