|For other uses, see Stonekeeper (disambiguation)|
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, who were seeking the stone. Schmidt led them to it, and disappeared after Thanos sacrificed his daughter and claimed the stone. With Thanos successfully obtaining the stone, Schmidt's curse was broken, and he was free to leave Vormir and pursue his own goals once more.
During the Time Heist, in 2023, two surviving Avengers of the Snap, Black Widow and Hawkeye attempted to retrieve the Soul Stone from Vormir in the year of 2014 as Schmidt approached them. Schmidt watched as the two Avengers dueled each other and disappeared after Romanoff sacrificed herself, letting Barton to claim the Stone. With Barton successfully obtaining the stone, Schmidt's curse was broken, and was free to leave Vormir, thus creating an alternate timeline. However, after the Blip and the Battle of Earth, Schmidt's old nemesis, Captain America traveled back in time to return the Soul Stone on Vormir, erasing the alternate timeline and allowing Schmidt to become its guardian once again before Thanos could claim the stone in the original timeline.
Obsession with Power
Johann Schmidt was born in a small town in northern Germany as only child. 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. Schmidt became a follower of a principle that the ultimate power was not of this world.
Joining the SS
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'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, the elite Nazi paramilitary unit that served as Hitler's bodyguard. Himmler was interested in Schmidt's ideas and recruited him into the SS.
Head of HYDRA
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 exo-skeleton battle armor. Eventually, Schmidt rose to the rank of Obergruppenführer, and formed his own branch of the SS, naming it HYDRA-Abteilung.
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 concentration camp in Dachau. Zola was allowed to resume his work on exoskeleton 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.
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, 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.
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.
Having regained Erskine's serum as he had intended, Schmidt then traveled onto Castle Kaufmann in the Bavarian Alps, where Schmidt had injected himself with the 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.
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". While Erskine fled and sought refuge in the United States with the help of Peggy Carter, joining the Strategic Scientific Reserve in order to continue his own research and aid the allies during the war.
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. Schmidt searched for the Darkhold, but he never managed to find it.
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?"
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Containing the Tesseract
- "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
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.
Schmidt, however, insisted that he had not come all that way to 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 light before the machine crashed. However, they discovered they had succeeded in capturing just a small dose of the Tesseract's true 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. He knew that 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.
Betraying Adolf Hitler
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.
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.
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 Nazi Party 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.
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.
With HYDRA now self-funded, Schmidt and 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 gave a warning that an increased workload would kill the men, Schmidt was not concerned while noting that they could always get more workers.
Encounter with Captain America
In November 1943, 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.
With only minutes to go until the base exploded, 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.
While Schmidt and Zola were about to leave while the facility burned around them, they were then confronted by Rogers. Upon seeing him, Schmidt mocked Rogers, noting that he had seen and enjoyed the propaganda films he had starred in. Ignoring the taunts, Rogers simply punched Schmidt in the face, damaging his mask, while noting that Schmidt had no idea what he was capable of.
To show Rogers they were both test subjects who had been injected with the Super Soldier Serum, Schmidt responded by punching back at Rogers and made a large dent in his shield, much to his horror. The pair then engaged in a brief but highly violent fist fight, as Schmidt managed to knock the Rogers' gun off the platform before knocking him down as Rogers then kicked Schmidt across the platform, creating some distance.
While Zola separated the two super soldiers and Schmidt revealed to Rogers 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.
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.
Schmidt was able to fly his ship out of danger and regrouped with the forces of HYDRA back at the 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.
Losing the War
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 Arnim Zola in charge of halting Rogers and his allies' assaults on HYDRA bases but the scientist was unable to do so. The more HYDRA facilities that were destroyed, the more deranged Schmidt became.
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. Schmidt explored the ruins of one of his destroyed bases. Furious, he screamed at his soldiers and threatened Zola to continue his work before Rogers could defeat them.
When Velt who managed to survive the Allies' attack 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, with the intent to use them against the mainland of the United States of America. No one knew about this plan until Rogers captured Zola and he revealed Schmidt's operation. In the meantime, Schmidt ordered Werner Reinhardt 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 Zola 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 into 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.
In March 1945, the United States Armed Forces bravely attacked the HYDRA Headquarters. After a brief battle 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.
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 Chester Phillips, Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos stormed the headquarters and fired upon Schmidt and his soldiers.
During the chaos, Schmidt then escaped while Rogers 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 Rogers 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.
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 initiate his attack on the United States. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trapped on Vormir
But despite what everyone on Earth believed, Schmidt didn't perish from holding 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 being trapped Schmidt was unable to take control of the Stone for himself, and the Stone cursed him into becoming its guardian for over seven decades, rendering him unable to escape the planet.
As he was forced to advise seekers of the Stone, Schmidt had to tell them about 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 it and came to see himself as a ghost of his former self.
In 2018, when Thanos and his adoptive daughter Gamora arrived at Vormir during Thanos' crusade to wipe out half life in the universe, they were welcomed by Schmidt, who knew about their identities and their pasts thanks to his new abilities. Once Thanos had told him about seeking out the Stone, Schmidt told him that it extracted the terrible price, to which Thanos claimed that he had come prepared for this. However, Schmidt had then expressed that nobody seeking the Soul Stone was ever truly prepared.
Escorting his guests up the mountainside, Schmidt then explained that he had once held one of the stones and it had cast him out into Vormir, protecting the Soul Stone. Schmidt explained that in order to obtain the Stone, Thanos was required to have him sacrifice the life of someone he loved. As Gamora knew Thanos loved no one in the galaxy, Thanos began to cry, as she started to laugh while Schmidt watched on, telling Gamora that Thanos was not crying for him.
Thanos subdued Gamora once she attempted to commit suicide with her Switchblade as he reluctantly threw her off the cliff to her demise as Schimdt watched on without emotion. With Gamora dead, Thanos had been given the Soul Stone for the Infinity Gauntlet before leaving for Titan in order to complete his goal of causing the Snap with the power of the Stones. Once Thanos had taken the possession of the Stone, Schmidt's curse was broken, liberated from his duty.
In 2023, after discovering a method to traverse through time safely, Black Widow and Hawkeye were sent nine years into the past to 2014 in order to retrieve the Soul Stone. Using the Benatar, the pair flew to Vormir from Morag, where they encountered Schmidt, seemingly not recognizing him as the infamous leader of HYDRA and Captain America's arch-nemesis long thought to be dead. Schmidt greeted them by referring to their names and mentioning their parents names, and then proceeded to explain to them that the Soul Stone demanded a sacrifice. Horrified, Barton initially dismissed Schmidt's warning as a lie to trick them into fighting to the death, but Romanoff made him realize that it was indeed true, because Thanos went with Gamora to Vormir but she never returned from there.
Realizing that one of them had to die to ensure the reversal of the Snap, both Avengers started to fight to decide who would die while Schmidt watched emotionless. Though insisting Romanoff that he would do it and asking her to greet his family, who had been victims of the Snap, on his regard, Barton was ultimately able to jump off the cliff only to be stopped by Romanoff, who let go from his hand to fall to her death, sacrificing herself in the process and allowing Barton to take the Soul Stone to the future, yet bitter, angry, and sad for Romanoff's suicide. With Barton obtaining the Soul Stone, thus creating a revised timeline, Schmidt was freed from his curse to guard the powerful artifact four years earlier than Thanos liberated him in the original timeline, allowing him to leave Vormir to pursue his own goals.
Following Thanos' defeat, Steve Rogers traveled into the past to put the Stones back where they belonged in a way that their disappearance would not even be noticed, just like the Hulk promised to the Ancient One. When Rogers brought the Soul Stone back to Vormir, he encountered Schmidt but they weren't hostile to each other, as it was Rogers' mission to return the Stone where it belonged while Schmidt was bound to guard the Stone. As such, Schmidt placed the Stone back to its original spot to wait for Thanos, its eventual seeker.
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, a 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. Also, Schmidt 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 was pitiless and cruel, but also a scientific genius, who was able to see beyond appearances and managed to see the truth behind myths believed to be superstition, which was, in reality, fragments of Asgardian origin. While he did believe in myths and arcane mystics, he didn't view them in a religious or superstitious manner but instead saw them as a form of science to be studied and used for their own purposes, as he stated to the Church Keeper from Tønsberg, Norway.
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. In addition, despite otherwise being proud of leaving humanity far behind to the extent of openly stating that he embraces this without fear, he nonetheless gets angry when reminded of the deformities inflicted by the super serum prototype, especially in an insulting manner, as evidenced by his reaction to Schroeder's reference to him as the "Red Skull." 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, to the point of accepting his deserved fate as the guardian of the Soul Stone. As a result of his omniscience, immortality, and wisdom of the Infinity Stones, which he acquired from the Soul and Space Stones respectively, 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 it, he obviously saw him as worthy of its power. Schmidt was shown to no longer be the person he had been in 1945 somewhat: he had now become more like a ghost, a shadow of his former self only existing to guard the stone as his past conscious might or might not exist anymore. It is implied that when Steve Rogers returned the Soul Stone, Schmidt did not show any hostility towards his former arch-nemesis. Despite this, Schmidt still retains memories of his former life, exemplified by telling Thanos and Gamora of his own quest for the stones and his banishment to Vormir by the Tesseract and despite his passiveness, he appears to still hold disdain for being unable to possess the Soul Stone for himself.
Powers and Abilities
- Artificially Enhanced Physiology: As a result of the formula developed by Abraham Erskine, Schmidt was horribly disfigured, but also obtained incredible attributes, such as an enormous strength, speed, stamina, and reflexes. 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, leading him to refer to himself to Captain Rogers as "Eriskine's greatest success."
- 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. He can also survive in the cold climates of Vormir.
- 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.
Soul Stone's Guardian
As the Stonekeeper, Schmidt possess some supernatural abilities which are derived form his role as the Stonekeeper.
- Immortality: Upon becoming a Stonekeeper, Schmidt gained immortality. In his stay on Vormir, Schmidt claimed to have lived over a lifetime, looking the same as he did in 1945. Schmidt has lived as the Stonekeeper for a very long time on an abandoned realm without any form of additional sustenance.
- Levitation: As a Stonekeeper, Schmidt possessed the power of levitation, hovering above the ground while greeting Thanos and Gamora.
- Omniscience: As a Stonekeeper, Schmidt can gain insight into anyone who seeks the Soul Stone. He was able to know Black Widow's father's name, even though she was unaware of his name. He also knows every necessary and trivial knowledge about the Infinity Stones.
- "Great power has always baffled primitive men."
- ―Red Skull
- 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 Marksman: Schmidt was an expert marksman, being able to use many of the weaponry engineered by HYDRA, and was especially skilled with his German sidearm. He shot and killed the Church Keeper with a single round.
- Expert Combatant: Schmidt was very proficient in unarmed combat. He was able to go toe-to-toe with Captain America and briefly gained the upper hand.
- 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.
- Bilingualism: He speaks his native German and he is also fluent in English, albeit with a German accent.
- 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, Schmidt witnessed the Allied forces blasting open the main doors, killing his men. To defend himself, Schmidt 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 leveled at him by Adolf Hitler's officers, Schmidt activated a Cannon powered by the Tesseract and killed Roeder along with Schneider and Hutter.
- Uniform: Before and during the first years of World War II, Schmidt used an official black SS uniform, wearing the rank insignia of Obergruppenführer. 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. 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.
- 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.
- Tesseract: Seeking the ultimate power to help HYDRA claim their victory in World War II and then take control of the world, Schmidt sought and eventually found the Tesseract. With the assistance of Arnim Zola, Schmidt discovered how to transfer the incredible amounts of energy that was held inside of the Tesseract into their HYDRA weaponry, giving them strength far beyond that of their enemies. Schmidt had intended to use the Tesseract to cause mass destruction, but during his final clash against Captain America, the Tesseract had become exposed and, as Schmidt picked it up to examine it, the power of the Tesseract shot him through space to Vormir, where he remained trapped for decades.
- Soul Stone: Having been trapped on Vormir, Red Skull was tasked with safeguarding the Soul Stone, while learning the wisdom held within it which had allowed Red Skull to know of any individual coming to try and claim it. Red Skull taught Thanos and Gamora what they needed to do to claim the Infinity Stone and then watched emotionless as Thanos chose to sacrifice his own daughter to take the Stone for himself.
- "Not a scratch, doctor. Not a scratch."
- ―Red Skull to Arnim Zola
- Coupe: Schmidt owns his own vehicle, a coupe, which he had proceeded to drive to several various locations during World War II, including to Norway where Schmidt had finally managed to track down the Tesseract. Schmidt once allowed Arnim Zola to hide the coupe to escape certain death, before driving the Coupe to the HYDRA facilities which were all being destroyed one by one by Captain America and his allies.
- Focke-Wulf Triebflügel: During his escape from the Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility, Red Skull used his private rocket plane to get away before he could be captured by Captain America and the Allies.
- Valkyrie: For his final schemes for destroying much of the known world, the Red Skull personally flew his advanced bomber plane armed with HYDRA Parasits which would bomb the Allied countries. However, before he could complete his plans, Captain America confronted Red Skull as he was forced to abandon the controls to fight against the Captain, resulting in Red Skull being teleported to Vormir.
- HYDRA Headquarters: Becoming the Red Skull, Schmidt was presented with the facility in Austrian Alps, as a small reward for his injuries. Schmidt then turned the facility into the headquarters of HYDRA. In the base, HYDRA's best scientists, such as Arnim Zola, worked on developing new weapons for the Third Reich, however, Schmidt saw his new post more as an exile than the reward. At the headquarters, Schmidt presented the Tesseract who used it to charge his inventions and design the most powerful weapons for HYDRA. Eventually, the headquarters was assaulted by United States Army, led by Chester Phillips and Captain America. As all HYDRA soldiers were defeated and the army took control over the base, Schmidt decided to board the Valkyrie to destroy his targets.
- Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility: Schmidt established the weapons facility in Austria where the prisoners of war, captured by HYDRA, were forced to construct the equipment for them. The facility was raided by Steve Rogers who managed to free the 107th Infantry Regiment that were captured after Battle of Azzano and started a riot at the facility. While the US soldiers were destroying HYDRA equipment, Rogers faced Schmidt himself. Later, Schmidt ordered the self-destruction of the facility, as he did not want to allow Allies to take it.
|Appearances for Johann Schmidt|
In chronological order:
- In the comics, Johann Shmidt was Adolf Hitler's right hand, second in command and personal assassin, and originally had no relationships with HYDRA, although he helped Wolfgang von Strucker to escape from Germany and to organize HYDRA in Japanese territories during the middle of World War II. The MCU version of the character is an amalgamation of the character with Wilhelm Lohmer, who was a subject for the Nazi version of the Super Soldier Serum in the comics.
- In the non-canon video game Captain America: Super Soldier, Red Skull makes an alliance with Heinrich Zemo and HYDRA occupies Zemo's castle in Bavaria. When Captain America infiltrated the castle in 1944, he used the Tesseract to activate the Sleeper.
Behind the Scenes
- Red Skull in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the second live-action incarnation of the character, following an incarnation portrayed by Scott Paulin.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Zak Penn's draft for The Avengers movie during early discussion, the Red Skull was featured as the main villain alongside Loki, who was always intended to be the main villain, but Red Skull's inclusion was finally dropped to make way for Thanos.
- 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. 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. However, when Anthony and Joe Russo asked him about reprising the role in Avengers: Infinity War, Weaving considered it before politely declining, leading Ross Marquand to be recast as the Red Skull.
- When Ross Marquand was cast as the Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War, he was asked to give a "new flavor" to the iconic role Hugo Weaving previously portrayed seven years ago while the Russo Brothers asked him to give a "ghost-like quality" to Red Skull's voice as he had changed from the last time he was seen. Taking this direction, it took Marquand around ten days to perfect the voice, which he felt that melded Weaving's iconic portrayal of Agent Smith in The Matrix with the German accent he used for the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, Marquand was never actually on set with the other actors; Red Skull was created through CGI and portrayed with stand-ins.
- While exploring the story for Avengers: Endgame, Christopher Markus considered to have Captain America going to Vormir to meet again the Red Skull there, forcing them to collaborate together so the former could obtain the Soul Stone. While the idea was early dropped, Joe Russo anyway confirmed that Captain America met the Red Skull again when he gave the Soul Stone back to Vormir before returning to the alternate 1940s to live out his retirement, albeit offscreen.
- 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.
- ↑ Captain America: The First Avenger: The Hydra Files
- ↑ Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 3.08: Many Heads, One Tale
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 2
- ↑ Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 4
- ↑ 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 Captain America: The First Avenger
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 3
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Schmidt's SS uniform
- ↑ Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 4.04: Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire
- ↑ Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Captain America: The First Avenger
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 2.01: Shadows
- ↑ Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 2.12: Who You Really Are
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Avengers: Infinity War
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 Joe Russo's Q&A about the plot of Avengers: Endgame in China
- ↑ What comes next for Red Skull as Russo brothers confirm Cap's nemesis is 'free' after Infinity War
- ↑ Avengers: Endgame
- ↑ Profile on Marvel Studios with Big Updates from Kevin Feige
- ↑ CCI: Penn & Murphy Talk Avatar's "Hero Worship," Marvel Movies
- ↑ ‘Captain America 3’: Hugo Weaving Has ‘No Idea’ if Red Skull Will Appear
- ↑ Would Hugo Weaving Want To Revisit 'Red Skull' In CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Or At All?
- ↑ Everything We Learned From The Russo Brothers About ‘Infinity War’, ‘Avengers 4’ and ‘Star Wars’
- ↑ Ross Marquand discusses his surprise Avengers: Infinity War cameo
- ↑ HOW AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR RECREATED RED SKULL WITHOUT HUGO WEAVING
- ↑ SDCC: Markus & McFeely Discuss Writing Avengers: Endgame