Johann Schmidt a.k.a The Red Skull is a major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing as the secondary antagonist of Phase One and a minor character of Phase Three. He serves as the main antagonist of Captain America: The First Avenger and a minor character of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. He is the commanding officer of HYDRA-Abteilung, a special weapons division of the Nazi Schutzstaffel and the modern-day incarnation of the ancient HYDRA society.
He is portrayed by Hugo Weaving, who also played Agent Smith.
Captain America: The First Avenger
The man whom would become the evil Red Skull, Johann Schmidt, was born in Berlin, Germany and was a smart student. He eventually became a physicist whom later set his interest on Norse mythology. He developed a theory that Norse gods and their "magic" could be more than myth. Later on, he became a member of HYDRA, an ancient society that followed a political doctrine, but once worshiped a powerful Inhuman that later revealed to be Alveus aka. Hive; this past belief being very kindred to Schmidt's theories.
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 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 body guard. Himmler was interested in Schmidt's ideas, and recruited him into the SS.
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, 46 km 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 armour. Eventually, Schmidt rose to the rank of Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant general), and formed his own branch of the SS, naming it HYDRA.
In September 1935, the German biochemist Abraham Erskine attempted to flee Germany with his family. His wife's father was a Jew and Erskine wanted to take his family to safety. They were stopped at the Germany/Switzerland border by Schmidt and his men. Schmidt wanted Erskine's work on ways to increase molecular density of cellular fibers through synthetic proteins. In order to ensure Erskine's cooperation, Schmidt sent Erskine's wife Greta and his children Klaus and Marlene to the Dachau concentration camp. Arnim Zola was allowed to resume his work on exo-skeleton battle suits and various high-tech weaponry.
Two years later, Erskine's wife and children died in the camp, but Schmidt never revealed that information to Erskine.
In 1939, the Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thus starting World War II. Schmidt actively participated in German conquests, earning several high military decorations, including the Panzer Badge and the Iron Cross First Class.In 1940, the first, unstable version of Abraham Erskine's Super Soldier Serum was finished, however Erskine refused to hand it over to Schmidt as he cannot predict what would happened to him.
In the end, Schmidt took the Super Soldier Serum by force and, injected himself with it at Castle Kaufmann in the Bavarian Alps. The serum was supposed to make him faster, stronger, and more agile like what it intended to be. It worked but not without cost: The unstable nature of the prototype serum causes his face to burnt and deformed, making it red, looking like skull. Worse, as Erskine feared from his conversazation with Steve Rogers about this moment, the serum also severely costs him his humanity, making him more evil and psychotic than he already was. Though he adopted a synthetic mask that resembled his former appearance to disguise the deformity, he gained the nickname "Red Skull". Erskine ran away to America with the help of Peggy Carter and joined the Strategic Scientific Reserve.
As a small reward for his horrific injuries, Adolf Hitler gave Schmidt a military base in the Alps. Schmidt turned the base into the headquarters of HYDRA, where his scientists worked on developing new weapons for the Third Reich. However, Schmidt saw his new post more as an exile than 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.
From his research about ancient history about the greatest weapon known to man, Schmidt learned about the mythical Tesseract, which was lost on Earth having been held in Odin's Vault for thousands of years. Believing it to not be a myth, he began searching for it, knowing it would give him ultimate power to defeat both Hitler and the Allies. In March 1942, Schmidt and his army invaded Tønsberg, Norway, searching for the Tesseract.
Upon entering a church, Schmidt encountered the Church Keeper, who bravely refused to tell him where the object was. When his soldiers tried to find it for him, he was given what they believed to be the Tessearct albeit Schmidt knew it to be a fake one. Schmidt threatened the Church Keeper with the thought of obliterating the village and potentially killing the church keeper's family members. The man relented and Schmidt found the true Tesseract in the wall. Ignoring the his warnings, Schmidt shot the church keeper before giving the order to put the village off the map.
Having gained the Tesseract, Schmidt returned to his base and gave the object to his chief scientist Arnim Zola for examination. During a test to see if its power could be harnessed, Zola hesitated due to fear of losing control. Schmidt however, ignored the warnings and overloaded the machine, causing it to break, but not before capturing just a small dose of the Tesseract's power. Zola realised that just the small amount of energy they had captured could power the entire facility and help them build weapons powerful enough to change the war. Seeing this, Schmidt knew he now had the power to overthrow Adolf Hitler and rule the world alone.
Schmidt, having discovered Abraham Erskine's location, dispatched an assassin to kill him and destroyed the Allies' supply of the serum. The assassin, Heinz Kruger, managed to kill Erskine and destroy the Allies' supply of the serum before commit suicide when Steve, empowered with one of the serum, managed to capture him after the length chase.
Much later, 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, in which Schmidt showed them around his headquarters. When Schneider commented on Hitler's lack of approval towards HYDRA and insulted Schmidt by using the nickname Red Skull, Schmidt knew that the time has come to finally cut all ties with the Nazi party, feels that HYDRA could grow no more in Hitler's shadow. So, he took the men to see his Tesseract powered weapons, explaining he had harnessed the power of the gods. Just as Hutter saw Berlin marked as one of Schmidt's targets on a map, Schmidt used the opportunity to vaporized them all with his advanced cannon. Afterwards, Schmidt had his men shout "Hail HYDRA!" to show their loyalty to him. Arnim Zola was horrified but remained loyal to Schmidt and join the salute.
With HYDRA now self-funded, Schmidt and Arnim Zola explored their Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility where prisoners of war were being forced to build weapons powered by the Tesseract, overworking and torturing them until their deaths. Despite the progress of the workers being high, Schmidt ordered that they increase their work load by an exceptional amount, when Zola warned that such an increased work load would very likely kill the men, Schmidt was not concerned, noting that they could always get more workers to replace them.
n 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 the prisoners were freed and attacked Schmidt's forces. Schmidt watched closely as Captain America overpowered his soldiers with ease. When a huge battle occurred, Schmidt activated the base's self-destruct mode, despite Arnim Zola's protests.
With only minutes to go until the base exploded, Arnim Zola ran to his lab to collect his documents detailing his weapon designs while Schmidt collected the Tesseract. Without touching the immensely powerful item, Schmidt placed it into a briefcase and regrouped with Zola. As they made their way to the exit, the self-destruct on the base was activated and much of the machinery inside the base began to explode one by one, causing the floor of the base to erupt in unstoppable flames.
As Schmidt and Zola were about to leave, Captain America and Bucky Barnes confronted them. Schmidt mocked the Captain, noting that he had seen and enjoyed the propaganda films he had starred in. Ignoring the taunts, Captain America punched Schmidt in the face, ripping his mask. To show Rogers they were both test subjects, Schmidt punched and made a hole in Rogers' shield before they engaged in a brief fight.
Arnim Zola separated the two super soldiers and Schmidt revealed to Captain America that he believed he was Abraham Erskine's greatest success before ripping off his damaged face mask to show him what the serum did to his face. While Rogers and Barnes were stunned by the hideous reveal, Schmidt threw his mask into the fire and told him he was deluded in believing he was a simple soldier when he believed they had left humanity behind and that he had embraced this change proudly.
As he left the pair to die in the fire, Rogers called out to him to ask if he was without fear why was he running, but Schmidt ignored the taunt. Schmidt revealed his intention to escape in a one man plane, but when Zola questioned how he would escape, Schmidt handed him the keys to his car and ordered him to drive it without scratching it. Despite the HYDRA base exploding shortly after their escape, Rogers and Barnes managed to escape themselves and returned to the army. Knowing that Rogers and the U.S. army were after him, Schmidt decided to accelerate his plans.
Unfortunately for Schmidt, Rogers memorized the locations of all HYDRA bases which he saw on a map in Schmidt's base in Austria. He and the Howling Commandos began to take them down one by one. The Allies progressively managed to destroy most major HYDRA operations, preventing Schmidt any chance to move forward with his plans. The more HYDRA facilities were destroyed, the angrier and more deranged Schmidt became.
In April 1944, Schmidt was in a castle on an island in the Nazi occupied Danish Straits. There, he studied a mystical Viking Runestone. However, Rogers and the Howling Commandos invaded the castle. Schmidt attempted to destroy them but they survived.
Schmidt explored the ruins of one of his destroyed bases. Furious, he screamed at his soldiers and threatened Arnim Zola to continue his work before [[aptain America could defeat them. When one HYDRA survivor appeared and begged for forgiveness, Schmidt shot him without mercy. At the same time, Schmidt had his top scientist make nuclear bombs powered by the Tesseract. No one knew about his plans until Rogers captured Zola and he revealed Schmidt's plans.
In the meantime, a HYDRA officer, General Werner Reinhardt, was sent to search for legendary artifacts. Reinhardt's team was able to discover the Obelisk in Chaves, Portugal. When Reinhardt showed the artifact to his leader, Schmidt said that the Obelisk may hold the answer to death itself.
With Arnim Zola now captured by the Allies and key information about his plans having been leaked to his enemies, Schmidt moved his plans forward and gathered his army in the HYDRA Headquarters. Schmidt had the Tesseract powered nuclear bombs loaded onto his plane the Valkyrie, ready to be launched upon the world. Schmidt gave a speech to his soldiers in which he promised them that the next day they would stand triumphant over the world before repeating the HYDRA motto and watching as his soldiers saluted him.
In March 1945, the U.S. Army attacked Schmidt's base, which made Schmidt accelerate his plans. After a brief battle with Schmidt's soldiers which killed many HYDRA soldiers, his men captured Captain America]]. Rogers was brought before Schmidt to be executed by him personally.
When Schmidt asked Rogers what made him so special that Abraham Erskine had given him so much, Rogers answered that it was nothing, he was just a kid from Brooklyn. This mockery angered Schmidt, who punched Rogers several times, causing Rogers to drop to his knees. Schmidt prepared to execute Rogers but at the same moment, the Allied troops under Colonel Chester Phillips, Agent Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos stormed the HYDRA Headquarters and fired upon Schmidt and his soldiers.
During the chaos, Schmidt escaped while Captain America was rescued and reunited with his shield. During the fight, Schmidt picked up a Tesseract powered gun and used it to kill several American soldiers before the overwhelming forces pushed him back. Schmidt managed to stay ahead of Captain America and fired several shots at him, all of which were deflected on his shield. While Schmidt's soldier held Rogers back, Schmidt ran towards the Valkyrie.
When he saw that his men could not stop the overwhelming enemy force, he retreated to his plane. During the launch, Rogers managed to get onboard the plane. Having taken out his guards, Rogers climbed on the outside of one of the bombs and threw out the pilot before taking control of it himself. Schmidt tried and failed to shoot him out of the sky but Rogers crashlanded the bomb into the plane; he got out and made his way to the cockpit where he confronted Schmidt.
While Rogers explored the cockpit, Schmidt attempted to shoot him in the back, but Rogers was able to deflect the shot; Schmidt mocked Rogers' refusal to ever give up. They engaged in a fist fight with Schmidt gaining the upper hand by taking Rogers' shield and striking him with it. When the pair crashed into the controls, the plane spiraled out of control and the pair continued to fight as they were thrown across the room. Schmidt managed to regain control of the ship and he and Rogers were separated.
Schmidt managed to reach his gun and fired at Rogers, mocking him and claiming that he would create a future where there were no flags. Rogers said this would not be his future and managed to throw his shield at Schmidt, knocking him back and damaging the machine containing the Tesseract. Schmidt grabbed the Tesseract, but to his horror, the object opened a portal and launched Schmidt into it. Schmidt could only scream in pain and rage as he disappeared into the portal, vanishing from Earth.