Karl Ruprecht Kroenen

Karl Ruprecht Kroenen

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In the comics, Kroenen was a relatively unremarkable Nazi SS scientist, whose most distinguishing characteristic was that he always wore a gas mask and protective bodysuit, possibly due to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and fear of bacteria.

Director Guillermo del Toro created a significantly expanded biography for the character, to appear as a villain in the the 2004 film adaptation.

History

Comics History

A German scientist working for the Nazis, and a member of the Thule Society, Dr. Kroenen became one of the top scientists for Project Ragna Rok, and a close disciple of Grigori Rasputin, along with Ilsa Haupstein and Leopold Kurtz. He was present with Rasputin at the secret ritual in Scotland that brought Hellboy to the world.

Kroenen, Haupstein, and Kurtz were frozen inside a secret Nazi base, until they were resuscitated by industrialist Roderick Zinco, acting on Rasputin's orders. Kroenen resumed work on several of his former projects, including making an "Apocalypse Army" by combining corpses with robotics. He also convinced Zinco to retrieve the head of his colleague, Herman von Klempt, from South America. Kroenen retained an affection for his colleague, though Rasputin had rejected von Klempt as unsuitable for Ragnarok. When von Klempt's head was re-animated, he tried to convince Kroenen to abandon Rasputin's plan - to awaken the Ogdru Jahad - and instead to use the Army to retrieve von Klempt's work in South America. Overhearing, Kurtz became furious and attacked von Klempt's head, screaming, "Rasputin is master!" In a panic, Kroenen seized a knife and killed Kurtz. When their plan failed, an enraged Rasputin struck Zinco blind. Wandering around, Zinco accidentally pressed a self-destruct button in the base, destroying it completely and taking Kroenen with it.

Film Biography

(Kroenen's expanded biography appears as a series of comic panels in the book "Hellboy: The Art of the Movie", as well as in the special features of the film's DVD).

Karl Ruprecht Kroenen was born in Munich, Germany in 1897. A musical prodigy with angelic features and blonde hair, young Kroenen toured the capitals of Europe singing opera until his voice deepened with the onset of puberty, thereby ending his career. From a very early age, he demonstrated symptoms of masochism, whipping himself with a fresh branch of oak each day, and finding pleasure in the pain.

As a teenager, he loathed his awkwardness and developed an extreme form of body dysmorphic disorder, manifested as surgical addiction. In his obsession with physical perfection, he conducted brutal experiments on his own body, including surgically removing his own eyelids and lips. He also designed a tight-fitting gas mask to filter out germs, which he wore almost permanently.

He also became quite adept with mechanical devices, believing that fusing mechanical constructs with living bodies would help create perfection. One of his early inventions was a clockwork nightingale that sang a Mozart aria perfectly.

In 1930, he met the resurrected Rasputin for the first time. Obsessed with purity, Kroenen quickly became Rasputin’s most loyal disciple. He subsequently joined the Nazi Party, and rose quickly through the ranks, joining the Schutzstaffel in 1933 and achieving the rank of Obersturmbandführer (Lieutenant Colonel). He was awarded the Iron Cross for services to the Third Reich, including a tour of duty as commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, where he served with distinction. Kroenen became head of the Thule Society, a group of German aristocrats obsessed with the occult. He helped them to spearhead Project Ragna Rok, engineering the portal generator that would conjure the Scarlet Beast, Hellboy, in October 1944.

A masterful fencer, he also became renowned for his swordsmanship and created his own signature swords.

When Allied Forces stormed the island off the coast of Scotland where Project Ragna Rok took place, Kroenen slaughtered several of the American soliders attacking the base, but was distracted by a grenade thrown under the portal device by a young Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. Kroenen tried to retrieve the grenade, but his left hand was blown off, and a length of shrapnel impaled him through the chest, severing his spine. Shortly thereafter, he disappeared.

After his disappearance, in 1956, an unmarked grave in Romania was found. Dental records identified the remains as those of Kroenen.

However, Kroenen reappeared in 2004. Using a mixture of occult magic and machinery, Kroenen "repaired" himself with a prosthetic mechanical hand, a steel rod replacing the broken part of his spine, and a clockwork heart operated by a wind-up key implanted in his chest. By cranking the key, he was able to increase his speed and reflexes. After so much time, the blood in his veins had dried up, leaving only dust, and rendering him virtually invulnerable to gunshot wounds. He could also turn the key to "switch off" his body (literally), remaining in a dormant state and appearing dead, until he was reanimated. He used this deceptive technique to infiltrate the BPRD headquarters. After critically wounding BPRD Agent Clay, he faked his own death and lay beside Clay, and they were both taken into the headquarters. Once inside, Kroenen drew Rasputin there, and personally killed the now elderly Professor Bruttenholm, before disappearing with Rasputin.

The BPRD tracked Rasputin to his own mausoleum beneath Moscow. Hellboy seemingly avenged Bruttenholm's death by throwing Kroenen into his own trap — a spiked pit hidden beneath a trapdoor. Skewered on the stakes, Kroenen then watched helplessly as Hellboy dropped a giant cog on top of him (though it's never made clear whether or not he was killed).

In the original script for "", a scene was included after the credits, which introduced the character of Roderick Zinco on film, who resurrects Kroenen, as Rasputin's ghost looks on. This was meant to be a lead-in for a third movie, but was cut for budgetary reasons.

Weapons and equipment

Kroenen's comics version is a fairly ordinary scientist, who seems to possess some surgical training.

In the original script for "Hellboy", the young Professor Bruttenholm describes Kroenen as "one of the Reich's top scientists, and head of the Thule Occult Society." In the film release, the line was re-dubbed so that the first phrase was replaced by "Hitler's top assassin."

In his initial appearance, while wearing a uniform of the S.S., Kroenen wields a Luger P08 pistol against the attacking U.S. soldiers, and then a pair of katar-like daggers that extend from the sleeves of his trench coat.

In his later appearances, he wields a pair of tonfa-style swords, and also has several other daggers strapped to his suit.

Kroenen is also briefly seen in his workshop, which includes a whole array of disturbing gadgets, along with several different versions of his gas mask.

Several times in Hellboy II, Kroenens battered gasmask can be seen in a display case along with a golden mask that resembles the head of Sammael.

Portrayals

Czech actor Ladislav Beran portrayed Kroenen in the film adaptation of "Hellboy".

This portrayal is radically different from the comics. Kroenen, who originally played the part of a meek character, who Del Toro describes as someone who is likley to say, "Aargh! Don't break the machine!" is here portrayed as a murderous soldier who is inhumanly loyal to Rasputin. He apparently meets his fate when he is pushed into a pit of spikes by Hellboy, who then proceeds to crush him under a massive stone gear. His survival is somewhat ambiguous, seeing as he has survived other apparent "deaths."

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