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The Red Skull, whose real name is Johann Schmidt, is one of the leaders of HYDRA and one of the main antagonists of Marvel Comics. He is Captain America's archenemy and has also served as an enemy to Spider-Man and the Avengers. He is the main antagonist of the Captain America franchise, a major antagonist in the Avengers series, and the overarching antagonist of the Spider-Man franchise, as it was revealed that he caused the death of Peter Parker's parents.
Allow me to introduce myself, Herr Kapitän. My name is der Rote Schädel...
~ Red Skull to Captain America.
The Red Skull was originally a German man named Johann Schmidt, who eventually came to hate the human race. He was born to Hermann and Martha Schmidt. The Red Skull lost the last of his redeeming qualities after his mother died having him: Hermann, (who was an abusive alcoholic) blamed Johann for her death and tried to drown him right after he was born, only to be stopped by the attending doctor. Hermann committed suicide afterward, so the doctor took Johann to an orphanage.
Johann left the orphanage when he was about 7 years old and began living his life as a beggar and a thief - a reputation that would put him in jail from time to time even as he tried to find jobs for himself. He eventually worked for a Jewish shopkeeper, whose daughter, Esther, was the only person who showed any kindness to Johann. He later tried to rape her, and killed her once she rejected his advances. He initially left in terror but later felt great joy in having committed his first murder.
Later in his life working as a bellhop in a hotel when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power. He was bringing food to the dictator's room when Hitler yelled at a Gestapo agent, saying that he could make the bellboy a better spy than he was. Hitler then saw the hatred in his face and decided to make Schmidt the perfect Nazi and his right-hand man. Hitler gave him a red, skull-like mask and named him Red Skull. The Skull was answerable only to Hitler himself.
Red Skull planned and took part in many espionage and terrorist activities during World War Two, and the United States created Captain America in response. In the final days of the war, Captain America and Red Skull confronted each other in the latter's hidden bunker under Berlin. The bunker collapsed, trapping Red Skull.
Gases were released in the collapse, which put Red Skull into a state of suspended animation. His American nemesis was also trapped in a similar state later on, albeit frozen in arctic ice. Both individuals were revived in the 1960's, and they continue to fight each other today. During this period, Red Skull was exposed to one of his own gases, which twisted and deformed his face so it took on the appearance of his mask.
Red Skull once came into possession of the Cosmic Cube, a device that could alter reality to the user's wishes. The Skull used it to make himself ruler of the world, but was eventually thwarted by the New Avengers and reality was reset. He was resurrected by Arnim Zola who has since then transferred his mind after physical death and recently transferred it into a body identical to Zola giving him a form of immortality due to mind transfer.
Recently a revived Red Skull formed the S-Men and became the antithesis of the now deceased Charles Xavier, stealing his body and taking the mutant's brain as his own - likely developing the same psychic abilities as Xavier in the process but dedicating himself to eradicating mutants.
World War Hate
Red Skull, as part of his plan to wipe out all of mutant-kind, took over the island Genosha and turned it into a concentration camp, abducting numerous mutants and Inhumans. Among those captured were members of the Avengers Unity Division. The Avengers, joined by Magneto, managed to escape and confronted Red Skull. Defeating Red Skull's S-Men, Magneto then proceeded to kill Red Skull without the use of his mutant powers, offering him a "pure" death. However, Red Skull returned as Red Onslaught, but is defeated. It would later be revealed that this Red Skull was not really Schmidt, but a clone.
Red Skull appears in various episodes of the Captain America segment of The Marvel Superheroes.
The Skull also appears in the 1981 Spider-Man cartoon in the episode, The Capture of Captain America, voiced by Peter Cullen.
Cullen reprises the role in the banned Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends episode, Dawn of the Red Skull.
In the 1990 Captain America movie, the Red Skull is played by Scott Paulin. In this version, The Skull is an Italian Fascist named Tadzio de Santis and also a recipient of the Super Solider Serum.
Red Skull appears in the anime series Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers as the secondary antagonist of the series. He was voiced by Motomu Kiyokawa in the Japanese version of the anime, and by Liam O'Brien in the English version of the anime.
The Skull appears various times in the 90's Spider-Man cartoon, voiced by Earl Boen. Here, he was trapped in a time vortex with his hated nemesis, Captain America, and is the father of Electro. He also was the main antagonist of Season 5.
In the un-produced Captain America animated series, the Red Skull would have been the main villain.
The Red Skull appears in the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, voiced by Steve Blum.
Red Skull appears in the 2013 Disney/Marvel crossover special, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, as the primary antagonist. He leads a group of Marvel villains (Whiplash, Venom, and M.O.D.O.K. in fighting four of the greatest heroes (Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hulk and Thor), who all lost their superpowers thanks to the Power Drain-inator created by Heinz Doofenshmirtz (the recurring antagonist of the series). Upon learning that Doofenshmirtz is responsible for stripping the powers, Red Skull and his allies seek him out, and after Doofenshmirtz builds a second one, they later betray him, planning to use the Power Drain-inator to drain every mega-hero of his/her power to take over the world. Fortunately, Phineas and Ferb, along with their friends, manage to retrieve the lost powers and restore them back to the heroes, who then defeat Red Skull and his allies and send them into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
Red Skull is an antagonist and leader of the Cabal in 2013 animated series Avengers Assemble voiced by Liam O'Brian. He made an alliance called Cabals with Attuma, Dracula, MODOK, and Hyperion, he tried to invite Dr Doom, but he refused. In this sense, Red Skull is the main antagonist of Avengers Assemble and the series' big bad. He was dying due to the imperfection of the super-soldier serum that transformed him, so he attacks Captain America and teleports him to a HYDRA base with a laser gun (Tony thought Skull had killed him). At the hideout, he prepares to have his own mind passed into the Captain's body with MODOK, but the newly-formed Avengers attack and save Cap. In the process however, Red Skull had managed to steal Tony's Iron Man armor, destroying the helmet (likely so that his face can always be shown to intimidate his foes) and calls himself Iron Skull.
Powers and Abilities
Red Skull doesn’t have any known physical or mental powers without the aid from the Cosmic Cube or any other known power source. Red Skull mostly kept his body physically fit prior to his first death and after having his conscious placed within a clone. Having knowledge of several forms of fighting skills that's almost equaled to Captain America, Red Skull is a deadly and formidable fighter that even heroes such as Bucky Barnes and Falcon couldn’t compare with. Aside from his experience with fighting, Red Skull is also proficient with the use of several fire-arms, auto-matics, rifles, knives, and any other forms of weaponry that he feels to be useful for his needs. It’s also known that Red Skull is an experienced master-of- disguise, and also experienced within the fields of sabotage and espionage. During his time within Captain America's cloned body, the body had also maintained the Super Soldier effects that gave Red Skull increased strength, speed, and stamina.Red Skull is very well-known for his ability to produce elaborate schemes and his display of strategy. Naturally forming a plan that consists of two or more goals to serve his needs, holding back a hidden plan that wouldn’t be revealed until later, and a fall-back plan in case his current plan tends to fail. After his first death, Red Skull would perform his plans behind the scene’s to where nobody would even expect his involvement. One form of strategy that Red Skull favored was his advantage of his near death experiences, several times Red Skull has performed this feat as an advantage to where even some believed that the Red Skull couldn’t be killed. Aside from his ability to produce elaborate plans, Red Skull does have knowledge and experience within the fields of leadership and is known to be extremely manipulative.
Probably the one thing that does make Red Skull extremely dangerous is the massive amount of resources and connections he has with various groups, organizations, and other characters within the Marvel Universe. After his second revival and taking the identity known as Mr. Smith, Red Skull developed access within just about everything place throughout the world, even reaching access into the White House itself. Funding several groups and holding his own division that consisted a representative from each group he funded, Red Skull was capable of training and creating new costumed heroes and villains, ordering assassinations on any selected target, gain access towards weaponry and equipment, and plus any other desired requests that would serve his own agenda. Because of this Red Skull successfully had Steve Rogers replaced with John Walker as Captain America, had Albert Malik assassinated, faked his own death several times, and had Captain America shot by Sharon Carter who was currently brainwashed. It’s unclear of the full extent of which groups or individuals were funded or controlled underneath the Red Skull seeing how he strictly acted behind the scenes or that they were unaware of who they are working with.After his first encounter with the Cosmic Cube, Red Skull quickly studied and learned how to use it's powers and control it to where the Cube granted him god-like powers. With the knowledge he gained from the Cube, Red Skull even knew how to easily transfer his conscious in and out of the Cube. It's also known that Red Skull successfully used the Cube to create a being that strongly resembled Hitler (as Hate-Monger) and was made out of pure emotion.
The clone Red Skull possessed all of the mental abilities of Professor X, including telepathy and the power to bend the minds and wills of others.
Red Skull was created by the late Joe Simon and the late Jack Kirby.
Red Skull is noted for being so evil that even other Pure Evil villains find him repugnant. For example, in a DC/Marvel crossover comic, even the Joker, who was working with Red Skull and was unaware that Red Skull was a literal Nazi, was shocked and angry right after knowing Red Skull's real identity, by saying: "I may be a criminal lunatic, but I am an American criminal lunatic!".