The history of the Red Skull spans of 70 years of publications. Below is an abridged version of his history. For an unabridged version see
Order of Appearance: Wherever possible, all orders of Red Skull's appearances over his 70 year history has been cross referenced with the Avengers, Thor & Captain America: Official Index to the Marvel Universe Vol 1.
Regarding 1940s Publications: It has been revealed that a number of Red Skull's wartime adventures were actual comic book adaptations published as wartime propaganda, particularly this adventures with the Young Allies but they are based on actual facts despite obvious embellishments and artistic license on the part of the comic book creators.
The Red Skull, born Johann Shmidt once claimed that he was born in 1899 in an undisclosed Germany town to alcoholic Hermann and the reportedly saintly Martha Shmidt. His mother died giving birth to him, and his father -- driven mad with grief -- blamed the boy for the death of his wife and attempted to kill the child. Young Johann was saved by the doctor who helped birth him and Heramnn committed suicide the following day, making Johann an orphan.
Placed in an orphanage he was treated as an outcast until finally in 1906 at the age of 7 he ran away from the orphanage and lived in the streets as a beggar and a thief. He was good at neither. Seeking refuge in dark places, and spending time in and out of jail, Johann grew to adult hood living on the streets. He had a number of menial jobs until he took a job with a Jewish shop keeper, the first employer who treated him nicely. Falling in love with his daughter Esther, young Johann made a pass to kiss her and she rejected him. Sent into a fury, Johann bludgeoned her to death with a shovel and fled into the night. Years later after the Nazis rise to power, Johann managed to get a job as a bellhop. One day while attending to a room rented by Adolf Hitler, Johann heard as the Fuhrer berated a Gestapo chief for allowing a spy to get away. After berating the chief and telling him that he could teach a bellhop to do a better job than he, Hitler noticed the hatred in the boys eyes and realized that he was going to do just that. When his subordinates could only see to train him like a regular member of the SS, Hitler had higher aspirations for him and trained him to become the Red Skull, an agent second only to Hitler himself.
While the general tale itself is true, there are a number of inaccuracies to the actual account of the Red Skull's ascension from impoverished street urchin to the most feared Nazi agent of all time. At the time of this telling the Red Skull was rapidly aging and on the brink of death. As such it is likely he may have forgotten, or glossed over some of the facts, however some form of deception in telling this tale should not be ruled out either.
Actually born in 1914, Johann Shmidt, his mother died during child birth. Previous accounts of who his parents are and how he came to be an orphan are not confirmed.
He grew up in a Munich at the Munich Home for Warward Boys during the Weimar Republic, during one of the greatest depressions in German history. It was a time of great social strife as the Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party was attempting to rise to power and restore the social republic. By November 1923, at the age of 9, Shmidt was regularly disciplined with brutal punishment by the headmaster of the orphanage for even the smallest infractions, constantly punishing the boy for actions that he viewed as cowardice. His only friend growing up was a boy named Dieter Lehmann, who Johann helped to protect a stray puppy from the dog catcher. Surprisingly, their headmaster allowed the boys to keep the pet. One day Johann rushed outside to witness a march of the Nazi party toward city hall. When the police force responded with violence. As the street erupted in chaos, Shmidt attempted to flee, but his headmaster would not let him, telling the boy to stand and face the chaos like a man.
When Shmidt grabbed for a gun dropped on the ground and attempted to shoot the man, the headmaster knocked the gun out of his hand. Fleeing into the crowd, Shmidt jumped into a dog catchers truck to escape. He convinced the dog catcher to take him home and teach him how to kill dogs like he does. The dog catcher complies and after bludgeoning and then fatally cutting a vicious dog in front of the boy, the dog catcher then offered Johann a docile pup to kill. Unable to bring himself to kill the dog, Johann watched as the dog catcher disgustingly threw it in the pen with the other dogs. Watching as the pup was attacked by the other dogs, Johann attempted to save it and was attacked. With his life threatened, Johann managed to beat all the dogs to death with the stick alone. Going to the wounded dog, Johann was shocked when it bit him before dying. Coming to terms with the brutal world that he was born into, Johann got up and left the dog to die in the pouring rain, a road that would lead to him becoming one of the most notorious murderers in human history.
Living on the streets, young Johann survived by thievery for the next three years. By November 1926 he was living on the streets around Kurfürstendamm the grand boulevard of Berlin. He soon crossed path with another boy named Bormann who was in charge of the other children on the streets who demanded that Johann steal for him. When Johann defended himself with a knife, Bormann and his fellow gang members fought back, forcing Johann to flee into the crowded street. Seeking refuge in a shop owned by a Jewish man and his daughter Emmy. Seeking sanctuary, Johann lied to them, telling them that he was from a Jewish family and was kicked out of his family home following the death of his parents, explaining his bleeding nose was a result of being jumped by Nazis outside. Sympathetic to the boy the shop keeper invited Johann into his home offering him food, a place to stay and a warm bed. That night, Johann was spotted by Bormann who told Johann to keep an eye on the shopkeeper, suggesting that he might have a lot of money and that at the right moment he should size it. As time went on the Jewish family came to care for Johann and he came to regard them well. However, one night as he was watched by Bormann he decided to steal from the family's register and leave. However, Johann changed his mind at the last moment, but was caught by the shop owner. Taking the boy aside and having a drink with the lad, the shop owner told Johann that with times the way they are, it is survival of the fittest and that he should have taken the money. He told the boy that things would change and the world would become a kinder place. About ready to murder the shop keeper, Johann decided to stay his knife and continued to live peacefully with the family for a number of months. That all changed in March of 1927, as tensions between the Communist Red Front and the Nazis erupted in violence while the two groups were having a simultaneous rallies. When the members of the Nazi party decided to look for trouble, the shop keeper was identified as a Jew by Bormann leading him to be be attacked on the street. The shopkeeper told Johann to keep Emmy safe. Johann took Emmy back to the shop and locked the door. When Bormann and his gang came by telling Johann to rob the place while the shopkeeper is away, Emmy believed that Johann would do it and pushed him into the shop window. When he told her that he was there to protect her, Bormann tossed a brick through the window and attempted to enter. Johann then quickly cut his throat, and as Bormann bled to death his gang fled. With Emmy in hysterics, Johann tried to talk sense into her but soon lost his temper and punched her across the face. Leaving her alive, Johann then stole the money from the register and left. Seeing the shop keeper beaten on the street calling his name, Johann would look at the man, and then drop the money, walking away and leaving the shop keeper to live or die on the street.
By 1933, as the Nazis continued to rise to power, Johann became a killer for hire, eliminating a member of the Nazi party for a local crime boss named Emil Beckert, to whom the Nazi member attempted blackmail him while an accountant. Paid for the job, Johann was told to take a trip and lay low for a while. On his way out, he ran into his friend Dieter who was a Communist supporter protesting against the Nazis. This led to Dieter being roughed up by some Brownshirts, but Johann came to his aid, getting cut with a knife in the process. Fleeing back to Dieter's home where he was patched up. Dieter confided that Johann's "stance" against their headmaster inspired him to run away from the orphanage after. On February 23rd, Johann accompanied Dieter at a protest outside the Berlin Sportplatz, but when their protest was causing trouble and Johann saw that the resisters decided to still stand even though they were unarmed, he left Dieter and the others. On the February 25th he met again with Herr Beckert, who told Johann that the Nazis are looking for any reason to start a fight and to keep his thumb on Dieter, or kill him. When Johann pointed out that Dieter was his friend, Beckert told Johann that he had no friends. That night, Johann returned to Dieter's home and forced him to accompany him on a job that really would make a "difference" by eliminating the crime boss, by pointing out that he too preyed on the week. When Dieter could not bring himself to kill Beckert, Johann began to beat him, until their attention was turned to Reichstag which had just been set on fire.
That was on the early hours of February 27th, 1933, the night that Dutch leftist Marinus von der Lubbe set the Reichstag on fire, acting alone. In response to the fire, Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring determined it to be part of a Communist uprising. Goering then drafted the Brownshirts into an auxiliary police force. On February 28th President von Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree which suspended virtually every free right the German people had to free speech, freedom to assemble, and all privacy rights. As Berlin was being swept for Communist supporters, Johann and Dieter fled capture. When Dieter blew their cover, he decided to stop running and was beaten by a pair of Brownshirts while Johann fled. Dieter was then placed in Dachau one of Nazi Germany's first concentration camps. Over the next few months the Nazis completed their rise to power, and among the 1.6 million Germans to join the Nazi party, Johann Shmidt was one of them.
By the spring of that year, Johann was a member of the Brownshirts, but was had aspirations to be a member of the SS as they were allowed to carry guns. During a rally for Hitler, he expressed as much when he balked at his desire to sing. This led to disciplinary action from his superior even though he agreed with Johann's sentiment. Later outside, he confronted some SS troops and asks what it would take to join their ranks. Although they mocked him for his lack of stature, their commanding officer offered him a chance to prove his mettle by taking his Luger and firing it at a Jewish shop keeper and his son. Johann did as ordered, but the gun was unloaded. The commander thought that Johann had the right attitude, but mocked him for being "stupid". Angered, Johann lashed out, pistol whipping the commander and getting beaten up for his trouble. Three months later, after Dieter and other communists were let free under strict orders to not talk about their experience, Dieter was undaunted and sought to continue his protest against the Nazis. In seclusion he began organizing his followers when they were interrupted by Johann who crashed through the door. Johann then showed Dieter that even as a member of the Brownshirts he was beaten and abused as well and suggests that they should work together to assassinate Hitler himself.
After careful planning, Johann and Dieter had finalized their plans to assassinate Hitler and began their mission on June 29, 1934. Johann, having quit the Brownshirts ran into his old commander and learned that Hitler and his men intended to eliminate Ernest Rohm for his opposition of Hitler's rise to power and "deviant" homosexuality. Killing his old commander for striking him in the past, Johann then led Dieter and his friends to Hotel Hansenblauer in Bad Wiessee. There, Dieter's friends waited for them in a boat to escape, while Dieter and Johann went into the hotel and posed as boy prostitutes to gain access to Rohm's hotel room.
Seeing that their so-called friends had abandoned them, Johann and Dieter decided to continue their operation, with Dieter changing into a bellhop's uniform and Johanne dressing in normal clothing. When they arrived in Rohn's room it was just moments after the Gestapo, led by Hitler, arrived to eliminate Rohm. This unexpected turn of events prompted Johann to stay his hand at shooting Hitler and when they were ordered to bring Hitler his dinner, they went down into the kitchen to fetch his meal. There, Dieter chastised Johann for not shooting Hitler when they had the chance. Then, to prove to Johann that he was not still the same cowardly boy from the orphanage, he changed outfits with Johann, determined to kill Hitler himself. However, when Dieter pulled the gun and attempted to shoot Hitler, Johann -- recalling all the advice he had been given over the years about the strong surviving in a harsh world -- ruined Dieter's shot. Then grabbing the gun, shot his only friend in the head, killing him. The Gestapo agents then rushed Johann, but before they could kill him Hitler stops them. Impressed by the boy, Hitler then invited him to becoming his right-hand man, molding the boy in his own image. Thus a terrible legend was born.
World War II
Becoming the Red Skull
Trying to carry out Hitler's orders, his subordinates at first attempted to train Shmidt to become a perfect German soldier wearing an ordinary SS uniform. Enraged, for he wanted to turn Shmidt into something quite different, Hitler personally took over Shmidt's training. Hitler gave Shmidt a lifelike red skull-like head mask and named him the Red Skull. The Skull was answerable only to Hitler himself.
Early in his tutelage under under Hitler, Johann was brought to the castle of Baron Helmut Zemo to witness tests on his prototype death-ray. Also in attendance was Abraham Erskine whom both Hitler and Shmidt mocked for his ideal about using science to improve human bodies instead of destroy them.
With the Red Skull fully trained, Hitler dispatched him to begin a reign of terror that would make him the most feared Nazi among the Third Reich. To this end, the Red Skull was dispatched to Nazi occupied France where he personally oversaw the extermination of an entire town that had aided America Nazi-hunter John Steele, Nick Fury, and Red Hargrove.
Following the creation of Captain America by Abraham Erskine (who had defected to the United States), the Red Skull took orders to eliminate soldiers stationed at Camp Lehigh where Captain America -- in his civilian identity of Steve Rogers -- was stationed. Instead of sending himself, the Red Skull sent Nazi operative George Maxon in his place, having him pose as the true Red Skull. In his initial encounter with Captain America and his partner Bucky, Maxon was seemingly slain by the same poison he used to kill his victims, but he only feigned death. Maxon's next attempt to eliminate Captain America and Bucky by using plans for a stolen drill tank ended in Maxon's true death. Also during this period, the youthful heroes known as the Young Allies clashed with the Red Skull in New York City. This battle was adapted into a comic book in Young Allies #1, where the Red Skull battled the Young Allies while they were trying to protect a British spy. This Red Skull may have been yet another impostor, since his battle against the Young Allies happened before Shmidt's first public appearance.
When Captain America learned that he previously clashed with an impostor, he traveled to Nazi Germany with Bucky only to be captured and taken prisoner by the Skull. The Red Skull then had his scientists inject Cap with a serum that would eventually make him the Skull's slave. While the Red Skull told Captain America a version of his life story, the serum took effect making Cap his slave. The Red Skull then sent Captain America to assassinate a high ranking American official stationed in London, however thanks to interference from Bucky, Captain America broke free and was able to thwart the Red Skull's programming. Later, the Red Skull sent orders to a Nazi prisoner of war named Wolfgang to break out of his camp and attempt to steal a prototype "Vanishing Ray", this mission ended in failure thanks to the intervention of Captain America and Bucky.
In the summer of that year, it was discovered that Nazi scientist Professor Eric Schmitt, who was then attempting to duplicate Erskine's super-soldier formula, was of Jewish descent. The Red Skull saw to it personally to have Schmitt to be sent off to a Nazi concentration camp. This would end up working against the Nazis, as Schmitt would use his formula to empower fellow prisoner Kevin Marlow who later became the Destroyer. After disposing of Schmitt, the Red Skull then met with exiled Atlantean Merro to begin plotting an attack on the United States, scheduled for December 4th, 1941.
The Red Skull next traveled to the United States to assassinate soldiers at Camp Lehigh directly, taking to playing Chopin's "Funeral March" while doing so. He once more clashed with Captain America whom gives the Skull chase when he captured General King. Captain America and Bucky saved General King's life, and sent the Red Skull falling into a murky river, and believed to have drowned, the Skull however managed to survive.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into the war, the Red Skull began developing technology along with Nazi scientist Brain Drain, the Red Skull went after Captain America who was now part of the super-group known as the Invaders. Using a massive maelstrom, the Red Skull captured Captain America, the Human Torch, Toro, and the Sub-Mariner. The Skull left Bucky behind, finding the young hero powerless and therefore of no use to him. Brainwashing the captured heroes with and send out to attack American defense plants. However, Bucky soon gathered a team of other super-heroes, dubbing them the Liberty Legion to oppose the Skull and rescue his friends. In response to this, the Red Skull unleashed the brainwashed Invaders to attack different American monuments, but each one was soundly defeated by the various members of the Liberty Legion. The Red Skull ordered all his slaves to return to him, and only Toro was captured by the heroes. Threatening to attack Yankee Stadium during a Yankees game, the Red Skull unleashed the Invaders and they once more clashed with the Liberty Legion. When Toro managed to break free of the Red Skull's conditioning he destroyed the airship that housed the equipment that kept the Invaders under the Skull's control, freeing the heroes. Despite this victory, the Red Skull still managed to escape capture.
Shortly after this defeat, the Red Skull began investigating supernatural means of winning the war. To this end, he began working with the Thule Society to summon the Hammer of Skadi with the assistance of Baron Strucker. Using Atlantean natives as a sacrifice in the ceremony, the succeeded in summoning the Hammer, however instead of landing in the German countryside like they planned, it crashed in Antarctica instead. Going to retrieve it, they found that the hammer was guarded by a massive creature. When Captain America, Bucky, and the Sub-Mariner followed the Skull to Antarctica, he left the heroes to deal with the creature while he and his men attempted to remove the hammer. Unable to lift it from the ice, the Skull had the members of the Thule Society use their magics to conceal the Hammer and examine it while he fled with Baron Strucker. He brought with him a box which he left Strucker to believe contained the weapon he summoned and it was to be delivered to Hitler himself. However, the Red Skull realized that the hammer was destined for somebody else and began orchestrating events so that its power could be used for his purposes. The full success of this goal would not be realized for decades to come.
The Red Skull is next dispatched to an America military base to plant explosives at its power plant. To carry out this mission, the Red Skull disguises himself as Colonel Sam Sawyer. When Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos are called back from a furlough to investigate reports of a spy on the base, they little suspect that the spy is posing as their commanding officer. After sending Nick Fury into a trap, the Skull disguises himself as Fury to plant the bombs and allows himself to be seen fleeing the base. Coincidentally enough, Fury survived the trap and is coming back to short while the Skull is being chased by military police. Knocking out the real Fury, the Skull then changes back into his Sam Sawyer disguise and when Fury is brought before "Sawyer" is ordered to be locked up. However the Howlers realize that the person being locked up is no spy, but their real field commander and help Fury break free. The Skull meanwhile disguised himself as a typical Master-Sargent to escape the base, but is chased by Fury and the Commandos. Their fight taking them to a gun tower at sea, Fury knocks out the Skull and ties him to a raft. However, while Fury and the others are freeing the real Sam Sawyer and preventing the Nazis aboard from setting off the explosives the Red Skull escapes.
Somehow ending up incarcerated in an American prison, the Red Skull managed to break free and mastering archery, regrouped his gang of spies and began a string of sabotage. During a bank heist, the Red Skull managed to wound Bucky, forcing Captain America to bring his young sidekick for immediate medical attention. Facing the Red Skull alone, Captain America was incapacitated by the villain. The Red Skull then learned Captain America's secret identity and stole his uniform and began committing acts of espionage in the costume, leading the authorities to believe that Captain America had betrayed his country. Captain America was eventually freed by Bucky and the two went after the Red Skull. Battling him on an airplane, Captain America knocked the Red Skull off the plane, sending him falling to his apparent death. Finding evidence on the Red Skull's body allowed Captain America to clear his name. However the Red Skull did not die, in fact he had the foresight to rig a parachute on his person so that he could land safely. Killing a local farmer, the Red Skull dressed his victim up in his costume and then fled the scene. Shortly after making his escape, the Red Skull continued his string of sabotage across the Untied States. When attempting to poison the population of Washington D.C., the Red Skull was opposed by the Young Allies, Betty Ross, Captain America and the Human Torch. In the course of the battle, the Young Allies pushed the Red Skull off a cliff and he fell to his apparent death. He survived and clashed with Captain America in an unspecified battle.
In November of that year, the Red Skull and Master Man moved to the Russian town of Kalach where he once more began experimenting with death-ray technology. When the Invaders attacked the area, the Red Skull set the town on fire and rigged ihs weapon to explode before escaping with Master Man. The Red Skull also managed to capture Bucky and bring him to Hitler for questioning. However, Bucky was rescued by Captain America.
Returning to the European front testing out a new death ray weapon. He was bested in combat by Captain America, sparing the life of future film director Leonard Spellman. After another clash with Captain America, the Red Skull went to France where he once more face the Invaders, this time working with Master Man.
The Red Skull next returned to the United States, where he and a group of spies operated out of a hospital and committed acts of sabotage. He once more clashed with Captain America and Bucky, briefly capturing them. The Skull was defeated by Captain America before he could perform an impromptu surgery on Bucky and was turned over to the authorities. Escaping, the Red Skull then sent his spy, special effects artist Lyle Dekker to sabotage the set of the new Captain America serial being filmed at the Democracy Pictures studio. This operation was thwarted by Captain America and Bucky. Seeking that the Nazis were likely to lose the war, the Red Skull attempted to turn America into another fascist state one town at a time. His plot was discovered by Captain America and Bucky who soundly defeated him and turned him over to the authorities once more. Once more escaping custody and returning to France, the Red Skull again clashed with the Invaders.
The Red Skull next set up operations in an arctic region, using advanced science to convert it into a tropical zone. He then built a device to harness the power of the borealis in the sky to disable all Allied weapons. When a military plane passed by, the Skull orders it shot down and he takes the crew hostage. Coincidentally enough, among the crew were Steve Rogers and James Barnes. Somehow forgetting that Steve Rogers was Captain America, he left the private to be tortured on a device that would swing a knife closer to him every time he breathed. Steve broke free from the trap, and as Captain America disabled the Red Skull's weapon and defeated his old foe, taking him into military custody.
In December of that year, the Red Skull found himself in Monte Casino, Italy. When the Invaders came to attack the location with a troop of American soldiers the majority of their numbers were transported to the future almost with Private Paul Anselm by the Cosmic Cube. In the future, Paul managed to get a hold of the Cosmic Cube and used it to return to 1943 alone so he could use the Cube to save the lives of his fellow soldiers who were gunned down in combat. However, in doing so he lost the Cube and it ended up in the possession of the Red Skull. Visited by the other dimension Vision (who was charged with nurturing the Cube's growing sentience) then taught the Red Skull how to use the Cube. The Skull used it to take over the entire world, creating a Nazi occupation in the United States, erecting a massive "Aryan Wall" around Europe, and slaying virtually ever hero active during that time. When the time displaced Invaders and members of the future Mighty Avengers and New Avengers (disguised as 1940s super-heroes) returned to 1943, they infiltrated Europe with the aid of the Howling Commandos and the Black Panther, and the Red Skull soon learned of their arrival. When the heroes arrived outside of Germany, the Red Skull summoned Master Man, U-Man, Warrior Woman, Baron Blood, Thor, and Iron Cross to face the heroes. When the heroes bested their combatants, the Red Skull entered the battle himself, attacking them with the power of the Cosmic Cube. However, when the Skull attempted to use the Cube to kill Captain America, the Cube's emerging sentience refused to follow his orders. When the Wasp attempted to take the Cube, the Skull stabbed her to death. Bucky grabbed the Cube next, and was fatally shot handing it over to Captain America. The Red Skull struggled with Captain America over the Cube, but it slipped out of their grasps and into the hands of Paul Anselm. Anselm then used the Cube to resurrect all the heroes that the Skull had killed and unleashed them on him. After the Red Skull's defeat, Anselm used to Cube to restore history to it's natural order. The Red Skull's memories of the entire event were erased.
In April, 1944 the Red Skull succeeded in kidnapping inventor Howard Stark and his wife Marie, threatening to torture Maria if Stark did not assist in constructing an atomic weapon for the Nazis. The Starks were rescued by the combined efforts of the Howling Commandos, Captain America and Bucky, who managed to escape ruining the Red Skull's nuclear aspirations. Later that month, the Skull traveled to Nazi occupied Latveria with historian Hermann Dexx to dig up a legendary robot that was constructed in the region over 500 years ago (apparently by a time displaced Dr. Doom) Although the Skull managed to unearth the ancient Sleeper Robot, it was destroyed by Captain America when he, Bucky and the Howling Commandos infiltrated Latveria. The Skull managed to escape with the plans for the Sleeper and evade capture.
The Red Skull soon became aware of how Baron Strucker had been consolidating Nazi money into the procurement of arms and technology for his splinter organization Hydra. Still harboring feelings that the Third Reich was destined for failure, the Red Skull had asked Strucker to provide him with samples of various suspended animation technologies which he had procured with his resources.
Later, the Red Skull procured the scientific knowledge of jaded British scientist Cedric Rawlings and attempted to use his scientific genius to eliminate Captain America and Bucky while also building V-2 Rockets to attack the Allies from his home at Greymore Castle in England. However, Captain America and Bucky foiled this scheme. Seeking more occult means to try and win the war, the Red Skull sequestered himself in a estate in Europe with Master Man to protect him. This operation was opposed by the United States army led by Captain America. Details regarding the clash are mostly unrecorded, but it is presumed that whatever the Skull was attempting to achieve was met with failure.
In August, apparently no longer possessing the location of Atlantis, Hitler sent the Red Skull and Warrior Woman to the Pacific to capture the Sub-Mariner as he and the Invaders were attacking Japanese submarines. Although initially successful in subduing the Sub-Mariner, the Nazis instead reeled in Captain America who had rescued his friend in exchange for his own capture. Knowing that Captain America know of the location of Atlantis, the Red Skull had Warrior Woman torture him while the Nazis filmed it for propaganda purposes. However, Captain America manage to free himself from his cell along with a captured Russian spy named Karinna Rose. When the Red Skull and Warrior Woman attempted to subdue them, the Invaders had arrived. Outnumbered and over powered, the Red Skull used a device to blind the heroes temporarily so that he and Warrior Woman could escape. Later that month, as the Allied Forces liberated France from Nazi occupation, the Red Skull watched a victory parade led by Captain America. Seeing this as a hollow victory for the Allies and their kind, the Red Skull vowed to eventually crush his foes, before fleeing back to Berlin.
By September that year, the Red Skull was hiding in Arnhem, the Netherlands along the Rhine. When Captain America and Bucky led US troops to capture him, the Skull unleashed an army of Allied troops who had their brains experimented on. Clashing with Captain America and Bucky, the Skull managed to escape by tossing a grenade, sending the heroes ducking for cover. In October, when Hitler arranged to have the Eye of Agamotto stolen from the Ancient One in Tibet, the Red Skull was sent to a Western Germany airfield to collect it. He faced opposition from Captain America, Bucky, and the Howling Commandos. Fleeing the scene with the amulet he was transported to the Dark Dimension by Dormammu who sought to claim the Eye. Facing Captain America and Bucky in the Dark Dimension, the Skull lost the amulet to the two heroes. Confronted by Dormammu who allowed the Red Skull to retrieve the Eye of Agamotto in exchange for a means to win the war. The Skull ultimately, failed and for his failure was banished back to Earth, while Captain America and Bucky managed to escape Dormammu and return to Earth with the help of the Commandos and the Ancient One. Later in the year the Red Skull clashed with Captain America in the Black Forest of Germany, and later and Hitler's Eagle's Nest Fortress. Later, the Red Skull was given an all African-American group of American fighter pilots to experiment on for the application of biological warfare. His only success was in creating the Judas Man before his lab was blown up by Captain America, Bucky, and the Howling Commandos.
With Nazi Germany losing ground every day, both Hitler and the Red Skull sought the services of Nazi geneticist Arnim Zola. Hitler, seeking a means to have his mind transferred into cloned bodies, while the Skull had Zola perfect a suspended animation technique that would allow him to maintain young and vital following the wars end. Confronted by Baron Strucker, the Skull and Zola both accepted an offer to help enhance Hydra as an organization to be their fighting force following the collapse of the Third Reich.
Early that year, the Red Skull had relocated to an underground rocket factory in Kohstein where he was overseeing the storage of the Spear of Destiny. The facility was attacked by Captain America leading a battalion of heroes to dismantle the facility. The Red Skull failed to stop the destruction of the base and failed in stopping the Allies from collecting the Spear, but managed to escape.
In April 1945, the Red Skull oversaw Hitler's orders to created five Sleeper Robots that were to be unearthed during "Der Tag", the day of Nazi ascension. With Allied Forces encroaching on Berlin, Hitler became increasingly erratic and paranoid, no longer able to trust anyone but the Red Skull. The Skull himself, seeing that the Third Reich was crumbling around him quickly lost his respect in Hitler, but agreed to carry out one final mission for him. Hitler gave the Skull a case containing what Hitler claimed to be his greatest weapon to be utilized after "Der Tag" and sent the Skull to hide it in a nearby bunker. The Red Skull complied with the orders but was pursued by Captain America, Spirit of '76, the Patriot, and the original Red Guardian in the bunker. Clashing with Captain America, the Skull attempted to kill the hero with a grenade, but Cap deflected the blast. Taking the brunt of the explosion, the seriously injured Red Skull warned Captain America of "Der Tag" and refused to provide Captain America with the hidden location of the Sleeper devices. Before Captain America could try, Allied bombers began their attack above causing the tunnel to collapse. Captain America fled, leaving the Skull to be buried alive. However, the Skull did not perish, instead the suspended animation gas given to him by Arnim Zola put him in a state of suspended animation over the years, keeping him youthful and vital while healing his broken body.
Still, despite the Red Skull being placed in suspended animation, there were still anomalous appearances, such as when Captain America (Jeff Mace, the former Patriot who succeeded Steve Rogers as Captain America) battled the Red Skull in Hell. These were likely impostors, or the result of other unexplained phenomenon.
However, there was one man who posed as the Red Skull. In the early 1950s, with the original Red Skull assumed to be dead, Albert Malik the Communist leader of an Algerian-based spy ring assumed the identity of the Red Skull throughout the course of the 1950s.
Some years ago, the original Red Skull was found by a search team sent by the subversive organization called THEM, which was actually the ruling council of HYDRA headed by Baron Strucker. Strucker carefully concealed his identity from the Skull after the latter was revived. By this time the first three Sleepers had already been destroyed by the original Captain America, who had emerged from his own state of suspended animation earlier. The Skull agreed to cooperate with THEM and did so just long enough to steal the Cosmic Cube from AIM, which was then one of THEM's subsidiary organizations. This theft led to the Skulls first postwar clash with the original Captain America, who again defeated him.
Believing that with Hitler's death he himself should now rule the world, the Red Skull made repeated attempts at world domination. In his various attacks on world peace he employed the Cosmic Cube, and the army of Exiles, a fragment of HYDRA, and the two final Sleepers, among many other means of conquest. However, the Skull nevertheless repeatedly met defeat, most often through the efforts of the original Captain America.
Seeking an heir, the Red Skull fathered a daughter by a washerwoman on Exile Island relatively soon after his revival. This woman died in childbirth. The Red Skull had the mansion called Skull House built and raised her there. Through advanced biological means he caused her to reach adulthood within an unnaturally short period of time and endowed her with superhuman powers; he named her Mother Superior.
For a time the Red Skull operated in partnership with the original Hate-Monger, who was a clone of Adolph Hitler. However, unwilling to share power even with his former mentor, the Skull eventually put an end to their alliance by entrapping the Hate-Monger's consciousness within a powerless facsimile of the Cosmic Cube.
The Red Skull learned to his horror that the effects of the experimental gas that had kept him from aging while he was in suspended animation were reversing themselves; as a result, he aged at an unnatural rate of speed until his physical age matched his chronological one, making him so elderly that he would soon die of old age. Determined that he and Captain America should perish together, the Skull had Captain America's ally Nomad brainwashed. Hence Nomad was compelled to dose Captain America's food with a chemical that caused him to age at an unnaturally rapid rate and that undid the effects of the super-soldier serum on his body. Later, the Skull captured the now elderly Captain America and injected both of them with a poison that gave them only hours left to live. The two ancient adversaries engaged in hand-to-hand combat, and once more Captain America overpowered the Skull. Defeated, the Skull finally expired due to old age. His body was burned thereafter. Captain America was cured of the effects of the poison, the effects of the super-soldier serum were again activated in his body, and he regained his former youthfulness; in short, Captain America returned fully to normalcy.
Shortly afterward, the criminal Doctor Faustus was apparently attacked by the ghost of the Red Skull after Faustus used holographic images of the Skull in a plot against Captain America.
Unknown to the world, however, the Nazi scientist Armin Zola had preserved the mind of Shmidt at death, and transferred it into a clone of Steve Rogers. Alive again, Skull denounced Nazism as an outdated philosophy, and became determined to destroy America from within, using its own capitalism. Remaining behind the scenes as the Red Skull, he created or funded the creation of several different subversive groups, including Ultimatum, the Watchdogs, Scourge, the Resistants, and Power Brokers, Inc. Through his agent on the Senate-sanctioned "Commission," he masterminded their investigation and eventual replacement of Steve Rogers as Captain America, leading to John Walker taking up the role. The Skull then began a campaign to cause Walker's breakdown, using Walker's ever-increasing instability and violence to besmirch the reputation of Captain America. During this time, in combat with Steve Rogers (who was then known as the Captain,) Schmidt accidentally dosed himself with the Dust of Death, giving him a permanent "red skull" visage.
Acts of Vengeance
Possession of Alesander Lukin
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. 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 seemed 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.
With America's superheroes divided over the SRA during the Superhero Civil War, the Skull manipulated 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 was being manipulated by Faustus.
Death of Captain America
In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the Skull put his plans into action, arranging for Crossbones to shoot Captain America as he entered a courthouse in New York City; in the ensuing chaos, Carter, acting under Faustus' mental directive, assassinated Captain America. This, however, was only the first phase of the Skull's evil plan. Upon the exposure of his being Lukin, the Skull faked his death, and initiated 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 continued his assault by engineering a riot by placing Kronas security troops and drugged water in a protest on the Lincoln Monument.
All of this had apparently been to elevate Gordon Wright, his puppet politician, 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 would lead the country directly into a police state secretly controlled by the Red Skull. The Skull also planed to transfer his consciousness into Sharon's unborn child, apparently sired by Steve Rogers himself and potentially having inherited his Project Rebirth enhancements.
Both schemes failed because of the impatience and incompetence of the Skull's daughter - her near-fatal attack on Sharon Carter caused her to lose the baby, and she intentionally botched her pseudo-assassination of Gordon Wright by attempting to kill him for real. And as Faustus surreptitiously tampered with Sharon's programming, she was able to rebel, and before escaping shot Lukin to death.
This wasn't the end of Red Skull, since Armin Zola had seconds earlier transferred his mind to one of his spare robotic bodies, but after having his current form damaged by the 1950's Captain America, he was unable to return back to Red Skull, essentially trapping him in his current robotic form for the time being.
Captain America: Reborn
A year later, it is revealed that the Skull had in fact trapped Rogers' body in a fixed point in time-space. It was his intention to transfer his mind into Rogers' body and supplant his consciousness. Unfortunately, when Sharon broke the connection, as she was implanted with chronal tracers designed to draw Rogers to her, it unstuck him in time, causing him to relive all the events of his life. Norman Osborn, current Director of H.A.M.M.E.R., learned this from Zola, who had managed to transfer himself to another body. Osborn realized that having Captain America leading his Avengers, even with the Red Skull in control, would increase his popularity. He released both Crossbones and Sin to retrieve him. Traveling to Latveria, where Zola and Doctor Doom, who had provided the Skull with the equipment necessary for his plans, the Skull managed to take control of his archnemesis' body.
The Skull planned on returning to America, where he would tell the new President that "Captain America" had returned. He also intended to play along with Osborn's plan for the moment. But first, he intended on defeating the underground Avengers, who were tailing him. A fight broke out at the Washington monument, both in the physical and mental world. In the latter, Rogers had managed to break through the illusion that had supplanted his consciousness. Both he and Bucky fought against the Skull. But when the latter had the Skull/Rogers at his mercy, he couldn't bring himself to kill his old friend. The Skull took advantage of this and prepared to kill Bucky. Luckily Rogers managed to overcome the Skull's mental control. After returning to his mechanical body, Sharon struck him with a device to prevent his escape, not knowing it would enlarge his size. Shmidt battled the Avengers and died a final death due to the combined efforts of Sharon and both Captain Americas.
- Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
- Captain America #298
- Tales of Suspense #66
- Red Skull #1
- Red Skull #2
- Red Skull #4
- Red Skull #3
- Red Skull #5
- Thunderbolts Presents Zemo Born Better #3-4
- Marvels Project #5
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- Young Allies #1
- Avengers, Thor & Captain America: Official Index to the Marvel Universe #1
- Tales of Suspense #67
- Tales of Suspense #68
- Marvels Project #6
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- Invaders #5
- Marvel Premiere #29
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- Fear Itself: Book of the Skull #1
- Sgt. Fury #25
- Captain America Comics #16
- Young Allies #4
- Captain America Theater of War: America the Beautiful #1
- Captain America Vol 5 #5
- Captain America's Bicentennial Battles #1
- Captain America #262
- Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America #5
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- Captain America Annual #9
- Captain America: 65th Anniversary Special #1
- Marvel Universe #1
- Tales of Suspense #69
- Tales of Suspense #70-71
- Captain America: Reborn #2
- Captain America Annual #2000
- Captain America Vol 5 #37
- Captain America Vol 5 #12
- Captain America Vol 5 #15
- Captain America - Nick Fury The Otherworld War #1
- Spider-Woman #42
- Fury #1
- Twelve: Spearhead #1
- Captain America Annual #13
- Tales of Suspense #72
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