Warning: This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.
Just about every superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes an appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. But fans certainly weren’t expecting Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. the Red Skull, from Captain America: The First Avenger in the new film. And yet there he is on the planet Vormir, where he guides Thanos to an Infinity Stone. (You can see the character in the First Avenger trailer above.)
Schmidt was the main villain in the first Captain America movie. He headed up HYDRA, a faction of the Nazi Party during World War II. He experimented on himself with a version of the super soldier serum that made Captain America tall and buff. Unfortunately for the Schmidt, the serum backfired and gave him, well, a red skull.
When the Red Skull gets his hands on the Tesseract, a powerful cube that contains an Infinity Stone, he decides to break from the Nazi Party and try to rule the world on his own. Captain America battles Red Skull, and ultimately Red Skull unwisely touches the Tesseract with his bare hands. He vanishes.
It turns out only an extremely powerful being, like Thanos, can touch Infinity Stones without dying. And even Thanos needs to carry them around in a glove to protect himself.
Infinity War reveals that the Red Skull was teleported to Vormir, where the Soul Stone is kept. The former villain explains to Thanos and Gamora that he’s been doomed to a purgatory where he can guid those who seek the Soul Stone but never attain it himself. Once Thanos claims the stone, Red Skull disappears.