Comicbook / Red Skull

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"When it comes to bad, the Red Skull is in a class all by himself."

His eyes, unfathomably empty, devoid of all compassion... all humanity... No one has eyes like that... no one! All these months I've lived in a fool's paradise, refusing to believe his claim to be the real Red Skull, refusing to believe that my greatest enemy had found a way to cheat death... but he has. The Red Skull lives... God help us all.

The Arch-Enemy of Captain America and one of the oldest villains in comics, and widely regarded as one of the most despicable. Right-hand man of Adolf Hitler in the Marvel Universe, HYDRA brought him Back from the Dead to plague the world once again. There have been at least three major versions of the Skull. George Maxon, the first Red Skull first appeared in "Captain America Comics" #1 (March, 1941). The most (in)famous Red Skull, Johann Schmidt, first appeared in "Captain America Comics" #7 (October, 1941). The third Red Skull, Albert Malik first appeared in "Captain America Comics" #61 (March, 1947). Malik was established as the Communist Red Skull in "Young Men" #24 (December, 1953). Schmidt was revived in "Tales of Suspense" #79 (July, 1966).

The established origin of the better known Skull is relatively complex. He was born as Johann Schmidt in a small German village, probably sometime in the 1910s. The Skull's mother Martha died giving birth to him, causing his drunken lout of a father to try and drown him, saying that the infant had murdered his wife. A doctor managed to prevent him from killing his newborn son, but the angry father went on to commit suicide. Growing up alone, the rise of the Nazis backdropping his life, young Schmidt eventually found himself living a hard life on the streets. All while nursing a growing anger and frustration towards the rest of the world. As an older teen, Schmidt managed to get a job as a bellhop for a major hotel frequented by Adolf Hitler. Schmidt was present for one occasion when Hitler was angrily berating the head of The Gestapo (or just some random German officer) for letting a spy escape, and screamed at the man that he could make even the bellhop into a better Nazi than him. He did.

Hitler, who seemed to recognize much of himself in the frustrated, resentful, unsuccessful yet obviously talented young man, became a sort of Evil Mentor and father figure to him, encouraging him to educate himself and grooming him for a powerful position in the Nazi state. (According to one version, to be his own successor.) Subordinate only to Hitler himself, the young, brilliant and ruthless Schmidt was placed in charge of foreign espionage and terrorist activities, playing a key role in Nazi victories in Europe and spreading fear (his red skull mask was intended to be a symbol of terror while Hitler could remain the popular leader in a national version of Good Cop/Bad Cop). He eventually moved onto the United States as World War II continued and sabotaged the top secret Project Rebirth by assassinating Prof. Erskine. Preparing for the inevitable war against Germany, the Americans decided to create their own Good Counterpart to the Red Skull's evil, the sole successful Super Soldier serum test subject, Steve Rogers, and trained him to become Captain America, the man who was to become Schmidt's Arch-Enemy.

However, as the war dragged on the Skull started to see that Germany was not going to win, and instead made plans to escape and build a new power base elsewhere to continue the struggle. In the meantime he assigned rival Nazi Baron Heinrich Zemo to a secret mission to assassinate Captain America, hoping the two would kill each other off. In the event, Zemo was defeated and Roger's sidekick Bucky Barnes was (seemingly) killed, but not before Captain America tracked the Skull to his secret bunker and engaged him in battle. Cap won and apparently killed the Skull, but in reality he was merely placed in Suspended Animation, a fate that Cap would shortly suffer too after his battle with Zemo.

Captain America was revived by The Avengers, but not long after their enemies HYDRA discovered the Skull and revived him too. The Skull allied with them for as long as they were useful but secretly he was biding his time until he could steal the Cosmic Cube from AIM, the science division of HYDRA, the Cube being an Artifact of Doom that bestowed upon the user Reality Warping and godhood. He once again battled Captain America and was once again defeated, but subsequently managed to establish himself as a major and continuous threat to the world, with access to considerable resources.

The Red Skull subsequently engaged in numerous more terrorist and mass murder schemes to wreak havoc across the world and kill Captain America, even managing to make himself Secretary of Defence disguised as one Dell Rusk, plus more attempts to possess a Cosmic Cube, before finally being assassinated by the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed, insane and very-much alive Bucky Barnes, but used a weakened Cube to transfer his mind into a Russian general named Lukin, the man who had him killed. Sharing his body, the Skull forced Lukin to go along with his schemes to manipulate the superhero Civil War so as to get one of his puppet politicians elected as President, and later tried to transfer his mind into Captain America's unborn child, before it was murdered by an increasingly rebellious Sin (his daughter). He later allied with Norman Osborn following his rise to power and finally managed to take over the body of Captain America himself, but after wreaking further damage was expelled and killed, this time for good.

This being a comic book, the Red Skull seemingly returned in the pages of Uncanny Avengers during the Marvel NOW! relaunch. This was then revealed to be a clone of the original that was frozen back during World War 2.

The Red Skull appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a villainous Chessmaster, Nazi super-scientist, and the founder of HYDRA in Captain America: The First Avenger. The MCU version is a Composite Character of the comic book Red Skull, Baron Strucker (the founder of HYDRA in the comics) and Baron Zemo (the Stupid Jetpack Hitler elements), although both Strucker and Zemo later appeared in the MCU in their own right. It amused many fans that Hugo Weaving was cast to play yet another powerful enemy named "Schmidt" with an appropriately and enjoyably OTT performance.

Media

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Exhibits examples of:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: One of his stated long-term goals is to conquer and destroy the various alien empires that inhabit the Marvel universe. (Though considering how often these aliens have tried to attack and destroy earth, it may perhaps be debated to what extent this is crazy or just Properly Paranoid policy.) In one Alternate Universe where he took over, he started putting this into practice. Oddly, he was nicer to his human enemies, whom he didn't try to exterminate — though he deported all Blacks to Africa and did various other politically incorrect things.
  • Absurdly Cool City: New York City, Reichsfuehrer Red Skull's seat of power in the Alternate Universe where the Nazis conquered the world. It looks like a mixture of real New York, Nazi Berlin and the original Metropolis, only more modern with features like giant telescreens and futuristic airships.
  • Abusive Parents: His mother died in childbirth, and his alcoholic father tried to drown him for it. His mother's doctor rescued him, but he just got put in an orphanage and things just went downhill from there....
    • It really says something when Hitler is a better father figure.
    • He's often written as a terrible father to his own daughter as well, though exactly how much so varies between different stories; in at least one version, he initially contemplated infanticide, out of disappointment that he would not have a male heir. At best, Sin's upbringing embodies the non plus ultra of Tough Love. Also depending on the writer, she either hates him for it or acknowledges it as necessary to make her who she is — though not everyone would agree that this was a good thing.
  • The Ace: In most versions, basically Hitler if he was a larger-than-life James Bond villain, only more so. In other words, a brilliant politician, orator, military leader, etc, who has read at least one book on almost every arcane topic and recalls them word for word, speaks several languages and is personally charming and charismatic, at least when he wants to be — PLUS a world-class soldier, martial artist and dead shot who can offer Captain America at least a reasonably fair match hand to hand.
  • Action Survivor: As a child and young man. Survived a brutal childhood in the streets in a country ravaged by revolution, anarchy and economic chaos.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: In the more recent Captain America movie, the Red Skull character is not a Nazi true believer, but a purely power-hungry villain who even betrays Germany as part of his dastardly plot. There's no indication that he's personally close to Hitler, either.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Spends some adventures hunting valuable ancient treasures (which, this being a comic book setting, frequently have real magical properties). And sometimes just quests for rare historical treasures and memorabilia (usually Nazi-themed) simply for their historical value.
  • Affably Evil: On a good day, he is the Nazi version of a Wicked Cultured Officer and a Gentleman.
  • Alike and Antithetical Adversaries: To Captain America, obviously. Cap is the symbol of America and leads a team of Allied/NATO heroes, while the Skull is the symbol of Nazi Germany and leads a multinational team of fascist villains.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: In Marvel, the 2008 elections were about to be won by a populist third-party candidate whose campaign was secretly financed by Red Skull.
  • All Myths Are True: Every Nazi-themed conspiracy theory about supertechnology, occult magic, secret societies, Odessa, Hitler clones, etc is true in the Marvelverse, and most of them are run directly or indirectly by Red Skull.
  • All There in the Manual: The various official novels, handbooks, factsheets, encyclopedias, etc give additional details on his background, and sometimes significantly expand on it.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: A major motivation for Red Skull's villainy is to bring this about, and when his plans succeed, he usually does. One such Alternate Universe had giant flatscreens and modern computers ... in the 1960s.
  • Always with You: An unusual example, since it's Hitler who promises the Skull this. And it's true, too: he remains in his dreams and gives him guidance and new hope when he suffers his rare bouts of hopelessness and despair, almost like a sort of Spirit Advisor.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: The late 1980s Red Skull, who went insane after one of Arnim Zola's experiments, turned his back on fascism and became a murderous nihilistic anarchist in the very worst sense of the trope.
  • Appeal to Nature: The way he justifies most of his ideology, from support of the traditional family to racism to vegetarianism.
  • Arch-Enemy: One of the oldest in comics.
  • Armchair Military: Averted; he is shown doing a lot of high-level planning, as you would expect from a senior officer, but he has plenty of first-hand experience of war, and knows what it is like. And when there is a job that only a Super Soldier like himself can pull off, he puts on the fatigues again for the occasion.
  • Armies Are Evil: Ultimately subverted. Red Skull is often supported by more or less rogue military elements, and sort of a villainous Military Superhero himself — except that he never held an actual military commission, but is an officer of the Schutzstaffel, and historically frequently at odds with the actual German Army establishment. By contrast, Captain America (who usually wears much less "military" uniforms) is an officer of the US Army.
  • Art Deco: His custom-built bases tend to go with the "Nazi chic" style, i.e., this mixed with some Classicism.
  • Artifact of Doom: Cosmic Cubes, in his hands anyway.
  • Artistic License – Military: When he is not depicted in some bizarre leather faux-uniform, the Skull wears a pre-1938 black Allgemeine-SS uniform (single shoulder board) with SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) collar insignia and an Iron Cross. Leaving aside the fact Iron Cross was not reinstated before 1939, regardless of what he may have accomplished, but there is no reason the second most dangerous man in the Reich's administration should have such a junior rank. He also often has an Honor Chevron for the Old Guard and a Golden Party Badge, even though his backstory usually has him joining the party after Hitler assumed power, which would make him ineligible for these "honors".
    • While much of the above is spot on, Hitler sometimes did hand out the chevrons and Golden Badge to late-enlisting but exceptionally worthy followers. In that particular case, Reality Is Unrealistic.
    • Shadow Archetype: He's the Nazi counterpart of Captain America, and has the rank to fit.
    • A corollary explanation might be that the Skull simply liked the uniform and decorations, and was so powerful in Hitler's inner circle that he could browbeat or kill anyone trying to lecture him on decorum.
    • Similarly, his uniform in the film contains a mixture of insignia reserved for commissioned officers and insignia reserved for non-commissioned officers. There's a good chance that he simply didn't care that his uniform was incorrect.
  • At Least I Admit It: He doesn't consider himself evil (at least not most of the time), but he is unafraid of admitting himself to be a racialist and Nazi. Works to his advantage (or maybe not) when he very effectively deconstructs Magneto's air of moral superiority by pointing out how similar they are in many ways.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: By circa 1942, he was one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich, being a sort of plenipotentiary agent-at-large for Hitler as well as the omnipotent dictator's best friend. Also one of the few Axis agents who could credibly take on Allied heroes like Captain America hand to hand.
    • Asskicking Equals Authority: His efficiency as an espionage agent and special forces commander was at least part of the reason Hitler was impressed with him and kept promoting him.
  • Avenging the Villain: One of the Skull's major motivations is to succeed where Hitler failed and avenge his fallen mentor. He wants to take revenge on the Allies who killed Hitler and Nazi Germany, but even more to rebuild it, to show that his Fuehrer was right and that his ideals triumphed in the end.
  • Ax-Crazy: Some versions, definitely. Others are less hysteric, but no less ruthless for it.
  • Back from the Dead: Played horrifyingly straight, see the quote above.
  • Bad Boss: He frequently kills all but his most loyal or competent underlings—and sometimes even them—either for failure or for outliving their usefulness, but just as often For the Evulz. He once killed his accountant, for pete's sake, because "she was a bad accountant". And he usually uses his "Dust of Death" poison, one of the most agonising and horrible weapons in his arsenal, when he feels like doing the deed. Bizarrely, he can still count on the fervent loyalty of most of his followers.
    • Though this depends somewhat on the writing, also, making the enthusiasm of his subordinates less inexplicable. In many stories, he's more "harsh but fair" like a stereotypical German military martinet, and tends to lead by example. Notably, the specific examples listed above come from when he was at his all-time worst, in the Comics Dark Age.
  • Bad Present: Similarly to Captain America, Red Skull is a Fish Out of Temporal Water who grew up roughly a hundred years ago. The present seems like a pure nightmare to him, and absolute proof that the Nazis were right: This is what they fought to save the world from.
    • Subverted in Uncanny Avengers, where he thinks the present is a lot like his own formative period in Weimar Germany. Given what this period was like, however, this is hardly a compliment.
  • Badass Army: His handpicked multinational force of elite troops from the Axis countries during the war.
  • Badass Bookworm: Like the real Hitler, obsessively studies everything from military history to engineering, in order to make up for his lack of formal education.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: When the Skull isn't wearing his Nazi swag, he typically dresses in stylish, well-tailored suits.
  • Badass Longcoat: Occasionally when shown in real (or semi-real) German uniforms. Also, in civvies, the clone Skull in Uncanny Avengers seems to like these.
  • Badass Normal: Though he may be a thoroughly despicable human being, there is no doubt that the Red Skull is Bad Ass. He is a highly skilled fighter capable of regularly holding his own against Captain America, one of the best martial artists in the world. He is an expert marksman and a brilliant and imaginative strategist, and like a true Magnificent Bastard is unafraid to put himself in harm's way or use himself as his own best chess piece to see his plans come to fruition. He is considered one of the deadliest threats to mankind in a world that has to put up with regular Alien Invasions, Eldritch Abominations, power-mad superhumans and all manner of catastrophes, and he consistently demonstrates why he has that reputation.
  • Bastard Understudy: To Hitler.
  • The Beautiful Elite: On a global scale. He thinks the white race is this, as all other peoples are ugly in varying degrees. Though there are exceptions; one woman he fell in love with was half-Asian, for example.
    • Applies to some extent to the Skull himself (who is actually quite handsome under the grotesque mask) and many of his close associates.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: After being treated to indifference at best and abuse at worst from more or less everyone for most of his life, friendless loner and Hero-Worshipper Johann Schmidt was overwhelmed when the freaking Fuehrer himself not merely deigned to notice him, but thought him a man of worth and personally invited him to join the Nazis. He's been fanatically loyal to Hitler (and after the war, his memory) ever since.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Being a Nazi in the 21st century sucks, when you care enough about the ideology to be horrified by all the third-world immigration, affirmative action, homosexuality, etc. If he wanted to, he could just be a rich crime lord and live happily off the money his syndicates make; as it is, ironically it's his very devotion to Nazism that keeps him unhappy.
    • Doubly emphasized when he's dumped in an Alternate Universe where things are a lot like in the main comic, but he's a poor German nobody without connections and Captain America is the US President. He tries to convert his fellow Germans to Nazism, spending all his spare time holding impassioned speeches at a street corner. No one cares.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Thinks this applies to Captain America. It being so glaringly obvious that liberalism and anti-racism are irrational, anti-scientific and untrue ideologies, this is the only possible explanation for why an intelligent man like Cap keeps championing them.
    • Some writers take this approach to the Skull himself, as well.
  • Berserk Button: Insulting Hitler. In one comic, Captain America called Hitler a coward and boasted of how the Allies had destroyed Germany and the Nazi ideals forever, which produced a near meltdown on the Skull's part:
    Red Skull: No! No! Those are lies, do you hear?? ALL LIES!!
  • Betrayal Insurance: Stemming from his very dark view of humanity, he is especially good at this, and often structures his plans so that even betrayal by a close ally will not doom them to failure. A triple betrayal (by three independently acting conspirators) did manage to sabotage his bid to game the US Presidential elections, however. Though even then it was arguably a close call.
  • Beware the Superman: As befits a Nazi, Red Skull wants to control all possible threats against humanity. He doesn't like superheroes, and hates super-powered mutants, who usurp humanity's destiny. He also wants to destroy Sub-Mariner and his empire of nonhumans, who often threaten and invade human countries.
  • Big Bad: One of the major supervillain threats on a planet drowning in them, and one of the most despicably evil.
  • Bigger Bad: The man behind Baron von Strucker, Baron Zemo, HYDRA and most of Marvel's assorted Nazi-themed and ex-Nazi villains.
  • Black and White Morality: In the early stories, Captain America is Good and the Red Skull is Evil. Full stop.
    • Black and Gray Morality: In more recent, darker and more cynical stories, Cap is still Good and the Skull is still Evil, but the US government Cap works for can be involved in some rather shady business, and run by rather nasty people.
    • Grey and Gray Morality: And in some recent, more complex stories, Cap is still Good and the Skull is Evil, but the Skull is written as a sort-of "realistic" Nazi who gets to present an occasional sympathetic point along with his bigotry and racism so the audience can view him as a human being, too. (For example, pointing at the flaws of American capitalism, such as the villainy and greed of Too-Big-To-Fail banks and their billion-dollar bailouts — An actual historical Nazi talking point, which goes to show that even a broken clock is right twice a day.) He's still a very dark shade of gray, though: just enough safe of pure one-dimensional cosmic jet-black to make him a more effective villain than a complete cardboard cutout would be.
  • Black Shirt: Started out like one of these, before he became The Dragon, and finally the Evil Overlord himself.
  • Born Winner: Played with. For the first two decades or so of his life, Johann Schmidt seemed to be the epitome of a born loser ... but it turned out he was really a rare genius who had simply gone unrecognized and been afforded no opportunity to develop to his full potential. Once he was given just one chance to prove himself, his rise to the top was meteoric. So, he was in fact a big-time winner of the genetic lottery — just not the socio-economic one.
  • Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good: He's not weak by human standards, but certainly as compared to the general Marvel superheroes. He also leads a relatively small underground organization which roughly everyone else hates (including the superpowers), so he has to be vigilant and smart to stay ahead. Similarly, while his nemesis Cap isn't stupid, he tends to rely more on muscle to solve problems.
  • Breakout Villain: The original Golden Age Red Skull was intended as a single-issue villain, a native-born American Nazi spy who died in the first story he appeared in. However, the character was popular enough to return, and in the Silver Age revamp of the Captain America title, he got his more familiar backstory (as recounted above) and his status as Cap's Arch-Nemesis. The first Skull was then retconned as an agent of the real one.
  • Breaking Lecture: Delivers a number of them to his enemies (especially Captain America) over the years, of varying quality. Usually about how rotten and corrupt the American democratic system is. One that seems somewhat influenced by the "Occupy" movement was offered in the early Uncanny Avengers run:
    Skull:You imagine that if you fight hard enough, one day you will wrest control from the bankers who own you and return this nation to its former glory.
    But in reality this is, and will remain, your America. An uneducated population fixated on competition, material wealth and voyeurism. Violent monsters doused in antibiotics to offset their diet of sugary sweet drink and mounds of carcinogenic cow flesh! This is what you fight for!
  • Broken Ace: An evil genius who rose from the literal gutter to become first a Nazi hierarch and then a full-blown supervillain. Red Skull is both literate and hard as nails, and an inspiring leader for millions of neo-fascists ... But his childhood in the streets and traumatic war experiences have left him deeply scarred in more than one sense.
  • Brought Down to Normal: After the Cube Cult caper, he was mysteriously stripped of most of his memories and forced to live as an anonymous nobody in a nightmarish cyberpunk world. He reverted to his old pattern of life as a downtrodden menial laborer, until memories of Hitler began to reemerge in his dreams and guided him back to his real life.
  • Brutal Honesty: When in the philosophical mood, can expound on the grimness of existence with positively Schopenhauerian gloom.
  • Bulletproof Vest: He usually wears armor under his uniform, which makes it a little more plausible that he can survive so many gun fights — or fist fights with borderline and not-so-borderline superhumans, for that matter.
  • The Bully: Especially the Nineties Dark Age version. Terrorizes and often kills his own subordinates For the Evulz, routinely; savagely beat and sadistically abused his girlfriend, one of his most devoted followers; big fan of Revenge by Proxy; tends to laugh like a lunatic when causing the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
  • Byronic Hero: Some versions can be more or less this, much like the real Hitler fits the checklist. (It is important to remember that "hero" in this context does not mean "good guy," or even necessarily sympathetic.) When written like this, the Skull is intelligent, passionate, philosophical and very much haunted by his past, all of which makes him a sort of tragic but darkly compelling Nietzschean figure on perpetual collision course with liberal society, a very "existential" character. However, other versions lack this sort of depth, being straight-up Card-Carrying Villains.
  • Calling Card: Of various kinds. Sometimes, he leaves a literal calling card with a red skull symbol on it, at others, a recording of some significant musical score (often Chopin's "Funeral March"). Done much less nowadays than in older comics. In some stories, he also has underlings do it in his name, in order to distract and mislead the heroes.
  • Came Back Wrong: When he was resurrected/cloned by Arnim Zola for the first time, in the late 1980s. This version became anarchistic and psychotic, to the point that he renounced Nazism in favor of totally egotistical generic villainy. Subverted, in that he ultimately recovered and became a moderately sane and idealistic villain again.
  • Cape Busters: The special force he personally trained and deployed to fight the mutants. They were depicted as a small Badass Army equipped with advanced weapons and heavy armor, incorporating special shielding against telepathy and electromagnetism (presumably to protect them against the game-breaking powers of Professor X and Magneto, respectively).
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Because it engenders corruption, greed, materialism, stupidity and "evil" generally. Also, it's wasteful; imagine how much good the government could do with the money people waste on the latest iPhone. As Red Skull would remind you, Nazism is short for National Socialism, which prefers the common good over private greed. (A real Nazi slogan!)
  • Captain Patriotic: For the Nazis, as befits the evil counterpart of Captain America.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: In the most Anvilicious version of his backstory, he joined the Nazis for the thrill of killing and refers to himself as the "Prince of Villainy".
  • Catch Phrase: He often ends his speeches and addresses with a "Heil Hitler!" in remembrance of the Fuehrer and to emphasize that he is faithfully carrying on his mentor's work.
  • Celibate Eccentric Genius: Throughout his long career, he has only been involved with two or three women, and then only briefly and mostly offscreen. When he is depicted as showing interest in a woman, it's usually intellectual and platonic rather than romantic.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Seemingly averted in many depictions, where he gladly accepts, if not indeed craves, power. Some stories, however, reveal that one reason he misses Hitler is the safety and comfort of Just Following Orders. Now that he is in charge, it is he who must shoulder the Fuehrer's burden, and take on his awful responsibility for the future fate of Nazism.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • In the internal politics of Nazi Germany, much like Albert Speer he used his personal access to the Fuehrer to build up his own power base and discredit his rivals or play them off against each other. He started out as a fairly low-ranking special intelligence operative, but by 1941 or so he was arguably the second most powerful man in Europe, and kept this position throughout the rest of the war.
    • In later years he usually can't do this much politicking, for obvious reasons, but some of his conspiracies can be incredibly Byzantine. One which almost succeeded involved tanking the American economy through financial manipulations, usurping one of the national political parties and using a false Captain America to keep the superheroes in line.
  • Chest of Medals: When he wears a real dress uniform. Usually, however, he doesn't bother with the decorations, except maybe a lone Iron Cross.
  • Children Forced To Kill: In one recent, Darker and Edgier rewrite of his backstory. Averted in most versions, where he suffers all kinds of abuse as a child but does not fight back.
  • City Noir: His backstory shows Munich, of all places, like this. Arguably justified, in that it's Munich during the hyperinflation/Great Depression, when all major German cities were pretty dystopian.
  • Classic Villain: He mostly represents Ambition, Wrath and pure Hatred.
  • Cloning Blues: He spent quite a while between the late 1980s and the early 2000s inhabiting a cloned body of Captain America, albeit with a "red skull" disfigurement for most of that time.
    • The Red Skull has returned in Uncanny Avengers thanks to Arnim Zola having cloned him.
  • Colonel Badass: His official rank is never stated, but when he wears a semi-real German uniform, it's often that of a Standartenfuehrer (SS colonel).
  • Color Character
  • Combat Medic: As part of his general competence, he knows more than a bit of military medicine.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The guy who, unlike the heroes, will bring a gun to the fight. Growing up in the streets taught him the folly of fighting "fair".
  • Commie Nazis: The 1950s depiction of the Skull joined the Soviets after World War II to continue the fight against American capitalism. This was later rewritten as a psywar ploy by the KGB, using an impostor.
  • Complexity Addiction: Like most Silver Age supervillains, the Skull suffered heavily from this.
  • Compliment Backfire: When he praised Sharon Carter for her competence and sincerity. By all appearances his admiration was quite genuine, too; the problem was that he said she was like a Nazi in her bravery and dedication. From his POV, this is a real compliment, but she didn't take it that way.
  • Composite Character: The movieverse Skull is a hybrid of the comicverse Skull, Baron Von Strucker (the founder of HYDRA), Baron Zemo (the Nazi superscientist), and the obscure villain Master Man (the Nazi agent who got boosted with a variant of Captain America's Super Serum).
  • Consummate Professional: When not written as a ranting villain. Whether as spymaster or general, he is usually cold, rational and sober in the execution of his duties, and very good at what he does.
  • Contemplative Boss: Whether watching dawn's early light or the lesser lights of the city at night.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: In many/most of his appearances, but especially the World War II ones, for obvious reasons. These tend to pit the best and most iconic Nazi troops, led by a Super Soldier Hitler expy, versus legendary teams of all-American heroes led by the ultimate red-white-and-blue Captain Patriotic.
  • The Corrupter: There are several stories which show how the Skull successfully converts decent, more or less ordinary people to his brand of fascism, simply by being a dismayingly charismatic and persuasive speaker. Conversely, he can also be very effective at demoralizing heroic characters when he turns his rhetorical machinery in that direction.
  • Country Mouse: A child of peasants, but as a starving orphan, ended up in the Big City. And in the literal gutters, to boot.
  • Crapsack World: The Skull himself thinks the present-day world of affirmative action and homosexual rights is one; most of his enemies think the totalitarian Nazi empire he wants to remake it into will be one.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He can think on his feet when he has to, but prefers to plan for every eventuality if that is an option.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Usually subverted, however, in that they're not just compulsive show-off moves, but playing up the type in order to manipulate other actors.
  • Crooks Are Better Armed: It's not usually played up, but in some versions the Skull is a borderline Gun Nut. Even in those where he isn't, he usually brings at least a sidearm to the fight; and when he expects serious trouble, he brings the artillery. Downplayed in the Silver Age, for obvious reasons.
  • Cultured Badass: At least some versions, familiar with art, literature, music and philosophy. Made more impressive by the fact that he grew up poor and uncultured and did not even finish school. It's implied he learned a lot of this from Hitler, who was also an autodidact and famously thought of himself as a philosopher and artist.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Especially young Johann Schmidt, who also looks vaguely fox-like with his red hair and pale, thin face.
  • Cunning Linguist: Despite never having any formal education beyond elementary school (at most), the Skull speaks at least three languages in addition to his native German: Russian, Hebrew and English. In English at least he can also fake dialects convincingly, from Harlem Ebonics to Old Stock Yankee.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: His daughter, Synthia. He contemplated killing the baby for not being a boy, but she grew up into the kind of hateful Nazi maniac a father could be proud of. He still ignored her, but it's the effort that counts.
  • Dark Action Girl: His daughter, who (at least when written by Ed Brubaker) is more violent and evil than Red Skull himself.
    • Faux Dark Action Girl: But if she ever stops posturing and actually fights anyone (except maybe some nameless Mooks), she loses every single time. Usually quickly, too.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The young Johann Schmidt grew up as a homeless orphan in Weimar Germany, and survived off odd jobs, begging and petty crime. Apart from insecurity, he also suffered horrible abuse from criminals and Communists; even the original Silver Age origin story showed him being savagely beaten by a street gang as a small boy, and later versions have only gotten progressively more violent and disturbing.
  • Dark Messiah: There's an Aryan brotherhood gang called "The Skulls" and they worship the Skull as the second coming. Oddly enough the gang and their leader are mainly Wolverine villains. You could also say Crossbones sees the Skull this way.
    • Despite his propensity for sudden lay-offs, many of the Skull's ex-Nazi or neo-Nazi henchmen seem to adopt an almost fanatical loyalty and trust toward him.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • J M De Matteis's Red Skull was largely true to his origins in relatively family-friendly Stan Lee-esque supervillainy through most of his run, but in the last story arc he wasn't just evil but totally insane. Probably justified, however, as by then Skull was in his 80s and seemed to be suffering from acute senile dementia.
    • Somewhere in the darkening of comics in the 1980s, Mark Gruenwald apparently figured Red Skull wasn't evil enough if he was "just" a Nazi villain. So then he started writing him as a sadist and wife-beater as well.
  • Darkest Hour: For him, the downfall of Germany in 1945.
  • Darwinist Desire: In the official novel. Generally averted in the comics.
  • Deconstruction: Of hammy supervillains in general, and fictional Nazis in particular.
    • Even the original Silver Age origin story gave a surprisingly sympathetic and to some extent "realistic" explanation for why a non-psychopath would want to be a Nazi supervillain, and why he would likely be a Large Ham if he became one.
    • Many early stories nevertheless portrayed him as a more or less generic ranting villain, who knew he was evil. But later writers (or at least some of them) realized that such villainy is unrealistic, so instead they tend to give him a coherent Nazi worldview. The result makes him more terrifying, since the best stories really manage to show how he can be a genocidal Nazi and still be morally upright by the standards of his own culture.
  • Deep Cover Agent: The Golden Age Red Skull's real name was John Maxon, an aerospace tycoon and major American defense contractor. (Basically William Boeing as a Nazi agent; he even looked more than a bit like him.) The more familiar Skull is German-born, but utilizes several fake identities to attain positions of authority and power in America. Notably, "Dell Rusk" became the Secretary of Defense of the United States, a very successful infiltration, to say the least.
  • Defiant to the End: The first time he died, in the ruins of Berlin in 1945, his last words expressed his conviction that Nazis of future times would finish what he and Hitler started.
  • Dehumanization: In the 1970s, he wouldn't insult Falcon, because giving even that much attention to "black vermin" was beneath his dignity. And in a more modern comic, he makes a clear difference between humanity and his racial enemies when expounding on how the world will change under his rule — though whether he's talking about Africans or mutants isn't clear in this instance:
    Red Skull: Genetic pigs, polluting our world, will be relegated to their appropriate stations—servants of man.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: If the rest of the page doesn't tell, well... One recent example had him platonically admiring the captured Scarlet Witch's bravery and beauty before coolly dismissing her as Not Even Human.
  • Democracy Is Bad: He believes that since the Apathetic Citizens only vote for whoever TV tells them to, anyway, it will inevitably be ruled by corrupt demagogues and the greedy plutocrats who bribe them.
  • Demolitions Expert: Part of his general special forces training initially, but expanded over the years. In some stories at least his expertise extends to nuclear bombs.
  • Depending on the Artist:
    • How the Skull looks under the mask has varied somewhat with different comics; some give him a stereotypically Nordic tall, blond and handsome appearance, while in one early story he was dark-haired with a broad, vaguely Central European face. The default now agreed on seems to be a fairly but not extraordinarily attractive Celtic face, thin and somewhat pale with fiery red hair and sharp blue eyes; imagine something like Rorschach unmasked, but handsomer and with straight hair.
    • Also, how the "red skull" mask itself looks. Jack Kirby drew it like a vaguely "realistic" latex mask, with lips, eyelids and etc, but others make it into a bizarre affair with bony excrescences, exposed teeth, a free-hanging jawbone and lidless Glowing Eyes of Doom that must require serious animatronics to work.
      • This is also Lampshaded in one story, where the Skull's supervillain trophy shelf holds an assortment of skulls shaped in all the ways he has appeared over the years, implying that he switches between different masks for variety.
  • Depending on the Writer:
  • Despair Event Horizon: His entire childhood was one. More recently, when he was caught in the metaphysical nightmare of living as a poor German man in modern, multicultural Berlin and seeing everything he and Hitler tried to prevent come true.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: By the time the Nazis came into power, he had a regular (if menial) job and was able to support himself. However, he was still depressed, both with the meaninglessness of his own life and the sad fate of Germany under the Republic. Then the Nazis showed the country a new hopeful vision of a better future for everyone, and Hitler (whom he met by chance, at least in most stories) invited him to join them and help make a difference. He did, having finally found his Goal in Life.
  • Determinator: Heroic willpower alone has saved his life on many occasions. And despite a near century of failure and the combined hostility of most of the rest of the world, he keeps fighting for the Nazi dream.
  • Determined Defeatist: Although his optimism in face of tall odds is legendary, sometimes the sheer weight of the world's enmity and the magnitude of his defeats causes him to doubt his chances. Even then, however, he will usually carry on every step of the way.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: To Lex Luthor standards.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: At one point where he was poor and powerless, he fell in love with a pretty half-Japanese girl. By all appearances the affection was completely mutual, and it seemed a rather storybookish romance. However, it turned out the girl was Jewish on her father's side, which triggered a psychotic episode on the Skull's part. Predictably, it ended in tragedy.
    • It eventually turned out to be All Just a Dream, anyway, but that doesn't lessen the emotional impact very much.
  • Demonic Possession: As a result of his meddling with Xavier's brain he is possessed by Onslaught.
  • Disappointed In You: In a delirious nightmare, when he was at the end of his strength, Hitler appeared to him and told him that he had failed him and the Nazi dream. It was probably the closest he has come to a total breakdown.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When he noticed a black man seducing a (white) female SHIELD agent, the Skull took time off from his general villainy to kidnap them both and lecture them on the evils of miscegenation.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Originally, Red Skull and Doctor Zemo were pretty much interchangeable as "masked Nazi supervillains who are Captain America's Arch-Enemy". This is probably because Zemo was originally intended to be the Skull's Silver Age replacement in Cap's post-war stories. But Stan Lee decided to bring back the Skull as well, and Zemo got killed off. However, later writers have mined the character for World War II-era stories, and developed him considerably; he was given storylines of his own, an aristocratic origin (he is now best known as Baron Zemo) and a distinctive character. Now, his established position is that of the Skull's chief historical rival in the Nazi hierarchy, a role that plays both on how similar they still are in many ways and how their differing backgrounds nevertheless make them resent each other.
  • Do Wrong, Right: With several of his associates, notably Sin. As a hardened soldier and Nazi fanatic, he's perfectly prepared to use extreme force to achieve his ends, but only when necessary. He does not encourage Stupid Evil.
  • Domestic Abuser: The villainess Mother Night is a truly terrible human being... but read the stories where she and the Skull were an item, and cringe. It was one of the most hideously abusive relationships in comics; the Skull beat her savagely, yelled and screamed at her for no reason, humiliated her in front of his subordinates, and refused to let her kill herself (which she requested because she thought, if he was beating her so much, clearly she is failing him somehow) because "you'd like that, wouldn't you?", whereupon he promised to beat her some more.
  • Doom Troops: Generally speaking, his modern-day neo-Nazi troops tend to be this, typically wearing imposing, all-black uniforms vaguely patterned on the original (pre-1938) SS design. Some also sport face-concealing helmets, and even low-grade powered armor on occasion.
  • Doomed Hometown: Munich, and more generally Germany itself, which had all its major cities burned down and destroyed by the Allies in World War II.
  • Doppelgänger: The Skull sometimes uses body doubles to confound his enemies. Made easier and more plausible by the fact that he's usually wearing a fully face-concealing mask, so it doesn't require plastic surgery or anything more exotic. Originally, this was invoked to explain discrepancies in his portrayal in older comics, but he has since used it several times as a legitimate on-screen tactic.
  • The Dragon: For Hitler during World War II.
    • Dragon-in-Chief: Especially in newer comics, where it's not "PC" to include Hitler anymore, the Skull takes the lead role.
  • The Dreaded: Just mentioning his name is a good way to end villain deals, and you'll have to look pretty damn hard if you want to find someone who would willingly work with him. He's not just feared- though he is greatly, greatly feared-; he is almost universally despised amongst both heroes and villains. Any character who actually likes him or what he stands for is likely either seriously delusional or an vile, hideous bastard themselves.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Supposedly, the young, poor Johann Schmidt dreamed of a man with a calm, deep voice who would show him his true purpose in the world. Years later, he came to remember the dream after he met Hitler.
  • Driven to Villainy: In the original version of his backstory, young Johann Schmidt never did anything seriously evil before he became Red Skull; his worst crime was stealing food when he was starving. However, he was brutally treated by nearly everyone else, and got No Sympathy from the law. The one group that gave him any help or respect as a human being was the Nazis, and hence he joined them and came to think of them as the good guys. It's strongly implied that if someone genuinely good had cared about him before that, he wouldn't have turned out the way he did. Even as Red Skull, he was initially unwilling to kill, though war and hatred has since desensitized him to it.
    • Needless to say, this doesn't apply at all to those versions where he was born a Card-Carrying Villain like a minor Antichrist.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: When Arnim Zola "improved" him with Super Serum, he went insane afterwards, denounced fascism in favor of anarchy and became an Axe Crazy megalomaniac (as in, even more than before). It took him some time to recover.
  • Dueling Messiahs: With Captain America, in stories that play up their ideological enmity. Both are champions of their respective ideologies: Captain America stands for an individualist liberalism that does not believe in hierarchy or discrimination on account of race, sex, nationality or creed, but does believe in democracy and moderate capitalism, whereas the Red Skull's Nazism is grounded in a collectivist, hierarchical, racist and "organic" view of the world that distrusts democracy and capitalism in favor of technocratic planning. Both are totally convinced that their ideological vision is the right one, not just for their own countries, but for all the world, and both fight the other's system to their last breath whenever given half an opportunity. Neither will rest until he has made the world safe for the true way, liberalism or Nazism, democracy or dictatorship.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: His ideal world varies between a violent Police State and a lawless, chaotic hellhole; in either case he believes that the strong should brutalize the weak, commits mass murder on a regular basis, and demands absolute power which he wants to use primarily to oppress and torture people, not simply power for its own sake. And he enjoys it, every minute of it.
    • The occasions he has had the Cosmic Cube have given him nigh-omnipotent power; he once used it to hold an apple in front of a starving crowd, just so he could deny them it! Oh, and shortly after, he ate it in front of a starving baby.
    • On the other hand, some versions are relatively nicer. In one early incarnation, he wanted to unite the world under an ultra-totalitarian Nazi government in order to stop Reed Richards from being useless and propel the Marvel Earth into the Space Opera setting which thanks to its Super Science it has every potential to be. Of course, he then intended to use the world-changing supertech to take over the galaxy and remake the Marvelverse into a sort of Imperium of Man, so he was still power-mad, but not as pointlessly sadistic, and certainly more of a visionary.
  • Eat the Rich: He hates the wealthy elites who run the world, both for ideological reasons (the Nazis despised plutocracy and "decadent" upper classes) and because he used to be poor and starving himself.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: For a Nazi fanatic, Waffen-SS, of course.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: When he occasionally makes use of supertech such as the Cosmic Cube.
  • Enemy Mine: In one story, he allied with Captain America against the Kübe Kult, a band of punkish modern neo-Nazis who had somehow obtained a Cosmic Cube. Made worse by the fact that the Cube was actually haunted by the insane ghost of a genetically-engineered psychic clone of Adolph Hitler, who planned to use its god-like powers to rewrite reality into a horrible, fetishistic mock-Nazi cyberpunk dystopia. Both Cap and the Skull agreed that they disliked this possible future more than each other.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Played with (and subject to considerable authorial flip-flopping). Though the Skull, being a Nazi, holds very politically incorrect views on the matter of race, he is also pragmatic about working with people from other backgrounds. For example, in the Civil Rights riots of the 1970s he cooperated with Black militants to bring down the US government, though this was a somewhat extreme case. More commonly, his top officers and agents are shown to include women, Chinese and other non-whites among their ranks, and he seems to hold no bias against them, so long as they agree with his fascist politics.
  • Establishing Character Moment: For the modern Skull, a scene in his original origin story, where the young Johann Schmidt has just been given his new identity. As a test, he is ordered to gun down an innocent man, a Nazi officer who has failed at some offscreen task. The Skull can't very well refuse outright, so he takes a third option and shoots the buttons off the man's jacket without harming him, arguing that this will teach him enough of a lesson, and killing him would be wasteful. The combination of badassery and pragmatism convinces his handler to pass him, and also essentially establishes the Skull's character for the rest of the series.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: No, not him. But most major villains of the Marvel Universe are too disgusted by the Skull to willingly work with him. It doesn't help his case that two of Marvel's heavy hitters, Doctor Doom and Magneto, are a half-Romani and a Jewish holocaust survivor, respectively. In a crossover, he mutually refuses to work with The Joker, not so much for ethical standards as "artistic" ones. The Joker glories in psychological torture and poetic death - he finds far more value in compelling a good man to kill a child, or an entire major American city to abandon basic hygiene, than he does mass (even millions-strong) graves full of indiscriminate victims. So to the Joker, Skull is a talentless hack, and to the Skull, Joker is a useless lunatic. Also, while the Joker might be a criminal lunatic, he's also an American criminal lunatic.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: He does not understand why a man like Captain America would associate himself with such inferior people as racial minorities and homosexuals.
  • Evil Colonialist: In some stories set before/during World War II, mainly when he attacks the fictional African region of Wankanda.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Cap, obviously. Actually, if you want to get technical, Cap is the Good Counterpart to him, because he was created to be the Skull's opposite number.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger takes this even further by having him be the original test subject for the Super Soldier Serum. He rivals Captain America not only ideologically, but physically as well.
  • Evil Genius: In so many words in the Marvel Handbook. The same goes on to call his brilliance comparable only to that of Napoleon. And that's merely his political and military acumen, before going into more comic-bookly territory...
  • Evil Gloating: Red Skull has had many opportunities to kill Captain America, especially every time that he has had the power of the Cosmic Cube. Each time he has allowed Captain America to live so that Skull could torment him with being helpless or attempt to bring Captain America to the dark side (all the while gloating), thus giving Captain America the opportunity to turn the tables on Red Skull (like knock the Cube out of his hand).
  • Evil Is Petty: However, this is initially averted in the Silver Age World War II period stories with the Skull being professional enough to hear about at least one scheme failing by shrugging and moving on to new business.
  • Evil Mentor: His was Hitler.
  • Evil Red Head: Back when he had his original body.
    • Technically now, too.
  • Evil Vegetarian: Though not dogmatic about it. Seemingly yet another way in which he imitates Hitler.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Skull has an ongoing on-and-off feud with Doctor Doom, and has bashed heads with Magneto more than once. (Most memorably in Captain America #367.)
  • Evil Virtues: Varies with the writing, but generally speaking, the Skull is portrayed as an Expy of Hitler, albeit usually an exaggerated one. He accordingly shares most of his "good" traits, such as resourcefulness, utter conviction, physical bravery and iron willpower.
  • Eviler Than Thou: When suffering from bad writing during The Dark Age of Comic Books. In one such story, he called himself the "God of Madness" and the "Beating Heart of Evil," among other similar self-styled titles, while competing with other villains over who was the most evil of all. Otherwise usually averted, since he sees himself and the Nazis as the good guys, and the heroes as evil.
  • Expansion Pack Past: Like with Captain America (and often in the same stories), writers often want to make up new World War II adventures for him.
  • The Extremist Was Right: An in-universe example. Many of the Skull's American allies are right-wingers or formerly respectable conservatives who would've crusaded (and, in the case of some longer-lived ones, did crusade) against the Nazis in World War II. However, with the state America is now in, many of them have come to feel that the Nazis actually had a point, so now they work with him. Of course, this is strictly from their point of view, which is very much a minority perspective; mainstream opinion still very clearly does not approve of his politics, or theirs.
  • Expy: In many stories, Red Skull functions as one for Hitler, sharing many of his character traits (either real or the pop-culture version of them, depending on how much research the writer has done). Baron Zemo also originally functioned as one for the Skull himself in the early Avengers comics, before Marvel decided to re-imagine him for their modern stories.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Invoked by Captain America, who proclaims to the Skull that he'll always fail in the end — because he, Cap, will never let him win.
  • Fair Play Villain: Sometimes, particularly in Silver Age stories. Usually averted, however, since, being an ideological fanatic, he is more concerned with achieving his goals than with playing games with the heroes for its own sake.
  • Family Values Villain: Stretching the definition, perhaps, but his views on sexual deviants might qualify him. As a conservative German who grew up in the early 20th century, it's probably unsurprising that he should be hostile to homosexuality and miscegenation. More radically, he also contemptuously dismisses Rogue as a "whore" because of her unmarried relationship with Magneto.
  • Fantastic Racism: His clone in Uncanny Avengers starts a campaign to wipe out mutants.
  • Fantastically Indifferent: Some authors write him as having very little self-control, but usually it requires something very unusual to unsettle him. Whether he is coolly wading through an ongoing battle or calmly and politely addressing a Physical God, he takes most situations in a stride, even when one would think them highly exotic or stressful.
  • Fatal Flaw: In older stories, roughly the same ones as most Silver Age supervillains: overconfidence, excessive wrath, etc. But his most fatal flaw is his adherence to Nazi ideology, which can sometimes overrule even his legendary Pragmatic Villainy. Hard as it might be to believe, some of his major schemes have actually failed because he wouldn't compromise on his principles.
  • The Fatalist: Like Hitler, he believes in hard predestination, i.e., everything has already been decided before time. Also like Hitler, however, he keeps fighting to the bitter end, regardless of what fate appears to have decreed.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: An Ironic Hell which forced him to re-live his horrible life before he met Hitler over and over, only taken Up to Eleven in a nightmarish modern urban setting.
    • Later took revenge on Cap by doing something similar to him, and forcing him to relive his traumatic war memories.
  • Female Misogynist: Sin, who thinks Sharon Carter, of all people, is despicably weak and feminine. Her thoughts when Sharon is grieving over her fiancé's death:
    Sin feels no empathy at all for Carter's anguish and loss. She despises her as a weakling who sucks up sympathy from gullible men. She is glad to be the agent of even more pain for her.
  • Females Are More Innocent: Generally, the Skull does not believe this to be the case. Whether he is any nicer to women than to men varies with the writing; generally he's at least prepared to hit back without compunctions when a female is shooting at him.
    • Also averted entirely with Sin, who is essentially psychotic in many/most appearances.
  • Fictional Political Party: Did what no real-life politician for the last 200 or so years has managed and created a viable American third party, the right-wing populist Third Wing Party. Possibly inspired by the real (though tiny) paleocon Third Position Party, which has since mutated into the right-wing (and even tinier) American Freedom Party.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: He and his remaining Nazi expatriates, who no longer have one. A few times they have even tried to liberate Latveria from the rule of Doctor Doom to make it a homeland for dispossessed fascists.
  • First Time in the Sun: A dramatic example when he attended a big Nazi rally soon after he joined them. For the first time in his life, he was part of something bigger and working together with others for something better. And as he stood in the massed ranks and listened to Hitler's speech with the others, the sun shone down on them. Though of course, the whole thing is a rather eerie subversion of the trope, as the reader knows it's a bad movement he's joined.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: Nazi born in the early 1900s, now in the 21st century. Depending on which version, after "dying" in World War II, he was in suspended animations into the 1960s, the 1980s or just recently, giving him varying degrees of drastic change to cope with. In general, he likes the scientific progress, but hates the social changes; effectively, from his point of view the future suffers badly from the Low Culture, High Tech syndrome.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: A villainous example. At the end of World War II, when it was becoming apparent that Germany would lose, the Skull sequestered equipment and funds and helped a number of devoted young Nazi officers escape the downfall, so they could keep the Nazi cause alive and fight another day.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • Aside from his father trying to drown him, the night he met Hitler he claims he was contemplating suicide, and may have gone through with it had he not been granted the opportunity.
    • While it isn't mentioned very often, the Communist Red Skull killed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents John and Mary Parker, otherwise known as the father and mother of Spider-Man. If he hadn't, Peter would not have had to live with his Aunt and Uncle Ben and possibly would have never become a superhero.
    • The original Red Skull supposedly received a report on the early Magneto when he was a prisoner of the Nazis, noting his apparently supernatural abilities (then much weaker than in later times). He took it seriously enough to have the matter investigated further, but for various reasons failed to act on it. If he had, the power dynamics of the Marvel mutant community (and of supervillains more generally) would look noticeably different.
  • For Your Own Good: He believes the masses are incapable of self-government, and any attempt at democracy will simply lead to behind-the-scenes rule by wealthy oligarchs. Thus they must be governed firmly by a "good" dictator, who can keep the monied powers in check.
  • Freudian Excuse: Like much else with the Skull, whether he has one varies, as Depending on the Writer.
    • The original origin story was essentially a somewhat exaggerated version of Adolf Hitler's real-life biography before World War I. It showed the young Johann Schmidt as a struggling orphan who worked menial jobs and sometimes committed crimes against property to survive; other authors (for example, Mark Waid) elaborated on this. In this version, Schmidt suffered abuse from the police and other criminals, but was not himself violent or insane; however, his experiences gave him a very bleak view of the world, and engendered massive resentment on his part against the system. He joined the Nazis because he genuinely thought they'd make Germany and the world a better place, and not least because Hitler was the first person ever to believe in him and treat him as a man of worth.
    • Meanwhile, some later writers apparently thought this made him too sympathetic, and wrote different versions where he was born Axe Crazy and a lunatic Serial Killer long before he met Hitler.
  • Friendless Background: He never had a friend before he met Hitler.
  • Friendship Moment: He and his daughter do not always get along without friction, and their relationship varies with the writer, but in at least some stories they are shown to genuinely care about each other. For example, in one oddly touching scene in Captain America: Reborn where the Skull suffers from cyborg depression, she comforts him in a very uncharacteristically gentle manner; later in the same story, she appears sincerely worried when he is ill. The Skull is nicer to her than in some other incarnations, too, finally giving her some paternal approval and respect as he gets better.
  • From Bad to Worse: As of Uncanny Avengers, the Red Skull now has Psychic powers at the same level as Xavier.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: From poor orphan and school-leaver to second in command of Nazi Europe.
  • Frontline General: Some of his World War II adventures have shades of this. Justified, in that the Red Skull persona (much like his fellow Super Soldier Cap's public presentation, with his eccentric costume and style) was largely an exercise in propaganda, and part of his image was leading from the front. It probably doesn't hurt that he's actually very good at small-unit leadership and tactics, either, though he might be even more useful in other ways behind his desk.
  • The Gadfly: He is sufficiently insightful to draw out many heroes' (and villains') core beliefs, proceeding to identify and point out the flaws, inconsistencies and hypocrisies in them with disconcerting perceptiveness and clarity. Notably, in one story arc he very effectively deconstructs Magneto's Noble Demon image, exposing him as the violent supervillain he really(?) is. (Whether he was being entirely fair to the Master of Magnetism or not, Magneto's reaction shows that his snark certainly hit rather Close to Home.)
  • Gadgeteer Genius: What superintelligent villain with military background would not be expected to be able to jury-rig atomic piles, reprogram rockets and figure out how that braggart Doom's weird devices work?
  • Galactic Conqueror: One of his motives for his villainy is to bring about mankind's expansion to the stars, and so ensure the survival of his species for the millennia to come. (Both by securing new resources for man and by pre-emptively destroying the expansionist aliens who often attack the Marvelverse Earth.) In an Alternate Universe where he succeeded in unifying the planet under his rule, he made the Marvel humans start using their comic-book supertech intelligently, and now governs an emergent interstellar empire.
  • Genius Bruiser: Genius who has worked very hard at becoming a bruiser.
  • Genocide Backfire: The Allies tried to kill all the leading fascists and Nazis who wouldn't cooperate with them after World War II to ensure their ideology wouldn't survive, but Red Skull and some of his most trusted followers escaped.
    • Later fell victim to this himself, when Magneto went after him.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Though like some versions of the stereotype, sometimes hampered by Complexity Addiction.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The Nazis ain't exactly kids' stuff, and yet the Skull got to appear in Mini Marvels.
  • Ghostapo: In Fear Itself he had a group of Nazi occultists perform the dark ritual that ultimately led to the events of that story in an effort to turn the tide of the war. Unfortunately for him, it worked- 65 years later. He had a couple of other experiences with the dark arts later on, but you can see why he prefers Mad Science to get results.
  • Glory Days: In general, his years of service to the formal Nazi state while it existed. Perhaps especially much the early years of World War II, when both Nazi Germany and he, personally, were at their peak power and prestige. It seemed as though the war would soon be won, with the Nazi dream victorious and a glorious future secured, as Germany and Europe were being rebuilt under the Fuehrer's benevolent guidance. Of course, things turned out rather differently. Now, Nazi Germany is long since gone, his admired mentor is dead, and the Skull's own position (in spite of his power and wealth) is a shadow of what it once was.
  • Goal in Life: Depending on the in-universe period, several. None of them is small, exactly.
    • Before and during World War II, to serve the Nazi dream and give Germany security and victory.
    • After the war, to rebuild Nazi Germany, greater and better than before, on a global scale, in order to vindicate his mentor's memory and bring about utopia for humanity.
    • Once this is done, to take Man to the stars and inaugurate a bold new future of endless promise and expansion, far beyond any terrestrial limits.
    • ... And as a side order, to get even with Captain America and friends.
  • A God Am I: Has had tendencies of this, especially with his incarnation in Captain America: The First Avenger.
    • In the comics, Red Skull will make a A God Am I speech pretty much every time he gains possession of the Cosmic Cube, which is like half of all his appearances in the comics.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: Played with in an interesting way. The Skull believes liberalism is moribund, since its degeneracy and permissiveness are really just the last dying stages of a terminally decadent culture. Thus, what is called social progress nowadays (increased third-world immigration, anti-racism, public homosexuality, etc) is actually regression towards the prehistorical state of non-culture. True progress, meanwhile, is represented by a "scientific" worldview: namely, authoritarian technocracy, of which Nazism is a subset.
  • Good Old Ways: Inconsistently portrayed, but the Skull often speaks and acts in slightly archaic ways. Sometimes he'll even lament how civility and culture have fallen by the wayside in this decadent age. Justified, for a man who's pushing a hundred.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Works both for him and his enemies. Americans, of course, view Nazi Germany as an evil empire note  and their own republic as good; Red Skull, on the other hand, like Hitler considers the dictatorial Nazi style of government a sort of "Germanic democracy", and rails against ruthless "American Imperialism" carried out under a mere window-dressing of democratic values.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Very, very evil, especially given that half the time he isn't actually smoking, because the cigarette actually contains his Dust of Death poison that he'll use on unsuspecting victims.
  • Gone Horribly Right: He was Hitler's attempt to show that he could create the ultimate Nazi Ubermensch. He was such a success that even Hitler started becoming scared of him.
  • Grand Theft Me: He's taken over Captain America's body twice: once in the 1960's, and once more recently. He also spent some time sharing a body with his rival Aleksander Lukin, and in a spare robot body belonging to his underling, Arnim Zola.
  • Gratuitous German: Almost mandatory for a Nazi villain; in some older works, combined with Funetik Aksent. Has gradually become less badly spelled over the years. Some versions, however, notably when written by De Matteis, use outright fake and invented German words.
  • Grew a Spine: As a boy and young man, he was robbed, bullied, kicked around and generally abused by the local criminals, the Communists, the police and everybody. And submitted meekly to it all because of learned helplessness. By contrast, as Red Skull he will either laugh off any slight as harmlessly pathetic or, if it hits Too Close To Home, exact terrible revenge on the responsible parties.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Against the Marvelverse mutants.
  • The Gunslinger: Red Skull is a marksman with many weapons, though it's his ability with pistols that stands out. Established all the way back in his original origin story in the 1960s.
  • Had To Be Sharp: He first survived growing up alone in the streets in a country suffering political and economic meltdown. Then he survived World War II, on the losing side. Then he survived spending decades on the run, hunted by the victor powers as War Criminal Number One. As he explains to an adversary, in terms that evoke Nolan's Bane, his opponent may be a skilled and well-trained fighter, but his whole life has been little but struggle, making fighting its very essence.
  • Hand Cannon: His heavy, customized Luger-like pistols, which depending on the story can be either traditional semi-automatics or more fantastic weapons like futuristic lasers.
  • Hanging Judge: In an Alternate Universe where he was military governor of the occupied United States, he sentenced young technician Peter Parker to death by public hanging for his espionage activities on behalf of the nationalist underground.
    • In another Bad Future, he sentenced and executed the Avengers, seemingly in an Ironic Echo of the Nuremberg Trials, where the top Nazis were sentenced and hanged by the Allies after World War II.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: According to the Skull, in a story from the 1980's, his brutal training regime organized by Hitler lasted... weeks. Not years. Not months. Weeks. He went from a bellhop nobody to the most dangerous and competent man in the Reich in weeks, despite having next to no formal education, being a human punching bag on the streets, and having worked nothing but the most menial jobs in between scraping by as a beggar and a thief (a bad one- again, his own words). He says he was thirty too, which would mean he literally just never learned anything until then, but subsequent materials say he was in his late teens, which is a bit of an improvement.
    • Of course, the same story has him remembering both of his parents, including their faces and behaviour, despite both of them being dead before he was a day old, as well as what it was like to be pulled out of the womb- he says he has an amazing memory. These days, that's largely ignored. His superhuman powers of remembrance either completely justifies his amazing out-of-the-blue ability to learn anything, or suggests he was being less than honest about it.
    • The Marvel Handbook writes that his initial training period lasted "months" rather than weeks, and even when it was done he wasn't immediately given huge power. He met Hitler in 1933 (or 1934, depending on the story), so by the time he faces Captain America in 1941, he's had some years of on-the-job training and promotions. It's still an unusually rapid rise through the ranks, but not quite as meteoric as the 1980s story suggested.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: Some of both. Human society requires order and control to function; at the same time, Man is not and can never be above Nature. The best solution is to attempt to alleviate nature's cruelty through the power of the State, but without ever forgetting the fundamental rules of existence.
  • Hate Sink: Designed to be this from the start. In Universe, the Red Skull is without question one of the most reviled, despised, detested, and flat out hated villains in the entire Marvel Universe, loathed by both heroes and villains alike. Put simply, when monsters like the Joker and even Carnage want nothing to do with you, you know you're a vile, irredeemable piece of trash.
  • Hates Being Touched: Reacts with profound discomfort even to a friendly touch; sometimes he may strike out in reflexive anger. Presumably connected to his traumatic life experiences, as in real life this is a fairly typical symptom of PTSD and related syndromes.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: This is how the Skull views himself, and all of Nazism: They may have done some Bad Things, but only because they tried to stop the much more villainous international bankers and global Communists who are destroying the world, and got desperate enough to copy some of their methods. Incidentally, this is also pretty much what the real-life Nazis said to justify themselves.
  • Heartbroken Badass: A platonic example, since his great love was Nazi Germany.
  • A Hero to His Hometown: Like Hitler himself, Red Skull used to be a Villain with Good Publicity in the fascist countries, and many/most Germans seem to have viewed him as a heroic defender against American imperialism and the Bolshevik hordes. (Whether he deserved any of it depends heavily on the writing.) Not so much nowadays, when there are even modern German liberals who hunt him because they hate the racialism and German nationalism he symbolizes.
  • Hero Killer: The man who killed Captain America. Enough said.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Towards Hitler, massively. In all his secret lairs, expect to find plenty of portraits of the Fuehrer.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: What to do when a raging mutant cuts off your gun hand and leaves it to his Flying Brick friend to pulp you? Whip out a fantastic Luger in your other hand and take them down at point blanc!
  • Heroic Resolve: Or, well, villainous, but he certainly has willpower. Has experienced situations (buried under tons of rubble, trapped underwater, captured and tortured for long periods...) which would leave any normal person a ruined wreck, and not only survived, but kept going. He simply refuses to die until his work is finished.
  • Hidden Depths: The guy you might first think is just a gimmicky Nazi thug is actually a sophisticated thinker and surprisingly artistically minded soul. Doesn't make him any less of a Nazi, though.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Not the Skull himself, who is fictional, but Hitler and other real Nazis sometimes get this in the stories where he features. Depending on the writer, Hitler can be made either a raving Card-Carrying Villain or things far darker still. In real life, well, Hitler obviously isn't considered a nice guy, but few historians believe he spent his dinners bragging about how evil he was.
    • Also averted in some stories, where Hitler is portrayed as reasonable and nice, to his friends, at least. Needless to say, for a modern reader, this can easily be much scarier than older-comic Hitler who rants about being the most evil man of all time.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: After coming Back from the Dead with the "perfect Aryan" face of his rival, Captain America, his first major scheme ended with him being disfigured with an actual "red skull" for a face after he inhaled his own "dust of death" while trying to kill Cap.
  • Hope Bringer: The darkest example imaginable. He brings hope to the persecuted and marginalized fascists and Nazis of the Marvelverse, and inspires them to continue the struggle against the overwhelming might of liberalism and democracy.
  • Hopeless War: The Skull's struggle against liberalism. He believes he's still fighting for the Nazi ideals and keeping Hitler's dream alive, but the world only gets more liberal with each passing year. It seems nothing he does ultimately matters. Sometimes it causes him to despair.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Has terrified much more superhuman enemies like Kang the Conqueror and Korvac, and even Doctor Doom on occasion.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: Though not all the way. He hates the Dirty Commies, naturally enough, but has more respect for them than for the sanctimonious, hypocritical, totally dysfunctional and reality-denying liberals who run the irredeemably corrupt Western usurocratic and pluto-democratic system.
  • Hot-Blooded: He wants to be cold and calculating, and can sometimes pull off a convincing impression of it, but the mask soon slips. In everything he does, he is actually extremely passionate.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: The Skull himself, obviously, from powerful politician and general in a minor superpower to terrorist leader. Also his beloved Germany, or at least as he sees things: from Hitler's mighty Reich of power, truth and justice to the gutted ruin of today, infested with immigrants, liberals and homosexuals. In at least one story he even explicitly invokes the trope.
    Red Skull: How far my proud homeland has fallen.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Briefly became either this or a Physical God when he internalized the god-like powers of the Cosmic Cube.
  • Humans Are Bastards: After living out his childhood in the streets of chaotic interwar Germany, the Skull was already convinced of this. World War II with its massive war crimes and atrocities on all sides really hammered home the point.
  • Hyper Awareness: In varying degrees, at least in some stories. In one, he demonstrates superior battlefield awareness to Captain America. Generally speaking, it's difficult to catch him off guard.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: Hires Dr. Faustus to do it to Sharon Carter, so she'll kill Captain America for him.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: Most of his people, at least the ones working directly for him, are hardcore fascists who follow him out of genuine loyalty, often quite fanatical such. While often portrayed as a Bad Boss, he can also display admirable loyalty and even kindness toward loyal subordinates.
    • "Kindness" is a bit much, but there's certainly some mutual affection and respect between the Skull and at least some of his henchmen.
  • I Know Karate: Red Skull is a master of martial arts (and has specifically been mentioned to know several styles of karate). He still loses many of his unarmed battles, but that's because his opponent is frequently Captain America.
  • I Should Have Been Better: If he had been, maybe he would have been able to defeat Captain America and save fascist Europe. So now he pushes himself twice as hard to be the best of all.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Though the mask makes them look red.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: As a young officer fresh out of training, his Nazi masters decide to test his devotion by ordering him to gun down a man in cold blood. The Skull, who apparently still has some moral scruples at this point, refuses, but does it in a creative way that impresses them with his coldness (and shooting abilities) while still leaving the man alive and unharmed.
  • Ignored Epiphany: After being locked in that shelter for days (see Kick the Son of a Bitch below), starving and alone in the dark, he finally resigned himself to his fate and for the first -and only- time in his life, he felt remorse for his life of villainy and privately conceded that he deserved this fate. He was rescued shortly after, regained his will to live after seeing Captain America and remembering how much he hated him... and after telling Cap as much, began ranting about how he would get revenge on Magneto for putting him in there (though, tellingly, he didn't put much effort into that particular scheme).
  • Ignored Expert: If Hitler had listened to his own strategic advice instead of that of the generals, Germany would've won the war. Or so he says.
  • Impossible Thief: Has acquired a number of quite incredibly well-guarded treasures from the US Government, HYDRA and various other parties over the years. Sometimes in person, and sometimes he merely hires the right man for the job.
    • Later had it happen to himself, when a rival group of villains stole his Cosmic Cube from his super-secure base.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Back when he was fresh out of training in the early 1930s, he shot the buttons off a man's jacket easily and single-handedly. His aim hasn't gotten any worse since.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Thought his daughter Synthia would be this, because "All women are too weak." Whether he had a point in doubting her abilities varies with the writing, though he is often portrayed as having been wrong; also, he did come to view her increasingly favorably as she got the chance to prove herself to him.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Emphatically not in the conventional sense. But in a much more disturbing sense, true. Like Heinrich Himmler's ideal Waffen-SS soldiers, Red Skull is personally incorruptible: he leads a Spartan life, spends his spare time in training and study to become an even better Nazi, is Not Distracted by the Sexy and doesn't care about money, fame or the fact that most of the world hates him. His one desire and purpose in life is to serve the Nazi ideal and bring about the perfect world Hitler dreamed of, and in his own way he's totally unselfish about it.
  • Innocence Lost: In his backstory. Thanks to his background, he was convinced from a very early age that the world isn't a nice place. However, in most versions he wasn't himself prepared to kill or hurt people; in at least one he was initially unwilling to kill even after he became the Red Skull. His descent into overt villainy was gradual, going from propery crimes in his youth (when older criminals exploited him as a pickpocket and burglar) to violence for the "greater good" in the service of Nazism, and the experience of total war shattered most of what few illusions he still had.
  • The Inquisitor General: His role in the Nazi war effort when he wasn't doing hands-on intelligence work. As Hitler's personal representative and plenipotentiary, he was a sort of roving inspector-general for the whole German security-military-industrial complex.
  • Inspirational Insult: Has been on the receiving end of it a few times (from Hitler; he wouldn't tolerate them from anyone else), and can also dish them out quite liberally when training minions or trading barbs with allies.
  • It Gets Easier: In one elaboration on his backstory, he failed to shoot an enemy during one of his early assignments for the Nazis because, despite everything, he still couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger. After the war, he doesn't have this problem any more.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: Varies with the writing, and perhaps also with the Skull's moods. Generally speaking, he believes "the West" can still be "saved" and reformed — by adopting National Socialism, of course. In some stories, however, he hates the System, the corrupt politicos and the sheeple who never raise a word of protest bad enough that he just wants to watch it all crash and burn.
  • It's All About Me: Skull really couldn't care less about anyone that isn't him.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: And not just if you're the chosen one of good ... Arguably, Red Skull has suffered even more tragic and traumatic events than his Good Counterpart Cap, which is no mean feat; see other entries on this page. It's rather harder to feel sorry for him, though, since he also inflicts them on others.
  • Jerk Jock: An extreme example when he went insane after his mind was moved into a clone of Captain America. See below.
  • Jerkass: The Skull is a terrorist, mass murderer and would-be world conqueror; but quite apart from that, he is a jerk in the little things too. He bullies his subordinates, was violently and sadistically abusive to his girlfriend, and once sank into a depression that he got out of when Crossbones cheered him up by reminding him of all the evil things he had done in his life.
  • Joker Immunity: Unlike the Joker, it's infuriating, considering what he is.
  • Just the First Citizen: After World War II, the Nazi underground forces generally viewed him as Hitler's legitimate successor, and he assumed largely dictatorial authority over them. However, he never claimed any particularly grand or grandiose titles; his followers usually addressed him as "Excellency" (the appropriate style for a high-ranking civil servant in older German), or even just "Herr Skull."
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Magneto once kidnapped the Skull and locked him in an abandoned fallout shelter, telling him that death would be too good for him and that he wanted the Skull to wish that Magneto had killed him after the coming ordeal. The shelter was completely empty except for some jugs of water, which Magneto advised the Skull to conserve, and had no light source. So for weeks, the Skull was locked in a dark room with concrete walls, slowly starving to death. He raged, pounded on the walls, tried in vain to reach the exit high above him, sobbed, and eventually began hallucinating. By the time he was found by Crossbones, Mother Night, and Machinesmith, he was utterly broken and wished to die. (And even then, he didn't learn a thing; the first thing he said when he was able to was an oath of revenge against Magneto.)
  • Knight of Cerebus: Can function as this when guest-starring in comics or adaptations outside the regular Captain America titles. Sometimes in them, too, for that matter, since as an ideological fanatic and ruthless political terrorist who (at least in his post-Silver Age appearances) tends to be deadly serious both in his plans and their execution, he makes for a considerable change of pace compared to some of the goofier regular villains. Add that he's pretty much the most Politically Incorrect Villain in his setting (what with being a totally unrepentant Nazi bitter-ender and all), and it's rather to be expected that his stories usually come in darker tones than is otherwise the norm.
  • Lack of Empathy: THE biggest example in the Marvel Universe.
  • Large Ham: Hugo Weaving clearly had fun playing him in Captain America: The First Avenger.
    • After stealing Xavier's psychic powers, Skull could simply make people do things without a word. But where is the fun in that?
  • Last of His Kind: One of the very few original Nazi leaders who still survive, and possibly the only one who still keeps the flame of the ideology burning. In one comic, he reminisces about the old days when he and the Fuehrer dreamed together of remaking the future. Then, back to the present:
    Red Skull: But now, he is dead! Only the Red Skull still remains to fulfill the Nazi dream!
  • Latex Perfection: To the point that he can convincingly wear another mask over his Skull mask, in some stories. (Mainly older ones.)
  • The Leader: Mainly the first and fourth type, though he has shades of all. At least some writers seem to deliberately base his style of leadership on that of the real-life Hitler, which was also a lot like this.
  • Legacy Character: There have been four Red Skulls. Technically, Johan Schmidt is actually the second; the original Red Skull was a Nazi spy who was retconned into being one of Schmidt's agents. The third was a Dirty Communist, and the fourth is the Skull's own daughter.
    • It's actually rather complicated in publishing terms, since the first three versions were originally intended to be the same character, and only a series of Retcon stories have created the distinctions between them.
  • Lethally Stupid: Sin, throughout the Brubaker Captain America run. Almost everything that goes wrong with the Skull's plans in this period is due to her gleefully juggling the Villain Ball and the Idiot Ball, and she causes a lot of unrelated havoc besides. Arguably, this arc justifies everything bad he's been saying about her.
  • Light Is Not Good: Averted with the Skull himself, who looks properly like a villain with his skull mask. But in at least some versions of his backstory, it's played straight to disturbing effect with the Nazis when he joins them. With their smart uniforms, rallies, patriotic songs and general spirit of optimism and hope in a chaotic and depressing Germany, they come across as sympathetic and attractive — certainly to young Johann Schmidt, but to some extent to the readers, too. The point is to show some bit of why real-life Germans voted Nazi, and it works disturbingly well with good writing.
  • Living Legend: Already during World War II, when he was a famous and highly decorated Nazi general, but more so in later decades. In-story, he has become the archetypical image of Nazism in much the same way as Captain America has become that of liberalism.
  • Lonely at the Top: Invoked in some stories, including ones where his world-conquest plans are successful. The Skull rules supreme and imposes his Nazi vision on the world ... but his personal life is still empty. All of his old friends from World War II are still dead, and he can't seem to make any new ones. Devotion to his ideals is all that keeps him going.
  • Loners Are Freaks: In his original backstory, young Johann Schmidt was not crazy, but very much awkward, unsociable and deeply unhappy. Some rewrites take this Up to Eleven, by making him literally Axe Crazy as well.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Was this once, has since worked very hard not to stay this way.
  • Mad Scientist: More like mad engineer, and even this is pushing it for most interpretations. But even if he doesn't do much mad science himself, Red Skull is an enthusiast for science and technology who often sponsors bona fide mad scientists like Arnim Zola. In an Alternate Universe where the Nazis survived World War II and he succeeded Hitler as Fuehrer, Doctor Doom was one of his science advisors.
  • Made of Iron: Due to supreme willpower. He suffers damage like an ordinary Badass Normal, but can cope exceedingly well with even highly debilitating pain. Once, when he had his hand cut off, he was able to continue directing a battle within seconds, even as he had the wound bandaged.
  • Magnetic Hero: We would rather say, charismatic villain, but his team dynamic works like this. The other members of his Multinational Team are all strong, powerful and often arrogant figures who would like to lead their own show, but all submit to the Skull and agree that his leadership is the force that united them originally and keeps them together. His dismayingly persuasive oratory has been shown to be very effective in converting friendly-leaning neutrals, as well.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Sometimes played straight, sometimes played with. See elsewhere on this page for one recent example.
  • Makes Us Even: He has saved Captain America's life a couple of times — Not for any altruistic reason, of course, but out of necessity. Cap has also saved his. Neither of them likes being beholden to the other the littlest bit, so this usually follows in short order.
  • The Man Behind the Man: He has been revealed to be the secret leader, founder, and/or financer of many evil organizations, including the Watchdogs, the Power Brokers, Scourge of the Underworld, the Resistants, and for a while, U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M.. (The Flag-Smasher, who founded them, regained control and executed any member loyal to the Skull.) While the Skull cares little for their goals and motives, each group benefits him in some way.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: In some appearances, though usually when he seeks to influence others who might be impressed by such displays. Privately, he's still intellectual, but rather more frugal and unaffected.
  • Manchurian Agent: Brubaker's Red Skull makes heavy use of these.
  • Master of All: At least some versions of the Skull are written like a sort of villainous Batman, and even those that aren't are generally very competent and competitive in widely ranging fields. Typically, he is portrayed as everything from martial arts master and dead shot to brilliant military strategist, and from super-spy and master of disguise to economics expert capable of massive currency manipulations. He also speaks several languages, plays the piano, and can quote more history, philosophy and various obscure lore from one field or another in the sciences and humanities than many of the setting's immortals have amassed.
    • Justified, to whatever extent it can be, in that he is both a supergenius with Photographic Memory, and a fanatical Knight Templar who spends almost all the time he isn't engaged in villainous schemes training and studying to improve himself as much as possible.
  • Master of Disguise: The list of people he's successfully impersonated to run his schemes must be a yard long at this point. And that's not counting the times he's just used other folks' bodies.
    • Notably, in one story he manages to get himself appointed Secretary of Defense of the United States, under the alias Dell Rusk. Not only does this require extreme disguise and cover mastery to pass the background checks, but building up the cover identity to the point where he's not merely not suspected, but considered competent, suitable and sufficiently well-connected for this office ... Well, let's just say it's a bigger espionage coup than anything anyone has managed in real life, and leave it at that.note 
  • Master Poisoner: As part of his spy/assassin tradecraft. His trademark is the "dust of death" poison described elsewhere on this page, but he's been shown to use various other substances over the years, always to good effect.
  • Master Race: Played straight in varying degrees. Like the real Hitler, he believes the white (and especially, the Nordic) race(s) superior, but can also sometimes admire other cultures (usually East Asian ones). He has also been shown many times to work well together with people from diverse backgrounds, including non-whites, so either he isn't totally fanatic about it, or serious Pragmatic Villainy is in play.
  • Master Swordsman: Not something he gets to show off often, since, well, on a modern battlefield, swords just aren't all that practical. But on the few occasions where he wields one, he's deadly.
  • Mega Corp.: The Kronas Corporation, which got big and powerful enough to buy out Roxxon Oil and become a serious power in the American economy.
  • Men Are Better Than Women: For a European man born in the years before World War I, this is hardly avoidable. His general views on women are old-fashioned at best, and some depictions make him a rampant misogynist. But he's also been shown to respect and admire capable and competent women like Sharon Carter.
  • Might Makes Right: An interesting treatment, arguably a subversion for a villain. The Skull believes this is how the world works, but he doesn't think it's right in the moral sense that it has to.
  • Mildly Military: Strictly speaking, Red Skull is part of State Sec (i.e., the SS) and the Nazi Party rather than the German military proper. How military he is varies a lot with the writing; some versions wear impeccable uniforms, show at least some trappings of chivalry and behave like any competent and ruthless Nazi general would, while others are written as party hacks, lunatics or just generic supervillains.
  • Military Superhero: A villainous example, as befits Captain America's evil counterpart.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: On a bad day.
  • Misery Builds Character: Invoked by the Skull (who has one of the most depressing backgrounds of comics characters, himself) when he raised his daughter. Since he's always Had To Be Sharp, he holds any expression of "weakness" in deepest contempt, and believed she would need a very tough upbringing in order to develop to her full potential and (perhaps) become a worthy successor to him, should he die before his work is finished. Depending on the writer, she either hates him for this, is grateful for it, or both.
    • He applies the same philosophy to himself, too, and lives frugally and pushes himself to the very limit in all kinds of Training from Hell in order to realize his own full potential, sorely needed just to stay alive with most of the world's most powerful people his sworn enemies. So at least, he's not being hypocritical about it.
  • Mole in Charge: In one story, he tried to take over the US by launching a third-party populist candidature for the Presidency. In another, he actually became the US Secretary of Defense under a false identity.
  • Mook Horror Show: After inhabiting the Captain America clone, he liked to indulge in "training sessions" that were basically this. He would hire five mooks from Taskmaster, have them dress like Captain America, and fight them. They thought it was just a sparring match. He was out to kill them. When they started to realize this, you really felt sorry for them.
    Mook Number Four: N-no— wait a minute, Mister! The boss said all you wanted was sparring partners! He didn't say nothin' about—
    Red Skull: About killing you? Strictly an oversight on his part, I assure you! (decapitates him with his replica shield)
  • Moral Guardians: Funds the Watchdogs, an American militia of fundamentalists and superpatriots who crusade against "indecency, immorality, and sexual perversion" in all their manifold expressions. Also personally expresses contempt for promiscuous women, homosexuals, miscegenationists and others he considers sexually immoral. Justified, in that he was born early in the 20th century and retains the morality of the good, old times.
  • Moral Myopia: Generally he cares very little about people outside his moral in-group, the exact composition of which, however, varies with the writing. In some portrayals he looks down even on East European peoples like Poles, while in others he considers them exemplary Aryans and respects the Chinese and Japanese, too. (The two racial groups he pretty much consistently despises are Jews and black Africans.) His standards aren't purely racial, either; for example, he views even white bums, hooligans and welfare queens as distinctly inferior people.
  • Motive Decay: While Nazism is the Skull's main defining character trait, just as devotion to liberalism and democracy is Captain America's, sometimes he's written simply as a generic Evil Overlord without ideology or beliefs. Notably, in the late 80s he was usually portrayed as a textbook Straw Nihilist, supposedly because he'd suddenly come to think that fascism was old-fashioned. In this particular case, though, there were external factors involved, and the Skull in question was actually a clone on Psycho Serum, so at least there's some excuse.
  • Muggle Power: Like many X-Men villains, the Skull considers the superhuman mutants of the Marvel world an existential threat to humanity's survival. Naturally, his solution is to strike back first...
  • Multinational Team: The Skull used to lead one of elite agents from different (mostly Axis) countries who had banded together to fight for fascism against capitalism and Communism. (After World War II, they remained fascist bitter-enders and became known as the Exiles.) Known members include:
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Caused mainly by multiple retcons over the years:
    • The original background story by Stan Lee, somewhat based on the historical Hitler's real background, had him as a poor orphan, menial worker and sometime thief without family of friends, a miserable loner who failed at everything he tried and grew ever more angry with both himself and the system. This version was totally despondent and plodded along in life from day to day, until one day (and quite by chance) he met Hitler, who recognized his potential and invited him into the Nazi hierarchy.
    • Later writers then largely adhered to this story, but put in various embellishments. For example, when J. M. De Matteis retold the Skull's origin story, he added a lot of Darker and Edgier material to the effect that he was really a psychotic Serial Killer long before he met Hitler.
    • Then there is the recent miniseries by Greg Pak, which changes the story around a lot by making the young Johann Schmidt a member of the Communist underground and a hired killer.
  • Murder, Inc.: The 1950s (i.e., Commie-Nazi) Red Skull formed a crime syndicate which was explicitly intended to be a bigger and better version of Murder, Inc., running murder, terror, sabotage and subversion in America "for the Reds."
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Varies with the writing. In many stories, he wants to "save" Germany, and often even America, from miscegenation and political correctness because from his twisted perspective, he apparently genuinely cares about the people (no matter how crazy he thinks their politics are, or even how much they hate him personally). On the other hand, some versions hate the corrupt system and the Gullible Lemmings who enable it so much that they just want to burn it all down.
    • And some writers just make him a generic villain who is evil for the money.
  • My Death Is Only The Beginning: So the Red Onslaught may rise, the Red Skull must die!
  • Nature Is Not Nice: The natural conclusion to be drawn from an evolutionary view of the world. All life is struggle, between individuals to some degree, but more importantly between races and species, and wimps don't become top dogs. That's why war between humans and mutants is inevitable, for example. Whether he likes this view of nature varies with the writing; some versions glory in it, some lament it, and some are philosophically Stoic about it.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: HYDRA is one by itself, but comprises only one of several similar organizations (and countless smaller crime syndicates, terrorist groups, rogue states, militias, etc) which together constitute Red Skull's underground network. How much of it he actively runs varies over time (and with the writing), but he's certainly well-connected in these circles.
  • Necessarily Evil: Those versions where he recognizes his deeds are evil (and doesn't glory in the fact).
  • Nerves of Steel: When your hand is cut off by a rampaging mutant, do you a) scream with pain for minutes and bleed to death, or b) scream with pain briefly, then apply a torniquet and continue barking orders to your followers?
  • Never Be Hurt Again: Part of the reason he joined the Nazis. When at his nicest, he doesn't just want revenge on the corrupt institutions — though he wants that, too — but seriously believes that Nazism will make life better for everyone, so others won't have to suffer like he did under the oppression of capitalism and democracy. At other times, he's written as a power-hungry Control Freak who was so deeply scarred by his experiences of helplessness, chaos and poverty that he just wants order, safety and control at any price.
  • Never Live It Down: In one period, roughly coinciding with the"Dark Age" of comics, an insane clone of the Skull renounced Nazism in favor of faux nihilism and generic egotistic and sadistic villainy. Out of universe, this was apparently because Marvel's editors felt Nazism was too risqué for comics — Which is sort of ironic given the decidedly family-unfriendly plots of this time, and how they compare to the dastardly schemes of the devotedly Nazi but otherwise rather PG-rated Silver Age Red Skull. The Skull has since recovered, and carried on with the fanatical Nazism he has demonstrated over most of his career, but to this day many (both fans and in-universe) still think he's just a narcissistic nihilist because of this.
  • New Era Speech: Several, for example to the Kronas security forces in the Death of Captain America story.
  • New Technology Is Evil: Played with. For example, he has an immense contempt for television, but not because it's bad as such; in fact, he was amazed with it when it was new. The reason he hates it is his disappointment with the way people are using this fantastic technology: namely, to broadcast garbage and make the Apathetic Citizens even more apathetic, instead of trying to enlighten the masses.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Subverted; he sometimes rails at the unfeminine women of today and lectures on how they ought to know their place, but the women he's shown to admire and be attracted to frequently tend to be Action Girls like Sharon Carter.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Sometimes, depending on the writing.
  • No Social Skills: Had none in his youth, when he was both uncultured and painfully shy. Has since worked hard to avert this, and by sheer effort seems to have obtained a significant degree of success.
  • No Swastikas: Usually averted in the comics, but the movie played it straight; instead of a Nazi, their Skull was made an operative of HYDRA.
  • Non-Action Guy: As a boy, he was too weak to defend himself from the older, stronger criminals who preyed on him, and instead learned to flee and hide when he could and endure when he couldn't. After he joined the Nazis, worked very hard to avert this so he'd never be weak and vulnerable again, and is now one of Marvel's premier villainous Badass Normals.
  • Not Like Other Girls: Sharon Carter, as he sees it. He has interacted with her enough, in various settings, to recognize that she's intelligent, capable and brave, which most women aren't, and appears honestly impressed, even admiring her in some stories.
  • Not So Different: A subtle example when he sometimes rails at Captain America for being an unrealistic dreamer with his mind trapped in the past. This from the guy who keeps ranting about Hitler's great vision and trying to rebuild Nazi Germany in the 2010s...
  • Not So Well-Intentioned Extremist: Of the second type. Believes himself to be a real Well-Intentioned Extremist ... But the great purpose he's fighting for is National Socialism, also known as Nazism.
  • Number Two: To Hitler, before he became Number One after the war.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Justified as the Skull is not only having access to hidden Nazi caches, but also frequently running organizations like HYDRA and various factions of AIM from whom he takes resources.
  • Older Than They Look: Depending on which version of the backstory you go by, he was born either in 1889 or 1914, so either way he's over a hundred by now. Various species of technobabble keep him in shape — much as is also the case with his roughly equivalently old archnemesis, Cap. However, even in a perfect twentyish body, he feels very alienated from the modern world, with all its decadence and insanity.
  • One-Man Army: Doesn't show it off very often, since as a high-ranking officer he rarely does the super-agent stuff himself anymore. But when he does, it's time for the Mook SHIELD agents (and etc) to be very afraid.
  • One-Winged Angel: When Magneto kills the second Red Skull, Onslaught is reborn due to the Skull possessing Charles Xavier's brain.
  • Only Sane Man: Thinks he is this (or nearly, at any rate) as a survivor of better times in an age of universal madness.
  • Opposed Mentors: The Sentinel of Liberty miniseries gives Franklin Roosevelt an expanded role as a mentor of sorts, and certainly inspiration, for Captain America. The Skull's mentor and everlasting inspiration, of course, is Hitler.
  • Order Reborn: A villainous example. The Exiles were essentially the reconstituted Waffen-SS.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Ultimately, order. The Skull creates chaos in order to bring down what he sees as corrupt, plutocratic America, but this chaos is only a means towards the end of a new, better and more orderly society. Subordinates who cannot grasp this (such as Viper) are shown to the door in short order.
  • Our Founder: In an Alternate Universe where he ruled America, he replaced the Statue of Liberty with an even larger statue of Hitler.
  • Parental Substitute: Pretends to be a loving father figure to Kobik the Cosmic Cube girl while teaching her that Hydra is the best thing since sliced bread.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Willing to die for Fascist Europe, and leads a Multinational Team of fascists and Nazis fighting for their countries against the Allies.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: And make sure it's paid with interest, too.
  • The Philosopher: Often alludes to various philosophers the real-life Nazis liked, like Spengler and Nietzsche. Surprisingly, and amusingly, the Disney-villainous Silver Age version often does it better than many more pretentious modern writers manage.
  • Photographic Memory: Whether it is truly eidetic or not, his memory is extraordinary; for example, he has been shown to recall conversations verbatim decades after they took place. This is yet another way he mirrors the real-life Hitler, who often embarrassed his minions by quoting their own words from months or years previously back at them when they failed to adhere to them.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Aside from the fact that he's a friggin' Nazi, he's also pretty sexist, though he has expressed a certain level of respect for certain supervillainesses like Madame Hydra, and Syn when she grew up. Doesn't make up for his treatment of Mother Night, though, which was outright and frequent physical abuse, and he loved every minute of it too.
    • This is surprisingly averted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The prequel comic to the first Captain America movie establishes that the Skull finds Hitler's racism to be stupid, as he believes Ubermensches can only be created by the Super Serum, and would likely be a new race unto themselves. Thus, he dismisses the idea that blonde, blue-eyed Europeans are genetically superior to everyone else as quackery.
    • The comics Skull also denied the Holocaust, and seemed to actually believe it when he said it was all just lies and frame-up.
  • The Power of Friendship: Arguably, darkly subverted. When the Cosmic Cube caught the Skull in a nightmarish mind prison, it was his devotion to Hitler that finally brought him back to real life.
  • Pragmatic Hero: The way he views himself, when not written as a Card-Carrying Villain.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He has one standard: pragmatism — if you are killing people and breaking things on his dime, you'd better have something to show for it besides craters (even if it's just that he now owns those craters and they're full of gold or something). He notably kicked Viper out for wasting his money and resources on acts of terrorism with no strategic benefit, violence for its own sake.
  • President Evil: In those continuities where he succeeded Hitler as ruler of Nazi Germany, or otherwise acquired a position of formal political power.
  • Private Military Contractors: Kane-Meyer Security, which tangentially becomes a Government Conspiracy when Senator Wright, the would-be President Evil, persuades the administration to hire them for maintaining order in the wake of a Depression-related nationwide squall of riots and disorders. They're actually a neo-fascist legion trained and bankrolled by the Skull.
  • Professional Killer: The original (i.e., Golden Age) Red Skull is introduced as one, a German spy and assassin. The more familiar Skull also has shades of it, as a former intelligence operative with experience in wetwork and black operations.
  • Psycho Prototype: In both Captain America (1990) and Captain America: The First Avenger, he is the first test subject for the Super Serum that eventually creates Captain America.
  • Psychic Powers: He now has this ability after using Xavier's brain in Uncanny Avengers.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Type C with some Type B traits. Very few of his goals are pragmatic like those of an evil politician or a Corrupt Corporate Executive should be, profit for him is a means to doing more evil, not an end. From a certain point of view, since the moment he met the Führer, the Skull never grew up.
    • Which is even more chilling when one sees how well it matches his below-quoted Real Life counterparts from the Reich.
  • Punished for Sympathy: In one story, when he was still a fresh Nazi (long before he became anyone powerful) he felt sorry for a Communist girl who was being harassed by Nazi militiamen. They noticed, and beat him up for it.
    • In a more recent story, he tried to help a homeless dog as a child, for which he was punished by the manager of the orphanage he lived at.
  • Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": While he is usually a serious and often pretty angry villain, when he is doing what he loves- outplaying his enemies, screwing over his minions and allies, Cold-Blooded Torture, mass murder- he'll at least be sporting a good Slasher Smile, and on occasion laugh like a maniac when he is doing something really evil.
  • Racial Remnant: The Exiles, a Skull-led enterprise of unrepentant survivors of the Waffen-SS who secretly moved to an uncharted island to raise families and uphold a Nazi society in miniature.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: His men used to be immaculate Waffen-SS commandos, but since most of them are now long dead (and comics editors want more toy-friendly supervillains) those who remain are more like this.
  • Raised by Orcs: Well, raised by Nazis (but only in Captain America (1990)).
  • Rare Guns: His personal Lugers. These weapons were common in the Nazi era, but aren't nowadays, since they haven't been manufactured for a number of decades by now. Some also appear to have been extensively modded and customized from the way they're drawn, though this may be due to artistic limitations rather than something done intentionally.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Surprisingly, averted; when the Skull is called upon to kill a man as part of his training as a Nazi agent, he manages to avoid it, in a way that still establishes respect for him with his handlers. However, he does believe that a man should be prepared, not just to die, but to kill for his country in times of war.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Although none of his creators, Joe Simon and France Herron, could have known in early 1941, and they imagined him as a purely fictional and cartoonish incarnation of evil, the Skull's espionage exploits match those of both SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich and his close colleague SS-Brigadeführer Walther Schellenberg, while his cruelty, sadism, ruthlessness and physical appearance match the lesser known SS-Oberführer Oskar Dirlewanger. It can be said the reality of the Reich surpassed the imagination of Marvel Comics writers.
  • Realpolitik: Like Hitler, the Skull has clearly set ideological goals in mind (roughly the sames ones as Hitler's, though usually more grandiose), but can be very flexible about how to best serve those long-view goals in the short term. He has entered alliances with various unexpected partners over the years, from White Power militias to Arab terrorists — Not because he necessarily endorses or approves of them, but because they share the same common enemies in the Globalist banker conspiracy.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Many, of varying sophistication, usually addressed to Captain America. The generally recurring theme is that Cap's liberal ideals are either empirically wrong, flat-out evil, or both.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Subverted. He is actually a quite extreme "law and order" advocate who wants his ideal utopia to be strictly regular and regulated, with "a place for everyone and everyone in his place" — including himself. However, his hatred and contempt for what he sees as decadent, permissive and deeply immoral present-day democratic society sometimes makes him act like this: he deliberately flaunts "modern" social conventions, for example by acting extremely "politically incorrectly," not because he is rebellious by temperament, but because he despises this society and takes pleasure in shocking its sensibilities.
  • Recurring Dreams: Of his traumatic failures, which continue to haunt him.
    • When he was exiled to an Ironic Hell where he was stripped of his conscious memories, recurring dreams of Hitler and his struggle for the Nazi vision remained with him, and eventually brought back his full personality.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Almost; he wasn't quite in the literal gutter when Hitler recruited him (though he came from there), but his station was still very lowly.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Especially when wearing a black SS uniform, or even a black suit when in civvies. Probably deliberately symbolic, as it fits with the Skull being Captain America's antithesis: Red, white and black are the traditional colors of Germany, and also of Nazism's swastika banner, just as red, white and blue are those of America. So, like Cap, he is sort of wearing his flag, only a little less obviously.
  • Red Baron: His real name is Johann Schmidt, but it's very rarely that anyone calls him anything other than the Red Skull.
  • Red Scare: Played straight with the Communist Skull in the 1950s. However, most versions (but especially the original, Golden Age one) rather represent the anti-Nazi "Brown Scare" mentioned on the page, which by 1941 had the US up in arms about supposed Nazi spies, saboteurs and fifth columnists. The Skull and his various henchmen led various fantastic schemes to subvert America, frequently aided by disloyal German-Americans; and indeed, the comic encouraged the children who read it to report suspicious activities to the authorities.
  • The Remnant: Leads the hard core of fascist diehards who, in the Marvel universe, refused to surrender when Germany was destroyed. To them, the war never ended.
  • Renaissance Man: Historian, musician, martial artist, strategist, occultist, engineer, art-lover, master rhetorician...
  • Repressive but Efficient: His idea of utopia, at least on a good day. A high-tech, ultra-totalitarian civilization patterned on Nazi Germany, free of deviants and inferior races. Interestingly, one early comic suggested that he wanted to unify the world in order to end wars and use humanity's pooled resources to colonize space, thereby securing infinite Lebensraum for the race.
  • Retro Universe: The Alternate Universe where the Skull took over, a high-tech dictatorship where it's reasonably nice to live if you fit in, but not if you don't. For example, there are maglev trains and flat screen TV, but people still wear hats.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Skull isn't one himself, but sometimes sponsors them because they share many of the same goals and ideals. For example, he bankrolled the Watchdogs, a Christian conservative militia who attacked pornography and immorality.
  • Risking The King: As a senior officer, Red Skull should ideally be far way from the battlefield, but is somewhat often found leading the operations he has planned in a very hands-on fashion. Obviously this is a dramatic conceit, but it may also be justified in many cases. Post-war, he simply might not have all that many men to spare on short notice, if his neo-fascist cells have recently taken a major beating, and during the war he might be fighting as a propaganda stunt, or possibly because the mission requires a Super Soldier of his caliber, even if this also means risking a high-ranking staff officer.
  • The Rival: In some stories, has traits of this with Cap. A straighter example would be fellow Nazi supervillain Baron Zemo. They are similar in many ways, including wearing face-concealing red masks, but while the Skull is a Self-Made Man and villainous Working-Class Hero from the humblest of backgrounds, Zemo is Doctor Heinrich Zemo, 12th Baron Zemo, a well-educated Gentleman and a Scholar from a long line of wealthy titled nobility. While they share the same national and ideological loyalties and aims, their differing backgrounds (and methods, to some degree) make them natural rivals: To the Skull, Zemo is a Sheltered Aristocrat who does not truly understand the world, while Zemo thinks the Skull still has far too much of his Lower-Class Lout origins in him. Consequently, each wants to show the other up and demonstrate himself the better. However, both are man enough to grudgingly respect the other's abilities and accomplishment.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When he got ahold (again!) of the Cosmic Cube back in the 1990s. This time, his first priority was revenge against America. In the nightmarish Bad Future which showed how it worked out, he made the US suffer everything the Allies did to Germany in World War II and starved the people, destroyed the cities, dynamited the monuments, put the military-age men in prison camps and had the superheroes executed like the Nazi leaders in the Nuremberg Trials.
  • Robot Master: While it isn't really his hat, the Skull has been shown occasionally to tinker with robots. For example, he once built an android replica of Bucky, and is said to have had a hand in the design of the original Sleepers.
  • Rogue Agent: In the movie and some other adaptations, where he leads the Renegade Splinter Faction HYDRA rather than the Nazis. Averted in the comics, where his loyalty to Nazism is his defining character trait, except (arguably) for a period in the 1980s, when he was acting out of character for both in-universe and out-of-universe reasons. Indeed, in the comics he sometimes fights renegade Nazis, who seek to usurp the Nazi dream of which he considers himself the protector.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Like the real-life Nazis, an odd mixture. Like the Nazis, he values order, appreciates modern technology and tends toward utilitarianism, but his ideals are largely nostalgic and "heroic" (in the Carlyle/Nietzsche sense, not as in "heroic" as opposed to "villainous").
  • Rousing Speech: As a fascist villain, Red Skull naturally delivers a number of villainous ones. A recent example is from Uncanny Avengers:
    Red Skull: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing! We will do something — right now! We will protect ourselves and take back our future!
  • Sadist: Surprisingly, usually averted, as Red Skull leans more toward ideologically motivated villainy and its coldly rational execution. However, some writers portray him like this, particularly when Darker and Edgier is in style.
    • Also seems to be Sin's default characterization.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the Skull was sent by Beyonder to a planet of humanoid aliens. In a couple of years, he somehow made himself dictator of one of its powerful nations and turned it into a carbon copy of Nazi Germany, making its citizens this.
  • Science Is Bad: Generally averted, as the Skull is not a true conservative or reactionary, but a Nazi, with the appropriate enthusiasm for science and technology as a means of improving human life. However, his views are sometimes ambivalent on specific technologies and lines of scientific inquiry.
  • Self-Made Man: Subverted a little, in that he owes his one chance in life to the Nazis, and specifically Hitler personally. However, this was precisely the one favor he got in life; everything else he has managed, including his meteoric rise from junior officer to Nazi oligarch, is due entirely to his own effort. He is equal parts proud of that and grateful to his mentor, whose encouragement and course in life (a Rags to Riches story vaguely similar to his own) inspired him to believe in himself and make the effort.
  • Shades of Conflict: The Skull has obviously never been portrayed as a good guy, but just how repulsively evil he is varies a lot between different depictions. At his "nicest" he's basically just a Nazi general who believes in his cause and is prepared to do whatever it takes to win the war. This version is fanatical and totally ruthless, but not personally sadistic or murderous. On the other hand, some versions are nothing but sadistic and murderous and believe in no principles or ideals, Nazi or otherwise.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: It doesn't come across in the most exaggeratedly crazy versions, but many of the Skull's depictions display a lot of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: vivid memories and nightmares of traumatic episodes, avoidance symptoms, sudden outbursts of irrational anger... Probably caused both by his horrible childhood and what he's been through since as a soldier.
  • Shining City: New York, in the Alternate Universe where it's his capital as Governor of America. It has lots of impressive Nazi monuments, architecture and high-tech conveniences, there's law and order, people dress like in the 1950s, and The Trains Run on Time.
  • Show Business: Ran a Hollywood studio in one story. Though you'd expect a Nazi to feel kind of weird in Hollywood ...
  • Shrinking Violet: Young, socially awkward Johann Schmidt. Not the Red Skull, however.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Between the hagiographic pro-Skull Nazi propaganda and the Allied hate propaganda against him, it's hard for in-story characters to sift out the truth about his career. (Much like with Hitler in real life.) Also applies meta-fictionally, with various writers giving him different backstories, motivations and general characteristics over the decades (and retconning each other), throwing considerable confusion over many aspects of what he's "really" like and has "really" done.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: Surprisingly, averted; when his wolfpack sink an Allied convoy, he orders the commodore to rescue the survivors. Possibly justified, since they might provide valuable intelligence.
  • Skull for a Head: Used to be a mask, now is a deformity.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: The Skull believes in fate, and, like Machiavelli, that one should try to work with it rather than against it. But if fate is wrong (as he sees it), he'll fight it every step of the way — Even if he knows it's hopeless.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Despite of (or maybe because of) his own poor background, Red Skull hates lower-class slobs almost as much as he does the wealthy elite. May be psychologically justified, in that he has worked very hard to better himself in spite of his humble origins, and is disgusted with people who won't even try.
  • Smug Snake: Generally averted with the Skull himself, as his villainy is on too grand a scale. Sin plays it very straight, however.
    Sin: Sorry, Sharon. Looks like you lose — Again ...
  • Social Climber: An interesting case, possibly even a subversion. Essentially, he is the darkest imaginable example of the Idealist type: he wants power in order to promote Hitler's Nazi vision as effectively as possible. To that end, he also engages in a fair amount of politicking and backstabbing, both in the pre-1945 Nazi hierarchy and later in other context, but he doesn't like it one bit, indeed thinking it sad he should have to resort to this among nominal allies.
    • Depending on the Writer. In some stories he's just a generic power-hungry villain who plays the trope totally straight.
  • The Social Darwinist: Either in boorish, brute-force terms or with relatively sophisticated philosophical justifications, depending on the story. Also averted or subverted in some versions, where he champions a more collectivist racialist ideology. Notably, in one comic he even called Social Darwinism "hogwash" in so many words.
  • The Social Expert: When he wants to be. His characterization would indicate that he doesn't like social niceties, and doesn't bother with them when there's no need, but he can be both very perceptive and even charming in social interactions when he makes the effort. Presumably this is something he has learned by painful effort since becoming a Nazi power player, as the young Johann Schmidt had absolutely No Social Skills and was portrayed as a borderline autist in some stories.
  • Society Is to Blame: A supervillain who might actually claim this and have a legitimate point, at least in most versions of his backstory. Young Johann Schmidt by all appearances wasn't particularly evil, much less psychotic; and as his subsequent career demonstrates, he's actually a highly intelligent, capable and often even idealistic man. If he had grown up with caring parents, or even just in a moderately functional society, he might have been a successful benevolent politician or academic, or, given that he inhabits a comics shared universe, perhaps even some kind of superhero. Unfortunately, he spent his childhood and youth as a persecuted orphan in the economically and politically dysfunctional Weimar Republic. It seemed to him that only the Nazis could bring back any semblance of order and prosperity to society, and they were also the only group who treated him, personally, with any sympathy or respect, so he joined them and, as Hitler's personal friend, became their most devoted follower.
    • Though Captain America defies the trope, with relation to the Skull's past, pointing out that while he's maybe had it tough, he is still responsible for his own choices.
    • Also obviously averted in the Darker and Edgier De Matteis rewrite, where the Skull was psychotic and murderous even as a baby.
  • The Sociopath: Definitely one.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: Interestingly, Red Skull comes across as more of a soldier to Captain America's warrior, with his military uniforms, regimentation and devotion to the state, as against Cap's colorful costume, individualism and devotion to the abstract ideal of liberty.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Varies between sophisticated eloquence and quite vulgar language, sometimes in the same comic. Probably accidental, but fits the character's background as a former Lower-Class Lout who has acquired his cultured sophistication as an adult: When he's thrown off balance, his old dockworker manners slip through.
  • Species Loyalty: For a Nazi, always.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The correct spelling of his name is "Johann Schmidt" (two letters n in the first name, a c between the s and h in the second, ending with a d followed by a t), both officially and according to all ordinary rules and standards of German orthography. For whatever reason, many people appear to find this extremely difficult to remember, including some official writers and proofreaders. Especially the variant "Johann Shmidt" (which looks quite ridiculous to native German-speakers) is fairly common.
  • The Spymaster: This was basically his job under the Third Reich.
  • Start of Darkness: The Red Skull miniseries by Greg Pak has shown most of how the Skull spent his childhood in Germany and how he began his path to ruthlessness.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: He was disappointed that his child was a daughter, because he desired a male heir who could carry on his crusade if he should die before he could complete it. But Synthia has proved herself enough by now to earn at least some grudging respect from him.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: He's not British, but otherwise he fits the stereotype to a tee, at least in many stories. In the most extreme depictions, he'll be shown casually smoking or having a drink in the middle of an active battlefield; even when not taken that far, he'll more often than not show himself remarkably cool under fire. Perhaps justified to some extent by his Hyper Awareness, which gives him a much better grasp of the situation than most combatants, and so should counteract stress.
  • Storming the Castle: On that occasion when he briefly allied with Cap and Sharon Carter, they stormed a heavily defended military complex in the Nevada desert while chasing the Cosmic Cube. It was guarded by a regiment of US Army troops, but of course, they had three armies attacking them...
  • Straight Edge Evil: The Skull lives a very temperate and austere private life, avoiding alcohol, frivolous sex and other similar vices. (Occasional smoking seems to be the one exception.) He also submits to a grueling regimen of studies and physical training to preserve and improve body and mind. Justified by his Social Darwinist philosophy that personal worth depends on ability: He must "be all he can be" or become unworthy of his station.
  • Strategy Versus Tactics: Presents an aversion of the regular stereotype that Germans are good at operations but bad at grand strategy. Red Skull is good at both grand-scale, long-term strategic planning and tactical improvisation, but weak on the intermediate level of operations; this is where most of his schemes tend to fail. Interestingly, this is also how military professionals tend to judge Hitler's conduct of World War II, though this is probably pure coincidence.
  • Straw Nihilist: Some depictions, big time.
  • Street Urchin: His childhood and youth.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: With Sin. They are both lightly built, of average height or slightly below, and redheads with piercing blue eyes and somewhat thin, attractive faces. Though given the medium, this varies somewhat with the portrayal.
  • Super Intelligence: Not outright stated, but pretty much a requirement for explaining how an ex-street urchin could pick up several foreign languages and learn how to design and program autonomous military drones in a few years' time.
  • Super Soldier: Basically, the Nazi version of Captain America. The original Red Skull has no overt superhuman powers (just Charles Atlas Super Power and Training from Hell), but some versions (including the movie adaptation) use something similar to Cap's Super Serum.
  • Superhero Trophy Shelf: Rather, super-villain trophy shelf, but otherwise it fits. When depicted, usually doubles as Continuity Porn by showcasing mementos from obscure adventures.
  • Superior Successor: To Hitler, arguably, certainly a worthy successor in any case.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Turns out the Skull financed the research into a lot of sci-fi technology in the 1940s.
  • Survivor Guilt: The original Skull "died" in Berlin in 1945, shortly before Hitler's death. Thanks to technobabble, it turned out he was merely left in suspended animation for two decades. In at least one comic, he curses fate which left him alive and let the Fuehrer die.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Averted; despite his tragic origin story, Captain America cuts him no slack. Presumably justified, given his villainy.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: He can relate to many of Captain America's troubles, since in at least some ways the two of them are Not So Different. Notably, both miss the good old days and feel out of place in the modern world.
  • Take Over the World: His goal, and in one alternate universe, he succeeds.
  • Taking Up the Mantle: He considers himself the executor of Hitler's legacy, who will fulfil the dead Fuehrer's dream.
  • Taking You with Me: Always.
  • Tautological Templar: The Skull is at least usually a Nazi true believer, who thinks democracy is evil and a front for Jewish Power, and Nazism the last best hope of humanity. In his own moral universe, he is fighting to save the world, and his hatred of Captain America and his other enemies comes in large part from his belief that he's trying to save them, too from the Capitalist-Bolshevik-Multicultural conspiracy. They ought to join him, but instead everyone hates him, even though he's only trying to do what's right. In some comics, he even views himself as a kind of martyr because of this.
  • The Teetotaler: Well, not quite, but almost. In his youth, depressed over the fate of Germany and his own failures, he would often get drunk to dull the pain. Since he sobered up, he never has anything stronger than an occasional glass of wine.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Averted; by now he's over a hundred, but like the real Hitler he remains a technology enthusiast and still keeps abreast of the latest tech.
  • Thicker Than Water: To an extent. He doesn't really go very easy on Sin, but then again, he doesn't on himself, either. He certainly puts up with more from her (both in the way of failure and insolence) than he would from pretty much anyone else.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Sometimes averted, sometimes played straight. As he's typically the leader of his operations, he often stays out of the fights, but when It's Personal (for example, often when facing Captain America) he'll make an exception.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: One of the most horrific examples in comic book history.
  • Token Trio: The main villains in the Brubaker run, with a little humor: An immigrant (the Skull), a lower-class white man (Crossbones) and a girl (Sin).
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The Red Skull's real name is Johann Schmidt, the German cognate of John Smith.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The heroic example of Hitler inspired young Johann Schmidt to get a grip on himself and make something out of his hitherto miserably failed life. He succeeded, and indeed, arguably surpassed his mentor, going from pathetic Lower-Class Lout to Renaissance Man with Charles Atlas Super Power.
  • Torture Technician: His hobby, apparently. At least on one occasion he even had his own Torture Cellar, which he said was for "recreation".
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The "nicest" interpretation of the Skull. One of his stated motivations for his villainy is a wish to unify the world, end wars, waste and inefficiency and instead use the freed-up resources to colonize space.
  • Tough Love: His treatment of Sin; some of it shades over into outright abusive territory. He has a sort of Freudian Excuse for it, since he's always Had To Be Sharp himself, and consequently resents "weakness" in all its forms. Also, he knows she'll be a target for everyone who hates him just by virtue of being his child, so better make sure she can defend herself if (or when) need be.
  • Tragic Villain: Usually averted, as he's written as too unsympathetic. Possibly qualifies in some comics, for example Captain America #14. There's never any question of him being anything but a Nazi, but his background is truly tragic. After a lifetime of loneliness and failure he met his one friend (Hitler), who helped him pull together and make something of his life. Then he came to believe in a cause, helped rebuild his country and became successful and respected. And then he lost everything again, and all he cared about was destroyed. Now his motivations are a mixture of trying to regain what he lost and taking revenge on the enemies who destroyed it.
    • Perhaps most notably tragic in Earth X, where Captain America essentially eulogizes him to his mind-controlling successor. But then, all Earth X villains but the Celestials are tragic.
  • Training from Hell: One Skull-centric story (originally in one of the last issues of Super-Villain Team-Up) depicts some of his ordinary, everyday routine in between the world-conquests. He rises early in the morning, begins the day with a tough run of calisthenics, gymnastics, target shooting and other training. When he's done, he turns to planning and studying. His thoughts: He must be tougher than all his myriad enemies, or else be found wanting by Nature.
    • Note that the training isn't sadistic or over-the-top, so much as simply mind-numbingly boring and exhausting and the equivalent of a full-time job in terms of time spent. Keeping up with the superheroes requires effort when you don't have the benefit of super-serums...
  • The Übermensch: Nazi-style, too.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted, and/or subverted. Like the real-life Nazis in World War II, Red Skull has only a fraction of the resources his enemies can bring to bear, which means he has to be a lot smarter and more audacious to keep up. Even so, with rare exceptions he still usually loses in the end.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Hitler and Nazism, at least most versions. He has devoted his entire life to avenging Hitler's death and making his dream of a reborn Nazism come true.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: He once claimed to have searched for years for the physician who pulled him out of the womb... so he could kill him for dragging him out of the darkness and into the light, and for saving him from his father's attempts to murder him.
  • The Unfettered: There are absolutely no limits in his evilness.
  • Unholy Matrimony: When he was with Mother Night. Though Skull was always abusive to her, even if she was completely loyal to him.
    • He also tried it briefly with Madame HYDRA/the Viper, but she turned out to be too crazy for him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The Skull's own version of his life story includes the claim that he remembers every detail of his birth, knows in-depth what his parents were like despite never really meeting them (he claimed to "feel the hatred" of his father for him - yes, when he was just born) and some other stuff like being thirty years old when he committed his first murder and met Hitler, despite subsequent versions portraying him as a teenager, not to mention his claim of having completed his Red Skull training in weeks, whilst simultaneously being an uneducated failure at everything in life up to that point. Obviously a lot of these changes are Retcon, but it actually makes sense that they are different because if you read between the lines, the Skull could be taken as just a blatant liar, trying to make his transformation sound more remarkable than it was.
    • There's also the point that the Skull who told this version of the story was ancient and rather obviously senile. When he first related his origins to Captain America some forty years earlier, the tale was very similar in outline, but notably free of all the extravagant and shocking details.
    • The recent miniseries Red Skull: Incarnate shows the actual truth to be different, but no less spectacular (Johann orchestrated his "chance" meeting with Hitler).
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: When he used the Cosmic Cube to crush Captain America and the other superheroes.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: Varies with the writing. The main motivation for his villainy in most stories is honoring Hitler (or after World War II, his memory) and furthering his great design, for the good of all (or at least the races that matter) but also to restore Hitler's good reputation. Whether he's also interested in power for himself for its own sake varies; he often is, as his experience of helplessness and societal chaos as a child has turned him into something of a Control Freak, but even so it usually appears a distinctly secondary consideration.
  • Villain by Default: Even when written at his "nicest" he's an obvious villain, simply by virtue of being a Nazi patriot and Hitler admirer. Sort of tragic, in the sense that nothing in his background (at least in the original version) necessarily predisposed him to supervillainy; if it had been some group other than the Nazis that turned out to care about his life and give him new hope and purpose as a young loner, he might've been a Batman- or Captain America-like figure himself.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: The Red Skull is really slippery when he is making his getaway, with escape routes carefully designed to discourage pursuit.
  • Villain Protagonist: In the old (and obscure) Super-Villain Team-Up comic, there were a few Skull-centric stories. Also in occasional one-shots and stray issues of Captain America.
  • Villain Respect: Most versions can respect and even admire the competence and determination of the more worthy among the heroes he fights, though disagreeing with their ideals. Especially Captain America.
  • Villain World: Some alternate universes show worlds where his schemes succeeded and he took over, one way or another. Usually they look a lot like Nazi Germany.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When he was locked up in a shelter by Magneto.
  • Villainous Crush: Only hinted at, but for a while he seemed to develop an attraction to Sharon Carter, Captain America's on-and-off girlfriend. It was a rather subtle thing, and more intellectual than physical, in that he admired her abilities and determination, as well as her belief in her ideals (however contrary to his own).
  • Villainous Friendship: With Hitler.
  • Villainous Valour: It's a major plot point in many stories that the Skull and his minions are a relatively small and hugely outnumbered band of fighters hunted by all the most powerful nations and superheroes of the world. So he needs to pick his fights very carefully in order to win them, and to be smarter than his enemies because he can't match them in brute strength.
    • A specific example is in the 1970s story arc where he was more or less out of funds altogether, and became essentially a lone-wolf terrorist — approximately something like a (more) villainous version of V in V for Vendetta. Even then he managed to put up a credible fight against Captain America, SHIELD and the US government.
  • Visionary Villain: Wishes to remake the world, and when given leeway by sufficiently fantastic technology, the universe. On the more down-to-earth level, he seeks to establish a Nazi world state, high-tech and orderly, with a place for everyone and everyone in his place (which, however, for some people means six feet under). When dreaming bigger, he aims for massive space colonization and outright techno-utopia.
  • Voice Changeling: It's specifically noted that as a Master of Disguise, he alters his voice (along with accent, body language, etc) to fit with the person he impersonates.
  • War Is Glorious: A complicated case, which overlaps with...
  • War Is Hell: His views on this are tortured and contradictory. Red Skull has seen total war, and knows it to be horrible; indeed, much of the darker side of his personality fits the long-term symptoms of combat fatigue quite well. He can (and does) crush more naive characters by recounting the horrors of it. However, in some ways he also appreciates it, for two main reasons. First, he is good at it, and takes a certain pride in that. Second, and more philosophically, he believes that, in spite of everything, war does sometimes show man at his finest as well as his worst: namely, in the readiness of the idealistic soldier to suffer, kill and die for causes greater than himself.
  • Watching Troy Burn: Berlin in the spring of 1945, besieged by the Soviets and firebombed by the Americans and British.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Usually by courtesy of Arnim Zola, and before him, AIM. One version even had his mind transplanted into a clone of Captain America.
  • We Can Rule Together: Not often, but on occasion. In one fairly recent story, Red Skull tried to persuade Captain America that they are really fighting for the same goals: to rid their countries of present-day corruption and decadence and restore their former glory. Specifically, he played on the fact that they both grew up before World War II, and so share a common viewpoint in seeing a lot things in America having changed for the worse since the 1940s. While Cap might think Nazism is bad, isn't it still better than the bankster capitalism and lunatic identity politics of the 2010s? It almost works — Though a lot of that is due to Skull cheating and using More Than Mind Control.
    • In another story, a Cosmic Cube-powered Skull tried it with Sharon Carter, implying that he wanted her by his side as he assumed the authority of God Emperor of the local galaxies. Perhaps not wholly unexpectedly, Sharon wasn't all that interested; and to his credit, in this case the Skull accepted that and showed no inclination to force her compliance, as he easily could have with the Cube's powers.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Not weak by human standards, but when compared to superheroes like Captain America. Thanks to Training from Hell and martial arts mastery, he can still credibly fight low-tier super types hand to hand (though he usually still loses to Cap when the odds are even).
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: The one person whose approval he cares about (and indeed, eagerly seeks) is Hitler. Even decades after World War II, the highest praise he can give for anything goes along the lines, "The Fuehrer himself would have been proud!"
  • Western Terrorists: Of course, the Skull and his men don't view themselves as this.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: In one story, the Skull is in worse straits than usual; it appears that all his efforts to bring about the rebirth of Nazism have finally failed, and now he's Dying Alone. As he suffers, he has vivid and exaggerated nightmares of various real and imagined traumas, but the major one is a stern ghost of Hitler expressing his disappointment in the Skull, who has betrayed his trust and failed him and the Nazi dream.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In some issues of Peter David's. 90's Incredible Hulk run, the Red Skull had formed an alliance of criminals called the New World Order in order to prevent infighting, perform negotiations, and foster cooperation. This group appeared in several Hulk issues and even tangled with X-Men villain Apocalypse! Of course, they haven't appeared or been mentioned since. Later Hulk stories made some vague mentions of the New World Order "collapsing," but we never saw how or why....
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Since the Skull's minions tend to be Nazis, they are among the few enemies it has always been OK for Captain America to kill in action, even back in the Silver Age when he generally adhered rather firmly to the Thou Shalt Not Kill rule otherwise. The Skull, of course, feels the same way about the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and assorted Red Shirts on Cap's side, though that is to be expected, given that he is the villain.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: As a Nazi inhabiting a comics/scifi universe, he puts his own species first. Aliens, mutants and other such creatures are Not Even Human to him.
  • What Would X Do?: What would the Fuehrer do?
  • Who's Laughing Now?: The much-abused street urchin became a legendary Nazi supervillain, and helped crush the corrupt capitalism and democracy that (he thinks) made things so horrible for his country in general and himself in particular after World War I. Especially true in the Nazi era, when both he and the movement he joined were powerful and respected.
  • Wicked Cultured: His theme tune is Chopin's Funeral March. He used to play it whenever he dosed someone with his Dust of Death poisoned gas.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Played with. Generally speaking, he will lie as part of a disguise, or sometimes to misdirect enemies while executing a plan, but not face-to-face concerning important personal matters.
  • William Telling: Done occasionally to demonstrate both his coolness under fire and his marksmanship. One variation (in a surprisingly serious context, not at all played for laughs) occurs in his Silver Age origin story.
  • Working-Class Hero: An extreme villainous example.
  • World's Best Warrior: More like Always Second Best (to Cap, usually), but certainly in the top tier. Of course, this applies to their vaguely human-like weight class only; he doesn't stand much chance against the bigger Marvel powerhouses in a fair fight, unless he has access to special equipment.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Tried to kill Bucky, Captain America's Kid Sidekick, in several stories. The Ultimate Marvel version literally kills babies.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Depending on the Writer, he either admires "strong women" or despises them. Either way, he's not inhibited in fighting them on equal terms.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Once, long ago. Averted by the time of World War II, when all sides indiscriminately bombed and killed civilians. In one really old comic he is explicitly said to have killed "thousands" when he attacked New York with a stolen American superweapon, matching a moderate-sized bombing raid.
  • Written by the Winners: Naturally thinks this is true of all "Western" history. Also, a hilarious meta-example, since Red Skull himself is written by writers who despise everything he stands for, and write him accordingly.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Either played straight or very darkly subverted, depending on your point of view. The young Johann Schmidt was a miserable loner who had failed at everything he tried and felt completely worthless, to the point of considering suicide. But then he met Hitler, who saw in him a "man of worth" and persuaded him that the new Germany he was building needed men like him. It was the great turning point of his life.
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea: A villainous example. Paraphrasing his dialogue, as long as he and others like him keep fighting, the flame of Nazism will shine in the darkness of democracy, and not be extinguished, no matter how many of them the US forces kill.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: His futuristic Nazi utopia in the alternate history where the Nazis survived and he succeeded Hitler. Justified, since the Nazis were environmentalists, and airships pollute much less than conventional aircraft. Also, they're only used for regular transports where speed isn't essential; for urgent business they use scramjet airliners.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ComicBook/RedSkull