Johann Schmidt, alias Red Skull – or der Rote Schädel in his native German – had an extremely difficult childhood. His mother, Martha, died in childbirth and his father –Hermann – tried to kill him, blaming him for the death of his wife. Years living on the streets gave him a deep resentment towards the entire human race because of the misery he lives in, which became a fact which would mark him throughout his life. Being rejected by a young Jewish woman with whom he fell in love leads him to murder her, which gave him enormous satisfaction, not surprisingly considering he was born in Germany between the wars, the Nazi party paid him special attention and attempted to turn him into their perfect soldier. It was Hitler who trained him and gave him his red mask giving rise to his unique appearance.
Red Skull is the incarnation of racism and misanthropy in the Marvel Universe, as well as being a psychopath and a complete megalomaniac. In fact, it is not by chance that his first appearance was in the comic Captain America #1 in 1941, at the height of World War 2 and seen as a stereotype of the countervalues of Nazi Germany. His objective has always been world domination, sometimes using mysterious methods such as the Tesseract or industrial behemoths such as the Sleeper Robots. However, most of the time, Johann Schmidt uses deception and manipulation to divide and conquer, which is behind many of the events that take place during the Civil War.
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Friends and Enemies
Every hero is as big as the villain he faces and ever since his conception, Red Skull’s destiny has been to be the nemesis of a hero like Captain America. Originally, the supersoldier dressed in the stars and stripes of the American flag like Steve Rogers was a direct response to the terror that Red Skull was sowing in Europe.
As a paradigm of all Supervillans he has faced the entire Marvel Universe, with the highlights being his clashes with the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury and his recurrent battles with The Avengers.
Among his allies are his lackeys Arnim Zola – for thinking – and Crossbones – for fighting–, as well as the German Wolfang von Strucker, original founder of HYDRA, and the other German Baron Zemo. It is no wonder that he teams up with other villains like Wilson Fisk or Dr. Doom.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
The only appearance of Red Skull up to date in the MCU is in the film Captain America: The First Avenger. Brilliantly portrayed by Hugo Weaving, the film put him at the head of the esoteric organisation which ran parallel to the Nazi regime – HYDRA and saw him have power of the Tesseract, one of the infinity stones in 1945. Armed with the power of the Tesseract and with his lackey Arnim Zola at his side, Johann Schmidt attempted to start his global offensive for world domination. It was only because of the intervention of Captain America and the Howling Commandos, and the apparent sacrifice of Steve’s best friend, Bucky Barnes that he could be stopped. Although there are no plans for his return, it is certain that the MCU needs more villains like him and, after all, he does not die he merely “disappears” when he touches the Tesseract with his own hand, leaving the door open for his return as is usual with the character.
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Although in theory he does not have any superhuman qualities beyond the hard training in hand to hand and distance combat that he learnt in the SS and his strategic and political intelligence, Red Skull is an especially sly and treacherous enemy. His taste for backstabbing is crystalised in his use of his tradition cigarette laced with the “Dust of Death”, which in addition to killing his enemies – so that they stay dead – and gives them his features. As if this were not enough, he has perfected cloning which means he can transfer his consciousness to clones – even a clone with the powers of Captain America – making him a practically immortal enemy.
Not only is he crazy, but he wants to turn his version of a disturbed utopia into the new world order. He is exceptionally upset and there is not a trace of good left in his soul which means that he has no qualms in unleashing his vengeance on the human race. You couldn’t expect anything else from someone specially chosen and trained by Adolf Hitler. If we take into account his great knowledge of technology and the mystic as well as his ability to produce clones, Red Skull becomes one of the most dangerous terrestrial villains of the Marvel Universe. Just don’t ask for a cigarette.
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