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Make My Mort! – Marvel’s Red Guardian

It’s the fin, right? Everyone digs the fin.

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What can I say? I’m a sucker for Captain America analogues. And why not? Ol’ Wing-head has been slingin’ that nutty shield of his since 1941, so it stands to reason he’s become a bit of an archetype. It’s always interesting to cast less-idealized characters in this role to see how they would deal with such power and responsibility. Their stories are often used to examine ideas of sacrifice, loyalty, and service to something greater than oneself. As you would expect, these tales are usually tragedies, as our all-too-human Super-Soldiers discover faith in ideology cannot shield them from the brutal realities that come with bearing the mantle of their country. No one knows this better than those who have assumed the role of Russian hero Red Guardian.

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Born in Moscow, Alexei Alanovich Shostakov was destined for great things. Recruited at an early age by the KGB, Shostakov became an ace test pilot and was eventually chosen (over Yuri Gagarin!) to become the new symbol of Russian might. Trained in multiple forms of hand-to-hand combat and outfitted with a crimson uniform and a powerful magnetic throwing disk, the Red Guardian soon found himself in combat with both the Avengers and his ex-wife, former Soviet operative Natalia “Natasha” Romanova (aka the Black Widow.) And while Shostakov was presumed dead beneath a lava flow, the Red Guardian fought on.

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The next person to assume the mantle was neurosurgeon Dr. Tania Belinsky. Like Shostakov, Belinsky was an Olympic-level athlete trained in hand-to-hand combat. She adventured alongside the Defenders, fighting the likes of Plant-Man, the Eel, and Porcupine between ideological debates with her teammates. She later gained superhuman abilities and took on the guise of Starlight. Don’t worry — even I don’t expect you to know who that is!

The Thighmaster!
The Thighmaster!

Josef Petkus was the next to assume the role. In keeping with previous incarnations of the character, his Red Guardian was an unenhanced human athlete with extensive combat skills. Later known as the Steel Guardian, Petkus fought alongside Captain America and Russian heroes the People’s Protectorate. He eventually fell in battle against the Dire Wraiths; I guess he should have changed more than his name, huh? Where is ROM when you need him?

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Krassno Granitsky was the fifth Red Guardian — he lasted one issue. The sixth guy didn’t even get a name; he lasted a handful of panels until having his brains blown out. Clearly, there was nothing lucrative about taking the name Red Guardian … unless you were the original.

g2It’s eventually revealed that Shostakov had survived the lava flow thought to kill him back in Avengers #44 and has been nursing a serious grudge against his former wife ever since. Assuming the discarded identity of ninja master Ronin, he attacked the Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird. Shostakov was shot in the back for his trouble and has lain low ever since. That’s not to say the Red Guardian has.

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Today’s incarnation of the Red Guardian is Nicolai Krylenko, better known as the Russian hero Vanguard. The first superpowered being to wear the mantle, the newest Red Guardian is a mutant with the ability to manipulate and redirect energy. This is also the version Fwoosher Raybot chose to tackle.

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Ray’s custom uses a Hasbro RoML wave 3 US Agent as the base. It’s a perfect choice for this figure because, honestly, how many other characters could possibly use those funky boots?

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The head proves ideal for this custom as well, conveying the grim, take-no-prisoners approach this Soviet rogue was known for. The fin and ear-guards look completely natural here, as if they were always intended to be part of the sculpt. Hasbro, are you watching?

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Ray’s remarkable paintwork takes this sculpt to the next level. The small section of exposed flesh the figure has showing looks remarkably natural and is in striking contrast to the militaristic sharpness and tone of the rest of the costume. The character is treated as his own man here, with a visual identity clear and removed from our own Star-Spangled Avenger. While he shares some physical similarities to Cap (the shield, the cuffed boots, and flared gloves), the Red Guardian is a unique presence in the Marvel universe.

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He’s clearly on Hasbro’s radar, as this version of Red Guardian turned up in the K-Mart exclusive Captain America: International Patriots 3-pack. And while I’m personally partial to both the original Guardian and his curvaceous female follow-up, I would gladly take this version of ol’ Fin-Head. In one form or another, the Red Guardian has been fighting the good fight for over four decades. Give the guy a figure already! Say it with me so they can hear it in the back row: Hasbro, make my Mort!

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Many thanks to Raybot for allowing us to feature his custom! Check out more of his uncanny customs in his thread.

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