- What if the old Norse tales Wagner adopts into his operas are more history than myth, mean Führer?
- --Johann Schmidt to Adolf Hitler
Schmidt was born in Berlin, Germany and was a smart student. Eventually, he became a physicist. Over the time, he became interested in Norse mythology. He developed a theory that Norse gods and their "magic" could be more than myth.
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
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 them his theory that magic could be “the oldest science ever known”. 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 out of 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 goons 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.
At the Head of HYDRA
- Herr Himmler shares my interest in the old ways. And the Schutzstaffel is more than happy to oblige.
- --Johann Schmidt
In June 1934, as part of the Night of the Long Knives, Schmidt assassinated Kaufmann and seized control of his weapons program.
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 exoskeleton battle armour.
Eventually, Schmidt rose to the rank of Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant general), and formed his own branch of the SS, HYDRA.
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.
Two years later, Erskine's wife and children died in the camp, but Schmidt never revealed that information to Erskine.
World War II
Becoming the Red Skull
- 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."
"You...work with Nazis even though you do not follow their ideology?
- --Johann Schmidt and Abraham Erskine
In 1939, the Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thus starting World War II. Schmidt actively participated in German conquests, earning several high military decorations, including the Panzer Badge and the Iron Cross First Class. In 1940, the first, unstable version of Abraham Erskine's Super Soldier Serum was finished, however 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 injected himself with the serum. The serum was supposed to make him faster, stronger, and more agile. It worked but not without cost. His face was burnt and deformed, making it red, looking like skull. Though he adopted a synthetic mask that resembled his former appearance to disguise the deformity, he gained the nickname "Red Skull". Erskine ran away to America with the help of Peggy Carter and joined the Strategic Scientific Reserve.
As a small reward for his horrific injuries, Adolf Hitler gave Schmidt a military base in the Alps. Schmidt turned the base into the headquarters of HYDRA, where his scientists worked on developing new weapons for the Third Reich. However, Schmidt saw his new post more as an exile than the reward, he continued his research into the occult and developed a sense that HYDRA had become suprior to the Nazis and sought to find a weapon that would overthrow Hitler.
Finding 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?
- --Johann Schmidt
Due to researching ancient history to find the greatest weapon known to man, Schmidt learned about the mythical Tesseract, which was lost on Earth having been held in Odin's Vault for thousands of years. Believing it to not be a myth he began searching for it, knowing it would give him ultimate power to defeat both Hitler and the Allies. In March 1942, Schmidt and his army invaded Tønsberg, Norway, searching for the Tesseract.
Upon entering a church, encountered the Church Keeper who bravely refused to tell him where the object was. When his soldiers tried to find it for him he was given what they believed to be the Tessearct, but Schmidt knew it to be a fake. Schmidt threatened the Church Keeper with the thought of obliterating the village and potentially killing the church keeper's family members. The man relented and Schmidt found the true Tesseract in the wall. Ignoring the his warnings, Schmidt shot the church keeper before giving the order to destroy the entire village.
Having gained the Tesseract, Schmidt returned to his base and gave the object to his chief scientist Arnim Zola for examination. During a test to see if it's power could be harnessed, Zola hesitated due to fear of losing control, Schmidt ignored the warnings and overloaded the machine, causing it to break, but not before capturing just a small dose of the Tesseract's power. Zola realised that just the small amount of energy they had captured could power the entire facility and help them build weapons powerful enough to change the war. Seeing this Schmidt knew he now had the power to overthrow Adolf Hitler and rule the world alone.
Betraying Adolf Hitler
- 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
Schmidt, having discovered Abraham Erskine's location, dispatched an assassin to kill him. In America, Erskine subjected Steve Rogers to the Project Rebirth, injecting him with the Super Soldier Serum and dosing him with Vita Radiation. Rogers was transformed into an incredibly strong and power soldier, but Schmidt's assassin, Heinz Kruger, managed to kill Erskine and destroy the Allies' supply of the serum.
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 the nick-name Red Skull, Schmidt made his decision to kill them all and finally cut all ties with the Nazi party.
Schmidt took the men to see his Tesseract powered weapons, explaining he had harnessed the power of the gods. But when Hutter saw Berlin marked as one of Schmidt's targets on a map, Schmidt vaporized them all with his advanced cannon. 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 remained loyal to Schmidt and gave the salute.
With HYDRA now self-funded, Schmidt and Arnim Zola explored their Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility where prisoners of war were being forced to build weapons powered by the Tesseract, overworking and torturing them until their deaths. Despite the progress of the workers being high, Schmidt ordered that they increase their work load by an exceptional amount, when Zola warned that such an increased work load would very likely kill the men, Schmidt was not concerned, noting that they could always get more workers to replace them.
Encounter with Captain America
- 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 Captain America
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 monoiter when 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 mode, despite Arnim Zola's protests.
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 machinery inside the base began to explode one by one, causing the floor of the base to erupt in unstoppable flames.
As Schmidt and Zola were about to leave when 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 are both test subjects, Schmidt punched and made a hole in Rogers' shield before they engaged in a brief fight.
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 when he believed they had left humanity behind and that he had embraced this change proudly.
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. Schmidt revealed his intention to escapd in a one man plane, but when Zola questioned how he would escape, Schmidt handed him the keys to his car and ordered him to drive it without scratching it. Despite the HYDRA base exploding shortly after their escape, Rogers and Barnes managed to escape themselves and returned to the army. Knowing that Rogers and the U.S. Army were after him, he decided to accelerate his plans.
Losing the War
- YOU ARE FAILING! We are close to an offensive network that will shake the planet. And yet we are continually delayed, because you cannot outwit a simpleton with a shield!
- --Johann Schmidt
Unfortunately for Schmidt, Rogers 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 them down one by one. As the Allies progressively managed to destroy most major HYDRA operations, preventing Schmidt any chance to move forward with his plans. The more HYDRA facilities were destroyed, the angrier and more deranged Red Skull became.
In April 1944, Schmidt was in 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.
Schmidt explored the ruins of one of these destroyed bases. Furious, he screamed at his soldiers and threatened Arnim Zola to continue his work before Captain America could defeat them. 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 ratted him out.
In the meantime, a HYDRA officer, General Werner Reinhardt, was sent to search for legendary artifacts. Reinhardt's team was able to discover the Obelisk in Chaves, Portugal. When Reinhardt showed the artifact to his leader, Schmidt said that the Obelisk may hold the answer to death itself.
With Arnim Zola now captured by the Allies and key information 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 onto his plane the Valkyrie ready to be launched upon the world. Schmidt gave a speech to his soldiers in which he promised them that the next day they would stand triumphant over the world before repeating the HYDRA motto and watching as his soldiers saluted him.
Attack on HYDRA Headquarters
- 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
In March 1945, the U.S. Army attacked Schmidt's base which made Schmidt accelerate his plans. After a brief battle with Schmidt's soldiers which killed many HYDRA soldiers, his men captured Captain America. Rogers was brought before Schmidt to be executed by him personally.
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.
During the chaos Schmidt escaped while Captain America was rescued and reunited with his shield. During the fight, Schmidt picked up a Tesseract powered gun and used it to kill several American soldiers before the overwhelming forces pushed him back. Schmidt managed to stay ahead of Captain America and fired sevearal shots at him, all of which were deflected on his shield. While Schmidt's soldier held Rogers back, Schmidt ran towards the Valkyrie.
The Last Fight
- 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 in my future!
- --Red Skull and Captain America
When he saw that his men could not stop the overwhelming enemy force, he retreated to his plane. During the launch, Rogers managed to get onboard the plane. Having taken out his guards Rogers climbed on the outside of one of the bombs and threw out the pilot before taking control of it himself. Schmidt tried and failed to shoot him out of the sky but Rogers crashlanded the bomb into the plane, he got out and made his was to the cock pit where he confronted Schmidt.
While Rogers explored the cockpit, 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. Schmidt managed to regain control of the ship and he and Rogers were separated.
Schmidt managed to get ahold of his gun and shot at Rogers, claiming that he would create a future where they were no flags, Rogers said this wouldn't be his future and managed to throw his shield at Schmidt, knocking him back and damaging the machine containing the Tesseract. Schmidt grabbed the Tesseract, but to his horror, the object opened a portal and launched Schmidt into it seemingly killing him.
Red Skull survived World War II and is leading the Dark Avengers in the present days under the disguise of Dell Rusk. Not all of his Dark Avengers were happy with his true identity, such as Red Hulk, who left the team after finding out.
Seeking an heir, the Red Skull fathered a daughter by a washerwoman on Exile Island. 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, getting her into HYDRA.
- 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
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 both magic and science to obtain a central position in Adolf Hitler's army, until his conceit arrived to the point of believing to be greater than Hitler himself, 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 must yet be made.
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, 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, if they didn't do their job right, death was the only penalty he would give to those who failed him.
Powers and Abilities
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, becoming a war mastermind.
- Enhanced Strength: Schmidt's strength was enhanced to above peak human level. He was able to move a giant stone casket lid by himself with little effort, after three normal men could barely make it budge. 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: It can be assumed that similar to Captain America, the Red Skull possessed speed above normal human levels.
- Enhanced Agility: Schmidt was shown to be an agile hand-to-hand combatant while engaged in a one on one battle with Captain America
- Enhanced Durability: While fighting Captain America, Schmidt was shown to be able to quickly recover from blows received from his opponent,
- Enhanced Stamina
- Regenerative Healing Factor
- He thinks that he is a god and he's willing to blow up half the world to prove it.
- 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.
- Expert Scientist:
- 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.
Equipment: None known.
Transportation: Focke-Wulf Triebflügel, Valkyrie bomber, and advanced Rolls Royce
Weapons: Futuristic weaponry including an advanced Luger P08
- No special notes.
- No trivia.
- Appearances of Johann Schmidt (Earth-1010)
- Character Gallery: Johann Schmidt (Earth-1010)
- Quotations by Johann Schmidt (Earth-1010)
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