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For other uses, see Stonekeeper (disambiguation)
"A lifetime ago, I too sought the stones... I even held one in my hand. But it cast me out, banished me here, guiding others to a treasure I can not possess."
―Red Skull to Thanos[src]

Johann Schmidt is the former head of HYDRA-Abteilung, 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.

Schmidt was teleported to Vormir, where he became trapped in a state of purgatory, becoming the Stonekeeper, a wraith who advises those who seek the Soul Stone. After over seventy years on Vormir, Schmidt met Thanos and Gamora, seeking the stone, who he led to, disappearing once Thanos claimed the stone.

Biography

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. Schmidt had developed a theory that Norse Gods and their "Magic" could be more than a myth. Eventually, he became a member of HYDRA, an ancient society that followed a political doctrine, but who had 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]

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 then 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 bodyguard. Himmler was interested in Schmidt's ideas and recruited him into the SS.[3]

Head of HYDRA

"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 the 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 exoskeleton 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

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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."
"You work 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. As the war continued, Schmidt had actively participated in several German conquests, earning several high military decorations, including the Panzer Badge and the Iron Cross First Class, and Schmidt may have also suffered a wound during combat to merit him the Wound Badge which he would wear on his own SS uniform.[7]

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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 had Erskine imprisoned before ordering that Erskine's own wife and children were sent into a concentration camp.

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Schmidt injects himself with the Serum

Having regained Erskine's serum as he had intended, Schmidt then travelled onto Castle Kaufmann in the Bavarian Alps, where Schmidt had injected himself with the Super Soldier Serum in order to get superpowers. The serum was supposed to make him faster, stronger, and agiler, and Schmidt soon felt all the effects running through his body, as his muscles grew and his mind became clearer, as Schmidt finally became the superior man as he had always intended.

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Schmidt's face becoming hideously disfigured

However, the process also came with some painful side effects and rendered Schmidt with a red and horrifically deformed face. Though he adopted a Synthetic Mask that resembled his former appearance to disguise the deformity, he became known as "Red Skull".[5] While Erskine fled and sought refuge in the United States with the help of Agent Peggy Carter, joining the Strategic Scientific Reserve in order to continue his own research and aid the allies during the war.[6]

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Red Skull's image being used as propaganda

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

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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 mankind, Schmidt learned of the 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.

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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 Uber Tanks, Schmidt ordered his men to demolish the door of an ancient church where they encountered the Church Keeper, who bravely refused to submit to them, despite witnessing the death of Jan during the attack.

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Schmidt takes ahold of 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 lid off, proceeded to shove the lid 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.

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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

"I have not come all this way for safety, Doctor."
"What was that?"
"I must congratulate you Arnim, your designs does not disappoint. Though they may require some slight reinforcement."
"Nothing has changed, it's stable. Amazing."
―Johann Schmidt and Arnim Zola[src]

Having finally gained the Tesseract following his years long search, Schmidt had returned to his HYDRA Headquarters and gave the artifact to Arnim Zola, his chief scientist, for examination in order to increase HYDRA's arsenal of weapons with the Tesseract's incredible power. During his test to see if its power could be harnessed and stored inside the Tesseract Batteries, Zola hesitated due to fear of losing control as he was uncertain of how much power the Tesseract truly held and if his own machines could handle all of it.

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Schmidt and Arnim Zola begin the experiment

Schmidt, however, insisted that he had not come all that way to be be cautious and pushed Zola out of the way. As he ignored Zola's warnings, Schmidt then proceeded to overload the machine, causing it to break due to the Tesseract's incredible power. Schmidt and Zola watched as the entire room was filled with a strange but light before the machine crashed, however they discovered they had succeeded in capturing just a small dose of the Tesseract's true power.

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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 ultimate superpower.[5]

Betraying Adolf Hitler

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Schmidt finally locates Abraham Erskine

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

Schmidt, having discovered Abraham Erskine's location, dispatched his assassin to kill him, informing Arnim Zola of this while 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 powerful soldier, but Heinz Kruger, Schmidt's assassin, managed to successfully assassinate Erskine and destroy all the Allies' supply of the serum before committing suicide.

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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 madman. Schmidt however continued as he told them that Hitler was talking of the thousand years 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.

In Hitler's shadow

Schmidt vows to continue HYDRA alone

At 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.

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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 workload by an exceptional amount, when Zola then warned that increased workload 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 bases self-destruct, despite Arnim Zola's protests as he did not want his research to be destroyed.

Schmidt watches the Tesseract

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 personally greeting Captain America

While Schmidt and Zola were about to leave while the facility burned around them, they were then confronted by Captain America and his recently freed ally, Bucky Barnes. Upon seeing him, Schmidt mocked the Captain, noting that he had seen and enjoyed the Propaganda Films he had starred in. Ignoring the taunts, Captain America simply punched Schmidt in the face, damaging his Prosthetic Mask, while noting that Schmidt had no idea what he was capable of.

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Schmidt and Captain America are separated

To show Rogers they were both test subjects who had been injected with the Super Soldier Serum, Schmidt responded by punching back at the Captain and made a large dent in Rogers' shield, much to the horror of the Captain. The pair then engaged in a brief but highly violent fist fight, as Schmidt managed to knock the Captain's gun off the platform before knocking him down as the Captain then kicked Schmidt across the platform, creating some distance.

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Schmidt reveals his true face to Steve Rogers

While 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.

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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.

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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. Schmidt then placed Zola in charge of halting Captain America and his allies' assaults on HYDRA bases but the scientist was unable to do so.[9] The more HYDRA facilities that were destroyed, the more deranged Schmidt became.

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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.

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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.[10] Reinhardt's team was able to discover the Obelisk in Chaves, Portugal.[11] When Reinhardt showed the artifact to his leader, Schmidt said that the Obelisk may hold the answer to death itself.[10]

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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 against America. 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

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Red Skull questioning 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 preparing 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.

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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

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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 had tried and failed to shoot him out of the sky but Rogers managed to dodge the shots before crash landing the bomb back into the plane; he got out and made his way into the cockpit where he confronted Schmidt. However, refusing to be defeated, Red Skull prepared himself to finally kill his greatest enemy.

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Red Skull tries to ambush Captain America

While Captain America explored the cockpit with his Shield raised, Schmidt waited for him to walk carefully over to the plane's controls while he was searching for him before Schmidt attempted to shoot him in the back with a HYDRA Assault Rifle. However, Rogers just heard the gun charging up and was able to deflect the shot just in time. With one of the plane's windows now shattered, the frustrated Schmidt then mocked Rogers' constant refusal to give up.

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Red Skull fighting against Captain America

They engaged in a fist fight with Schmidt gaining the upper hand by taking Rogers' shield and striking him with it. Landing several other body shots as well due to his previous excessive combat experience as he furiously attempted to defeat Captain America once and for all. When the pair crashed into the controls, the plane spiraled out of control and the pair continued to fight while they were thrown across the room, with Schmidt able to kick Rogers across the plane.

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Red Skull 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 everything without challenge.

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Red Skull's fate is left down to the Tesseract.

Captain America defiantly told Red Skull this would not be his future and managed to avoid his continued shots before he threw his shield at Schmidt with great force, knocking him back and also managing to damage the Tesseract Cradle which was containing the Tesseract. In the panic of the moment, Schmidt grabbed the Tesseract, but to his horror, the object then 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 inside the portal, vanishing from the face of the Earth seemingly forever.[5]

Stonekeeper

Advising Thanos

"To ensure that whoever possesses it understands its power, the stone demands a sacrifice."
"Of what?"
"In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love."
―Red Skull and Thanos[src]

Despite what everyone on Earth believed, Schmidt didn't perish from the Tesseract. Instead, he was teleported to the planet Vormir, the home of the Soul Stone, as punishment for his abuse of the Space Stone's power. Due to loving no one but himself, Schmidt was unable to take control of the Soul Stone for himself and the Soul Stone cursed him into becoming its guardian for over seven decades, rendering him unable to escape the planet and forcing him to advise seekers of the Stone what price they needed to pay to obtain it as well as making him immortal and able to immediately tell who came to Vormir. Condemned to a fate he considered a curse, Schmidt eventually accepted his fate, adopting the identity of the "Stonekeeper" and appearing reserved and humbled.

In 2018, when Gamora and her adoptive father Thanos arrived at Vormir, they were welcomed by Schmidt, who knew about their identities and their pasts thanks to his new abilities. Then, Schmidt explained the ritual necessary to obtain the Soul Stone required to have the stone seeker sacrificing the life of someone he loved. As Gamora knew that Thanos hated everyone in the galaxy, she laughed at him. However, albeit indirectly, Schmidt prompted Thanos to tearfully sacrifice Gamora in order to obtain the Soul Stone. Said and done, Thanos subdued Gamora as she attempted to commit suicide and then reluctantly threw her off the cliff to her demise. With Gamora dead, though very sorry for his action, Thanos was given the Soul Stone by Schmidt for the Infinity Gauntlet.[12]

Personality

"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 believed in the Nazi Party's long standing misinterpretation of Friedrich 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 at 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 Super Soldier 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 is, in reality, fragments of Asgardians origin. While he does believe in myths and arcane mystics, he does not view them in a religious or superstitious manner but instead sees them as a form of science to be studied and used for their own purposes, as he stated to the Church Keeper.

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 HYDRA Headquarters 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 of 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.

After becoming the Stonekeeper on Vormir, Schmidt became much more humble and reserved after years of being unable to take the Soul Stone for himself, accepting his deserved fate as the guardian of the Soul Stone. Acquired with his omniscience, immortality and his wisdom of the Infinity Stones provided by the Soul and Space one, Schmidt has become deeply indifferent towards mortal matters as can be seen with his attitude towards Thanos and Gamora, not caring what happened to either one. He doesn't even care if the Soul Stone is taken though considering that Thanos met the conditions to acquire, he obviously saw him as worthy of its power.

Powers and Abilities

Powers

"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!"
―Red Skull to Captain America[src]
  • 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. In addition, his intelligence was also increased, allowing him to become a mastermind of warfare. Like Captain America, the Red Skull’s physiology has been enhanced beyond the peak of human potential, pushing into the early levels of superhuman condition.
    • 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 Durability: While fighting Captain America, Schmidt was shown to be able to quickly recover from blows received from his opponent.
    • 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 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.
  • Immortality: Upon becoming the Stonekeeper, Schmidt became an ageless immortal. In his stay on Vormir, Schmidt claimed to have lived over a lifetime, looking the same as he did in 1945.
  • Levitation: As the Stonekeeper, Schmidt possesses the power of levitation, hovering above the ground while greeting Thanos and Gamora.

Abilities

"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. Many of which had successful outcomes. Being the head of HYDRA, he usually is most suited for combat. Both with the HYDRA division and as a single man going toe to toe with Captain America. 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 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.
  • Multilingualism: He speaks his native German and he is also fluent in English.

Equipment

Weapons

"My weapons contain enough destructive power to decimate every hostile capital on Earth. Quite simply, gentlemen, I have harnessed the power of the gods."
―Red Skull to Roeder[src]
SkullLuger

Red Skull taking aim at Captain 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.
  • HYDRA Cannon: Having become annoyed at the insults levelled at him by Adolf Hitler's officers, Schmidt activated a Cannon powered by the Tesseract and killed Roeder along with Schneider and Hutter.

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. While on Vormir he wore a hooded cloak to conceal himself.
Untitled11

Schmidt ripping off his own Prosthetic Mask

  • Prosthetic Mask: Following his disfigurement due to taking an early version of the Super Soldier Serum, Schmidt attempted to hide his hideous burns underneath a Prosthetic Mask which had resembled his true face before the disfigurement. During his first encounter with Captain America, Schmidt's mask was damaged from being punched in the face, leading to him then ripping it off and throwing the mask into a fire.
"Great power has always baffled primitive men."
―Red Skull[src]

Vehicles

"Not a scratch, doctor. Not a scratch."
―Red Skull to Arnim Zola[src]
Red skull coupe

Red Skull driving his personal Coupe around

Relationships

Allies

Video Games Only

Enemies

Appearances

Appearances for Johann Schmidt

In chronological order:

Trivia

Behind the Scenes

  • 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, with 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 an 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 would rather not return for future installments. In November 2014 he retracted the statement, saying he was not sure whether or not he would be reprising his role of Red Skull in Captain America: Civil War, despite previously stating he was unsure about returning to fulfill the rest of the films in his contract.[13] With the release of the film in 2016, Weaving has said that while he enjoyed making the first film and it could be fun to reinvigorate the character; his views have not changed in regards to reprising the role. However, he went on to say that he would never say never, and circumstances could indeed change.[14]
  • Red Skull in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the second live-action incarnation of the character, following an incarnation portrayed by Scott Paulin.
  • Rick English was a stunt double for Hugo Weaving and Regis Harrington was a stunt double for Ross Marquand in the role of Red Skull.
  • Red Skull is one of the few characters who are played by different actors in different films. The others are James Rhodes, Howard Stark, Bruce Banner, Fandral, and Thanos.

References

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe wiki has a collection of images and media related to Red Skull.
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe wiki has a collection of quotes related to Red Skull.

External Links