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Red Skull

Real Name: Johann Shmidt
Occupation: Former beggar, thief, menial laborer and bellboy; later terrorist leader for the Third Reich, would-be world conqueror
Identity: Secret
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 I
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 young life.

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 perennial nemesis.

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 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.

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.

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