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Marvel Cinematic Database

"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!"
―Johann Schmidt to Steve Rogers[src]

Johann Schmidt, also known as the Red Skull, was a general for the Nazi Army and the director of a special division called HYDRA, a special weapons division of the Nazi Schutzstaffel and the modern-day incarnation of the ancient HYDRA society. A brilliant scientist in his own right, he fought his way through the ranks of Nazi elite to become a confidant of Adolf Hitler himself. However, his ambition to become the superior man led him to test an imperfect version of the Super Soldier Serum on himself which transformed him into the horrifying Red Skull.

After gaining possession of the mystical Tesseract and its unimaginable power, he decided to turn his back on the Third Reich and rule the world alone. However, as World War II raged, his plans would be challenged by the only Allied super soldier, Captain America. In 1945 Schmidt launched his offensive, intending to bring the United States to its knees, but he was intercepted by Captain America, and vanished when he touched the Tesseract with his bare hands.


Early Life

Obsession with Power

"What if the old Norse tales Wagner adopts into his operas are more history than myth, mein Führer?"
―Johann Schmidt to Adolf Hitler[src]

Johann Schmidt was born in a small town in northern Germany.[1] He was a smart student and eventually became a physicist. Over the years, he became interested in Norse mythology. He developed a theory that Norse gods and their "magic" could be more than myth. Eventually, he became a member of HYDRA, an ancient society that followed a political doctrine, but once worshiped a powerful Inhuman; this past belief being very kindred to Schmidt's theories. He became a follower of a principle that the ultimate power was not of this world.[2]

Joining the SS

"Now Schmidt is a member of the inner circle and he is ambitious. He and Hitler share a passion for occult power and Teutonic myth. Hitler uses his fantasies to inspire his followers, but for Schmidt, it is not fantasy. For him, it is real."
Abraham Erskine on Johann Schmidt[src]
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Schmidt reveals his theory to Hitler

In February 1934, at the Deutsches Opernhaus in Berlin, Schmidt met Adolf Hitler, the Führer of Nazi Germany, the Third Reich. With him was Ernst Kaufmann, head of the Sturmabteilung (SA)'s Special Weapons Division. Schmidt revealed his theory that magic could be “the oldest science ever known” to them. Hitler was intrigued by Schmidt's ideas, but Kaufmann was less impressed. Nevertheless, Hitler ordered Kaufmann to arrange a meeting between him and Schmidt.

But, when Hitler left the scene, Kaumfann and his men took Schmidt from the opera. Schmidt offered to conduct research in Kaufmann's special weapons division, but was violently rejected. Kaufmann threatened to kill Schmidt if he came near Hitler again. But when Kaufmann and his men returned to the opera, Schmidt was approached by Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), the elite Nazi paramilitary unit that served as Hitler's body guard. Himmler was interested in Schmidt's ideas, and recruited him into the SS.[3]

Head of HYDRA

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Schmidt recruits Arnim Zola

"Herr Himmler shares my interest in the old ways. And the Schutzstaffel is more than happy to oblige."
―Johann Schmidt[src]

In June 1934, as part of the Night of the Long Knives, Schmidt assassinated Kaufmann and seized control of his weapons program.[3] 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 armor.[4] Eventually, Schmidt rose to the rank of Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant general), and formed his own branch of the SS, naming it HYDRA-Abteuilung.[5]

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 Germany/Switzerland 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.[3] Two years later, Erskine's wife and children died in the camp, but Schmidt never revealed that information to Erskine.[6]

World War II

Becoming the Red Skull


Schmidt fights for the Nazis in World War II

"We know that the superior man will not be born, Professor Erskine. He will not be a member of any "master race". He will be a race unto himself. And you are going to help me make him."
" with Nazis even though you do not follow their ideology?"
―Johann Schmidt and Abraham Erskine [src]

In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thus starting World War II. Schmidt gladly joined the Nazi party and actively participated in German conquests, earning several high military decorations, including the Panzer Badge and the Iron Cross First Class, and may have also suffered a wound at some point during combat to merit him the Wound Badge which he wore on his own SS uniform.[7]


Schmidt questions Abraham Erskine

In 1940, Schmidt had learned that, at long last, the first, unstable version of Abraham Erskine's Super Soldier Serum was now finished, which Schmidt had desired for himself. However despite Schmidt's orders and even the threat of execution, Erskine refused to hand it over to Schmidt. In the end, Schmidt took the Super Soldier Serum by force and, at Castle Kaufmann in the Bavarian Alps, Schmidt then injected himself in order to get super powers.


Schmidt injects himself with the Serum

The serum was supposed to make him faster, stronger, and more agile. However, the process came with side effects, and rendered Schmidt with a red deformed face. Though he adopted a synthetic mask that resembled his former appearance to disguise the new deformity, he gained the nickname "Red Skull".[5] Erskine fled and sought refuge in the United States with the help of Peggy Carter and joined the Strategic Scientific Reserve in order to continue his own research and aid the allies throughout the continued war.[6]

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Schmidt continues to research the occult

As compensation, Adolf Hitler gave Schmidt a new base in the Alps, which became the headquarters of HYDRA, working on weapons for the Third Reich. However, Schmidt saw his new post more as an exile than as a reward. He continued his research into the occult and developed a sense that HYDRA had become superior to the Nazis and sought to find a weapon that would overthrow Hitler.[5] Schmidt searched for the Darkhold, but he never managed to find it.[8]

Finding the Tesseract


Schmidt begins hunting down the Tesseract

"The Tesseract was the jewel of Odin's treasure room. It's not something one buries. But I think it is close, yes?"
"I cannot help you."
"No. But maybe you can help your village. You must have some friends out there. Some…some little grandchildren perhaps. I have no need for them to die."
―Johann Schmidt and Church Keeper[src]

Schmidt shared in Adolf Hitler's passion for occult power, although Schmidt's belief in it proved stronger than Hitler's as his obsession with understanding his own power grew. Researching history to find the greatest weapon known to man kind, Schmidt learned of Tesseract, which was lost on Earth having been held in Odin's Vault. Believing it to not be a myth, he began searching for it, knowing it would give him the power to defeat both Hitler and the Allies.


Schmidt threatens the Church Keeper

In March 1942, following a possible lead as to the location of their ultimate weapon, Schmidt led his army as they invaded Tønsberg, Norway, searching for the Tesseract. Upon entering a church with his large army led by his HYDRA Tanks, Schmidt ordered his men to bust down a large wooden door to enter an ancient church where they encountered the Church Keeper, who bravely refused to talk to them, despite witnessing the death of Jan during the attack.

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Schmidt holds up the fake Tesseract

When his soldiers tried to find it for him, Schmidt, after seeing that his soldiers were unable to move the marble coffin's heavy top off, proceeded to shove the top off effortlessly and found what appeared to be the Tesseract, taken from the grave of an ancient dead soldier. However Schmidt knew it to be a fake and calmly smashed the glass cube across the ground, noting that while it had been kept in Asgard, the Tesseract was the jewel of Odin's Vault and was not the sort of item that would be buried inside of a grave, although he remained convinced that the true Tesseract was still undoubtedly close to their location, questioning the Church Keeper over this.

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Schmidt finally finds the true Tesseract.

Unwilling to leave without his prize, Schmidt threatened the Church Keeper with the thought of obliterating the village and potentially killing the church keeper's family members, including all his young Grandchildren. Fearful of the innocent lives that would be lost, the man finally relented and Schmidt found the true Tesseract in a wall which depicted Yggdrasil and the Nine Realms. Opening the box, Schmidt was amazed by his own discovery at long last.


Schmidt shoots and kills the Church Keeper

Ignoring the Keeper's warnings that the Tesseract would destroy him as it was not for the eyes of ordinary men, Schmidt was told that he would burn if he tried to use it. Recalling using the Super Soldier Serum designed by Abraham Erskine which had given him his secret Red Skull, Schmidt told the man that he already had burned and shot and killed the church keeper before giving the order to destroy the entire village, walking away with his greatest weapon.[5]

Containing the Tesseract

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Schmidt harnesses the Tesseract's power

"Great power has always baffled primitive men. HYDRA is assembling an arsenal to destroy my enemies in one stroke, wherever they are, regardless of how many forces they possess, all in a matter of hours. My weapons contain enough destructive power to decimate every hostile capital on Earth. Quite simply, gentlemen. I have harnessed the power of the gods."
―Johann Schmidt to Roeder, Schneider and Hutter[src]

Having finally gained the Tesseract, Schmidt returned to his HYDRA Headquarters and gave the object to Arnim Zola, his chief scientist, for examination. During a test to see if its power could be harnessed, Zola hesitated due to fear of losing control. Schmidt, however, did not want to be cautious ignored the warnings and proceeded to overload the machine, causing it to break, but not before capturing just a small dose of the Tesseract's power in their machine.


Schmidt sees how to contain Tesseract power

Zola then realized that just the very small amount of energy they had captured could power the entire facility and help them build weapons powerful enough to change the war and allow Nazi Germany to at last defeat the United States of America and claim victory. Seeing this however, Schmidt had other ideas knew HYDRA now had the power to overthrow Adolf Hitler so Schmidt could take control and rule the world as the leader of HYDRA's superpower.[5]

Betraying Adolf Hitler


Schmidt finally locates Abraham Erskine

"Hitler speaks of a thousand year Reich, but he cannot feed his army for month. His troops spill their blood across every field in Europe. But he is still no closer to achieving his goals."
―Johann Schmidt and Roeder, Schneider and Hutter[src]

Schmidt, having discovered Abraham Erskine's location, dispatched an assassin to kill him. He then informed Zola of this. As Schmidt was in the middle of being painted while unmasked. In America, Erskine subjected Steve Rogers to the Project Rebirth, transforming him into an incredibly strong and powerful soldier, but Schmidt's assassin, Heinz Kruger, managed to kill Erskine and destroy the Allies' complete supply of the serum before committing suicide.


Schmidt meets with Adolf Hitler's emissaries

When SS officers Roeder, Schneider, and Hutter came to Schmidt's base under Adolf Hitler's orders to question him about the progress in developing advanced weapons for the Third Reich, Schmidt showed them around his headquarters. When Schneider commented on Hitler's lack of approval towards HYDRA and insulted Schmidt by using his hated nickname Red Skull, Schmidt made his decision to kill them all and finally cut all ties with the Nazi party.

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Schmidt murders Adolf Hitler's men

Schmidt took all the officers to see his Tesseract powered weapons, explaining he had harnessed the power of the gods, with Schneider calling him a mad man. Schmidt however continued as he told them that Hitler was talking of the thousand her Reich under the control of the Nazis but was failing to deliver or even protect his own men and therefore he would use the power of Asgard to achieve victory. But when Hutter saw Berlin marked as one of Schmidt's targets on a map, Schmidt vaporized them all with his advanced cannon, taking personal pleasure as Roeder screamed in utter terror during his final seconds before being completely vaporized into nothing.

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Schmidt vows to continue HYDRA alone

In that moment, Schmidt definitely turned his back to Hitler and the Nazi cause as he felt that HYDRA could grow no more in Hitler's shadow; he then had his men shout "Hail HYDRA!" to show their loyalty to him. Arnim Zola was horrified but still remained loyal to Schmidt and gave the salute. Schmidt smiled upon seeing his men's unwavering loyalty to him before calmly walking away to continue in his quest to take complete control of the entire world.


Schmidt and Arnim Zola discuss their work

With HYDRA now self-funded, Schmidt and Arnim Zola explored their Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility where prisoners of war were being forced to build the new Tesseract powered weapons. Despite the progress of the workers being high, Schmidt ordered that they increase their work load by an exceptional amount, when Zola then warned that increased work load would kill the men, Schmidt was not concerned, noting they could always get more workers.[5]

Encounter with Captain America

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Schmidt witnesses Captain America's attack

"Not exactly an improvement, but, still. Impressive."
"You've got no idea."
"Haven't I? No matter what lies Erskine told you, you see, I was his greatest success!"
―Johann Schmidt and Captain America[src]

In November 1943, Schmidt's Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility was invaded by Captain America, who came to free his friend Bucky Barnes and the other P.O.W.s. Schmidt watched the carnage on a monitor when all the prisoners were freed and attacked Schmidt's forces. Schmidt watched closely as Captain America overpowered his soldiers with ease. When a huge battle occurred, Schmidt activated the base's self-destruct, despite Arnim Zola's protests as he did not want his research to be destroyed.

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Schmidt collects the Tesseract

With only minutes to go until the base exploded, Arnim Zola ran to his lab to collect his documents detailing his weapon designs while Schmidt collected the Tesseract. Without touching the immensely powerful item, Schmidt placed it into a briefcase and regrouped with Zola. As they made their way to the exit, the self-destruct on the base was activated and much of the powerful machinery inside the base began to explode one by one, causing the floor of the base to erupt in unstoppable flames, killing anyone left nearby.

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Schmidt meets Captain America

As Schmidt and Zola were about to leave, Captain America and Bucky Barnes confronted them. Schmidt mocked the Captain, noting that he had seen and enjoyed the propaganda films he had starred in. Ignoring the taunts, Captain America punched Schmidt in the face, ripping his mask. To show Rogers they were both test subjects, Schmidt punched and made a dent in Rogers' shield before they engaged in a brief but highly violent fist fight.

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Schmidt reveals his true face to Steve Rogers

Arnim Zola separated the two super soldiers and Schmidt revealed to Captain America that he believed he was Abraham Erskine's greatest success before ripping off his damaged face mask to show him what the serum did to his face. While Rogers and Barnes were stunned by the hideous reveal, Schmidt threw his mask into the fire and told him he was deluded in believing he was a simple soldier as they had left humanity behind and he had embraced this change proudly.


Red Skull and Arnim Zola escape the base

As he left the pair to die in the fire, Rogers called out to him to ask if he was without fear why was he running, but Schmidt ignored the taunt as he believed they would both be dead soon while he would be able to get away. Schmidt revealed his intention to escape in a one man Focke-Wulf Triebflügel, but when Zola questioned how he would escape as well, Schmidt reluctantly handed him the keys to his own car and ordered him to drive it out of the danger without scratching it, something Zola agreed to without hesitation as he had secretly always wanted to drive the impressive car.


Red Skull flies away from his exploding base

Red Skull was able to fly his ship out of danger and regrouped with the forces of HYDRA back at his HYDRA Headquarters. Despite the HYDRA base exploding shortly after their escape, both Rogers and Barnes managed to escape themselves and returned to the United States Armed Forces where they now planned to bring the fight to HYDRA. Knowing that Rogers and the U.S. army were after him, Schmidt decided to now accelerate all of his plans.[5]

Losing the War

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Red Skull's forces continue to be defeated

"YOU ARE FAILING! We are close to an offensive that will shake the planet, yet we are continually delayed because you cannot outwit a simpleton with a shield!"
―Johann Schmidt[src]

Unfortunately for Schmidt, Captain America memorized the locations of all HYDRA bases which he saw on a map in Schmidt's base in Austria. He and the Howling Commandos began to take all of them down. The Allies progressively managed to destroy most major HYDRA operations, preventing Schmidt any chance to move forward with his plans. The more HYDRA facilities that were destroyed, the angrier and more deranged Schmidt became.


Red Skull furiously threatens Arnim Zola.

In April 1944, Schmidt was within 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.[6] Schmidt explored the ruins of one of his destroyed bases. Furious, he screamed at his soldiers and threatened Arnim Zola to continue his work before Captain America could defeat them.


Red Skull kills one of his own men out of rage

When one HYDRA survivor appeared and begged for forgiveness, Schmidt shot him without mercy. At the same time, Schmidt had his top scientist make nuclear bombs powered by the Tesseract. No one knew about his plans until Rogers captured Zola and he revealed Schmidt's plans.[5] In the meantime, a HYDRA General, Werner Reinhardt, was sent to search for legendary artifacts.[9] Reinhardt's team was able to discover the Obelisk in Chaves, Portugal.[10] When Reinhardt showed the artifact to his leader, Schmidt said that the Obelisk may hold the answer to death itself.[9]


Red Skull commanding his HYDRA army

With Arnim Zola now captured by the Allies and key intel about his plans having been leaked to his enemies, Schmidt moved his plans forward and gathered his army in the HYDRA Headquarters. Schmidt had the Tesseract powered nuclear bombs loaded the Valkyrie, ready to be launched. Schmidt gave a speech to his soldiers in which he promised they would stand triumphant before repeating the HYDRA motto and watching as all of his soldiers saluted him.[5]

Attack on HYDRA Headquarters


Red Skull questions Captain America

"Arrogance may not be a uniquely American trait, but I must say, you do it better than anyone. But there are limits to what even you can do, Captain, or did Erskine tell you otherwise?"
"He told me you were insane."
―Red Skull and Captain America[src]

In March 1945, the United States Armed Forces bravely attacked the HYDRA Headquarters, which made Schmidt accelerate his plans. After a brief battle with Schmidt's soldiers which killed many HYDRA soldiers, his men had successfully captured Captain America. Rogers was brought before Schmidt to be questioned and later executed by him personally, which delighted Red Skull.

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Red Skull prepares to kill Captain America.

When Schmidt asked Rogers what made him so special that Abraham Erskine had given him so much, Rogers answered that it was nothing, he was just a kid from Brooklyn. This mockery angered Schmidt, who punched Rogers several times, causing Rogers to drop to his knees. Schmidt prepared to execute Rogers but at the same moment, the Allied troops under Colonel Chester Phillips, Agent Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos stormed the HYDRA Headquarters and fired upon Schmidt and his soldiers.


Schmidt tries to escape from his attackers

During the chaos, Schmidt then escaped while Captain America was rescued and reunited with his own shield. During the fight, Schmidt picked up a Tesseract powered gun and used it to then kill several American soldiers before the overwhelming forces pushed him back. Schmidt stayed ahead of Captain America and fired several shots at him, all of which were deflected on his shield. While Schmidt's own soldier held Rogers back, Schmidt ran to the Valkyrie.[5]

The Last Fight


Red Skull stores the Tesseract away

"You could have the power of 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!"
"Not my future!"
―Red Skull and Captain America[src]

When he saw that his men could not stop the overwhelming enemy force, he retreated to his plane where he locked away the Tesseract and prepared to escape. During the launch, Red Skull noticed that Chester Phillips and Peggy Carter had taken his car and were chasing him down across the runway, allowing Captain America to get onboard the plane just moments before it took off.

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Red Skull pilots the Valkyrie and escapes.

Having taken out his guards, Rogers climbed on the outside of one of the HYDRA Parasit and threw out the pilot before taking control of it himself. Schmidt tried and failed to shoot him out of the sky but Rogers managed to dodge the shots before he crash landed the bomb back into the plane; he got out and made his way to the cockpit where he confronted Schmidt. However, refusing to be defeated, Red Skull prepared himself to finally kill his enemy.

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Red Skull ambushes Captain America

While Captain America explored the cockpit with his shield raised, Schmidt attempted to shoot him in the back, but Rogers was able to deflect the shot; Schmidt mocked Rogers' refusal to ever give up. They engaged in a fist fight with Schmidt gaining the upper hand by taking Rogers' shield and striking him with it. When the pair crashed into the controls, the plane spiraled out of control and the pair continued to fight as they were thrown across the room.

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Schmidt attempts to kill Captain America

Schmidt managed to regain control of the ship and he and Rogers were separated. Schmidt managed to reach his gun and fired at Rogers who took cover while attempting to regain his shield. As the Red Skull continued firing his HYDRA Pistol at the super soldier, he began mocking him that he could have had the power of the gods, and claiming that HYDRA would create a future where there were no flags and HYDRA would rule without challenge.


Schmidt vanishes into Yggdrasil

Rogers said this would not be his future and managed to throw his shield at Schmidt, knocking him back and damaging the machine containing the Tesseract. In the panic of the moment, Schmidt grabbed the Tesseract, but to his horror, the object opened a portal and launched Schmidt into it. Schmidt could only scream in pain and rage as he watched the flesh from his hand burning away before he disappeared into the portal, vanishing from Earth.[5]


HYDRA's Rebirth

"Herr Reinhardt, I-I fear Schmidt..."
"Oh, there's no reason left to fear the Red Skull. He's dead. However, his vision is not. The work HYDRA has done will live on."
HYDRA Officer and Werner Reinhardt[src]

Even though Schmidt was gone, his disappearance did not mean the end of his ideas. His subordinates like Arnim Zola and Werner Reinhardt continued his work, enabling HYDRA to survive its biggest defeat and live into the 21st century. However, because of Red Skull's failure to actually conquer the world due to his megalomania, Zola and Reinhardt reworked his plan for a more subtle approach to take it over.[11][9] Meanwhile, his enemies, such as Howard Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D., used his name as the greatest example of evil.[12][13]

A revived Captain America (who crashed the Valkyrie into the Atlantic Ocean in order to avoid it crashing into New York City), when encountering the rogue Asgardian Loki in Stuttgart, Germany, indirectly referenced Red Skull by informing him that when he was in Germany during World War II, he had previously fought against someone who thought he was better than everyone else.[14]


"He has become convinced that there is a great power hidden in the Earth, left here by the gods, waiting to be seized by a superior man. So when he hears about my formula and what it can do, he cannot resist. Schmidt must become that superior man."
Abraham Erskine on Johann Schmidt[src]

Johann Schmidt is a megalomaniac and egocentric genius who firmly believes in the Nazis' misinterpretation of Nietzsche's Übermensch (over-man) concept where a race of superhuman beings are destined to rule the normal ones. Believing himself to be such a man, he used any means necessary to obtain a central position in Adolf Hitler's army, until his conceit made him arrive to the point of believing himself to be greater than Hitler, and thus starting a plan to overthrow him. Unlike other Nazis, Schmidt doesn't believe that the Germans are the destined "master race", but rather that the superior man has yet to be made. In large part because he didn't believe the Germans were the destined 'master race', he also did not personally care to follow the Nazis' infamous holocaust plan against the Jewish race (although he nonetheless used it as a threat against Abraham Erskine to force him to make the serum).

Schmidt is pitiless and cruel, but also a scientific genius, who is able to see beyond appearances and managed to see the truth behind myths believed to be superstition, which are, in reality, fragments of Asgardian origin.

Schmidt was said to be a fully-fledged supporter of the Nazi Party until the incident which left him deformed. The truth is that he worked with the Nazis only so he could use their resources to achieve his own goals, and no longer seemed to share the racial ideals of Nazism. He claims that he was isolated to his palace in the Alps because he "no longer shares Hitler's image of Aryan Perfection". Though he is disillusioned by the Führer's ideals, he is still morally devoid and capable of mass murder. Once a mere professor at the university in Berlin, Schmidt became a cold-blooded killer who would do anything to accomplish his goals. Even his subordinate officers had reasons to fear him as Schmidt had an extremely low tolerance of failure: If they didn't do their job right, death was the only penalty he would give to those who failed him.

Powers and Abilities



  • Artificially Enhanced Physiology: As a result of the formula developed by Abraham Erskine, Schmidt was horribly disfigured, but also obtained incredible attributes, such as an enormous strength, speed, stamina and reflexes, and even his intelligence increased, allowing him to become a mastermind of warfare. Like Captain America, the Red Skull is at the peak of human ability, and is just shy of superhuman potential.
    • Enhanced Intelligence: Schmidt's intelligence is enhanced to peak performance. He's shown himself to be a formidable researcher and scientist, since he was able to distinguish truth from myths concerning ancient and powerful relics. Schmidt's investigations were able to find the Tesseract and the Runestone, and with his genius invented ways to harness their power to enhance his weapons of mass destruction. The only mythical object he wasn't able to find was the Darkhold. He was also smart enough to quickly deduce that the "Tesseract" inside the coffin was actually a decoy, though it was nonetheless in fairly close proximity. Since the Super Soldier Serum amplifies personality aspects as well, Schmidt's brain chemistry is also altered. Though he was megalomaniacal, wrathful, and pitiless before, the serum has also amplified those character traits.
    • Enhanced Strength: Schmidt's strength was enhanced to an early level of superhuman potential. He was able to move a giant stone casket lid by himself with little effort, after three normal men could barely make it budge. He was also able to lift a giant wardrobe over his head and threw it dozens of feet away, and this happened just a few days after he received the serum. His punches were shown to be capable of denting Captain America's original metal shield and also capable of holding his own and hurting Captain America, despite his similar super soldier enhanced body.
    • Enhanced Speed: The Super Soldier Serum gave Schmidt enhanced speed, allowing him to land punches on the also enhanced Captain America before Captain America's enhanced reflexes could respond.
    • Enhanced Agility: Schmidt was shown to be an agile hand-to-hand combatant while engaged in a one on one battle with Captain America. Though Schmidt prefers to shoot at Captain America from a distance, Red Skull has been known to lunge great distances at a stunned Captain America when the opportunity arises.
    • Enhanced Durability: While fighting Captain America, Schmidt was shown to be able to quickly recover from blows received from his opponent.
    • Enhanced Stamina: Schmidt is more resilient to fatigue and exhaustion, allowing him to fight and exert himself for long periods without strain or weakness, even while fighting Captain America, who sent him flying through the air.
    • Regenerative Healing Factor: Schmidt's advanced metabolism increases his resilience, as well as increasing his recovery and healing speed.


"He thinks that he is a god and he's willing to blow up half the world to prove it."
Chester Phillips[src]
  • Master Tactician: As the leader of HYDRA, Schmidt was in command of all the organization's soldiers and led them in many operations during World War II. The Red Skull has managed to orchestrate the assassinations of his enemies such as Ernst Kaufmann and Abraham Erskine, manipulated his way to power, and led HYDRA in planning an offensive that would have devastated the world's most influential countries had Captain America not interfered.
  • Expert Scientist: Acknowledged by Erskine himself as a brilliant scientist, Schmidt was put by Hitler in charge of the Nazi science division HYDRA-Abteilung. Schmidt used his scientific talents and knowledge of the occult to research the Tesseract and, though others considered it just a myth, Schmidt was able to find it.
  • Pilot: Schmidt was an accomplished pilot, using a Focke-Wulf Triebflügel to escape from the Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility before its destruction, and personally piloting the Valkyrie to attack the United States of America.



  • Luger P08: Schmidt was armed with the standard Luger P08 pistol used by members of the armed forces of Nazi Germany. He used it to personally kill a Church Keeper in Tønsberg right after obtaining the Tesseract.
  • HYDRA Pistol: Under Schmidt's leadership, HYDRA was able to harness the power of the Tesseract, gaining access to a source of energy the like of which has never be seen, and used it to implement his weapons. HYDRA developed a Tesseract-powered handgun with a design similar to the Luger pistol that became Schmidt's weapon of choice.
  • HYDRA Assault Rifle: During the Attack on HYDRA Headquarters, Red Skull witnessed the Allied forces blasting open the main doors, killing his men. To defend himself, Red Skull picked up a Tesseract powered Assault Rifle and killed several soldiers as they entered before he was forced to escape.

Other Equipment

  • Uniform: Before and during the first years of World War II, Schmidt used an official black SS uniform, wearing the rank insignia of Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant general). He wore three military decorations on the left side of the uniform, the Panzer Badge, the Wound Badge, and the Iron Cross First Class. Over the uniform, he wore the black leather coat with the HYDRA badge on the left side of the collar. His officer cap also had the HYDRA badge instead of the SS Totenkopf badge.[7] From 1943 on, he wore the unique green uniform with the HYDRA insignia on the upper parts of the sleeves. In March 1945, he briefly wore a unique black uniform while piloting the Valkyrie.
  • Coupe: Schmidt owns his own vehicle, a coupe, which he proceeded to drive to various locations.



Video Games Only


Appearances for Johann Schmidt

In chronological order:



  • In the comics, Johann Shmidt was Adolf Hitler's right hand, second in command and personal assassin. Originally, he had no relationships with HYDRA, although he helped Baron Wolfgang 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 World War II.
  • This version of the Red Skull has more in common with Wolfgang von Strucker and Wilhelm Lohmer from the comics than the Johann Schmidt: He had a falling out with Hitler and founded the modern incarnation of HYDRA, much like von Strucker in the comics; and he is the Axis foil to Captain America: enhanced by a variant of the Super-Soldier Serum, like Lohmer (also known as Master Man) in the comics.
  • In the non-canon video game Captain America: Super Soldier, Red Skull makes an alliance with Baron Heinrich Zemo and HYDRA occupies Zemo's castle in Bavaria. When Captain America infiltrates the castle in 1944, he uses the Tesseract to activate the Sleeper, the giant robot buried beneath the castle.
  • The Red Skull is only referred to as such once in Captain America: The First Avenger, by Nazi officer Schneider who was in fact paraphrasing Hitler. All other times in the film, he is addressed or called by his original name, and his reaction to Schneider's remark suggests he is not fond of the new moniker. Curiously, in virtually all subsequent mentions (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter), he is called "the Red Skull", including by HYDRA subordinates, such as Werner Reinhardt.

Behind the Scenes

  • Johann Schmidt was portrayed by Hugo Weaving in Captain America: The First Avenger and voiced by Keith Ferguson in Captain America: Super Soldier. Weaving's "Red Skull" mask in the film was a latex mask conceived by prosthetic makeup designer David White. The visual effects team had to manipulate his face considerably, as the mask was bulky and they wanted to make it look like tight skin wrapped around a very bony structure. They thinned out Weaving's cheeks and lower lip, hollowed out his eyes, and removed his eyelashes and nose to make him appear more like the Red Skull.
  • In Zak Penn's draft for The Avengers movie, the Red Skull was featured as the main villain alongside Loki.
  • When he finds the Tesseract, Johann Schmidt says: "And the Führer digs for trinkets in the desert." That could be a reference to the Indiana Jones film series where Hitler sends his men to search for the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail in the deserts of Africa and the Middle-East. This is likely since Kevin Feige, the producer, stated they took inspiration from Raiders of the Lost Ark because they hoped the film would not feel like a period piece. Also, Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment before production began, Disney now being the owner of the Indiana Jones franchise as part of the company purchasing Lucasfilm in 2013. Joe Johnston, director of Captain America: The First Avenger won and Academy Award for his work as a Visual Effects Artists in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Hugo Weaving has stated that even though he enjoyed playing the Red Skull, he is not interested in reprising the role for further installments.


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  1. Captain America: The First Avenger: The Hydra Files
  2. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 3.08: Many Heads, One Tale
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 2
  4. Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 4
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Captain America: The First Avenger
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 3
  7. 7.0 7.1 Schmidt's SS uniform
  8. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 4.04: Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 2.01: Shadows
  10. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 2.12: Who You Really Are
  11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  12. Agent Carter: 1.01: Now is Not the End
  13. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 1.20: Nothing Personal
  14. The Avengers

External Links