By Jim Beard
Molded into a vessel for evil by Adolph Hitler himself, the Red Skull survives into the present as perhaps the most insidious villain the Marvel Universe has ever suffered.
Standing between the Skull and the innocents he preys upon, Captain America exists as the antithesis of all the totalitarian tyrant values. While Steve Rogers may be gone, the Sentinel of Liberty fights on to this day, more than a man but a literal shield to block the Red Skull and all who'd follow in his fetid footsteps.
Not simply physical but also ideological, their infamous battles shook the world-and continue to do so, as you'll see in CAPTAIN AMERICA #41 by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, due on August 20.
CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #7 (1941)
The strains of Chopin's "Funeral March" filled the air as the Red Skull set about eliminating America's top military experts-until Captain America soured his tune. The Nazi got the drop twice on Cap in this early skirmish, but ultimately a drop in the drink for the villain meant the Skull's sinister symphony remained unfinished.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #80-81 (1966)
Having betrayed his alliance with A.I.M., the Red Skull took possession of the evil factory's greatest achievement: the all-powerful Cosmic Cube. Still reeling from his foe's mind-games, Captain America confronted the now almost-omnipotent Skull with muscle and determination and using a ruse of submission, Cap gained the upper hand. The ground literally pulled out from under them, the Cube and its villainous master sank beneath the waves, seemingly forever.
CAPTAIN AMERICA v1 #300 (1984)
Intended to be the ultimate endgame, the Red Skull manipulated Steve Rogers into what he thoughts would be their final battle. Years before, the life-preserving gas that prolonged the Skull's existence began to leach from his body, leaving the cunning villain horribly aged and infirm. Having artificially accelerated the good Captain's life to match his own decrepitude, the Skull forced the hero into a physical struggle, yet Rogers won as always and a last, rattling breath issued forth from between his opponent's lips.
CAPTAIN AMERICA v1 #448 (1996)
In a desperate gambit to finally destroy the Cosmic Cube, the cult that worshipped it, and the mind of Adolph Hitler that resided within it, Captain America joined forces with the Red Skull. The Skull, master of schemes, imprisoned Cap in the Cube to overthrow Hitler and Steve Rogers relived his World War II adventures therein. By sheer force of will, the star-spangled hero extracted himself from the Cube and smashed the demonic device, cutting off his arch-foe's arm in the process. The resulting explosion left nothing but an inky smear on the wall to mark the latest passing of the Red Skull.
CAPTAIN AMERICA v4 #32 (2004)
Having dispatched Steve Roger's former lover, Diamondback, an armored Red Skull- more physically powerful than perhaps ever before-treated Captain America to a most brutal of beatdowns. The fight that ensued, savage and sizzling, seemed to spell a final doom for the Sentinel of Liberty but the timely intervention of Nick Fury and a surprising Life Model Decoy turned the tide and the Red Skull ended up once again defeated.
See Steve Roger's successor face the Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA #41, due out August 20, the same day that the nasty Nazi will lead an army of Marvel super villain in MARVEL 1985 #4, by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards. For more of the Skull's sinister schemes, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.