K'un Lun, the Hand, and the Divine Pairing
Sometime in the distant past, Earth’s mystics learned to access another dimension, one that only overlapped with Earth once every 15 years. They established a city in this dimension, K’un Lun, which became a center of enlightenment and learning. The Iron Fist was chosen to act as protector of K’un Lun, and guardian of the gateway.
Five of K’un Lun’s disciples sought to pervert the city’s teachings, seeking out the secret of immortality. The Elders of K’un Lun banished these five, but were unaware that they had already learned how to conquer death. These five, led by the woman known as Alexandra, were able to tap into the energy of dragons, and create a “substance” that granted immortality from their bones. Using the promise of immortality to gain powerful allies on Earth, the five formed the Yami no te – the Hand. The Hand would be responsible for countless atrocities over the millennia, and their quest for dragon bones would frequently lead to tragedy due to powerful releases of energy. In AD79, the Hand were responsible for triggering the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The Elders of K’un Lun learned of the Hand’s evil, and sought to combat it. The Iron Fist became their greatest weapon against the Hand, and he allied with some of the Hand’s victims, who he trained into an organization known as the Chaste. These two secretive groups – the Hand and the Chaste – would wage war against one another for millennia.
Meanwhile, in North America, a famine struck the area that would become New Orleans. The local Choctaw tribe was saved by the first known "Divine Pairing," with a Choctaw girl sacrificed in a ritual to bring an end to the famine. It's possible that this established the pattern of the "Divine Pairing," a cycle that would run throughout history. Whenever New Orleans was threatened, a new Divine Pairing would emerge, and the death of one would save the area.
There's now something of a gap in the MCU timeline, running up to the 20th century. There have only ever been occasional flashbacks to the last 1,000 years or so of world history, but all they've done is confirm that everything we've seen so far was still ongoing. Hydra were still sending sacrifices through the Monolith, the Hand and the Chaste were waging war, and an Asgardian berserker was becoming a legend on Earth.
Hydra Allies with Nazism
In the twentieth century, Hydra used the rise of Nazism as an opportunity to gain power and influence. The most notable figure was Johann Schmidt, a scientist who believed the legends of Asgard were the key to ancient, advanced science. He ingratiated himself within the SS, and in June 1934 took advantage of the Night of the Long Knives to take control of the Nazi's weapons testing program in Kumersdorf.
Under Schmidt's leadership, Hydra pursued two avenues of research. Arnim Zola continued to develop advanced weapons systems, which Hydra secretly tested during the Spanish Civil War. But Schmidt himself was more interested in attempts to create the perfect human, and became fascinated by the theories of Dr. Abraham Erskine. When Erskine attempted to flee Germany in September 1935, Schmidt intercepted him, and forced him to cooperate with Hydra.
1940 proved a turning point in the history of Hydra, with war now raging across Europe. British Intelligence stole footage of weapons testing in Guernica, sharing it with the United States; this evidence persuaded the Strategic Scientific Reserve to prepare for outright war with Hydra, and they recruited genius industrialist Howard Stark. In November that year, Schmidt forced Erskine to pursue human trials of his super-soldier serum, and was transformed into the Red Skull. British Intelligence smuggled Erskine out of Germany before Erskine could be killed for his apparent failure.
In December 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States to finally enter the Second World War. Only three months later, though, Hydra’s weapons programs received a terrifying boost; the Red Skull was finally able to locate the Tesseract, the Space Stone, which had apparently been left on Earth by Odin. Hydra swiftly recognized that they could use the Tesseract as a powerful energy source.
Page 4: WWII, Hydra, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019