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Looking for a super-being to counter the Nazis during WWII, Stalin created Stalnoivolk, the 'steel wolf', a soldier of immense power. After the war he became a political puppet of the USSR's military, taking place in various political and ethnic purgings. He was always meant to represent the indomitable spirit of the Russian people.
He was given through Russian physical augmentation experiments the abilities of superhuman strength (being able to tear through brick and steel at will and leap over buildings and across miles), stamina (though he was born in the '20s he is seen in the late 1980s not having aged a day after he became a super-soldier other than eventually having his hair turn gray), and invulnerability (he is shot with nuclear blasts and bullets without feeling a thing, also seen chopping wood in a snowstorm in Siberia without any shirt but feeling no cold). His senses were also heightened, making him an expert tracker and hunter.
He was relatively unheard of for most of the sixties, seventies, and eighties, until he was set loose by a crooked Russian official to stop the heroes Firestorm and Pozhar, eventually murdering Captain X, a WWII hero/spy who was the grandfather of Ronnie Raymond, one member of the Firestorm persona.
He also came into conflict with Batman and the Suicide Squad, even briefly joining that team.