- Complete Monster: One of the most prolific examples in comic book history. Captain America may be the moral standard for the Marvel Universe, so it's fitting that his arch-enemy is considered the standard for pure evil.
- Dork Age: Sometime around the 1990s, the Skull openly denounced Nazism, supposedly because it was getting old-fashioned: In the future, he'd be a much more dynamic villain. In other words, the guy who had previously spent most of his adult life fighting fanatically for Hitler's dream suddenly and for little reason threw it all away, in order to indulge in pure, sadistic For the Evulz villainy. Later characterizations have since reverted to the Nazi Skull, though there's still considerable flip-flopping on whether he's primarily a Nazi Tautological Templar or merely a crazy sadist scumbag who likes Putting on the Reich.
- A recent miniseries by Greg Pak heavily rewrites the Skull's original origin story, which was substantially based on the real Hitler's early life, and attempts to establish him more firmly as The Sociopath, among other things showing him as a mass murderer and Knife Nut long before he became the Red Skull. Fan opinion is divided on whether this is a good thing.
- The comic book tie-in to the Captain America: First Avenger movie has the Hugo Weaving Red Skull state outright to Erskine that he thinks the Nazi's racial beliefs are ludicrous due to being based on equal parts superstition and bad science. He's only interested in the power the Third Reich has to offer him. Comic skull has commented that he doesn't believe in anything let alone Nazism. He just likes the feeling of power and pleasure he gets from hurting others. So he's a sadistic monster who just likes the uniform and flag.
- Executive Meddling: Mark Waid wrote a story narrated by the Skull, very much from the Tautological Templar perspective, in which the Skull self-identifies as an embattled and unappreciated defender of the future of the white race against the rising tide of color. It's very much Deliberate Values Dissonance, as the story quite blatantly showcases his Moral Myopia and paranoia, and meant to show how delusional he has to be to consider himself a hero. But somewhere along the way, the editors still got cold feet and ordered a full last-minute rewrite to remove the self-justifications and increase the cackling villainy, resulting in an utterly Anvilicious final product. See here for some elaboration. Eventually, the original version was published in a collected edition.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The original inspiration for the Skull? Joe Simon saw a hot fudge sundae shaped vaguely like a human torso. He'd originally planned a villain called Hot Fudge until he realized the cherry looked a lot like an exposed skull. So...
- Love to Hate: And how!
- Magnificent Bastard: Depending on the Writer. The version who appeared in Spider-Man: The Animated Series definitely belongs on the list.
"Do not despair Chameleon. The Red Skull anticipates everything."
- Misaimed Fandom: The Red Skull's unscripted populist speech against the GOP establishment and illegal immigration in a recent comic is going viral on the Internet, and seems to resonate with the alt-right/pro-Trump crowd, with some even claiming it makes him look more sympathetic than the heroes. Presumably, this very much wasn't intended.
Red Skull: Your entire culture is under siege. The principles your country was founded upon lost in the name of "tolerance." Your religion, your beliefs, your sense of community — all tossed aside like trash. And you cannot even speak out against it, lest you be called a bigot!
- Moral Event Horizon: As a young man when he murdered a teenage Jewish girl for rejecting his clumsy and creepy advances, even though otherwise she liked him and was willing to overlook it. He thought it was the best rush of his life and it served as a release for all the pent up anger and frustration he felt towards the world. One of the reasons he joined the Nazis was for more opportunities to have a rush like that, and it still serves as one of his prime motivations for his numerous crimes.
- However, this story was told by an old, viciously senile Skull, casting doubts on its accuracy. It has since been retconned out of existence. He did rob the girl's father's shop, however.
- Some people view just working with the Red Skull to be one of the lowest things one can do in the Marvel Universe.
- Nightmare Fuel:
- The simple fact that in the Marvel setting, there exists a Nazi underground powerful enough that it makes sense from a national security perspective to worry about it. Unlike in real life, right-wing politics not only aren't dead, they're running actual international terrorism on par with militant Islamic groups. And they're lead by a guy who, even though he wears a goofy mask, is for all intents and purposes a latter-day Hitler, with all that entails.
- Red Skull himself, when written well. Not so much because he's a terrorizing villain (though he is), but because he can sometimes show little bits of what made fascism and Nazism look attractive to non-villainous people. Message boards show the reaction of comic-book fans who read his propaganda lines on stuff like how unlimited immigration is bad and think, "Wait a minute, this makes sense" — Only to realize a moment later that they've been had, it's the FREAKIN' RED SKULL saying it. This is precisely how Hitler got into power: By sounding reasonable to many millions of German voters. That's infinitely more chilling than any stock villain rants or "killing" of minor characters.
- Strawman Has a Point: The less megalomaniac variants of the Skull occasionally produce heavy-handed but at least somewhat valid social criticisms of American life and institutions in their Breaking Lectures. Whether intentionally or accidentally would depend on where the writer fits in on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. Similarly depending, Captain America either shuts him up by beating him or reluctantly acknowledges the point, then beats him anyway.
- Tear Jerker:
Erica (Wakes up alone in the darkness after dreaming of Sin's life): No... This is all wrong, Erica... You're not who he says... It's a mistake... It's all a terrible mistake... And someone's going to come... They're going to come and save you...... They have to.
- Your mileage may vary, but at least some versions of the Skull's backstory (i.e., the ones where he's not born supernaturally evil like Damien the Antichrist) should qualify. Even the sometimes corny Silver Age version very effectively rammed home the misery of his childhood and youth in chaotic interwar Germany, to the point of Fridge Horror for some dialogue choices, as well as the point that he hadn't really done anything to deserve it. Like millions of others, he became a victim through no real fault of his own... And later, after he became the Red Skull, he worked very hard to ensure that he'd never be one again.
- It also works on another level, which makes it even sadder. As his subsequent career shows, he's actually an extremely talented and capable man, who rose meteorically once someone gave him even a single chance — even though he had basically no education at all at that point, he was able to more than make up for it. Also, at that point he wasn't psychotic, or even "evil" as most people would judge it; the worst thing he was shown doing was stealing food to survive. In fact, even as the Red Skull he would initially defy his Nazi masters when ordered to kill a man, and Take a Third Option instead. So he wasn't evil by inclination, and nothing about his villainy was preordained; he became a Nazi because everyone else treated him horribly and the Nazis were the only ones who didn't. If someone other than Hitler had noticed him, taken him in and taught him a gentler moral creed, he would probably have used his gifts for good instead.
- On another note, what happened to "Erica Holstein" (better known as Sin) when she was kidnapped by Crossbones. Depending on your interpretation, prior to this she was either brain-raped by SHIELD and forced to be someone she's not, or else cured of various undesirable disorders and traits and finally able to live a nice, normal life. In either case, Sin had become Erica, an innocent Nice Girl with no memories of ever being a supervillainess, who (from her POV) was now suddenly being tortured by a psycho trying to force her to become someone she's not, and something horrible at that — because Crossbones wanted Sin back, and did his best to Deprogram her. He succeeded, and was happy about the result, and so was Sin, obviously — but "Erica Holstein" basically died, after spending her last weeks alive tortured and scared to death. Made doubly worse by the fact that she could feel her sanity slipping/Sin resuming control in the final stages, even as she tried to be brave and stay herself.
- Unpopular Popular Character: In universe he's quite possibly the most hated character in the Marvel Universe; outside of it, he's widely considered to be among Marvel's greatest villains, if only for just how evil he is. Famously, in a Marvel/DC crossover, the JOKER refused to have anything to do with him.