"Hail, HYDRA! Immortal HYDRA! Cut off a limb, and two more shall take its place!”
Sounds like the chanted mantra of a cult, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t be too far off. For all its appearance of corporate structure, the super-terrorist organization known as HYDRA surprisingly has its roots in the Marvel Universe’s most infamous ninja cult - - the Hand. See, near the end of World War II, Nazi super-villain Baron von Strucker fled from Germany to Japan and usurped leadership of an ultra-nationalistic underground outfit that had high-ranking Hand members in its upper echelons. After killing the group’s “Supreme Hydra” and assuming his role, von Strucker repurposed the nationally-focused cabal into an organization with global schemes.
Effectively, HYDRA would continue Nazi Germany’s world domination agenda, but with iconography inspired by Greek mythology instead of Asian mysticism and ancient Roman regalia. The thinking behind their mantra is that their ranks are so great, if an enemy were to kill one member, there’d be at least two other members available to avenge him. That would more-or-less evoke the nature of the Lernaean Hydra that Hercules famously fought during his Twelve Great Labors. If one of the serpentine beasts’ heads were ever cleaved, two more sprout out instantaneously from the stump.== TEASER ==
Throughout the decades of Marvel continuity, HYDRA has been up to countless, over-the-top schemes that have ranged from unleashing death spore bombs to ringing an “Overkill Horn” that would detonate all nuclear weapons on Earth at once. In addition to Baron von Strucker, its high council includes such rogues as Viper, Madame Hydra, Commander Kraken and the Gorgon who have done battle with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. for years on end. Though it has no short supply of green jump-suit wearing footsoldiers, HYDRA’s ranks are more remarkable for at times including otherwise unrelated supervillains like the Kingpin, Man-Killer, Mentallo, the Fixer, the Grim Reaper and even Spider-Woman (prior to her reformation.)
HYDRA’s gone through some key changes in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Rather than being a terroristic organization founded to continue fascistic world domination plans after the war, it’s been reimagined as a secret special weapons division of the German army. It’s the Red Skull who founds this version of HYRDA - - not von Strucker - - and he apparently intends to use it as his own personal army for a coup that would wrest control of the Nazi empire from Hitler.
The focus on special weapons has a few interesting links to continuity. For one, it effectively combines HYDRA with its splinter group AIM - - the Advanced Idea Mechanics who engineered the Cosmic Cube that'll appear in THE FIRST AVENGER from a decidedly-less-scientific source. Secondly, HYDRA possesses substantially-advanced weaponry in the comics as a result of von Strucker stealing technology from aliens at the end of the war. And finally, it’s HYDRA’s activity in the comics which leads the American government to establish S.H.I.E.L.D. as a direct counter-measure, so THE FIRST AVENGER may also be an origin story for that mysterious organization we’ve seen in every Marvel movie so far.
I’ve noticed some fans saying that, in the trailers, HYDRA looks similar to COBRA, the ruthless terrorist organization from G.I. JOE. Such observers are partly right, but they’ve actually got it backwards. G.I. JOE, the cartoon so many are so familiar, was actually developed from an unused proposal for a comic about the next generation of S.H.I.E.L.D. that would’ve been led by Nick Fury’s son in the 80s. Swap Duke for that son, General Hawk for Fury, the Baroness for Viper, Destro for Baron von Strucker and then Cobra Commander for the Red Skull, and the parallels are unmistakable.