Red Skull embodies everything I cannot stand about Comic Books, the consistent and overwhelming flaws in continuity! How many times must he be left to die under rubble, (3 by my count) or have his brain transplanted(2) or lose an arm or be shot, before he will die and stay dead! While we could analyse his and the several, Captain Americas rocky relationship this post will focus instead upon why Red Skull is the villain that won’t stay dead and his relationships with other villains/heroes. This is twofold in reasoning one because Red Skull epitomises societies changing beliefs and scapegoats and also Captain America is my least favourite superhero and I really could not bear to focus on him (I know I know, personal bias but does anyone need to be that peppy about everything).
Red Skull's back story begins with him in Nazi Germany, trained by Hitler himself to become the master of terror and violence within the Third Reich. His back story has been extensively dealt with and his position as one of the architects of the Nazi terror on humanity established. However, unlike many villains he has been held accountable for his actions. This raises problems though how can a comic book character that never existed be held accountable for events that did in fact happen. He is held accountable for the Holocaust by Magneto, a real event that claimed the lives of millions, he is then further held accountable by Hauptmann Deutschland in a court room setting similar to those of the Concentration Camp Guards, again trials that did really happen. Does this question our own dealing with the past and our sense of justice? Through Red Skull a viable embodiment of the many Nazi murderers who never faced justice may be tried, allowing the foe to be rightly vanquished
In his encounter with Magneto characterised as a Holocaust survivor, Magneto's story is addressed in another blog post, he is defeated and left buried underground with only a small amount of water to survive. Hmmm. Is this a suggestion of placing justice into the survivor’s hands? Or is this a realisation of the greater belief that the perpetrators of the violence should still be held accountable to the same degree as their crimes? That prison isn’t enough? The interaction with Hauptmann Deutschland is perhaps easier to understand. Although Red Skull is brought to justice and due to be tried for his crimes he escapes. A perfect example of how so many Nazi’s were allowed to escape justice after the war and to this very day. America has a rocky past with its use of Nazi scientists in the Manhattan project and all the allies have faced criticism in their handling of War Criminals.
This is not the only time that Red Skull has to face the consequences of his Nazi past, he is even rebuked by villains within the Marvel Universe. Apparently Nazism is a step too far for some of the villains to stomach, Kingpin refuses to work with Red Skull when attempting to introduce a new drug, his disquiet based on his Nazi past and in addition he is in regular conflict with Doctor Doom again based on his political views. Although the later conflict is resolved over a death ray given to Doctor Doom by Red Skull which helps foster trust between the pair. It is clear though that Red Skull stands out among Marvel villains with his racial based hatred and attempts at world domination, his Nazi world view being a step too far for many of the villains to get on board with. Hating a Marvel hero is fine and supplying drugs again cool but being a Nazi is where the line is drawn in Comic Books. Good to know!
Whilst Red Skull may appear unchanged in all of his reincarnations, there are key differences, not in appearance but in thought. He may not change from being a red faced murderous Nazi but what does change is the groups that his hatred is manifested against. Instead of epitomising past racial tensions he perfectly portrays that society must always have a scapegoat and that this is ever changing, from a hatred of Jews under Nazism, that he is punished for by Magneto, to a hatred of immigrants when trying to take over the White House and then through to a hatred of mutants shown through his creation of a Concentration Camp on Genosha, Mutants personifying the ultimate other. It is clear that Red Skull is no longer a device used just to teach and embody the evilness of Nazism but rather has now come to embody the idea that intolerance of other groups is evil and wrong be these Jews, Immigrants, Mutants or any other group discriminated against in either the Comic Book Universe or Our Universe.