- “You could have the power off the Gods! Yet you wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations! I have seen the future Captain, there are no flags.”
- ―Red Skull
Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. Red Skull, is a supervillain in Marvel Comics. He is the arch-enemy of Captain America. In some incarnations, he is the leader and founder of the evil organization known as HYDRA. He is the main antagonist in Captain America: The First Avenger and a supporting character in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Red Skull was created by Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, and France Herron.
Red Skull is the total counterpoint to his arch-enemy Captain America; while Rogers is good and selfless, the Skull is evil and ambitious. He has little patience for failure and is capable to kill his own minions for giving him the bad news. However, he has shown some elements of pragmatism toward his minions, as he did not execute his soldiers for failing to remove the top of a stone coffin at Norway, and instead just removes it himself with his superhuman abilities.
Similarly, he was also shown to have good deductive reasoning skills, as he not only deduced that the "Tesseract" inside the coffin was not the real deal due to it being the "jewel of Odin's treasure room", and thus not the sort of item to be buried in a grave, but also that the Asgardian object was within close proximity, even deducing that it was in an engraving of Yggdrasil. A similar display of his deductive reasoning and strategic mind was later demonstrated when he had the Austrian HYDRA facility self-destruct due to realizing that Captain America's presence in the revolt meant that their HYDRA forces had no chance of stopping him.
He also has a god complex, and despite wearing a normal-looking mask over his skull face, he later eschews it to signal his pride on his own detachment of humanity. Despite his admitted pride in his "leaving humanity behind", he does show some disgust toward him no longer being considered of Aryan perfection, or at the very least that Hitler exiled him for that reason, and also expressed some anger at being called the Red Skull.
The long years spent on Vormir made Red Skull a different individual than the one seeking absolute power that he was on Earth. He had become more humble and although he remained indifferent to all those in search of the Soul Stone, he nevertheless revealed to them the cost of obtaining the gem.
Powers and abilities
- “You are deluded Captain. You pretend to be a simple soldier but in reality you are afraid to admit that we have left humanity behind. Unlike you I embrace it proudly, without fear!”
- ―Red Skull to Captain America about his new powers.
- Strategic Genius: The Red Skull is a master of political, military, and subversive strategy, as well as a brilliant planner and organizer.
- Scientific and Mechanical Genius: The Red Skull, at least in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also possessed a high-level of scientific aptitude, and was implied to have designed several of his vehicles and weapons, including the Valkyrie bomber.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat: In his original body the Red Skull was a fine hand to hand combatant, although not to the level of Captain America. He was also a brilliant fencer and a skilled marksman.
- Immortality: After becoming stranded on Vormir, Red Skull was able to live for decades without aging.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Johann Schmidt is the leader of HYDRA, the science branch of the Nazis. He goes to Norway and gets the Tesseract to power his weapons. When some high-ranking Nazi officers go to oversee his results, they find he has his own plans to take over the world, including Germany, and Schmidt kills them.
When Captain America goes to rescue some HYDRA prisoners, he ends facing Schmidt, who proves to be strong enough to dent Cap's shield. He then removes his human mask and reveals his Red Skull face, revealing he was Erskine's first supersoldier experiment. Then he escapes.
As days pass, Captain America thwarts several of Red Skull's operations, culminating on the capture of his right-hand man scientist Arnim Zola, who gives the location of the Skull's main base out of fear. So Captain America finds Red Skull and makes him pay for stealing the Tesseract to use it for his evil plan. The Red Skull takes the Tesseract to a ship from where he plans to bomb the world's capitals, but Cap gets on board and fights him. Red Skull tries to escape with the Tesseract, but it seemingly disintegrates him as he tried to take the fully charged Tesseract with his bare hands.
When it was initially believed that Red Skull was destroyed by the Tesseract, in reality, the cube transported Red Skull to the planet Vormir. There, he became the guardian of the Soul Stone, and underwent a metamorphosis into a nigh-immortal wraith called the Stonekeeper. Thanos, guided by Gamora, visits the planet on a search for the Stone. At the temple, Red Skull presents himself to them and advises the Titan that to get the Soul Stone, one must be willing to sacrifice the person they love the most. Thanos struggles with this choice until he finally chooses Gamora to satisfy this request. With the offering, Red Skull allows Thanos to claim the Soul Stone and disappears afterward.
In 2014, Red Skull meets Hawkeye and Black Widows moved in time, came back to recover the Soul Stone. Red Skull explains to them how they can have the stone, which causes a fight between the two heroes to sacrifice themselves while Red Skull watched them. In the end, Black Widow made the sacrifice.
Marvel Animated Universe
Near the end of World War Two, Red Skull tries to use a portal to bring Asgardian creatures to Earth, that will be controlled to serve him. His plan is stopped by Captain America and Bucky, but when the heroes try to stop his escape by plane, Red Skull rigs the plane to explode and ejects himself. Bucky dies in the explosion while Captain America falls and is frozen for several years.
More than 50 years later, disguised as the Secretary of Defense Dell Rusk, he ordered the US Army to attack the Avengers' headquarters. Eventually, Winter Soldier capture Captain America and takes him with Dell Rusk. Rusk brutally beats Rogers. When Cap discovers his true identity, he orders Winter Soldier to assassinate him. Winter Soldier denies this order and injects the cure to Captain America. Recovering his health, Cap easily defeat Red Skull. He was arrested and taken to a prison of SHIELD.
After being captured and taken to a prison of SHIELD, Red Skull activated the Sleepers to release him. The plan was a success and Red Skull escaped. Later, Red Skull tried to attack the Capitol but his plan is spoiled by the Avengers and Winter Soldier.
Red Skull is present as a major antagonist of the series. He first appears leading HYDRA forces into fighting Captain America. With the help of MODOK, Red Skull manages to capture Captain America and bring him to his HYDRA base in Antarctica. The reason he had captured his own nemesis was because Red Skull was dying from the side effects of the Super-Soldier Serum attempt that was used on him, so he decided to take Captain America's youthful body and leave Cap to die in his aging body. The experiment was a success, and Red Skull (in Captain America's body) subdued Iron Man. After being freed from the machine, Captain America used Red Skull's body to fight him and the HYDRA soldiers until Falcon manages to switch their bodies back. Before escaping with MODOK, Red Skull managed to steal Iron Man's armor as an alternative to his survival. In "The Avengers Initiative, Pt. 2", Red Skull modifies the Iron Man armor to his design, renaming himself as the Iron Skull. He and MODOK use microbots to cause the Avengers members to fight each other as a diversion so that he can blow up the Arc Reactor in Avengers Mansion. Iron Man manages to thwart the plans. When the Avengers use different tactics to take down Red Skull, Red Skull gets away. While on his submarine, Red Skull sends a message to other villains to join his recently-founded group, the Cabal, in order to combat the Avengers (this message was also intercepted by S.H.I.E.L.D.). He will not hesitate to betray his recently formed team at the end of the first season to then end up deprived of his armor and projected to the Sanctuary where he meets Thanos.
The Red Skull appears as the primary antagonist of the summer 2013 Disney/Marvel animated special Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, voiced again by Liam O'Brien. He was first seen leading his fellow villain allies, Whiplash, Venom, and MODOK into fighting several heroes (Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Thor) until the heroes were accidently hit by Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz's powerful device called the "Power-Draininator" causing them to escape in battle.
At Red Skull's castle MODOK informs the villains where the ray came from, Red Skull recognizes Doofemshmirtz's last name is Drusselstinian as he has a cousin who married one (and exclaims she is dead to him). When Red Skull and his allies learn that his device drains the heroes' powers, they decide to seek him out, believing that his invention can be of good use for their own purposes. With help from Red Skull and the villains with him, Dr. Doofenshmirtz causes "mayhem" in Danville and nearly destroy the Googolplex Mall.
Eventually, Doofenshmirtz reveals that his Power-Draininator was destroyed by his nemesis Agent Perry the Platypus after it drained the powers, much to Red Skull's anger; but Doofenshmritz manages to create a second and improved replica of the device, much to Red Skull's delight. However, upon finally getting hold of the device, Red Skull betrays Doofenshmirtz by imprisonming him in a cage, believing him to have outlived his usefulness. It was then Red Skull reveals his true plans of using the Power-Drainiator to destroy the Tri-State Area, before draining other superheroes of their powers so that he along with other villains can take over the world. Red Skull has MODOK to make several modifications to the Power-Draininator that will allow itself not only to drain any power from heroes, but also matter and living energy. With help from Phineas and Ferb, as well as from Perry, the heroes were able to regain their powers and defeat Red Skull and his villain allies, who are then arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. and taken into custody.
Red Skull sends Crossbones to intercept the police van carrying the Celebrity Five in order to transfer their bio-codes to the Skull himself, so he ends with a complete bio-code that allows him to D-smash DISKs of all five classes. He also hires Mystique to steal the DISKs containing Baron Zemo, Abomination, Graviton, MODOK, and Tiger Shark, then betrays Mystique and reunites the five villains as the Masters of Evil.
- Although the character's more well known name is Red Skull, Captain America: The First Avenger primarily refers to him by his real name of Johann Schmidt, with his main name of Red Skull only being referenced once in the film (when one of his Nazi's superiors, on Hitler's behalf, were scolding him for his recent actions). It was implied in the same scene that he hated the moniker, as immediately afterward, he turned around furiously before suggesting that he "show them [his new weaponry]", evidently meant to be a euphemism to his executing them.
- "Johann Schmidt" is basically a German translation of the English name John Smith, a popular stock name and alias in English and U.S. pop culture and an unofficial Disney Prince (who himself is based on a real life American historical figure).
- Red Skull is indirectly mentioned in the first Avengers movie when Captain America mentions "The last time I was in Germany and saw a man standing above everybody else, we ended up disagreeing", to Loki.
- The directors of Avengers: Infinity War confirmed that after Thanos claimed the Soul Stone by killing Gamora, Red Skull fulfilled his servitude and was allowed to leave Vormir free to pursue his goals.