The Hand is an order of evil mystical ninja who are heavily involved in organized crime and mercenary activities such as assassination plots. The Hand covets power above all other objectives. They are primarily based in Japan, but operate internationally. They were founded in 1588 as a secret society of Japanese nationalist samurai but were soon co-opted by the Snakeroot, an ancient ninja clan which serves a primordial demon known only as The Beast.
Members of the Hand are practitioners of powerful occult magic and can murder a person and bring that person back to life as a servant of the Hand. Only Elektra, Psylocke, Northstar and Wolverine are known to have reversed this programming. Wolverine was brainwashed in a combined operation by the Hand and Hydra.
Masters of every form of subterfuge, the ninja were the most efficient and deadly warriors on the face of the Earth and became feared throughout Japan. Hearsay gave rise to the myth that ninja were the spawn of the Tengu, and that their divinity gave them extraordinary abilities. These myths were likely spread by the ninja themselves. However, it would seem that an ancient ninja clan known as the Snakeroot can and does trace their bloodline back to these demons.
In 1588, Kagenobu Yoshioka became sensei of the Ishiyama Sword School located in the Japanese village of Kyushua. Facing growing frustrations with the corrupt government that had been tainted by foreign influence, Yoshioko transformed the school into a training ground for samurais whose goal was to put power back in the hands of the Japanese people. Thus, the Hand was born. And just as a hand has five fingers, members of the inner circle of the Hand were leaders of organizations which each operated from one of Japan's five islands.
Upon the mutinous murder of Yoshioka, the Snakeroot ninja clan took control of the Hand and corrupted it by imposing the cult of a demon known as The Beast, which imparted them with dark magic. One of these black spells causes a Hand ninja's lifeless body to return to dust and prevent another from directly gazing at the Beast itself. Unlike the other factions of ninja, this “new” Hand both worked as mercenaries and sought power themselves. The Hand sought dominance over all others, worked for allies of convenience while seeking to eliminate their enemies.
The Hand ninja survive to this day, still seeking power in various forms, and using their lethal skills and brutal methods. The Hand's most dangerous adversary is The Chaste, a band of warriors once led by Stick, the late, blind martial arts master and former mentor of Matt Murdock, who grew to become the costumed crime-fighter Daredevil. Another of his former pupils, Elektra Natchios, has also been involved with the Hand. She infiltrated the Hand, determined to prove herself to Stick. Instead, the ninja tricked her into killing one of her former sensei. Elektra served the Hand for a time. When their ways corrupted her soul, she fled Japan back to America.
Eventually, the Hand sought to wipe out Stick and the good warriors of the Chaste altogether. Stick thwarted an assassination attempt by four Hand operatives; he then summoned the other members of his order to New York City. With the assistance of his clan, Stick defeated Kirigi, the Hand's most lethal ninja at the time. The Hand regrouped and attacked Stick and his band of warriors that now included Daredevil and his current lover, Black Widow. The Hand had almost overpowered the small band of warriors, when Stick and Shaft resorted to an ancient technique that drained the life force from all ninja present. Unfortunately, the technique resulted in the explosion of Stick and his comrade as a result of the excess energy they had absorbed. The Hand considered the destruction of their arch-nemesis and leader of their enemy a victory and turned their attention to other schemes.
Years later, the Hand again turned its attention to the leaderless Chaste, once again attempting to destroy them, this time to prevent the Chaste's members from locating the new-born child that would bear Stick's reincarnated soul. The Hand severely crippled Stick's soldiers, reducing their number to a handful of warriors. The few remaining traveled to New York, seeking the assistance of Daredevil. Reluctantly, the Man Without Fear aided his former mentor's disciples, returning with them to Japan. Once there, the Hand attacked the Chaste and Daredevil relentlessly. Fighting alongside Daredevil, the Chaste barely managed to escape and safeguard their master's reincarnated spirit.
The Hand has also frequently fought with Wolverine and come into conflict with superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men. The Hand played a particularly large role in the history of Psylocke.