That’s the Red Ghost as in “The Red Ghost and his Super Apes,” of course. He turns intangible - hence the “Ghost” bit in his name - as a result of flying through a cosmic ray storm in order to recreate the circumstances under which the Fantastic Four got their powers, except he used a spaceship with no shielding in order to increase the exposure. Started out as an FF villain and has become sort of an all-purpose Marvel baddie.
Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say.
Ivan Kragoff was born in Leningrad, in what was at the time the Soviet Union. Before becoming the Red Ghost, Ivan was a Soviet scientist bent on beating the Americans to the moon and claiming it for the Communist empire. He assembled a crew of three trained apes — Mikhlo the Gorilla, Igor the Baboon, and Peotr the Orangutan — which he subjected to specialized training regimens of his own design, then took off on his lunar rocket trip on behalf of the USSR...
Hell, I got this one, you guys:
Ivan Kragoff was born in Leningrad,Right, that’s wrapped up! (Checks watch.) Hm, and quicker than usual…
in what was at the time the Soviet Union. Before becoming the Red Ghost, Ivan was a Sovietscientist bent on beating the Americans to the moon and claiming it for the Communist empire. He assembled a crew of three trained apes — Mikhlo the Gorilla, Igor the Baboon, and Peotr the Orangutan — which he subjected to specialized training regimens of his own design, then took off on his lunar rocket trip on behalf of the USSR...
Actually, no joke, in most of the Red Ghost’s appearances, I think that’s all you really need to do. Most of the times I've ever seen the Red Ghost in a comic, it’s not because the guys who were doing the story needed a commie bad guy, it’s that he’s a.) an evil genius, b.) a guy who turns intangible, and c.) OH MY GOD YOU GUYS MONKEYS AWESOME. If you’re going to do Spider-Man or the Hulk fights the Red Ghost in a contemporary comic book, it’s no sweat, there’s no need to bring up all that messy communist stuff; he's a mad scientist who happens to be Russian.
The messy communist stuff is, however, acutely important in his first appearance.
If you haven’t read Fantastic Four #13 … well, you should. Ditko inks Kirby (it results in a magnificently monstrous Thing), and you get this panel, which in black and white is absolutely stunning:
But anyway, here’s a summary. Reed Richards is again trying to get to the moon before the Soviets do, and he finds a new fuel source (Tunguska-derived, it appears – that’s right, Warren Ellis, Stan Lee totally beat you to this one!) with which to accomplish this. However, the Red Ghost and his simian crew also blast off at that very moment to conquer the moon in the name of Mother Russia. They both make it to the moon and start to fight, when suddenly, The Watcher makes his first appearance. He does his whole “I am bound never to interfere in mortals’ affairs, except this time” speech because the US/USSR conflict, no longer confined to Earth, now potentially threatens the rest of the universe. So he transports them to the Blue Area of the Moon where there’s breathable atmosphere and the ruins of an ancient civilization (it’s where the X-Men fought the Imperial Guard at the climax of the Dark Phoenix Saga, you’ll recall) and says to fight it out there, and whoever wins will win the space race for their side. The Fantastic Four, of course, beat the Red Ghost and claim the moon for freedom and democracy. “Space is your heritage,” the Watcher tells them. “See that you prove worthy of such a glorious gift!”
Okay, so right off, Marvel Time makes the “first men on the moon” thing an anachronism (though I guess we haven’t actually had a woman or apes up there yet). As for the Red Ghost himself, we can’t just cross out the communist references because they’re actually important in this case. The Red Ghost here isn’t just any mad scientist to fight, he has to represent something that the Fantastic Four would oppose ideologically; otherwise, it’s just another supercharacter scuffle and not the event of cosmic significance that Lee and Kirby are trying to sell us on in this story.
So to that end, we can ask, “What is it that ‘Soviet-ness’ represents here that the audience is to be repulsed by?” In other words, what exactly is Stan Lee’s beef with communism (other than that he’s an American citizen in the early 1960s)?
Well, it turns out in the story that the Red Ghost treats those apes pretty badly. He calls the gorilla “My monsterous slave,” and in the next panel shouts, “No food for you yet, comrade baboon! It is important to me that you remain hungry – I want you to be mean, vicious, dangerous!”
Later in the story, the Red Ghost captures Sue and imprisons her behind a force field guarded by his Super-Apes, and she thinks, “If I could only find a way to eliminate this force field – to free the Super-Apes! I would take my chacnes with them, rather than the Red Ghost, for they are like the communist masses, innocently enslaved by their evil leaders!” Sue manages to knock the force field out of commission, but they don’t attack her. “Just as I expected! They’re so ravenously hungry that they don’t even notice me in their frantic attempt to get the food which Kragoff had left on the other side of the force screen!” The gorilla punches out a wall. “And now,” Sue thinks, “no longer under the Red Ghost’s mental control, they want their freedom!
At the story’s end, they leave the Red Ghost on the moon to the mercies of the Super-Apes, who have rebelled against their cruel master. “Wait!” Kragoff says. “Why are you staring at me that way? Aiming the [paralysis] ray at me?? Your eyes – they’re gleaming with hatred – with vengeance!”
So stripped of era-specific politics, what “Soviet-ness” seems to mean for Stan Lee here (and elsewhere, notably in a Captain America/Hawkeye/Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch Avengers story with a Vietnam analogue) is exploitation, and that’s something you can always find a relevant outlet for. In fact, it’s interesting to see how Marvel’s anticommunist themes of the early 60s morph into the antiestablishment themes of the late 60s – they’re both about taking a stand against The Man, whether that Man is an American establishment figure or the Soviet high command keeping the little guy (or ape) down.
So there are any number of ways you could make this story relevant, to find a new way for the Red Ghost to be The Man. Perhaps the most mischevious would be to take the Soviet boogeyman and turn him relatively seamlessly into a ruthless, total free-market industrialist. Maybe he’s headed to the moon to strip it of its resources, to ransack the wonders of the Blue Area – you could play this as a guy who wants to own the moon, who wants to privatize Earth’s satellite. The Super-Apes are, as you will, his corporate drones or his underfed and underpaid working class. The FF, then, fight him to protect the moon from being divvied up like it was just another chunk of unclaimed geography; that space exploration is about something finer, something to bring humankind together, despite whatever differences we might have had on Earth. All that idealistic 60s Star Trek stuff, right? There’s a philosophical/ethical/ideological conflict that would make this important and not just another bad-guy fight, worthy of the Watcher’s interference.
Well, whatever way you do it (I'm sure there's a better way I haven’t thought of), again, it generally doesn’t matter for 99% of the Red Ghost appearances past, present and future. But then again, if you committed to the Red Ghost as a symbol of exploitation, maybe you could get more out of the character than just a mad monkey wrangler...