Red Floating Guy
Johann Schmidt is the former head of HYDRA, the special weapons division of the Nazi Schutzstaffel and a modern-day incarnation of the ancient society. Having become a confidant of Adolf Hitler during World War II, Schmidt gained ambitions to become the superior man, leading him to test the version of Abraham Erskine's Super Soldier Serum on himself, resulting with him becoming hideously disfigured as well as gaining the name of Red Skull. While he led HYDRA, Red Skull had found the Tesseract which he had believed could help him to control the world. However, Red Skull's plans were challenged by the Allies' only super soldier, Captain America, who destroyed the HYDRA facilities. Once Red Skull had launched his offensive, intending to bring the United States down onto its knees, he was intercepted by Captain America and then vanished into a wormhole as he touched the Tesseract with his bare hands.
Red Skull was teleported to Vormir, where he became trapped in a state of purgatory, becoming the Stonekeeper, a wraith advising whoever sought the Soul Stone. After seven decades on Vormir, Red Skull met Thanos and Gamora, as they sought the Soul Stone. Red Skull led them to it and disappeared after Thanos sacrificed Gamora as he claimed his prize. As Thanos had obtained the stone, Red Skull's curse was broken, and he was free to leave Vormir and pursue his own goals once more. However, once Black Widow and Hawkeye had both traveled from 2023 to 2014 in order to take the Soul Stone from Vormir, they created an alternate timeline. Red Skull witnessed Black Widow sacrifice herself to obtain the Stone for Hawkeye, only for Captain America to then return it following their successful mission, which trapped that version of Red Skull on Vormir.
Obsession with Power
- "What if the old Norse tales Wagner adopts into his operas are more history than myth, Mein Führer?"
- ―Johann Schmidt to Adolf Hitler[src]
Johann Schmidt was born in North Germany as a smart, only child who had eventually became a physicist. Over the years, Schmidt became interested in Norse mythology, developing a theory that Norse Gods and their "Magic" could be more than myth. Upon meeting Adolf Hitler, Schmidt intrigued him with his theories, while Heinrich Himmler had recruited Schmidt to the Schutzstaffel. However, Schmidt's rise in power with Nazi Germany was stalled by Ernst Kaufmann, who then attempted to block Schmidt's access to Hitler. Unwilling to allow his new position to be challenged, in June 1934, as part of their Night of the Long Knives, Schmidt had then murdered Kaufmann as he managed to seize control over his weapons program.
Head of HYDRA
- "Herr Himmler shares my interest in the old ways. And the Schutzstaffel is more than happy to oblige."
- ―Johann Schmidt[src]
With Ernst Kaufmann dead, Schmidt continued slaughtering his enemies, attacking the facility in Kummersdorf, where he had recruited Arnim Zola. Eventually, Schmidt rose into the rank of Obergruppenführer, and formed his own branch of the SS, renaming it HYDRA. Schmidt had based HYDRA on an ancient society that worshiped a powerful Inhuman; this past belief being kindred to all Schmidt's theories. In September 1935, Schmidt learned that Abraham Erskine had attempted to flee Germany with his family. Wanting access to Erskine's work on the superior man, Schmidt imprisoned his family in a concentration camp, where they eventually died, which Schmidt did not tell Erskine.
World War II
Becoming the Red Skull
- "We know that the superior man will not be born, Professor Erskine. He will not be a member of any "master race". He will be a race unto himself. And you are going to help me make him."
"You work with Nazis even though you do not follow their ideology?"
- ―Johann Schmidt and Abraham Erskine[src]
In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thus starting World War II. As the war continued, Schmidt had actively participated in several German conquests, earning several high military decorations, including the Panzer Badge and the Iron Cross First Class, and Schmidt may have also suffered a wound during combat to merit him the Wound Badge which he would wear on his own SS uniform.
In 1940, Schmidt had learned that, at long last, the first, unstable version of Abraham Erskine's Super Soldier Serum was now finished, which Schmidt had desired for himself. However, despite Schmidt's orders and even the threat of execution, Erskine refused to hand it over to Schmidt. In the end, Schmidt took the Super Soldier Serum by force and had Erskine imprisoned before ordering that Erskine's own wife and children were sent into a concentration camp.
Having regained Erskine's serum as he had intended, Schmidt then traveled onto Castle Kaufmann in the Bavarian Alps, where Schmidt had injected himself with the serum in order to get superpowers. The serum was supposed to make him faster, stronger, and agiler, and Schmidt soon felt all the effects running through his body, as his muscles grew and his mind became clearer, as Schmidt finally became the superior man as he had always intended.
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