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The Russian

Contributed by Ronald Byrd

Strong enough to squeeze a man to death without even realizing it and tough enough to devastate a commando unit single-handed. The Russian first came to attention in Afghanistan, where he spent most of the 1980s; following this, he has a long line of assignments from various governments and organized crime families worldwide (as well as the Las Vegas Police Department). The Russian has seen action in Lebanon, Iraq, Rwanda, East Timor, Chechnya, the Balkans, Belfast, and was last seen in Grand Nixon Island in the South Pacific. Despite his violent career, the Russian is an interminably good-natured sort and sees no contradiction in being a great admirer of American super-heroes, noting that he is a founding member of the “Daredevil Man Without Fear Fan Club of Smolensk.”

The Russian finally meets his match when crime boss Ma Gnucci hires him to kill the vigilante known as the Punisher. The Russian severely beats the Punisher until his opponent incapacitates him with hot pizza in the face and smothers him to death with an obese neighbor (a method of execution rather atypical for him). The Punisher then decapitates the Russian and brings his head with him when he finally confronts the Gnuccis for a deadly showdown.

However, a secret paramilitary agency, hoping to use the Russian’s skills, retrieves his head and has it reattached to his body, which is now strengthened with metals and plastics and augmented by a super-hard alloy coating on his skeleton. His internal organs are modified, giving him, among other changes, the lungs of a gorilla and a second heart to better withstand pain and stress (with a third heart added later). Hormone-laden chemicals are necessary to insure that his body accepts the modifications, a rather obvious side effect of which is the development of two truly enormous breasts. The Russian also notices a “strange cranky feeling, once a month,” suggesting that the hormones have changed his body in other gender-related ways, but whether or not it has indeed undergone an entire sex-change is as yet unclear. Undaunted by the change (he even takes to wearing women’s clothing), the relentlessly enthusiastic Russian agrees to work for the agency’s head, the military sadist Kreigkopf, in exchange for being allowed one attempt to gain vengeance on the Punisher. His effort fails when the Punisher throws him off the Empire State Building, but the damage that the Punisher does to him is repaired, and he will certainly clash with the killer vigilante again.

Originally the Russian was, although apparently not superhuman, incredibly strong and tough, even able to ignore a knife wound to the lower abdomen; he was, however, sensitive to heat. Following his transformation, he now possesses superhuman strength, augmented resistance to injury (including a titanium jaw), heightened olfactory senses, and probably other abilities. He is durable enough to withstand a ninety-story fall from the Empire State Building into the New York subway system (and a subsequent high-velocity impact with a train), albeit to require significant repairs later. The Russian has used a wide range of firearms in his previous work but prefers hand-to-hand combat.

The Russian was created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and first appeared in Punisher #8 (2000). The character’s return in a transformed body happened in Punisher #1 (2001).

Art by Steve Dillon, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Christ Sotomayor from Punisher #2 (2001).

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September 26, 2021
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