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Red Guardian: David Harbour's Black Widow Movie Role, Explained

David Harbour Red Guardian

During Marvel Studios' presentation at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel President Kevin Feige introduced the cast of the currently in-production Black Widow film. Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle and Rachel Weisz all appeared in front of the audience at Hall H to promote Natasha Romanoff's first solo outing.

Feige also revealed the characters this star-studded lineup would be portraying in Black Widow. While fans may be familiar with the likes of Taskmaster and Yelena Belova, David Harbour's Alexei, the Red Guardian, is a much more obscure character who might've left people scratching their heads. So now, CBR is breaking down who exactly the Red Guardian is.

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Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, Alexei Shostakov first appeared in 1967;s Avengers #43. The character was the Soviet counterpart to Captain America who, with the assistance of state-controlled media, was painted as a hero of the Soviet Union.

When he was a child, Alexei was taken in by Soviet official Vasily Karpov, who worked alongside Captain America and the Invaders in World War II. Seeing potential in Alexei, Karpov began training him with the intention of making him a prominent figure in the USSR. Alexei grew up to become one of the Soviet Union's most acclaimed fighter pilots, whose heroism caught the attention of the KGB. The KGB arranged for Alexei to marry famous ballerina Natasha Romanova, who eventually joined the Red Room Academy and become Black Widow.

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When the Cold War began to ramp up in the 1950s, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made decided that the Soviet's needed an equivalent to Captain America.  Khrushchev chose Alexei to take on the mantle of the Red Guardian, which was left vacant after the death of Aleksey Lebedev. The KGB faked Alexei's death and began training him in secret, keeping his survival a secret from Natasha. 

Alexei became a master of hand-to-hand combat and a highly skilled athlete. In addition to his physical abilities, he was issued a throwing disc that would return to him using magnetic force after being thrown. Red Guardian's costume featured a red star on his chest to symbolize the Soviet colors.

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Red Guardian would go on to battle the Avengers with his Chinese ally Colonel Ling, to protect a Communist Chinese secret weapon located at a military base at an undisclosed location in the People's Republic of China. During the confrontation, Alexei would come face-to-face with Natasha, who had defected from the Red Room and joined up with Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

When Black Widow noticed something familiar about him, Alexei revealed his identity to her. Only minutes later, he is shot and mortally wounded by Colonel Ling after switching sides and attempting to aid the Avengers.

Alexi Ronin

While a few other characters became new Red Guardians, Alexei is revealed to have survived his wounds years later and has risen to high status in Bulgaria as Ronin. He concocted a plan to capture his former wife, Natasha, and try her for her crimes as a Soviet operative. With the help of Daredevil and the Avengers, Black Widow was able to foil his plan in the Widowmaker miniseries.

Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle and Rachel Weisz. The film arrives in theaters on May 1, 2020.

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