The Red Skull Scares Me

Confession time: Captain America has never been my favorite superhero. I’m a Marvel boy, tried and true, and even though the X-Men have my heart and most perfectly embody my geekiness, the Avengers, the team that banded together around Captain America and have him as their leader (more or less), are probably my favorite superhero team.

So, as you might imagine, I’m watching the news and the previews of Captain America: The First Avenger pretty intensely.

I don’t know if you caught the Super Bowl (I didn’t) or the TV commercials (I’ve been trying to), but there was a spot for Captain America, and it’s online. It starts as standard superhero fare — there’s this kind of wimpy soldier who gets put through the ringer, an explosion or two, he get stuck into a tube and comes out all steroidy and pumped up…

And then this guy whips on screen.

The Red Skull scares me. No, more than that: He freaks the hell out of me. It’s bad enough that most supervillains have names like Doctor Doom or Darkseid and can blast nuclear endorphins out of their palms, but this guy is an actual Nazi. He shows up in comics wearing a swastika armband. He peppers his speech with references to “the annihilation” and “the future Reich.” In a few of the more noiry comics, his I’ll-get-you speeches include personal reminisces of him and Hitler.

And this is what I was reading as a ten-year-old.

The Red Skull has always been a serious character. His “skull” used to be a mask, but at some point it became his skull. More recently, he was shown

(in Ultimate Avengers) giving a superhero’s wife a choice between stabbing him to death with a fork or throwing their infant child out the window. (She chose the latter. He did the former anyway.) He’s dabbled in genetic manipulation, social manipulation (he’s been elected president and been one of the richest businessmen in the United States) and mind control. He rarely just takes a gun or a bomb and blows up Fort Knox. Instead, he just messes with our heads, which is worse, or quietly plots genocides. He’s not just evil. He’s creepy.

What do you think — is the Red Skull just pushing our buttons? Or is he pushing the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable?

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