- Red Skull redirects here. For the character from the 1990 film, see Tadzio de Santis.
|Appeared in||Captain America: The First Avenger|
- "You are deluded, Captain. You pretend to be a simple soldier, but in reality you are just afraid to admit that we have left humanity behind. Unlike you, I embrace it proudly. Without fear!"
- ―Red Skull[src]
Johann Schmidt, also known as the Red Skull, is a German ex-SS officer and scientist who has his own branch of the Third Reich Army under his command known as HYDRA.
Captain America: First Vengeance Prologue
In February 1934, at the Deutsches Opernhaus in Berlin, Schmidt met Adolf Hitler, the Führer of Nazi Germany, the Third Reich. With him were Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel, and Ernst Kaufmann, head of the Sturmabteilung (SA)'s Special Weapons Division. Schmidt revealed them his theory that magic could be “the oldest science ever known”. Hitler was intrigued by Schmidt's ideas, but Kaufmann was less impressed. Schmidt offered to conduct research in Kaufmann's unit, but was violently rejected. However, Himmler was more interested in Schmidt's ideas, and took him under his wing.
In June 1934, as part of the Night of the Long Knives, Schmidt assassinated Kaufmann and seized control of his weapons program. A week later, Schmidt and his SS troops attacked the SA Weapons Testing Ground at Kummersdorf (46km south of Berlin). After killing almost the entire personnel of the base, Schmidt found and recruited Arnim Zola, a scientist who worked on the advanced exo-skeleton battle armour. Eventually, Schmidt rose to the rank of Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant general), and formed his own branch of the SS, HYDRA.
In September 1935, the German biochemist Abraham Erskine attempted to flee Germany with his family. His wife's father was a Jew and Erskine wanted to take his family to safety. They were stopped at the German/Swiss border by Schmidt and his men. Schmidt wanted Erskine's work on ways to increase molecular density of cellular fibers through synthetic proteins. In order to ensure Erskine's cooperation, Schmidt sent Erskine's wife Greta and his children Klaus and Marlene to the Dachau concentration camp. Arnim Zola was allowed to resume his work on exo-skeleton battle suits and various high-tech weaponry.
In 1939, the Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thus starting World War II. Schmidt actively participated in German conquests, earning several high military decorations, including the Panzer Badge and the Iron Cross First Class.
In 1940, the first, unstable version of Erskine's Super Soldier Serum was finished. At castle Kaufmann in the Bavarian Alps, Schmidt injected himself with the serum. The serum was supposed to make him faster, stronger, and more agile. It worked but not without cost. His face was burnt and deformed, making it red, looking like skull. Though he adopted a synthetic mask that resembled his former appearance to disguise the deformity, he gained the nickname "Red Skull". Erskine ran away to America with the help of Peggy Carter and joined the Strategic Scientific Reserve.
Johann Schmidt was an SS officer who reached the rank of Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant General) and got into Hitler's inner circle. He was the first man in centuries to be completely aware of Norse Gods having roamed the Earth and sought to harness the science behind their power. Then he created his own branch known as HYDRA, named after the mythological creature, which became Hitler's deep science division. Dr. Abraham Erkshine had been forced to test the super soldier serum on Johann Schmidt, corrupt and greedy for power. After the serum had been used on Schmidt, he not only developed a darker nature but also suffered physical side effects. After his head was severealy deformed into a skull-like form, Schmidt became dissilusioned from Hitler's ideals of Aryan supremecy and distanced himself from Naziism.
Schmidt then invade a castle in Norway searching for a mystical artifact he calls "The jewel of Odin's treasure room". The Tesseract is said to give it's finder unbelievable power and Schmidt believed it would give him power. A member of a group sworn to protect it tries to stop him from stealing it but Johann shoots and kills him without mercy. Schmidt and Nazi scientist, Arnim Zola experiment with the artifact which is really the cosmic cube and attempt to harness its power. Then they started to create their own wunderwaffe using the Tesseract´s power. Schmidt executed three Nazi officials to declare that HYDRA have become independent and will no longer aid the Third Reich. Schmidt reveals that his cause is looking beyond Hitler's plans and imagination, and that HYDRA won't grow up under Hitler´s shadow. So he becomes an enemy and traitor of the Axis powers.
While on an unauthorized rescue mission, Steve Rogers briefly confronted Schmidt. Schmidt tore away the skin on his face revealing his deformed face. The Red Skull grew frustrated as Captain America destroyed all but one of his factories, killing those who failed to stop him. After the Howling Commandos captured Zola, Rogers led an attack on the Red Skull's last fortress. The Red Skull then took off in his jet to destroy the US with the energy from the cosmic cube.
After the suicide bombers are neutralized, the Red Skull and Captain America fought within the cockpit ending in a stalemate as the battle damaged the cube power core. The Red Skull picked up the Cube, forgetting that it cannot be held by mortal hands. Thus the Cube seemingly incinerated Schmidt and transported his remains across space toward Yggdrasil.
In April 1944, Schmidt was in a castle on an island in the Nazi occupied Danish Straits. There, he studied a mystical Viking runestone. However, Rogers and the Howling Commandos invaded the castle. Schmidt attempted to destroy them but they survived.
After the Allied invasion of Normandy, Schmidt made an unholy alliance with the German nobleman Baron Zemo. But soon, Schmidt crossed Zemo and HYDRA occupied Zemo's castle in Bavaria. When Rogers invaded the castle and defeated Zola's henchmen like Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, Schmidt brought the Tesseract, intending to use it to activate the Sleeper, the gigantic robotic war machine hidden beneath Castle Zemo. He also wanted the upgraded Super Soldier serum Zola synthesized from the Captain's blood. Captain America destroyed the sample, enraging Schmidt who ordered Iron Cross to kill him. When Captain America defeated Iron Cross, Schmidt escaped and activated the Sleeper. Cap destroyed the Sleeper, which also led to the destruction of the castle. Later, Schmidt told Zola to stop wasting time on failed projects.
When Captain America faced Loki in Stuttgart, Germany he referred to Schmidt.
Even though the Red Skull had long been declared dead, his legacy and influence had remained. While investigating an old S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker, Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff encountered the now AI Dr. Zola. Through him they learned that HYDRA had been reborn and growing within S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since the agency's conception after Zola and several other "repentive" HYDRA members were brought in for being strategically valuble. Through them, HYDRA's power and influence over the world grew and were the reason for much of the international corruption, violence, and hostility in the second half of the 20th century.
Johann Schmidt is a megalomaniac and egocentric genius who firmly believes in the concept of Social Darwinism, specifically that a race of superior humans are destined to rule the normal ones and was initially a firm supporter of Hitler's goal to create an Aryan master-race before being segregated for his deformities. Using both magic and science to obtain a central position in the Third Reich's inner-circle, Schmidt's conceit arrived to the point of believing that he was greater than Hitler himself, thus starting a plan to overthrow him. Schmidt is pitiless and cruel, but also a scientific genius able to see beyond appearances and identify the truth behind myths and superstition as fragments of Asgardian origin.
As a result of the formula developed by Abraham Erskine, he obtained incredible attributes, such as enormous strength, speed, stamina and reflexes, and even got his intelligence increased, becoming a war mastermind. But the serum was still incomplete and imperfect when Schmidt hastily used it on himself. According to Erskine, because the serum wasn't ready, "good becomes great, bad becomes worse". As a result, his entire head became horribly disfigured, resembling a crimson skull, and his insanity and megalomania became magnified. Schmidt considered his grotesquely inhuman face as proof that he has left humanity behind and has truly become a god.
In combat, he uses canonical firearms, but after retrieving the Tesseract, he gained access to a source of energy the likes of which has never be seen, and used it to implement his weapons. Though he is disillusioned by the Fuhrer's ideals, he is still morally devoid and capable of mass murder.
- Schmidt was described as "a brilliant scientist" by Erskine before his transformation.
- Schmidt was a capable pilot. He used a Focke-Wulf Triebflügel to escape his factory and later personally piloted the massive Valkyrie on its only flight.
- The Serum severely disfigured Schmidt's appearance, but it did enhanced all of his body natural abilities to the peak of human potential.
- Peak Human Strength: The Red Skull's physical strength can match Steve's physical strength to the very peak of human potential.
- Peak Human Speed: The Red Skull is able to run at speeds of approximately 30 miles per hour.
- Peak Human Agility: The Red Skull has great agility superior to that of any Olympic athlete.
- Peak Human Stamina: The Red Skull's musculature produces less fatigue toxins during physical activity than the musculature of an ordinary human.
- Peak Human Reflexes: The Red Skull's reflexes are similarly enhanced and are superior to those of the finest athlete.
- Peak Human Durability: The Red Skull bones and muscles are denser and harder than normal, to the highest human potential, which makes him very durable compared to a normal human.
- Peak Human Mental Process: The Red Skull's mental performance has been greatly enhanced, allowing his mind to operate in the most efficient and rapid manner possible.
- Peak Human Healing: The Red Skull's healing speed and efficiency is at the highest limits of human potential, which means he can heal faster than most humans.
- Steve Rogers - Enemy.
- Bucky Barnes - Enemy.
- Peggy Carter - Enemy.
- Howling Commandos - Enemies.
- Arnim Zola - Ally.
- Heinz Kruger - Ally.
- HYDRA - Subordinates
- Strategic Scientific Reserve - Enemies
- Marvel Cinematic Universe (1 film)
- Marvel Cinematic Universe (1 TV series)
- Captain America: First Vengeance (First appearance)
Behind the Scenes
- Hugo Weaving based the Red Skull's accent on renowned German filmmakers Werner Herzog and Klaus Maria Brandauer.
- About the character, Weaving remarked, "I think the major difference between Skull and Cap, they've both had the serum, and the serum seems to augment certain qualities that each of them have. Cap is much more in tune with other people I think. Schmidt is in tune with himself, and his own needs, and his own ego, so I suppose it augments that. From that point of view, they're quite opposite."
- The Red Skull searches for a powerful artifact, the Cosmic Cube. By coincidence, in the 2007 film Transformers, Hugo Weaving voiced the villain Megatron, who also searched for a similar cosmic cube-shaped relic.
- In the comics, the Red Skull was Hitler´s right hand, second in command and personal assassin. Red Skull has no relationships with HYDRA although he helped Baron von Strucker (the original HYDRA's director) to escape from Germany and to organize HYDRA in the Japanese-occupied territory in the final days of WWII.
- In Zack Penn's draft for The Avengers movie, the Red Skull was featured as the main villain alongside Loki.
- Though Hugo Weaving is contracted to portray the character in further pictures; he has stated that he isn't sure if it's a role he'd care to revisit.