When HYDRA fell in Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it became apparent that the show would never introduce us to one of HYDRA’s most significant leaders in the comics: Madame Hydra. However, in Season 4, our heroes got transported into a virtual reality called the Framework, a place where all of their problems should have gone away. This was a promise made by AIDA (played by Mallory Jansen), the android who engineered this master plan. In the episode “What If…,” AIDA was revealed to be in the Framework with the agents, and was operating as the leader of HYDRA who had defeated SHIELD and taken control.
As the leader of HYDRA, AIDA has a new look: green hair and a green outfit. For comic fans, this was a dead giveaway to AIDA’s new identity. In the Framework, AIDA has become “Madame Hydra,” a classic villain whose history goes all the way back to 1969. Madame Hydra is best known for being one of Captain America’s greatest enemies, and is arguably the most important villain ever to be introduced on the show. With that said, let’s take a look at 15 Things You Should Know About Madame Hydra.
15. She married Wolverine
Despite Madame Hydra’s deep connections to Captain America, she also played an important role in the life of Wolverine. Wolverine once made a promise to a friend that if Madame Hydra ever asked him a favor, he would do it, no questions asked. So when a marriage was requested, Wolverine was bound by honor to go through with it. The purpose of the marriage was to unite rival factions of Madripoor. During the wedding, Madame Hydra was severely wounded by Sabretooth, who of course would have tried to kill any bride of Wolverine’s. Madame Hydra was saved by Kitty Pryde.
When Wolverine had to save her life from an evil spirit called Ogun, she was left in critical condition. Seeing an opportunity, Wolverine told her that he would only take her to a doctor if she agreed to give him a divorce. With no other choice available, she conceded, and promised to see him dead.
14. Captain America used Madame Hydra to fake his death
While characters like Spider-Man, Batman and Superman enjoy the benefits of having secret identities, Captain America is one superhero whose identity is well-known to the public as “Steve Rogers.” With the whole world knowing Cap’s real name, this made it too easy for villains to track him down. As Cap put it, he was a “sitting duck.” So when Madame Hydra came on the scene as the new leader of HYDRA with her sights set on the Sentinel of Liberty, an opportunity presented itself for Cap to finally be rid of his biggest problem.
Madame Hydra’s first scheme was to control the world’s water supply, but Cap and his young partner Rick Jones had no intention of letting her succeed. Madame Hydra used all the resources at her disposal to defeat them. After being bombarded with gunfire, Cap appeared to have died with his body lost in the ocean. Though his death was a great blow to the people, the greatest shock was what they found in the water: a mask of a human face. The face was of Steve Rogers, which proved to the public that “Steve Rogers” was just a lie that Cap used to protect his real identity. It was a clever idea, and it worked. The world soon forgot that Captain America and Steve Rogers were one and the same.
13. Madame Hydra tried to bury the Avengers alive
When Captain America faked his death, HYDRA rejoiced in their victory. Meanwhile, Nick Fury, Rick Jones, and the Avengers mourned the loss of a legend. At Cap’s funeral, Fury gave a heartfelt eulogy, but before he could finish, someone noticed a card in the coffin. Upon touching it, a gas filled the room, rendering them all unconscious. The gas was so powerful that it affected everyone, even Thor and Vision.
Madame Hydra ordered her agents to put Nick Fury and the Avengers in coffins. After taking them to a graveyard to be buried, Madame Hydra’s plans appeared to be going smoothly until Captain America leaped out of the shadows and attacked HYDRA. Furious, she realized that everything she had accomplished was coming undone and vowed to kill Cap, even if it meant her own death. She launched heat-seeking missiles at him but when Cap was able to dodge them, they locked onto her instead.
12. She was trained by Dr. Daniel Whitehall
Before becoming Madame Hydra, her name was Ophelia Sarkissian. Born in Hungary, she and her family were caught in a revolution that cost the lives of her parents. At a young age, Ophelia had no choice but to learn how to survive on her own. When fleeing the country, Ophelia was involved in an accident which horribly scarred one side of her face. These scars are present in the comics, and often haunt her. She has been known to smash mirrors to avoid the sight of them.
Along with other orphan girls, Ophelia was taken in by HYDRA and trained by a high ranking member called the Kraken. The Kraken turned Ophelia into the cold-blooded killer that she is today. The Kraken’s real name was Dr. Daniel Whitehall. Dr. Whitehall was featured in Season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as one of the many heads of HYDRA. He was responsible for the break-up of Daisy Johnson’s family and was later killed by Agent Coulson. Could the Framework make Whitehall’s return a possibility?
11. Madame Hydra killed the Viper and took his name
In the early 1970s, Captain America and the Falcon fought the Viper, a snake-theme villain whose main weapon was a deadly poison. One of his allies was his brother, the Eel. About a year after their defeat, the Viper made an alliance with Madame Hydra, who at the time was no longer associated with HYDRA. No longer needing to call herself “Madame Hydra,” she decided she might as well take a new name. She killed the Viper, took his costume and assumed his mantle. She then lied to the Eel and told him that Viper had been killed in battle. She let Eel believe that she had taken the Viper’s name as a sort of memorial to him.
In the years that followed, her reputation as the Viper exceeded the one she had created as Madame Hydra. In time, her association with the “Madame Hydra” name slowly diminished, but she eventually reclaimed it in the 1990s.
10. She became the leader of the Serpent Squad
When Madame Hydra murdered Viper and took his place, she had a plan in mind to replace the power she had lost when she had served as the Supreme Hydra. She achieved this by taking something else that once belonged to the Viper: his team. The Viper had been the leader of a group called the Serpent Squad, consisting of himself, the Eel, and King Cobra. She reformed the Serpent Squad by reuniting Eel and King Cobra, and recruiting Princess Python from Ringmaster’s Circus of Crime.
Madame Hydra joined forces with Warlord Krang of Atlantis to use the power of the Serpent Crown, an ancient artifact from the lost continent of Lemuria. Their plan was to raise Lemuria back to the surface and rule the world. They were opposed by Nomad, who was actually Captain America in disguise, a fact she became aware of years later. In the final battle, Nomad defeated the Serpent Squad, and the Serpent Crown was lost in the sewers.
9. She was featured in The Wolverine
Madame Hydra’s association with Wolverine and the X-Men allowed 20th Century Fox shared rights to the character. In the 2013 film The Wolverine, Madame Hydra received her second live-action appearance, the first being the made-for-TV movie, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., where she was played by Sandra Hess.
In The Wolverine, Madame Hydra (appearing in her “Viper” persona) was portrayed by Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova. This version of the character had no connection to HYDRA (which is owned by Marvel Studios) but shared her classic comic book costume, minus the green hair and lipstick. Viper shared the comic book character’s affinity for snakes, but also sported a number of new snake-like powers, including the ability to shed her skin.
Serving as one of the film’s antagonists, the Viper was a scientist who was instrumental in removing Wolverine’s healing factor. She was also an ally of the Silver Samurai, someone whose services she often required in the comics.
8. She was in a relationship with the Red Skull
Red Skull went to a great deal of trouble to free Madame Hydra from a federal penitentiary, despite having never met her before. Madame Hydra was hesitant to ally herself with him, but the Red Skull convinced her that he did it so that they could help each other. As they were two of the most evil villains in the Marvel Universe, the pair shared a lot in common and the two quickly became close. Red Skull broke off the relationship when he found out that Madame Hydra was using their resources to fund massacres. What bothered him was that these operations produced no financial benefits for either of them.
To the Red Skull, her actions exposed a flaw he could not overlook: Madame Hydra was a nihilist. She enjoyed murder for the sake of murder, while everything that the Red Skull ever did had a purpose. Madame Hydra, however, has an obsession with death that could rival Thanos himself.
7. Madame Hydra has an arsenal of deadly weapons at her disposal
Since the comic book version of Madame Hydra doesn’t have the mutant powers that Svetlana Khodchenkova’s character has in The Wolverine, she has to find other ways to compete with characters like Captain America.
Due to her affinity for snakes, Madame Hydra utilizes snake venom in her weaponry whenever possible. Her whip, throwing darts, and even her lipstick are coated with snake poison. Madame Hydra’s love for poison goes back to her days as the Supreme Hydra, years before her association with the Serpent Squad and the Serpent Society. She would give out “Hydra Warrants of Death” that would trigger a poisonous gas as soon as someone made contact with it.
6. She was the dictator of Madripoor
Following the struggle between the Hand and HYDRA over the control of Madripoor, Madame Hydra was eventually installed as the ruler of the country. Her reign was disrupted by an alien invasion, but with the help of the Avengers and the X-Men, the invading force was defeated.
As dictator, Madame Hydra used Madripoor’s resources for the benefit of HYDRA and their terrorist agenda. When Tony Stark became the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he saw Madame Hydra as a threat and wanted to put an end to her regime but without the authority to attack a sovereign state, he had to pursue other options. He met Madame Hydra personally, and before long the two began making attempts to do away with one another.
5. She mutated people into snake monsters, including President Reagan
When Captain America fought Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, one of Magneto’s underlings was a mutant named Slither, a humanoid snake monster. Years later, Madame Hydra discovered Slither and used his DNA to create a chemical that would transform humans into Snake Men.
After taking over the Serpent Society, another group of snake-themed villains, Madame Hydra distributed the chemical into Washington D.C.’s water supply. Soon, the place was overrun with Snake Men. Going by the name “The Captain,” Steve Rogers worked to stop the outbreak. As the disease spread all over the White House, Madame Hydra gave an extra dose to the President, who was never named but looked suspiciously like President Reagan. The President became the most powerful of the Snake Men, but was still no match for Rogers, who held him off until his metabolism was able to reject the effects of the toxins.
4. She recreated the Bubonic Plague
Madame Hydra established a base beneath the suburban town of Hartsdale, Illinois where she had a team of scientists re-engineer the Bubonic Plague, the disease that left 50 million dead in 14th century Europe. Madame Hydra somehow succeeded in making the Plague more deadly than ever. Her intent was to release it into the town using snakes as carriers.
The supervillain Constrictor assisted her as her hired muscle when she targeted Captain America. After capturing Cap, Constrictor overheard Madame Hydra’s plans to use the Bubonic Plague to bring the world to its knees. Horrified, Constrictor realized that his employer was no ordinary villain. Madame Hydra didn’t want to conquer the world; she wanted to wipe it out. Constrictor turned against her when the time came to execute her plan.
She used two hot-air balloons to carry the Plague-infected snakes up into the sky over the town. Before they could drop, Captain America, Dum Dum Dugan, and Constrictor managed to defeat Madame Hydra and blow up the balloons.
3. She has doppelgangers called Pit-Vipers
In Punisher: War Journal, Punisher was visited by Madame Hydra, who offered to help him in his war against organized crime, most notably the Secret Empire. She even supplied him with a getaway helicopter when an escape plan became necessary. This seemed uncharacteristically nice for the Madame Hydra that we know, and that’s because the woman who helped the Punisher wasn’t the real Madame Hydra. It was discovered later that she was a Pit-Viper, a doppelganger whose job is to pose as Madame Hydra in order to keep people from locating the real one. Other Pit-Vipers have since appeared, and are sometimes identified by a lack of scars on their faces.
It’s not clear if the Pit-Viper who encountered the Punisher was actually intended to be the real Madame Hydra or not. In any case, the Pit-Vipers have become a way in which writers are able to easily retcon any stories featuring Madame Hydra, not unlike the way writers handle Thanos and his clones.
2. Spider-Woman thought Madame Hydra was her mother
When Madame Hydra laid eyes on private investigator Jessica Drew, she believed she had found her long-lost daughter. Though Madame Hydra was able to figure out that Jessica was the superhero Spider-Woman, this didn’t stop her from ordering her partner in crime, the Silver Samurai, to kill her if she intervened in their scheme.
When Spider-Woman’s soul was threatened by the elder god Chthon, Madame Hydra rescued her, and explained that she had been inspired by Spider-Woman to do the right thing. Spider-Woman felt conflicted for a while over her relationship with Madame Hydra, unsure if she should regard her as an enemy or as her mother.
The conflict was resolved when Madame Hydra discovered that a “wall of lies” had been placed in her mind by the sorceress Morgan Le Fay, making her believe that she was Jessica’s mother. It was suggested that Morgan Le Fay, who was an enemy of Spider-Woman, did this to give her a maternal attachment, only to use it against her later.
1. She was resurrected by Hive
Contessa Valentina de Allegra Fontaine was a high-level agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who turned out to be a mole for HYDRA. When Fontaine killed Madame Hydra to take the title for herself, the original went through a startling transformation. A parasitic creature called the Hive bonded with her and reanimated her body. After becoming one with the Hive, Madame Hydra had tentacles flowing down the green mass that sat atop her head. Some time later, Norman Osborn had the parasite surgically removed without harming Madame Hydra.
The parasite that revived Madame Hydra is the same alien life-form that served as the main antagonist in the second half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s third season. In the show, Hive was an ancient Inhuman instead of a creation of HYDRA. The creature functioned much like its comic book counterpart. The creature inhabited the dead body of Agent Grant Ward for most of the season and was finally destroyed by a bomb in the season finale.
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