ROGUE REPORT: Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull

by Ryan Rigley

With a TV series based on the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” organization currently in the works, it would appear as though we’re going to be seeing a lot more of HYDRA in these next few years. After all, the comic book version of HYDRA has proved to be S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most persistent enemy, so why not address that in the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show?

For those of you who don’t remember, HYDRA is the advanced science branch of the Third Reich, led by the Red Skull, in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is clearly the fearsome and proficient leader that HYDRA so justly deserves, doing whatever it takes to ensure that they achieve their goal of world domination. But how does he fare when put up against his comic book counterpart? Click past the jump to find out!

What Worked: Although Hitler never makes an appearance in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” he is mentioned a few times in the context of the Red Skull diminishing his abilities to lead the Nazi party to victory. In the comic books, Johann Schmidt makes no effort to hide his desire to usurp Hitler’s position. In fact, his intentions are made quite obvious when he kills several of Hitler’s closest advisers in an attempt to become more powerful within the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Similarly, Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull lays waste to the Nazi officials that Hitler sends to check up on HYDRA’s progress without a second thought. The movie version of Johann obviously has no respect for Hitler, just as it should be.

What Needed Work: Maybe I’m just nitpicking here, but in the comics Red Skull has nothing to do with HYDRA until it’s revealed that he is their actual leader in 1972. Sure, he sends Baron Wolfgang von Strucker to Japan in order to pave the way for future takeovers. However, Strucker is the one who actually leads HYDRA in its earliest inception. He even goes so far as to break all ties with the Red Skull, establishing HYDRA as a completely separate threat to world peace. But again, just a nitpick. Also, while we’re on the topic of what needed work, how could you put the Red Skull in a movie and not have him use his trademark “Dust of Death” poison at least once? Imagine how cool it would be to see the skin on someone’s head shrivel up, tighten, and turn red up on the silver screen.

What Was New & Interesting: Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt wears a mask of his former face over his new skull face, while in the comics Johann just wears a Red Skull mask over his normal face. Although the former may seem a bit odd at first, it’s actually a very fascinating development. You see, the Red Skull of comic book lore is a normal human being; not an equal match for Captain America in the slightest. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull, however, is a direct product of the original prototype for the super soldier serum, making him Captain America’s equal on every level (except for that hideous red skull of course).

The Rogue Report looks at comic book movie villains past, present and future to see how they handled the transition from the paneled page to the big screen. Suggest a villain for our next column in the comments or on Twitter!