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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red Guardian: The Super Surgeon

The Red Guardian's role in the Defenders was largely symbolic. When Nighthawk needed brain surgery, Dr. Strange sought the help of world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Tania Belinsky.

Her introduction reminded readers that slight nerve damage had ended Stephen Strange's surgical career, and that modern medicine could be more powerful than magic. (To further illustrate this point, Nighthawk's medical problems became a recurring theme in the series.)

Only after Dr. Belinsky arrived in the United States did the Defenders discover that she was secretly a superhero, the latest incarnation of the Red Guardian (Defenders #35).

While envisioning herself as a Soviet version of Captain America, the Red Guardian fought crime covertly in her homeland. In the midst of the Cold War, the Soviet Union suppressed superheroes, regarding them as too "American," no matter how patriotic their intentions. The end result villainized the Soviet government while explaining the shortage of communist heroes in the world of Marvel Comics.

The Red Guardian was standoffish toward the other Defenders, but without inciting the emotional tug-of-war reminiscent of other tempestuous members of the team. Although the results may have been less dramatic, they provided an understated sophistication to the character.

Dr. Belinsky's neurosurgical skill again came into play during a complicated story involving the Cobalt Man (Defenders #43, basically a sequel to his debut in X-Men #31).

The above image of Red Guardian first appeared in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. A male Soviet agent with a similar costume had died in Avengers #44.


Luke said...

Red Guardian is similar to Crimson Dynamo in that there have been (seemingly) numerous versions of them over the years but none of them has "stuck" any more than another. It's at the point where the current versions of each are featured in both Hulk and Iron Man as members of the Winter Guard, and I don't think anyone can say with any confidence just who the heck is in each of the costumes.

That said I dig them both, and I did not know that there was 1) a female version and that 2) she was on the Defenders for a spell. Neat.

Peter Cooper said...

Another example of why the "Defenders" are the best comic books, anything can, and will happen. I remember reading as a youth how "Red Guardian" encountered the "Presence" and evolved beyond mortal. And I think the politics involved in the story were interesting. With the Soviet protecting their involvement then relenting to matters out of control. My memories, have melded the "Defenders" and the "Hulk" issues into one story. But I've always had a fondness for the "Soviet Super Soldiers."

jake said...

Actually reading The (original) Defenders now. Currently at issue 37 (Luke Cage has just been called into help). As I go through the series, I get curious about some of the minor characters and whether I can consider them 'core' team members.

It's good to see that Red Guardian is going to stick around for a few issues (including the Annual #1, 1976). I did note that other info-sites have given the Tania Belinsky version incredible powers (10 ton strength, nuclear energy and even limited flight). This (early) version, for anyone passing through, is a normal human, great fighting skills, some minor weapons and a premiere super neurosurgeon.