We’re counting down the days until the premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on September 24th by talking about all things S.H.I.E.L.D.-related. Up today, the spy agency’s greatest enemy: HYDRA.
HYDRA is another Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation and their existence dates from the first S.H.I.E.L.D. story, Strange Tales #135, in August 1965. Those who’ve seen Captain America: The First Avenger may remember HYDRA as being the elite stormtroopers commanded by the Red Skull.
In the regular Marvel Universe, HYDRA has Nazi origins as well, though the organization bent on controlling the world is led mostly by Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, formerly one of the Red Skull’s underlings. Though HYDRA is named after the mythical beast who grows a new head any time one is cut off, it also had a couple of sub-agencies with acronyms, notably A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), their tech division.
Because HYDRA is as old as the spy agency it opposes, the criminal organization has been through a number of changes. Wikipedia cites the first change, the revelation of Baron Wolfgang Van Strucker as the real head of HYDRA, as one of Marvel’s first retcons. I feel as if this falls more under “the author had a better idea,” than a true retcon.
And, like many characters, friend and enemy, associated with S.H.I.E.LD., Life Model Decoys play a part in HYDRA’s history; Strucker was the model for a number of them, all of whom appeared to have been quite evil. There are also some very twisty plots over the long years of Marvel history in which either S.H.I.E.L.D. controlled HYDRA or HYDRA controlled S.H.I.E.L.D. In any case, HYDRA soldiers, with their characteristic “Hail HYDRA!” and willingness to die seem to have the absolute worst part of the whole deal. (Not to mention the awful green and yellow minion costumes.)
Originally, HYDRA’s goal was to cleanse the world in keeping with the Nazi ideal. But that seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of world domination, which has proven to be difficult what with their various secret island headquarters being blown up or destroyed over the years, usually by Nick Fury.
Given HYDRA is already in the Marvel movieverse, I suspect we might see some version of it in the television show, especially as Joss Whedon has a history of liking season-long arcs with a Big Bad tying all the individual episodes together. Clashes with HYDRA would also be a terrific way to introduce Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman who was once a HYDRA operative secretly working for S.H.I.E.L.D. (Or maybe that was a Skrull. A lot of people were Skrulls for a while in the Marvel Universe. But I digress.)