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Red Skull

Red Skull is a Marvel Comics supervillain who is the principle enemy of Captain America.

He was born Johann Schmidt to a poor German family. His mother died in childbirth and his father blamed Johann for that and tried to murder him, only to be stopped by the attending doctor. The father later committed suicide and Johann was orphaned.

He grew up on the streets struggling to survive and his hatred of humanity grew with each day. A key episode was when he fell for a local girl, but when she spurned his clumsy advances, he murdered her. With that, his villainy grew still more.

In late teens during the rise of the Third Reich, Schmidt got his most prosperous job, a bellhop in a major hotel. There he served the rooms of Adolf Hitler himself. By chance, he was present when Hitler was furiously berating an officer and swore he could train a bellhop to be a better Nazi. Looking closely at the bellhop and sensing his dark inner nature, Hitler decided to take up the challenge and recruited Schmidt.

Dissatisfied with the standard drill instruction his subordinates used to train Schmidt, Hitler took over personally. Upon completion, Hitler gave a unique uniform with a grotesque red skull mask to Schmidt and he emerged as the Red Skull for the first time. His role was to play the role of the embodiment of Nazi intimidation, while Hitler could remain the popular leader of Germany. To that end, The Red Skull was appointed head of Nazi terrorist activites with an additional large role in external espionage and sabotage. To the end, he was spectacularly successful, wreaking havoc throughout Europe in the early stages of World War II. The propaganda effect was so great that the United States government decided to counter it by creating their own equivalent using the one recipient of the lost Project Rebirth, Steve Rogers, as Captain America.

The two counterparts soon clashed in what would be a series of engagements throughout the war, ending with a final battle that left the Skull buried under the rubble of a bombed building. Because he was immediately exposed to an experimental gas there, he remained in suspended animation for decades until rescued in modern times by the terrorist organization, Hydra. The Skull quickly subverted a cell to his own ambitions of world conquest and the death of Captain America.

Thus the two enemies resumed their war with Captain America, among other opponents, frustrating the Skull's schemes and not even when the Skull possessed the all powerful Cosmic Cube could he claim ultimate victory.

The first encounter of Captain America with the Red Skull wasn't with Johan Schmidt. He faced George Maxon, an American businessman and Nazi agent. George acted as the Red Skull in U.S.A while Johan was still in Europe. Pretending to be the real Red Skull, George acted as the head of a ring of spys and saboteurs. He faced Captain America during two of the latter's first missions. A formidable opponent in his own right, George was killed during the last encounter. His double's death attracted Johan's attention to Captain America. Throughout the rest of the War the Captain had to face the real thing. George is referred as Red Skull II in some sources.

With Johan's disappearance after 1945 the reputation of the Skull still was formidable enough to prove useful. In 1953 a Communist agent named Albert Malik set up his spy/criminal organization in Algeria and assumed the identity of the Red Skull pretending that he was the original. Actually he was serving Soviet interests. During the 1950s he faced the then active version of Captain America who was also using the identity of Steve Rogers, pretending to be the original. The two impersonators continued to battle each other throughout the decade. But while the Captain, refeared as Captain America IV in some sources, failed his mission and retired Albert continued his activities, over time cutting his links to the Soviet Union. He was among other things responsible for the deaths of Richard Parker and Mary Fitzpatrick-Parker, the parents of Peter Parker later known as Spider-Man.

When Johan later reappeared he and Albert, though his age was starting to catch up with him, started to antagonize each other while both claiming the identity of the Red Skull. Finally Albert was the victim of an assassination organized by Johan. Some sources refer to Albert as Red Skull II and others as Red Skull III depending on their counting of George Maxon or not.

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