Red Skull In Animation - A Retrospective
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Part Three -
The Super Hero Squad Show premiered in 2009, and originally aired on the Cartoon Network. It was based on the Marvel Super Hero Squad action figure line from Hasbro, which portrays all the characters in the Marvel Universe in a super-deformed-style, and was aimed at a younger generation. The show featured a lot of characters from the Marvel Universe, but primarily focused on a team of heroes including members of the Avengers and the X-Men. It was mostly a parody of super hero shows, and I doubt it ever wanted to be taken too seriously. The story-arc for the first season was about the "Squaddies" trying to stop Doctor Doom's Lethal Legion from collecting the Infinity Fractals, shards from the broken Infinity Sword, which Doom plans on using to rule the world.
Red Skull here was voiced by Mark Hamill and only appeared in two episodes. He first appears in the episode titled "The Wrath of the Red Skull", where Doom explains that Red Skull was his hero and he plans on finding him and team-up with him, just to show his minions what true evil is like. The Skull is found in the back of the Villainville Wiener Hut, frozen next to the world's largest bratwurst. Once thawed out, the Skull explains how back when he was young he started out as the Pink Skull, but he wasn't so scary (a flasshback scene shows how he was bullied by Arnim Zola) until he decided to go Red, which made all the difference. He fought against Captain America and Nick Fury, but was stopped by them before unleashing his secret weapon, plan USB the Uber Skull Bot. Meanwhile Cap learns that Red Skull has returned and explains what really happened back in WWII: the Skull threatened him and Nick Fury with a freeze ray, but accidentally froze himself. Now the heroes have to fight the USB and Doom's own giant robot, which are destroyed by Hulk's singing voice. Cap chases after the Skull, who once again freezes himself with his freeze ray.
Thanos became the main villain for the first part of the second season of the show, and the Squaddies now had to stop him from gathering the Infinity Gems. Falcon and Scarlet Witch joined the group of heroes. among others. The Red Skull returns in the episode called "World War Witch", where Scarlet Witch is transported - thanks to Thanos' Time Gem and her own hex powers - into the past, in the pages of her Invaders comic book. Trapped in 1942, Wanda encounters Captain America, Bucky, the original android Human Torch and Toro and try to stop Red Skull from launching a missile to destroy Europe. The Squaddies realize what happened and the present-day Cap, together with Thor and Iron Man travel back in time using a time machine ordered from the back of a comic book, to bring Wanda back, while also keeping the two Caps from seeing each other which would cause the Universe to crack like an eggshell (as Iron Man explained). Red Skull uses a lot of weapons in this episode, but keeps getting defeated by Cap - and gets even more confused about how quickly Cap managed to catch up with him, not realizing there are two of them. In the end Skull is defeated when he gets stuck to the rocket as it's starting to launch.
Overall, this shows' version of Red Skull was decent enough and the episodes had some pretty funny moments. He might have appeared in some other episodes or at least have cameos but since I never really followed the show that closely I think I managed to track down his most notable appearances.
Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes premiered in fall of 2010 on Disney XD. The first five episodes of the show were split into 20 micro-episodes which were released online prior to the shows' premiere on television. The Red Skull here was voiced by Steve Blum and he debuts in the episode entitled "Meet Captain America". The episode starts with a re-telling of Cap's origin, followed by Cap's mission to infiltrate a top-secret HYDRA base in Norway. He is accompanied by his partner Bucky, and the Howling Commandos lead by Jack Fury. Once inside the castle, they come face to face with the Red Skull, who captures Cap and Bucky and reveals his scheme for winning the war: he has discovered a portal to the Norse world and has started accessing it, capturing various mythological monsters. He uses some collars to control these beasts and plans on using them in the war, but he is still not sattisfied with his army so far and tries accessing the portal again, this time trying to capture a Frost Giant. This backfires when all the beasts break free from under Red Skull's control and no one is safe anymore inside the castle. Once the fight is over, Cap wants to stop the Red Skull, once and for all and chases him to his rocket ship. Both Cap and Bucky climb the Skull's rocket as it flies over the North Atlantic. The Skull escapes by ejecting from the ship, but not before he programs the rocket to explode with his enemies still on top of it. Bucky pushes Cap off the rocket, sacrificing himself so that Cap can live, since the world still needs him. Cap sees the rocket exploding before plummeting into the frozen waters of the ocean - and the rest is pretty much history.
During the shows' first season, after the Avengers are formed and Cap is found and thawed out, we learn that HYDRA is still active now lead by Baron Strucker (Red Skull's lieutenant back in WWII), one of the villains that escaped from the Raft. HYDRA contacts AIM (lead by MODOC) to create an all-powerfull weapon for world domination. But when MODOC realizes that the weapon, the Cosmic Cube could actually work - which apparently has the power to change reality itself; all one has to do is touch the Cube, and it will alter the world as its "master" desires - he plans on keeping it for himself, which leads to an all out war between HYDRA and AIM, waged on the streets of New York. Neither party cares about victims or the city being destroyed. The Avengers arrive on the scene as well and the battle ends after both Cap and Baron Strucker touch the Cube at the same time, apparently cancelling each others wish. But then we see Bucky opening his eyes while underwater, meaning he has survived implyng that he Cube granted Cap's greatest desire, without him having to wish for anything out loud. But if it worked for Cap, it might have worked for Von Strucker as well.
During the second season, in the midst of the Skrulls' Secret Invasion (which is a story for another time), the Avengers split because they feel they can no longer trust each other. Cap at this point has been replaced by a Skrull agent, unbeknownst to the others, and the only heroes he has managed to trick into remaining on the team are Hawkeye, Hulk and Wasp. In the episode "Nightmare in Red", a team of heroes (Doc Samson, Falcon and Winter Soldier) are sent on a mission to obtain a sample of the Hulk's blood from aboard the SHIELD Hellicarrier in order to create the Red Hulk, the final member of this team. In the end we see who the real mastermind behind this plan was: a certain Dell Rusk, the Secretary of Defense (who bears a resemblance to Senator Kelly, from the X-Men franchise).
In "Code Red", Dell Rusk starts a campaign o turn the public against the Avengers (who have now regrouped, in the aftermath of the alien invasion) and unleashes mysterious fumes inside the Avengers' Mansion and in the nearby areas, causing everyone to suddenly feel sick. He blames the Avengers for this, making it look like they are the ones responsible. Additionally, Winter Soldier and his team is sent to break into the Mansion and fight the heroes. Cap is brought in front of Dell Rusk, where the former realizes that Rusk is in reality the Red Skull, who has infiltrated the Government planning on sabotaging the country. Winter Soldier is ordered to kill Cap, but rebels against his superior and gives Cap the antidote for the virus he has been infected with by the Skull. A fight between Cap and Skull follows, with Cap winning and Skull and his men (who were apparently under mind control) are imprisoned aboard the Hydro-Base.
The Red Skull's final appearance on the show is in the next episode, titled "Winter Soldier". Here we learn the true identity of Winter Soldier; not surprisingly he turns out to be Bucky, Cap's young former sidekick from the days of WWII, who has miraculously survived all these years. He was saved from the explosion of Red Skull's rocket ), given a bionic arm and then brainwashed into becoming a ruthless assassin. When not on missions, he was kept in a cryogenic stasis and as a result has physically aged only a few years. Red Skull appears to be the one responsible for Bucky's new identity and life, but unfortunately we never get to hear how exactly Red Skull has survived all these years though I guess the Cosmic Cube seen in the previous episode was responsible for some of these events. Following the events from the previous episode, now Winter Soldier is no longer under Dell Rusk/Red Skull's control, and has been searching for and trying to destroy the Sleepers, giant robots built by Skull as a fail-safe in case anything went wrong with his original plans. One of this Sleepers attacks the Hydro-Base and Red Skull manages to break out. In the end, even more Sleeper robots awake in Washington D.C. which transform and combine, forming a Super-Sleeper, with a head resembling the Red Skull's face. While the Avengers are fighting the robot, trying to keep it from destroying the Capitol Building, Cap and Winter Soldier crash through the robot's head (which was also the control room) where they encounter Red Skull. The Skull traps them and reveals his plans for Cap: he intends to do the same thing to him that he did to Bucky, and turn him into his soldier. Winter Soldier breaks free and also frees Cap, who fights the Skull one last time. With the control room damaged and the robot ready to explode, the Red Skull ejects from the robot's head, trying to escape but is captured when his parachute gets caught on the Washington Monument.
Even though we didn't get any explanation as to how or why Red Skull is still alive and apparently hasn't aged a day since WWII, seeing him on this show was pretty awesome. He had a pretty cool design and a great voice. The episodes featuring him were pretty great, overall. Though it would have been better if Dell Rusk was shown a couple of more times before his real identity was revealed, and I think his campaign against the Avengers would have been a great story-arc for this show. Other than that, I don't really have any complaints.
Considering Red Skull's status as Cap's arch-nemesis, I'm pretty sure we'll get to see him in animation pretty soon - most likely in the next Avengers animated series.