Magneto, Doom, Goblin, Galactus, even Mephisto: Deep beneath the evil of Marvel’s greatest villains, there is always a hint of nobility, a tiny kernel of truth that makes them, in some cases, sympathetic.
But for a twist of fate, Magneto (as we have seen in alternate worlds) could have been Xavier, Doom could have been Richards, etc. etc.
But I have never found that to be true with Captain America’s prime nemesis: The Red Skull!
But I might be rethinking that long-held ideology as writer Greg Pak (Incredible Hulks, Silver Surfer) examines the villain in a five-issue limited series, Red Skull: Incarnate, with interiors by Mirko Colak (Secret Warriors) and covers by David Aja (5 Ronin).
Birth or environment? Was the Red Skull always evil, or did a hard life or unknown circumstances make him that way? Pak will return to the timeframe of one of his greatest works, 2008’s Magneto: Testament, to find the answers.
“It’s (really) the other side (of Magneto’s story); seeing a very young person, growing up during this time period (World War II), but having a different experience,” Pak told Newsarama. “It was very similar to me, hearing him (executive editor Tom Brevoort) talk about this was very similar to when I, that it was when I first heard editor Warren Simons tell me about what became Magneto: Testament. I knew within seconds that I was going to end up doing the book. I had that same kind of excitement, and frankly, fear."
“Doing this kind of story in the context of superhero comics is crazy, but it’s also an insanely great opportunity. I never dreamed that when I first started working at Marvel that I’d have the chance to do these deeply felt, and deeply researched, World War II stories. It’s a tremendous opportunity for me as just a writer, and a human being, to do these stories, and the fact that Marvel is behind them, and helping them get out in the world, I think is just amazing. I’m very, very happy to be working on this book.”
But those who may not be so happy learning history from a comic book should not be turned off by that aspect, Pak warned, especially because of its electrifying art!
“Mirko Colak is doing the interiors. He is just amazing,” Pak said. “I’m just constantly being blown away by his stuff. He has this really great, clean line. It almost reminds me of Jeff Smith in a way. He’s almost like a more realistic Jeff Smith, with an amazing amount of atmosphere and grit to it. As soon as I started seeing these pages, I could not have been any happier. He’s also a demon for detail, he’s doing all the historical research necessary. And of course he’s really delving deep into these characters. Just the way he’s rendering these characters, and the way he’s following them through their different dramatic moments is just something really special. I think a lot of people are going to be pretty astounded by this art, it’s just amazing. The perfect match for the story."
“And David Aja is doing these insane covers, which shocked me when I first saw them. They’re frankly and honestly scary. At first, I was like, ‘maybe even too scary,’ but then I realized that’s a good reaction to have. This book is a little dangerous, in a way I think the subject matter warrants. In a totally non-exploitative way, it’s dangerous and challenging material, that I think these covers are really helping convey. So I couldn’t be happier with this art team.”
While returning to this time period was, for Pak, a challenging experience, it was by no means an easy one; delving into the evil and suffering caused by the Nazis during World War II can take a toll, even today. That is especially true when your focal point character grows up to be one of the Third Reich's most terrifying agents. However, Pak hopes readers will find the story of how a boy named Johann Schmidt was transformed into a monster called the "Red Skull" to be a highly compelling one.
“If you liked what I did with Magneto: Testament or if you just want to delve into this time period and learn the true origin of one of Marvel's greatest villains, add this to your pull list please,” Pak told
“Red Skull is a huge gift,” Pak said. “I'm able to write a story for Marvel Comics that allows me to learn about things that remain insanely relevant to this day.”