Name: Johann Shmidt
Occupation: Former beggar, thief, menial laborer and
bellboy; later terrorist leader for the Third Reich, would-be
Legal Status: Citizen of Germany sought by legal authorities
throughout the world for war crimes and other major offenses
Other Aliases: Bettman P. Lyles, the Agent of a Thousand
Faces (whom he once impersonated during World War II), The Man
(head of the People's Militia), Cyrus Fenton, Teacher, Tod March
(president and owner of Galactic Pictures).
Place of Birth: An unidentified village in Germany
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Hermann Shmidt (father, deceased), Martha
Shmidt (mother, deceased), Mother Superior (daughter)
Group Affiliation: Special operative in the government
of Germany's Third Reich, former leader of most currently active
Nazi subversives throughout the world, former ally of THEM and
AIM, former leader of the Nevada-based fragment of HYDRA, leader
of the People's Militia (now defunct) former partner of Hate-Monger
Base of Operations: Nazi Germany, later various hidden
bases throughout the world
First modern Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #66 (Note:
The Red Skull was impersonated by a Nazi agent named John Moxon
in TALES OF SUSPENSE #65)
History: Johann Shmidt, the Red Skull, was the son of
a coarse, drunken German villager named Hermann Shmidt
and his reportedly saintly, longsuffering wife Martha,
who for years endured abuse and beatings from her husband.
Martha died giving birth to Johann, their only child.
Driven to madness by the death of the woman he both loved
and hated, Hermann Shmidt tried to drown the newborn infant,
accusing him of murdering Martha. The doctor who had just
delivered the baby saved Johann from his father, and the
next morning Hermann Shmidt committed suicide.
The doctor took Johann to an orphanage, where the child led
a lonely existence. Johann ran away from the orphanage
when he was seven years old and lived in the streets as
a beggar and a thief. As he grew older he worked at various
menial jobs but spent most of his time in prison for crimes
ranging from vagrancy to theft.
As a young man Shmidt was from time to time employed by a Jewish
shopkeeper, whose daughter, Esther, was the only person
who had treated Shmidt kindly up to that point. Seized
with passion for Esther, Shmidt tried to force himself
upon her, only to be rejected by her. In unthinking fury,
Shmidt murdered her. Shmidt fled the scene in terror,
but also felt ecstatic joy in committing his first murder.
In killing Esther he had given vent to the rage at the
world that had been building up in him throughout his
Shmidt longed for a master who would show him the way to achieve
power. Years later, after the Nazis had come to power
in Germany, Shmidt was working in a hotel where the dictator
of Germany's Third Reich, Adolph Hitler, came one day
to stay. That night Shmidt brought refreshments to Hitler's
suite and found Hitler berating the chief of the Gestapo
(the secret police of Nazi Germany) for letting a spy
escape. On hearing Hitler's voice, Shmidt decided that
Hitler was the master he had sought. When Hitler ranted
to the Gestapo chief that "I could teach that bellboy
to do a better job than you!" the dictator then looked
closely at Shmidt arid saw the bellboy's hatred, of all
mankind, an emotion that Hitler asserted he himself shared.
Shmidt saw in Hitler's eyes all of his own fears and frustrations,
the embodiment of evil, and a model after which he could
pattern himself. Inspired, Hitler declared that he would
make the bellboy into a "perfect Nazi" who would
serve as his right-hand man. Shmidt eagerly agreed to
do what Hitler wished.
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.
The Skull undertook a wide variety of missions for Hitler,
most of which involved the Skull's specialty, the spreading
of terror. In the early 1940's, before the United States
entered World War II, the Red Skull was particularly involved
with subversive activities in the United States. The United
States government created the costumed persona of Captain
America so that there would be a costumed counterpart
to the Red Skull. It was in the United States, before
America officially entered World War II, that the Red
Skull had his first conflicts with Steve Rogers, the original
Captain America, the man who became his principal and
In Europe during the war, the Skull took personal command of
many military actions and personally supervised the takeovers
and lootings of many cities and towns; in various cases
the Skull ordered and supervised the eradication of the
entire population of such communities. The Red Skull also
organized a "wolf pack" of submarines which
preyed upon shipping through out, the world, often under
the Skull's personal command.
At first Hitler took great pride in his protégé's
successes and let the Skull have anything he wanted. Hitler
thus financed the construction of secret bases for the
Skull in various locations throughout the world, many
of which were equipped with highly advanced experimental
weapons and devices developed by Nazi scientists. The
Skull was particularly interested in procuring technological
weapons that could be used for the purposes of subversion
and warfare. During the war he stole plans for the "nullatron,"
a device that could control human minds, adapted a space-warping
device developed by the cyborg scientist codenamed Brain
Drain, and commissioned Nazi scientists to develop a projector
which could encircle and suspend sections of cities within
spheres of energy.
But while the Skull always admired Hitler for his ideological
vision, he was never content with being Hitler's subordinate.
The Skull kidnapped and killed many of Hitler's closest
advisors and eventually rose to become the second most
powerful man in the Third Reich. Now Hitler could no longer
effectively control the Skull and came to fear him, especially
since the Skull had made little secret of his ambition
to supplant Hitler someday.
After the renowned military officer Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
had a falling out with Hitler, the Red Skull sent Strucker
to Japan to found an organization that would prepare the
way for takeovers in the Far East under the Skull's leadership.
In the Far East Strucker joined a subversive organization
that came to be known as HYDRA, broke his ties with the
Skull, became head of HYDRA and built it into a major
threat to world peace.
As World War II raged on, Hitler vowed, that if he could
not conquer the world, he would destroy it. To achieve
this end, the Skull proposed the construction of five
gigantic war machines, to be called the Sleepers, which
would be hidden in various locations while they generated
and stored the power they would need, and then be released
at a future date, "Der Tag" ("The Day"),
to destroy the Earth if the Allies won. Hitler enthusiastically
instructed the Skull to construct the Sleepers, unaware
that the Skull intended to use them to conquer the world
himself if Hitler's Third Reich fell. In the closing days
of the war in Europe, Allied intelligence received reports
of a Nazi doomsday plan code-named "Der Tag"
to be implemented after Hitler's defeat. However, the
Allies had no idea what the plan entailed.
Captain America and his teenage partner Bucky Barnes
fought against and thwarted the Skull and his plans many
times during the war, both working on their own and operating
as members of the Invaders. During the final days of World
War II in Europe, Captain America and Bucky were assigned
to England to prevent desperate Nazi efforts at sabotaging
Allied supply bases there. The Red Skull sent a number
of his subordinates, who became known as the Exiles, and
a large contingent of loyal German soldiers and their
wives to a secret island base ("Exile Island"),
where they would organize an army for use in the future.
Now that the German defeat was becoming a reality, the Red
Skull was more determined than ever to obtain vengeance
for his numerous personal defeats by Captain America and
Bucky. The Skull assigned Baron Heinrich Zemo to go to
England, and, under the cover of stealing an experimental
Allied drone plane, to capture or kill Captain America
and Bucky. However, the Skull was unaware that the Allies
had just secretly parachuted Captain America into beleaguered
Berlin to investigate "Der Tag."
Captain America tracked the Skull down to his hidden bunker.
The Skull was about to hurl an armed hand grenade at his
nemesis when Captain America threw his shield at him.
The grenade went off, but the Skull was not killed, thanks
to his body armor. He was, however; seriously hurt and
partially buried in debris. Thinking he was dying, the
Skull defiantly told Captain America that the Sleepers
would avenge the Nazis' defeat. Then, suddenly, an Allied
attack on Berlin began. An Allied plane dropped a huge
blockbuster bomb on the bunker, causing a cave-in that
Captain America barely escaped. Captain America was picked
up by the Allies and returned to England only to fall
into Zemo's trap, which led to Captain America's falling
into suspended animation for decades. Support pillars
that crisscrossed over the Red Skull when the bunker caved
in saved him from being struck by tons of rubble when
the bomb hit. The cave-in released an experimental gas
from canisters in the bunker which put the Skull into
suspended animation during which his wounds slowly healed.
In the 1950's, while the original Red Skull lay hidden in suspended
animation, the Communist leader of an Algerian-based spy
ring posed as the Red Skull, in which guise he battled
Captain America IV. Since the original Red Skull's return,
the Communist Skull has remained hidden in Algeria. The
current whereabouts and activities of the second Red Skull,
if he is still alive, are unknown.
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
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.
Recently, 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.
Since then, the criminal Doctor Faustus was apparently attacked
by the ghost of the Red Skull after Faustus used holoclraphic
images of the Skull in a plot against Captain America
(see Appendix: Doctor Faustus ).
Thus, the Red Skull, after so many escapes from apparent death,
seems to be truly deceased at long last. But whether the
evil of the Red Skull has truly passed from the Earth
remains to be seen.
Unknown to the world, however, the Nazi scientist Armin Zola
had preserved the mind of Schmidt at death, and transferred
it into a body cloned from the original Captain America.
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.
Schmidt began to build an organization of operatives called
the Skeleton Crew, headed by Crossbones, and including
such others as Cuthroat, Mother Superior, Blackwing, Hobgoblin,
the Voice, and Machinesmith. His operatives would repeatedly
fail, however, and be captured. Schmidt again apparently
perished, this time disintegrating while trying to use
the powers of a new Cosmic Cube.
However, the explosion of the Cosmic Cube imbued Schmidt with
its unlimited Cosmic energies, and he eventually reformed
to begin tormenting Captain America once more, ultimately
falling when Captain America tricked him into apparently
disintegrating himself while trying for even more power.
Whether Schmidt is truly deceased remains to be seen.
NOTE: During the 1950's, Communist powers would create
their own "Red Skull," who would fight Captain
America IV on behalf of the Soviet Union. After his re-animation,
the original Red Skull had the imposter killed in prison.
Height: 6 ft. 1 in.
Weight: 195 lbs.
Eyes: Blue (His mask made them appear to be red.)
Hair: Reddish blond, later bald
Strength Level: The Red Skull possessed the normal human
strength of a man his physical age, height, and build
who engaged in intensive regular exercise.
Known Superhuman Powers: None
Other abilities: The Red Skull was a genius at military,
political, and subversive strategy. His brilliance was
comparable to that of Napoleon. The Red Skull was a fine
hand-to-hand combatant, although he was never a match
for Captain America. The Red Skull was also a skilled
marksman with various forms of handguns.
Weapons: The Red Skull's most infamous personal weapon
was his so-called "dust of death." The chemical
composition of this powder is unknown, but it kills a
victim within seconds of making contact with his or her
skin, causing the skin on the victim's head to tighten,
shrivel, and take on a red discoloration, while causing
all the hair on the victim's head to fall out. As a result,
the victim's corpse appears to have a "red skull"
for a head. While committing murders with this weapon,
the Skull often hummed, whistled, or played a tape recording
of Chopin's funeral march, which was also the Skull's
trademark music when he committed murders in the early
1940's. The Skull could fire his "dust of death"
from a special handgun.
The Red Skull used many other weapons; many of these were conventional
but others were-advanced beyond the scope of contemporary
mainstream science. The Skull also employed artificial
living beings created by Arnim Zola.