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Red Skull

Red Skull
Promotional art for Captain America vol. 5, #38 (July 2008) by Steve Epting
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance (George Maxon) Captain America Comics #1 (Mar 1941)
(Johann Schmidt) Captain America Comics #7 (Oct 1941)
(Albert Malik) (Golden Age) Captain America Comics #61 (March 1947)
Created by Joe Simon
Jack Kirby
France Herron
In-story information
Alter ego Johann Schmidt
George John Maxon
Albert Malik
Synthia Schmidt
Team affiliations (Schmidt)
Kronas Corporation
Nazi Germany
Skeleton Crew
Nazi Germany
Soviet Union
Malik's criminal cartel
Partnerships (Schmidt)
Baron Strucker
The Viper
Baron Helmut Zemo
Frag (Brock Rumlow)
Notable aliases (Schmidt)
Der Rote Schädel (German name), Dell Rusk, Bettman P. Lyles, the Agent of a Thousand Faces (whom he impersonated in Europe during World War II), The Man (head of the People's Militia), Cyrus Fenton, John Smith, Teacher, Tod March (president and owner of Galactic Pictures), John Smith, Aleksander Lukin
John Maxon
Senator Joseph McRooter
Abilities (Schmidt)
Cloned body of Captain America (including the Super-Soldier formula); skilled hand-to-hand combatant, strategic genius, political mastermind, expert marksman
Skilled saboteur, hand-to-hand combatant, marksman
Strategic master, political master
(Earth Cosmic Red Skull/Johann Schmidt)
Genius level Intellect, Expert Combatant, Regenerative Healing

The Red Skull is a name shared by several fictional characters, all supervillains from the Marvel Comics universe. All incarnations of the character are enemies of Captain America, other superheroes, and the United States in general.

The first two Red Skulls are Nazi agents and the third is a Soviet agent. The Red Skull was first introduced in Captain America Comics #1 in 1941. The first Red Skull (George Maxon) to appear in comics was an American industrialist turned Nazi saboteur. Maxon turned out to be an agent of the true Red Skull (Johann Schmidt), considered (according to S.H.I.E.L.D.) as one of the greatest threats to humanity,[1] and a long-time archenemy of Captain America.[2] The third Red Skull (Albert Malik) is best known for causing the deaths of the parents of Peter Parker, and thus orphaning the boy who would become Spider-Man. The Red Skull was ranked number 21 on Wizard Magazine's Top 100 Greatest Villains Ever list and was also ranked as IGN's 14th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.[3]


  Publication history

Joe Simon was inspired at the moment he was considering an appropriate villain for Captain America. Coincidentally, he saw a hot fudge sundae melting and noticed how it was resembling a human-like figure in the process. Although Simon initially considered calling this character Hot Fudge, the cherry on top seemed like an exposed skull as its head and he decided that the Red Skull was a more appropriate moniker.[4] The Red Skull was introduced in Timely Comics' Captain America Comics #1 (cover-dated March 1941), written and drawn by the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

The more enduring Johann Schmidt version of the Red Skull was created by writer France Herron[5][6] and artist Kirby (with Simon on inks); he first appeared in Captain America Comics #7 (Oct. 1941).

The character was subsequently revived in the Silver Age of Comic Books, first in Tales of Suspense #65 (May 1965) in the short-lived Captain America-early World War II-period story run, and then was established as a contemporary villain in issue #79 (July 1966).

For decades, the character's true face was hidden, but in Captain America vol. 1, #297 (Sept. 1984) the Red Skull unmasked in front of the superhero with his face, albeit extremely aged, fully revealed. In the next issue, the Red Skull retells his story with his face fully visible in his various ages. When the character was revealed to be alive in issue #350 (Feb. 1989), in a story called "Resurrection," by John Byrne, the face of Johann Schmidt's original body is hidden again, but the Skull's face is fully visible, albeit in his cloned copy of Captain America's body.

The character's origin was more fully illustrated in the limited series, Red Skull: Incarnate, with Schmidt's face fully visible again.

  Fictional character biography

The Red Skull, Johann Schmidt (sometimes spelled Shmidt), was a former Nazi general officer and confidant of Adolf Hitler. He has been closely affiliated with HYDRA and is an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, and the interests of the United States and the free world in general. He was physically augmented by having his mind placed into the body of a clone of Captain America, the pinnacle of human perfection. He has been seemingly killed in the past, only to return time and time again to plague the world with schemes of world domination and genocide.

  World War II era

  George Maxon

Chronologically by publication date, the first Red Skull to appear in the 1940s comics was George John Maxon, an American businessman and Nazi agent who led a ring of spies and saboteurs. He faced Captain America during two of the latter's first missions.[7] A formidable opponent in his own right, Maxon was thought killed during the last encounter, though he would reappear for one last encounter with Captain America in the Silver Age. Maxon was later revealed to be the agent of Johann Schmidt, the true Red Skull.

  Johann Schmidt, the true Red Skull

Johann Schmidt was born in a village in Germany to Hermann and Martha Schmidt. His mother died in childbirth and his father blamed Johann for her death. Johann's father tried to drown the baby, only to be stopped by the attending doctor; he later committed suicide, leaving Johann an orphan. The doctor took Johann to an orphanage, where the child led a lonely existence. Johann ran away from the orphanage when he was seven years old and lived on the streets as a beggar and a thief. As he grew older he worked at various menial jobs but spent most of his time in prison for crimes ranging from vagrancy to theft.

As a young man Schmidt was from time to time employed by a Jewish shopkeeper, whose daughter, Esther, was the only person who had treated Schmidt kindly up to that point. Seized with passion for Esther, Schmidt tried to force himself upon her, only to be rejected by her. In unthinking fury, Schmidt murdered her. Schmidt fled the scene in terror, but also felt ecstatic joy in committing his first murder. In killing Esther he had given vent to the rage at the world that had been building up in him throughout his young life.[8] In reality, as depicted in Red Skull: Incarnate, he actually defended Esther from attackers and violently rejected her after the subsequent death of her father and merely claimed to have murdered her to disturb Captain America who was in his clutches at that time.[volume & issue needed]

According to the official version of the story told by the Red Skull and the Nazis, Schmidt met Hitler while working as a bellhop in a major hotel. This occurred during his late teens, around the same time that the Nazi Party gained power in Germany. Schmidt wound up serving the rooms of Adolf Hitler himself. By chance, Schmidt was present by bringing refreshments when the Führer was furiously scolding an officer for letting a prisoner escape, during which Hitler pledged that he could create a better National Socialist out of the bellhop. Looking closely at the youth and sensing his dark inner nature, Hitler decided to take up the challenge and recruited Schmidt.[8] In the series Red Skull: Incarnate, it has been revealed that Schmidt actually engineered his meeting with the Führer with himself disguised as a bellhop, tricking his fellow orphan Dieter into trying to kill Hitler and then taking this opportunity to save Hitler's life.[9]

Dissatisfied with the standard drill instruction his subordinates used to train Schmidt, Hitler took over personally, and trained Schmidt as his right-hand man. Upon completion, Hitler gave Schmidt a unique uniform with a grotesque red skull mask, and he emerged as the Red Skull (in literal German: Roter Totenkopf or Roter (Toten-)Schädel) for the first time. His role was the embodiment of Nazi intimidation, while Hitler could remain the popular leader of Germany. To that end, The Red Skull was appointed head of Nazi terrorist activities with an additional large role in external espionage and sabotage. He succeeded, wreaking havoc throughout Europe in the early stages of World War II. The propaganda effect was so great that the United States government decided to counter it by creating their own equivalent using the one recipient of the lost Project Rebirth, Steve Rogers, as Captain America.[8]

In Europe during the war, the Skull took personal command of many military actions and personally supervised the takeovers and lootings of many cities and towns; in various cases the Skull ordered and supervised the eradication of the entire population of such communities. The Red Skull also organized a "wolf pack" of submarines which preyed upon shipping across the world, often under the Skull's personal command.[volume & issue needed]

At first Hitler took great pride in his protégé's successes and let the Skull have anything he wanted. Hitler thus financed the construction of secret bases for the Skull in various locations throughout the world, many of which were equipped with highly advanced experimental weapons and devices developed by Nazi scientists. The Skull was particularly interested in procuring technological weapons that could be used for the purposes of subversion and warfare. During the war he stole plans for the "nullatron," a device that could control human minds, adapted a space-warping device developed by the cyborg scientist codenamed Brain Drain, and commissioned Nazi scientists to develop a projector which could encircle and suspend sections of cities within spheres of energy.

But while the Skull always admired Hitler for his ideological vision, he was never content with being Hitler's subordinate. The Skull kidnapped and killed many of Hitler's closest advisers and eventually rose to become the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. Now Hitler could no longer effectively control the Skull and came to fear him, especially since the Skull had made little secret of his ambition to supplant Hitler someday.

After the renowned military officer Baron Wolfgang von Strucker had a falling out with Hitler, the Red Skull sent Strucker to Japan to found an organization that would prepare the way for takeovers in the Far East under the Skull's leadership.[volume & issue needed] In the Far East Strucker joined a subversive organization that came to be known as HYDRA, broke his ties with the Skull, became head of HYDRA and built it into a major threat to world peace.[volume & issue needed]

As World War II raged on, Hitler vowed, that if he could not conquer the world, he would destroy it. To achieve this end, the Skull proposed the construction of five gigantic war machines, to be called the Sleepers, which would be hidden in various locations while they generated and stored the power they would need, and then be released at a future date, "Der Tag" ("The Day"), to destroy the Earth if the Allies won. Hitler enthusiastically instructed the Skull to construct the Sleepers, unaware that the Skull intended to use them to conquer the world himself if Hitler's Third Reich fell. In the closing days of the war in Europe, Allied intelligence received reports of a Nazi doomsday plan code-named "Der Tag" to be implemented after Hitler's defeat. However, the Allies had no idea what the plan entailed.

Captain America and his teenage partner Bucky Barnes fought against and thwarted the Skull and his plans many times during the war, both working on their own and operating as members of the Invaders. Once they were captured by him, and Captain America was placed under Nazi control by a drug and told to assassinate a high-ranking officer, but thanks to Bucky he broke free.[volume & issue needed] During the final days of World War II in Europe, Captain America and Bucky were assigned to England to prevent desperate Nazi efforts at sabotaging Allied supply bases there.[volume & issue needed] The Red Skull sent a number of his subordinates, who became known as the Exiles, and a large contingent of loyal German soldiers and their wives to a secret island base ("Exile Island"), where they would organize an army for use in the future.[volume & issue needed]

The two counterparts soon clashed for the first time.[10] The Skull later temporarily brainwashed three of the Invaders into serving him.[11] The Red Skull and Captain America continued to engage in a series of skirmishes throughout the war. On one occasion the Skull captured Captain America and told him his origin. He placed Captain America under his control and tried to use him to kill a high-ranking officer, but with Bucky's help Captain America broke free.[12] Now that the German defeat was becoming a reality, the Red Skull was more determined than ever to obtain vengeance for his numerous personal defeats by Captain America and Bucky. The Skull assigned Baron Heinrich Zemo to go to England, and, under the cover of stealing an experimental Allied drone plane, to capture or kill Captain America and Bucky. However, the Skull was unaware that the Allies had just secretly parachuted Captain America into beleaguered Berlin to investigate "Der Tag."[volume & issue needed]

Finally, Captain America tracked the Skull down to his hidden bunker. The Skull was about to hurl an armed hand grenade at his nemesis when Captain America threw his shield at him. The grenade went off, but the Skull was not killed, thanks to his body armor. He was, however; seriously hurt and partially buried in debris. Thinking he was dying, the Skull defiantly told Captain America that the Sleepers would avenge the Nazis' defeat. Then, suddenly, an Allied attack on Berlin began. An Allied plane dropped a huge blockbuster bomb on the bunker, causing a cave-in that Captain America barely escaped. Captain America was picked up by the Allies and returned to England only to fall into Zemo's trap, which led to Captain America's falling into suspended animation for decades. Support pillars that crisscrossed over the Red Skull when the bunker caved in saved him from being struck by tons of rubble when the bomb hit. The cave-in released an experimental gas from canisters in the bunker which put the Skull into suspended animation during which his wounds slowly healed.[13]

  Post-World War II era

  Albert Malik

With Schmidt's disappearance after 1945, the reputation of the Skull was still formidable enough to prove useful. In 1953, a Soviet Russian KGB agent named Albert Malik set up his spy/criminal organization in Algeria and assumed the identity of the Red Skull, pretending that he was the original, when he was actually serving Soviet interests. During the 1950s, he faced the then active version of Captain America who was also using the identity of Steve Rogers, pretending to be the original. The two impersonators continued to battle each other throughout the decade. While the Captain and Bucky (Jack Monroe) were placed into suspended animation when his flawed replicate of the Super-Soldier formula seriously affected his and Bucky's minds, Malik continued his activities, and over time cut his links to the Soviet Union. Among other notorious deeds, he was responsible for the deaths of Richard Parker and Mary Fitzpatrick-Parker, the parents of Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), tipped off by the super-criminal Gustav "The Gentleman" Fiers.

Johann Schmidt's legacy continued to cause trouble in the years of his absence. This primarily came in the Sleepers which were activated by his agents as scheduled. Captain America was able to neutralize all the machines in turn.

  Modern era

  The Red Skull wielding the Cosmic Cube: Tales of Suspense #80 (Aug. 1966). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.

Johann was eventually rescued and revived from suspended animation in modern times by the terrorist organization, AIM with his henchman. The Skull quickly subverted a cell to his own ambitions of world conquest and the death of Captain America. He stole the Cosmic Cube after taking control of its Keeper's mind with a device he planted while shaking hands, and revealed that he gave Zemo the order to steal the bomb plane that led to Bucky's death. He had had a rivalry with Zemo, and hoped to set his two foes against each other. Captain America found out from the dying pilot of a plane that had been following the Keeper's plane of the Cube, which had been used to destroy the plane. Schmidt told another AIM member of his plans after getting a mind control device on him, then caused him to shoot himself. He fought Captain America again for the first time in years after getting the Cube on an island, and created a superstrong humanoid monster to fight Captain America. Captain America began defeating it, so the Red Skull sent it away. He began sending Captain America to another dimension when Captain America offered to become his servant. The Red Skull encased himself in a golden suit of armor, and talked of creating a new order of knights. He planned to take over the world with the Cube, then create spaceships to conquer other worlds. Captain America defeated him by getting close to him while the Red Skull prepared to knight him. Captain America tried to get the Cube, and in the fight the island split apart due to the Cube's power, and the Skull fell off a cliff while trying to get the Cosmic Cube.[14] When Johann reappeared, he and Malik, though his age was starting to catch up with him, started to antagonize each other while both claiming the identity of the Red Skull.[volume & issue needed] Finally Albert was the victim of an assassination organized by Johann, at the hands of a rogue agent of the Scourge of the Underworld.[15]

Thus the two enemies resumed their war, with Captain America, among other opponents, frustrating the Skull's schemes. The Skull captured part of Manhattan Island,[16] unleashed the fourth Sleeper, and captured Captain America on Exile Island.[17] The Skull then regained the reality-altering Cosmic Cube and temporarily switched bodies with Captain America. He also used the Cube to alter the personality of "Snap" Wilson, the future Falcon.[18] Some time later, he first fought Doctor Doom.[19] The Red Skull then fomented racial hatred in New York,[20] and was revealed as the true power behind the Las Vegas HYDRA faction, and first clashed with the Kingpin.[21]

Some time later, the Skull killed the would-be Captain America, Roscoe, while Rogers had temporarily given up the role. He also revived the use of his "dust of death."[22] The Skull later fought Doctor Doom on the moon but was defeated.[23] With Arnim Zola, the Skull sought to transplant Hitler's brain into Captain America's body.[24] He transformed a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into his skull-faced slaves.[25] The Skull teamed with the Hate-Monger, a clone of Hitler, and trapped him in a flawed Cosmic Cube.[26] The Skull led the Nihilist Order for a brief time.[27] Establishing a Nazi colony on a deserted island, the Skull fathered a daughter who would eventually become known as Mother Superior.[28]

The war between Captain America and Red Skull in the modern era reached a breaking point when Red Skull discovered that the gas that had placed him in suspended animation was wearing off and his body was rapidly aging to what would be Skull's normal age. Now physically in his mid-80s, a weak and feeble Red Skull planned for a final showdown with his arch-rival. Kidnapping Captain America's closest allies, he forced Captain America to surrender himself and forcibly undergo a medical treatment that aged Captain America's body to its rightful age. The two men, their bodies now ancient, fought one last battle to the death. Captain America refused to kill the Red Skull, who died cursing Captain America as his elderly body shut down.[29] Dead at last, it seemed like the threat of the Red Skull had finally ended and The Avengers were able to restore Rogers' youth.


The Red Skull would not stay dead for long; Nazi geneticist Arnim Zola, who had obtained DNA samples of Captain America years earlier, arranged for Skull's mind to be transplanted into a clone body of Captain America at the moment of his death. Assuming the identity of "John Smith" (the English equivalent of his natural German name), Skull decided that he would reinvent himself and his quest for absolute power as a means to celebrate his cheating death. The Red Skull abandoned his longstanding beliefs in National Socialism and Hitler, on the belief that the Nazi philosophy made him look like a relic of the past. Skull instead turned towards American ideology for his new motivation. Skull saw much potential in the American dream of capitalism and self-determination and set about establishing his own foothold inside Washington DC, culminating in him gaining control over "The Commission", a government body in Washington that monitored and regulated superhero activities.

Skull also changed his mode of operations: rather than "living from one grand scheme to the next", he began financing a score of evil organizations that reported directly to him, most notably the militia group the Watchdogs. He also employed one of the Scourges, an organization who terrorized supervillains with a killing spree.

Despite all of this, Skull's biggest move would be his plot to remove Rogers from the position of Captain America and replace him with a jingoist named John Walker. Although Walker initially attempted to live up to his predecessor's ideals, The Skull arranged for the murders of Walker's parents, driving him insane and into a downward spiral of murder as part of his plan to blacken the name of Captain America.[30]

Yet like all things, Skull's plans fell apart when Skull's chief pawn in the Commission was killed by Skull, right in front of Captain America. About to be exposed, Skull tried to manipulate Walker into killing Rogers. When Rogers defeated Walker, the Skull appeared to gloat at what he had done to Rogers and Walker and the reputation of Captain America. The Skull explained that this is part of his new operational method of engaging in multiple concurrent projects instead of investing consecutive grand schemes that his enemies could focus all their energies on stopping. Furthermore, these projects include killing Rogers at a time of his own choosing and that he could not touch Skull due to his status as a wealthy American businessman. Rogers, disturbed and puzzled by this mystery man with a face identical to his own and claiming to be his dead archenemy, noted that the Skull was not inhaling from the cigarette holder he had in his mouth. The cigarette turned out to be holding a lethal dose of the Skull's favorite poison, the Dust of Death, intended for Rogers - but the trap backfired against Schmidt when Walker suddenly hit him from behind with his shield. As a result, Schmidt suffered the facial disfigurement attributed to the Dust, as his face took on the appearance of a living red skull; his head is hairless and its skin has shriveled, clinging tightly to his actual skull, and has taken on a red discoloration. Skull did not die though, due to the effects of the Super-Soldier formula.[31]

After this, the Skull masterminded a conflict between the United States and Symkaria, the nation of Silver Sable[32] He joined the "Acts of Vengeance" conspiracy, but was attacked by the mutant terrorist Magneto, a Holocaust survivor who wanted to punish him for his involvement in Hitler's regime. Magneto buried him alive with enough water for a few months. The Skull remained imprisoned, close to death and beginning to see the error of his ways, until he was rescued by his henchman Crossbones.[33]

The Red Skull's relationship with other villains was fraught with problems due to many villains shunning him because of his Nazi background. In the "Streets of Poison" storyline, the Skull proposes an alliance with the Kingpin to bring a new designer drug to New York but the Kingpin refuses to ally with the Nazi and the two engage in a drug war. He then defeats a weakened Skull in hand to hand combat, sparing his life on the condition he never come near the Kingpin's territory again.[34] In the "Acts of Vengeance" crossover, the Skull demands the Wizard apologize for an insult to which the Wizard replies "You'll see yourself welcomed into Heaven before I speak those words!"[volume & issue needed] Not long after that, he was kidnapped by Magneto. One prominent exception is fellow Nazi, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, leader of the terrorist organization HYDRA. After the Skull's agents allow Strucker to be reborn, a grateful Strucker allows the Skull the use of HYDRA resources.[35]

  On the run

Skull's tenure in Washington came to an end when Skull was captured by Hauptmann Deutschland, and taken to Germany to stand trial for crimes against humanity, stemming from his days as an agent of the Third Reich. Skull narrowly escaped and was rescued by Arnim Zola, and was forced to fake his death and go into hiding in a Rocky Mountain compound. He recruited the female sociopath "The Viper", a move that alienated his minions and was further rocked when his chief henchman Crossbones kidnapped Captain America's girlfriend Diamondback, resulting in Captain America finding Skull's new lair. Skull fired Crossbones, and went into hiding while the Viper, using funds she plied from Red Skull as part of a scheme to use televisions across America to blind TV viewers, was defeated by Captain America.[36]

Skull resurfaced during "Operation: AIM Island", where Skull discovered that he was facing the same permanent paralysis that Captain America was facing due to their exposure to the Super-Soldier formula.[37] When the evil scientist Superia offered Captain America a cure, Captain America refused it because Superia said that Captain America would "owe her". Skull took the cure and apparently killed Superia, then arranged for Captain America to be kidnapped by his remaining forces and given a blood transfusion that cured him.[38]

  Reluctant allies

Captain America's recovery would segue into a reluctant team-up with the Red Skull; a Nazi cult that worshiped Adolf Hitler as a god had discovered a Cosmic Cube that contained Hitler's mind, put there by Skull himself. The two sought to stop the cult from fully powering the Hitler Cosmic Cube but Skull opted instead to send Captain America (against his will) into the cube to kill Hitler, imprisoning Captain America in the cube while he used its power to conquer humanity. Captain America escaped and in the process used his shield to sever one of Skull's arms, causing him to drop the cube. The Cube then became unstable, destroying Skull.[39]

  Cosmic resurrection

Trapped in a hellish nightmare dimension and forced to serve as a bellhop to a world of non-European immigrants, Skull's will ultimately was so great that he was able to escape his prison. As a result, Skull now possessed limited reality warping powers that made him a truly cosmic threat. He was further aided by Korvac, who was posing as Kang the Conqueror. He was sent to Galactus' ship to steal more power (in particular the power of omniscience), which would remove all limits to Skull's reality warping powers. This led to Skull's undoing as he was ambushed by Korvac. Korvac stole Skull's cosmic powers and banished Skull back to Earth.[40]

The Red Skull later manipulated his way into the position of Secretary of Defense as Dell Rusk (an anagram for "red skull") to develop a biological weapon he tested at Mount Rushmore.[41] He was exposed and defeated by the Avengers. The Black Panther beat him so badly that he broke the Skull's jaw in half.[42]

  Aleksander Lukin and the Winter Soldier

  The Red Skull, in Alexander Lukin's mind. Art by Steve Epting.

The Red Skull was assassinated by the mysterious Winter Soldier, under orders from the renegade former Soviet general Aleksander Lukin, who wanted to possess the new Cosmic Cube the Skull had manufactured.[43] When the Skull was shot, he attempted to use the Cube to switch bodies with Lukin to survive, but as the Cube was still weak he only managed to transfer his mind into Lukin's body, so that the two enemies are trapped together, waging a constant war for dominance which the Red Skull seems to be progressively winning. During a plot to lure out Captain America, Red Skull/Lukin recruited several German skinheads and made them the successors to the Master Man. He then had these soldiers, dubbed the "Master Race," launch an attack on London, which was thwarted by Captain America, Spitfire, and Union Jack. Then, Red Skull/Lukin activated a Sleeper, a robot programmed for mass destruction, that was presumably created by Doctor Doom. The robot damaged a significant portion of the new London Kronas HQ, and was ultimately destroyed by Captain America and Bucky. In the aftermath, Red Skull sent a videotape, announcing to the world his return, followed by Lukin holding a press conference condemning the actions of both the Red Skull and Captain America, and supporting the Superhero Registration Act. Then, in his office, Red Skull introduced Lukin to his old/new associates, Crossbones and Sin.[volume & issue needed]

With America's superheroes divided over the act, the Skull manipulates events to his own ends, with the aid of Doctor Faustus, Doctor Doom, and Arnim Zola. His plans involved the reunion of Captain America and his former lover Sharon Carter, who is being manipulated by Faustus.[volume & issue needed]

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the Skull puts his plans into action, arranging for Crossbones to shoot Captain America as he enters a courthouse in New York City; in the ensuing chaos, Carter, acting under Faustus' mental directive, assassinates Captain America. This is only the first phase of the Skull's evil plan. Upon the discovery of his identity as Lukin, the Skull fakes his death, and initiates the second part of his plan: using Kronas Corporation's vast holdings to economically cripple the United States, before having S.H.I.E.L.D. agents brainwashed by Doctor Faustus open fire on crowds of protesters in front of the White House. The Red Skull continues his assault by engineering a riot by placing Kronas security troops and drugged water in a protest on the Lincoln Monument.[44]

All of this has apparently been to elevate his puppet politician, Gordon Wright, elevated in the public's eye with being credited as "resolving" the situations, as well as surviving a (staged) attack by the Serpent Squad. Once elected, Wright will lead the country directly into a police state secretly controlled by the Red Skull. The Skull also plans to transfer his consciousness into Sharon's unborn child, apparently sired by Steve Rogers himself and potentially having inherited his Project Rebirth enhancements.[45]

Both schemes fail because of the impatience and incompetence of the Skull's daughter - her near-fatal attack on Sharon Carter causes her to lose the baby, and she intentionally botches her pseudo-assassination of Gordon Wright by attempting to kill him for real. As Faustus has surreptitiously tampered with Sharon's programming, she is able to rebel, and before escaping shoots Lukin to death. This is not the end of Red Skull, since Arnim Zola had seconds earlier transferred his mind to one of his spare robotic bodies, but after having his current form damaged by the imposter Captain America, he's unable to return back to Red Skull, essentially trapping him in his current robotic form for the time being.[46]

  Captain America: Reborn

It has been revealed that Red Skull did not actually kill Steve Rogers, but trapped his body in a fixed position in space and time. He was planning on using Sharon and a machine created by Doctor Doom to return his body back to their time, but since Sharon destroyed the machine, his body is now drifting through time and space.[47] Apparently, it is presumed that the Red Skull intended to transfer his mind into Rogers' body. Norman Osborn decides to assist in completing his plan as Captain America leading his team of Avengers would increase his popularity in his stolen Iron-Man suit.[48] Sin and Crossbones find him and take him to Latveria in order to place the Red Skull's mind in a living body.[49] The Red Skull, Sin, and Crossbones land in Latveria and Doom confronts them, saying that he would kill them if he was not a man of his word. Doom and Zola complete the machine and, after Ms. Hand brings Sharon to them, they strap her in. They activate the machine and soon Steve Rogers' body returns. When Steve opens his eyes, they are shown to be red, signifying that the Red Skull is now in control.[50] Steve Rogers still resides in the body, and during the Red Skull's invasion of Washington D.C., he and Steve battle in the mind of Steve's body.[51] Steve eventually forces Red Skull out, placing him back into his robot body. To prevent him from escaping the immediate area, Sharon Carter hits the Red Skull with a shot of Pym Particles, making him a massive robot who cannot elude any pursuer's attention. While Rogers and the Avengers keep Schmidt occupied with a team attack, he is destroyed by a missile barrage fired by Sharon Carter on a hijacked AIM battleship. In the epilogue, it was shown that Sin was too close to the exploding robot, and her face was heavily scarred, leaving her looking just like her father.[52]

  Powers and abilities

Although the Red Skull has no superhuman abilities, he possesses an intellect and inventive genius on the level of supervillains such as Doctor Doom, and is a highly gifted subversive strategist and political operative. At one point, the Red Skull's mind inhabited a body cloned from Captain America's, and hence possessed the mutagenic alterations induced by the Super-Soldier formula. He was thus endowed with a body that was in perfect physical condition, with strength, speed, durability, agility, dexterity, reflexes, coordination, balance, and physical endurance that exceeded that of any Olympic athlete who ever performed. Despite the scar tissue covering his face and head, his senses were still above-average. He has been shown as a superb martial artist, though he was never on par with Captain America himself; he was originally trained by German athletes appointed by Hitler, and is heavily trained as a skilled marksman with various forms of handguns, and well-versed in the use of fire arms and explosives.

While sharing Alexander Lukin's body, he lost his superhuman abilities. Since then he resides in one of the android bodies engineered by Arnim Zola, with enhanced endurance and resilience.

He typically armed himself with a trick cigarette that could fire fatal poison gas — his trademark "Dust of Death" — toward his victim. The "Dust of Death" is a red powder which kills a victim within seconds of skin contact. The powder causes the skin of the victim's head to shrivel, tighten, and take on a red discoloration, while causing the hair to fall out. Hence the victim's head resembles a "red skull". He also carries a large arsenal of conventional and advanced fire arms and explosives.

  Other versions


Red Skull allied with Doctor Doom, Hulk, Magneto, Namor, and Ultron in order to take over Manhattan.[53]

  Heroes Reborn

In the Heroes Reborn universe, the Red Skull is revealed to be the banker of the Master Man's World Party. This version references his fights with Captain America during World War II,[54] but is stopped by Nick Fury, Captain America, and Falcon.[55]


Red Skull is among the foes defending Krona's stronghold in #4 and is defeated by Jay Garrick the Golden Age Flash.[56]

  Earth X

Johann Schmidt was killed by Captain America some time previous to Earth X. After the Red Skull killed Bernie Rosenthal and then hailed Captain America as the realization of the Nazi dream, Captain America decapitated the Red Skull using his trademark shield. As a result of his disillusionment from taking a life, Captain America retired from the Avengers, only to further spiral into depression after the Avengers were killed in Washington, D.C.[57] Schmidt was later seen in the Land of the Dead, and then as one of those in Mar-Vell's Paradise waiting to live in his own personal version of Heaven.[58]

Despite his death, the Red Skull's legacy lived on in the Earth X universe. Ben Beckley took on the identity of the Skull (not the Red Skull, as he had no idea who the Red Skull was) and set out to conquer the world, starting with a coast-to-coast drive across America. Using his power of control over the cerebrum (and thereby actions) of anyone, he gathered an army of thousands, only to come into conflict with Steve Rogers in his identity of Captain America. Insulting Captain America as old and out of date, the Skull spared him but took several of Captain America's allies as part of his army.[59] After reaching New York City, the Skull was opposed by Captain America and other heroes, with Captain America breaking the Skull's neck in order to stop him.[60] Beckley would later be seen in the Land of the Dead with his father, Comet Man, and would help the heroes to convince the dead that they were deceased.[61]


In the 1997 DC/Marvel special "Batman/Captain America", the Skull hires the Joker to steal an atomic bomb during World War II. Joker evades Batman, Cap, Bucky, and Robin and delivers it to the Skull, but is horrified when he learns that the Skull is a Nazi (saying "I may be a criminal lunatic but I'm an American criminal lunatic!"). When the Skull threatens to drop the bomb on Washington D.C., the Joker actually fights him in the plane's cargo bay. When Captain America and Batman take over the plane and bring it over the ocean, the two villains are dropped out with the bomb just before it explodes. Both Captain America and Batman are convinced the two are still alive somehow.[62]

  Marvel Zombies

In Marvel Zombies, Red Skull is an undead zombie with an unquenchable hunger for the flesh of the living. In issue #5, he finally manages to kill Colonel America, by ripping out the last of the Colonel's exposed brain before being decapitated by Spider-Man, and his head crushed by Giant Man's boot. His last words were "It was worth it, all of it, just for this."[63]

  Old Man Logan

In a possible future where a final battle between the heroes and villains ended with the villains winning, the Red Skull is revealed as the mastermind of the villains' conquest and has made himself President of the United States. Living in the Nazi redecorated White House, Red Skull had taken to wearing Captain America's old bloodstained uniform and collecting gruesome trophies from fallen heroes. When his men bring in a wounded Wolverine, Logan and the Red Skull fight in his trophy room. Unwilling to pop his claws during the fight, Wolverine decapitates the Red Skull with Captain America's shield, ending his villainous rule.[64]

  Ultimate Marvel

  Ultimate Red Skull shown on the variant cover to Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1. Art by Leinil Yu.

The Ultimate Red Skull first appears in Ultimate Comics: Avengers created by Mark Millar. This Red Skull is the illegitimate son of Captain America and Gail Richards, conceived before the Captain's presumed death during WWII. Taken from Richards, the son is raised on an army base where he appears to be a well-adjusted, physically superior, and tactically brilliant young man who greatly resembles his father. His easy-going personality is a ruse. Around the age of seventeen, he kills over 200 men on the base, and then cuts off his own face, this last act being interpreted as part of his efforts to reject his father.[65] As a final symbol of his rebellion against the system that created him, he assassinates President John F. Kennedy in 1963.[66]

After decades of working as a professional assassin, the Red Skull joins A.I.M. He and his men steal the blueprints of the Cosmic Cube at the Baxter Building. There he finally meets his father in his helicopter and brutally attacks him. Before throwing Captain America out of the helicopter, Red Skull reveals his true identity. At the A.I.M. headquarters in Alaska, the Red Skull has his men kill the leading officer, and takes charge of the operation. With control of the Cosmic Cube he gains great power; as a sadistic display of his power he has the entire Alaskan A.I.M. team cannibalize each other. When the Avengers arrive on the scene they immediately try to destroy him but the Cube imbues him with nearly unlimited power, making him absolutely invulnerable. During the battle with the Avengers he beats them mercilessly. Captain America arrives in a stolen Teleporter Jet, but Skull forces the jet to crash. Cap survives the crash and teleports the jet to the Red Skull's exact coordinates, impaling him on one of the two rods that protrude from its nose.[67]

The Red Skull is taken to a hospital and kept alive long enough for Gail Richards (his mother) to say her goodbyes. Skull explains to Nick Fury that all he wanted to do with the Cosmic Cube was to turn back time and prevent Steve Rogers (his father) from being lost during the war so that he could grow up with him and lead a normal life, rather than the one he was given. Petra Laskov (a woman whom he forced to kill her husband then her infant son himself during his career) enters the room dressed as a doctor and shoots the Red Skull in the head, killing him. When Gregory Stark asks Fury if he was responsible for calling out the Red Skull from his retirement and hiring him in order to regain his position in S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury does not give an answer.[67]

Unlike the Nazi/military costume of the 616 counterpart, Ultimate Red Skull wears simple khaki pants and a white tee shirt.[65]

  In other media


  • He appears in the 1981 Spider-Man animated series, in the episode "The Capture of Captain America", voiced by Peter Cullen.[citation needed] He orchestrates Captain America's capture so that he can transfer his mind into Captain America's body.
  The Red Skull in the 1994 Spider-Man animated series.
  • The Red Skull appears in the 1994 Spider-Man animated series, voiced by Earl Boen.[citation needed] He first makes a cameo in the episode "The Cat" (in which he is briefly voiced by David Warner) where a group of people working for him attempt to trick a younger Walter Hardy into reviewing the Super-Soldier formula and giving the information to them. After Walter figured out who the men were, he managed to successfully evade them. Later on during the "Six Forgotten Warriors" story arc, it is revealed that after Red Skull and Captain America fought, they were trapped in a vortex. Fifty years later, his son Rheinholt Schmidt and stepson Chameleon free him from the vortex only for one of the captive scientists to also free Captain America. Red Skull's doomsday weapon is that he turned Rheinholt into this show's version of Electro. During the struggle, Red Skull and Captain America ended up trapped in the vortex. In the "Secret Wars" arc, Red Skull is sent by the Beyonder to an alien planet to fight Spider-Man and his team of superheroes. He collaborated with Alistair Smythe and Doctor Octopus (who lost his kingdom of Octavia to Doctor Doom who converted it into New Latveria) to fight the resistance led by Storm and General Torg. Black Cat attempts to take revenge on Red Skull for what he tried to make her father do only for Doctor Octopus to intervene. Red Skull and Doctor Octopus managed to escape. Red Skull (alongside Doctor Octopus and Alistair Smythe) is sent back to Earth with no memory of the events when Doctor Doom absorbs the powers of the Beyonder.
  • The Red Skull appears in the "Wrath of the Red Skull" episode of the children's animated series The Super Hero Squad Show, voiced by Mark Hamill in a German accent.[68] He was a disfigured youth whose face resembled a Pink Skull and was bullied by a young Arnim Zola. To cope with this, he painted his face red, took the name of the Red Skull, and embarked on a career of villainy, before being foiled by Captain America and Nick Fury. Red Skull cryogenically froze himself trying to freeze Captain America and Nick Fury. He was found in the Villainville Wiener Hut and was released by Doctor Doom (who saw the Red Skull as a hero). The Red Skull continued his evil plan to enact Plan USB, and his ego annoyed Doom. After managing to claim an Infinity Fractal, Red Skull had Mole Man excavate Plan USB (which was short for "UberSkullbot). When UberSkullbot was excavated, it ended up in a fight with the UberDoombot until Doctor Doom and Red Skull united to attack the Super Hero Squad and Nick Fury. The UberSkullbot and the UberDoombot were stopped by the Super Hero Squad and the Red Skull accidentally freezes himself when Captain America deflects the blast from his freeze gun. Captain America uses his frozen body at his birthday party to keep the food cold. In the episode "World War Witch", Thanos attempting to use the Time Infinity Gem to send the Super Hero Squad's Space Helicarrier back in time ends up sending Scarlet Witch back in time to World War II where she stumbles on a plot by Red Skull to launch a rocket onto the Allied Forces. She teamed up with Captain America and the Invaders to stop Red Skull's plot before returning to the present when the other Super Hero Squad members came to rescue her.
  • The Red Skull first appears in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "Meet Captain America", voiced by Steven Blum. In this show, he is depicted as HYDRA's Super-Soldier. Formerly an underling of Baron Heinrich Zemo, he has since become his own master. One day, Red Skull finds the entrance to Bifrost Bridge and obtains some of the creatures from Asgard, modifying them with obedience collars, and planning to use them against the Allied Forces. Captain America and Bucky find his laboratory, and when the equipment is destroyed, it ends up freeing the creatures from their containment cells before Captain America and Bucky send them back to Asgard. Red Skull escapes to his rocket, but Captain America and Bucky also follow. When Captain America and Bucky get on the rocket, Red Skull ejects, leaving the rocket to go on self-destruct. Red Skull's Dell Rusk persona appears in the present day in the episode "Nightmare in Red." He has assembled a team consisting of Red Hulk, Falcon, Doc Samson, and Winter Soldier, all of whom have been deceived to believe that the plan they are carrying out for Rusk is for the benefit of their country. In the episode "Code Red" the Red Skull uses his notorious Dust of Death to turn all the Avengers, except for Iron Man, into versions of himself. His archenemy Captain America is captured by Winter Soldier and brought to the Skull, whereupon Captain America rips off the Red Skull's mask, revealing his true identity. Winter Soldier manages to resist the Red Skull's programming enough to give Captain America the cure for the Dust of Death; Captain America then defeats Red Skull. In the episode "Winter Soldier", Captain America interrogates the Red Skull, but Hydra machines attack the Hydro base and successfully rescue Red Skull. Red Skull then launches an attack on Washington DC, but he is thwarted by Captain America and the Winter Soldier.


Scott Paulin as the Red Skull in the 1990 film, Captain America.
Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull in the 2011 film, Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • In the 1990 low-budget film, Captain America, Scott Paulin portrayed Red Skull. In this adaptation, the character is an Italian Fascist officer called Tadzio de Santis, who had been kidnapped by the Italian army stormtroopers for their experiments when he was a child; his family is murdered immediately afterward. Cooperating with German scientists, they succeed in creating their first (and only) "übermensch", albeit deformed with scarred red skin and no hair by the process. After the war, he receives elaborate plastic surgery to gain a more normal appearance, albeit still badly scarred. He is still nearly as strong and agile as Captain America in 1993 when the film takes place, despite being well into his 70s. The scientist responsible for the super-soldier procedure is disgusted by the Axis using a child as its subject and escapes to America, creating a greatly improved version of the serum and testing it on a polio stricken adult volunteer named Steve Rogers.
  • The Red Skull is featured in Captain America: The First Avenger,[69] portrayed by Hugo Weaving.[70] He is the commander of the Nazi Research Division HYDRA. Johann Schmidt was an ex-Schutzstaffel Officer with the rank of Obergruppenführer who was closely affiliated with Adolf Hitler. The two shared a passion for Norse Mythology according to Abraham Erskine, a German scientist developing the super soldier serum. Schmidt had supervised Erskine's initial work, and injected himself with an unfinished prototype of the serum. The prototype had the desired effect of making him physically superior, but burned much of his flesh away, leaving his face a disfigured red skull. Adopting a synthetic mask that resembles his former appearance to disguise the deformity, Schmidt steals the tesseract, a powerful artifact believed to be of Asgardian origin, from a monastery in Tønsberg, Norway and uses its energy to power his armaments and weaponry. With the tesseract's energy, he makes HYDRA into a powerful and terrifying army, but is unprepared for the guerrilla tactics waged by Captain America and his forces. After his final battle with the Captain, the Red Skull is seemingly destroyed after holding the tesseract. His body appears to disintegrate and is transported through a portal to the Tree of Life as seen in Thor and his scheme of nuclear annihilation is thwarted by Captain America.

  Video games

  • Red Skull appears in the video game, Captain America: Super Soldier (based between events of the feature film),[71] voiced by Keith Ferguson. He arrives at Arnim Zola's hideout with the Cosmic Cube in order to use the Cosmic Cube's power to activate the Sleeper. When Red Skull is about to receive the upgraded super-soldier serum sample from Arnim Zola (who stole some of Captain America's DNA), Captain America arrives and destroys the super-soldier serum sample. Red Skull then orders Iron Cross to kill Captain America as he gets away. In the post-credits, Red Skull orders Arnim Zola (who unplugs from his defeated Zola Bots) to get back to work stating that they will be seeing Captain America again soon enough.


  1. ^ Millar, Mark (w), Dodson, Terry (p), Dodson, Rachel (i). "Venomous" Marvel Knights Spider-Man 7 (December 2004), Marvel Comics
  2. ^ Albert, Aaron. "Top Ten Comic Book Archenemies - Superhero and Villain Arch-rivals". About.com. http://comicbooks.about.com/od/characters/tp/archenemies.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  3. ^ "Red Skull is number 14". IGN. News Corporation. http://comics.ign.com/top-100-villains/14.html. 
  4. ^ Reagan, Robot. "From ice cream to Red Skull: Joe Simon explains creation of character". Geektyrant.com. http://geektyrant.com/news/2011/6/24/from-ice-cream-to-red-skull-joe-simon-explains-creation-of-c.html. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  5. ^ Kirby, Jack, interviewed by Bruce Hamilton in Rocket's Blast ComiCollector #81 (1971).
  6. ^ Steranko, Jim. The Steranko History of Comics vol. 1 (Supergraphics, 1970), p. 53.
  7. ^ Johann Shmidt Red Skull bio by Marvel Universe
  8. ^ a b c Captain America #298
  9. ^ Red Skull: Incarnate #5
  10. ^ Adventures of Captain America #1-4
  11. ^ Invaders #5-6
  12. ^ Tales of Suspense #66-68
  13. ^ Tales of Suspense #79
  14. ^ Tales of Suspense #79-81
  15. ^ Captain America #347
  16. ^ Tales of Suspense #88-91
  17. ^ Captain America #101-104
  18. ^ Captain America #114-119
  19. ^ Astonishing Tales #4-5
  20. ^ Captain America #143
  21. ^ Captain America #148
  22. ^ Captain America #182, 184-186
  23. ^ Super-Villain Team-Up #10-12
  24. ^ Captain America #210-212
  25. ^ Captain America #226-227
  26. ^ Super-Villain Team-Up #16-17
  27. ^ Captain America #261-263
  28. ^ Captain America #290
  29. ^ Captain America #293-300
  30. ^ Captain America #346-348
  31. ^ Captain America #350
  32. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #325
  33. ^ Captain America #364-367, 369-370
  34. ^ Captain America #376-378
  35. ^ Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #26
  36. ^ Captain America #387-391, 393-398
  37. ^ Avengers vol.3 #68
  38. ^ Captain America #445
  39. ^ Captain America v1 #445-448
  40. ^ Captain America v3 #13-19
  41. ^ The Avengers volume 3, issue 65 (May 2003)
  42. ^ The Avengers volume 3, issue 70 (October 2003)
  43. ^ Captain America vol. 5 #01
  44. ^ Captain America (v.5) #33-35
  45. ^ Captain America #36
  46. ^ Captain America (v.5) #42
  47. ^ Captain America: Reborn #1
  48. ^ Captain America: Reborn #2
  49. ^ Captain America: Reborn #3
  50. ^ Captain America: Reborn #4
  51. ^ Captain America: Reborn #5
  52. ^ Captain America: Reborn #6
  53. ^ Fantastic Four: Big Town #1-4
  54. ^ Heroes Reborn #1/2
  55. ^ Captain America Vol.2 #5
  56. ^ JLA/Avengers #4
  57. ^ Earth X #1
  58. ^ Earth X #3
  59. ^ Earth X #1-6
  60. ^ Earth X #7-9
  61. ^ Earth X #10
  62. ^ Batman & Captain America #1 (January 1997)
  63. ^ "Marvel Zombies" #5 (April 2006)
  64. ^ Wolverine Giant-Size Old Man Logan (September 2009)
  65. ^ a b Ultimate Avengers #2
  66. ^ Ultimate Avengers #5
  67. ^ a b Ultimate Avengers #6
  68. ^ "Comics Continuum". Comics Continuum. 2009-07-28. http://www.comicscontinuum.com/stories/0907/28/voices.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  69. ^ "Red Skull Confirmed as Captain America Villain". SuperheroHype.com. 2010-02-06. http://www.superherohype.com/news/captainamericanews.php?id=9051. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  70. ^ Graser, Marc (2010-03-22). "Chris Evans to play 'Captain America'". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118016757.html?categoryid=13&cs=1. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  71. ^ "Captain America: Super Soldier Announced - Xbox". News.teamxbox.com. 2010-10-05. http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/23109/Captain-America-Super-Soldier-Announced/. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 

  External links



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