Red Skull and Joker are two villains that may seem completely different on the surface but are actually quite similar in a lot of ways. Both are masterminds that hatch complex plans, both use a variety of gadgets and weapons, both are able to cheat death, and both are obsessed with their arch-nemesis.
However, the goals and demeanour of Joker and Red Skull couldn’t be more different. While Red Skull’s moral alignment would likely be Lawful Evil since he seeks world domination, Joker’s would be Chaotic Evil, since he commits atrocities to torment Batman, and for his own amusement. With these two characters being so alike, yet so different, what would happen if they fought in a singles match? Let’s analyze their histories, powers, and weaknesses and find out!
The Joker’s origin is unclear, possibly even to himself. He has told different people different origin stories, each with varying levels of believability. In one case he claimed to be an android, and in another, he claimed to be the ghost of an evil clown. He also claimed to be the Devil himself in one instance. There is also a “Three Jokers” theory, more on that later.
The most credible origin story, however, involves the Joker being a failed comedian that lost his wife and child in an accident before falling into a vat of acid that led to his clownish appearance. This “one bad day” would then lead the Joker to lose his sanity, and begin a life of crime.
Whether the Joker actually believes any of the origin stories he tells people, or if he’s just trolling, is unknown. It’s also unknown if any of the stories are actually true. What is known, however, is that the Joker began his criminal career being blackmailed into assuming the mantle of the Red Hood. This culminated with him falling into a vat of acid in a confrontation with Batman, resulting in his transformation into the insane Joker, making at least that part of his origin story true.
Over the course of his criminal career, the Joker would terrorize Gotham City for the sole purpose of provoking Batman. His feud with Batman was all-consuming, and his entire reason for living. During this time the Joker would take on three distinct personas: The Criminal – a cruel calculating sadist, The Clown – a mostly harmless prankster criminal, and the Comedian – something of a combination of the first two personas. The Joker claims that these are three distinct entities created by him but whether or not this is true is unknown.
Red Skull Biography
The Red Skull was born a man named Johann Shmidt to a violent drunken German villager. His mother died during labour, and his father immediately went mad and attempt to drown Johann. Fortunately, Johann was saved by the doctor who had delivered him and was sent to an orphanage. Though he suffered greatly during his childhood and spent time in jail for a variety of petty crimes, he eventually found a friend in the daughter of the Jewish shopkeeper he worked for. Developing feelings for the girl, he attempted to force himself upon her only to be rejected. He then murdered her and felt extreme joy at having ended a human life.
Later while working as a bellhop at a hotel, Johann met Adolph Hitler during the early days of the Nazi movement. The two immediately bonded over their absolute hatred for humanity, and Johann became Hitler’s protege. Given the codename Red Skull and his trademark red skull mask, Johann carried out many terrorist operations in the US during World War 2 but was always defeated by his nemesis, Captain America. Eventually being recalled to Germany, Red Skull would rise in power and hatch a plot to overthrow Hitler so that he could take over the world himself. This plan was ultimately thwarted by Captain American in a battle that led to Red Skull being cryogenically frozen for decades.
Upon being revived in the modern era, Red Skull would continue his plans for world domination. In most cases, these plans would centre on the destruction of the United States due to his feud with Captain America. Though the Red Skull would be thwarted each time, he had an uncanny knack for surviving seemingly fatal situations using his mind transferability.
Joker: Powers & Abilities
Though the Joker lacks traditional superpowers, he makes up for it with a variety of gadgets, skills, and careful planning. Here’s a quick list of the Joker’s powers and abilities:
- Pain resistance
- Immunity to his Joker Venom
- Cheating death
- Limited regeneration
- Genius level intellect
- Criminal mastermind
- Expert chemist
- Gadgets and weapons
- Leadership skills
- Hand-to-hand combat skills
- Talented artist
The most notable skill on here is the Joker’s ability to cheat death. During his confrontations with Batman and other superheroes, the Joker has found himself in situations in which he should definitely have died, only to return later. In fact, in his very first appearance in the comic books, the Joker was stabbed to death only to reappear in later issues without an explanation. How the Joker manages to cheat death is unknown. Theories range from there being multiple Jokers, to the Joker being a manifestation of the cruel Laughing God, Gelos. None of these theories have ever been proven, however.
It should also be mentioned that the Joker’s regenerative abilities are due to a chemical implanted in his spine, not an inherent superpower. Though this regeneration isn’t on the same level as someone like Deadpool or Wolverine, it has helped the Joker to survive serious wounds such as gunshots.
The Joker also possesses his trademark Joker Venom, a toxic poison developed using his expert chemistry skills. Joker Venom kills within seconds, forcing the victim to laugh as they die with a disturbing rictus grin. This toxic substance can be delivered in a variety of means ranging from balloons to darts and thorned flowers. Most often, however, it is fired in liquid form from the flower on Joker’s suit in a cartoonish manner.
Since the Joker lacks a strong set of superpowers, he relies on careful planning, gadgets, and minions to carry out his devious plans as a criminal mastermind. Surprisingly, the Joker has strong leadership skills despite having a tendency to kill his own minions.
Red Skull: Powers & Abilities
Though the Red Skull started out as a normal human who relied on strategy and minions to carry out his plans, he did eventually gain superhuman abilities when he transferred his mind into a clone of Captain America. Here is a list of Red Skull’s powers and abilities:
- Immortality through cloning/mind transfer
- Strategic mastermind
- Genius level intellect
- Gadgets and weapons
- Superhuman physical attriburtes
- Hand-to-hand combat skills
- Skilled marksman
- Skilled fencer
The Red Skull only has one inherent superpower: The ability to transfer his mind into other bodies. He normally does this with clone bodies, but at one point transferred his mind into a clone of Captain America, giving himself Cap’s complete powerset of enhanced physical attributes. Another time Red Skull was able to transfer his mind into a cybernetic body, making him even more powerful and dangerous. This mind transferability has made it virtually impossible to kill off the Red Skull for good.
Equally as important would be Red Skull’s access to a superweapon known as the Cosmic Cube. These cubes essentially function as wish-granting devices and have the ability to drastically warp reality if used correctly. However, they require strict mental discipline and concentration to function as intended, and even then they are still extremely unreliable in most cases. In fact, improper use of a Cosmic Cube can even backfire on the user, such as when the Red Skull was trapped in a hell of his own making when he dropped one in a battle with Captain America.
Red Skull also has a powerful poison he uses known as the Dust of Death. This substance is highly lethal, killing within seconds of exposure and leaving the victim with contracted skin on their head, giving them a “red skull” appearance. This dust is typically delivered via a special handgun.
Though he has a relatively strong set of powers in his robot body or cloned Captain America body, Red Skull tends to rely on careful planning and military strategy to carry out his plans for world domination. Like the Joker, he has strong leadership skills and his minions to carry out his dirty work.
The Joker’s most obvious weakness is his lack of superpowers. Though he has limited regeneration, he doesn’t have any heightened physical attributes, putting him at a disadvantage in a straight-up fight against most other characters. As mentioned before, he makes up for this with careful planning and a variety of gadgets and weapons.
Another big weakness that the Joker possesses is his mental instability. Though he is a criminal mastermind, his obsession with Batman is all-consuming. This has led to his defeat in many cases since he prefers to toy with Batman than outright kill him. Likewise, without Batman, the Joker would have no reason for being the Joker. In fact, there have been several instances in which Batman was inactive or thought to be dead. This caused the Joker to go catatonic, become a normal person, and even try to become Batman on separate occasions. However, as soon as Batman returns, so does the Joker.
Red Skull: Weaknesses
The Red Skull has very few exploitable weaknesses, especially after upgrading to a cybernetic body. In most of his defeats, he’s simply overpowered by Captain America. This being the case, it could be said that one of his weaknesses is the fact that he simply doesn’t engage in regular combat training like other heroes and villains since he relies so heavily on minions and complex plans to further his agenda.
Another weakness would be the unreliability of the Cosmic Cube. As mentioned earlier, the device backfired on Red Skull before, and it could happen again. Carless use of the Cosmic Cube could easily lead to defeat for the Red Skull.
Red Skull’s last notable weakness is that other supervillains are reluctant to team up with him due to his Nazi connections. In fact, some have outright tried to kill him, such as holocaust survivor Magneto. Though he always seems to be able to recruit minions to his cause, forming an alliance with other actual super villains is rarely an option for the Red Skull.
Joker vs Red Skull – Who Would Win in a Fight
Since this thought experiment is all about singles combat, we’re going to say that Red Skull and Joker don’t get to us their minions or strategic planning since that introduces far too many variables and the battle could easily go either way in that scenario. For the sake of simplicity, let’s think of this more like throwing them both into an arena, and seeing what would happen.
As far as fighting skill goes, both the Joker and Red Skull have shown various degrees of proficiency over the years. While the Joker has in some cases been defeated with a single blow, he has at other times gone toe to toe with Batman, one of the greatest martial artists on the planet. Likewise, the Red Skull has at some times been portrayed as a weakling, but in one instance he managed to take on Captain America in hand-to-hand combat as an old man even before he got an upgraded body. Since the fighting ability of these two characters fluctuates so wildly, we’re going to call it even in this regard.
When it comes to gadgets and weapons, the Red Skull and Joker are nearly even as well. Joker has his Joke Venom, while Red Skull has the Dust of Death. However, the Red Skull also has the Cosmic Cube. This could work in his favour, but honestly trying to use the device in a one-on-one fight would probably be a bad idea due to how much concentration it takes to use it correctly.
Now for the actual superpowers. Joker has moderate regeneration thanks to the chemical in his spine while Red Skull is a straight-up cyborg in his latest incarnation. This gives Red Skull a massive edge since he’s physically superior to the Joker in pretty much every way physically. In fact, Red Skull’s cyborg body would probably even make him resistant to Joker Venom.
So this brings us to our conclusion: Red Skull wins in a singles match vs the Joker. Unless the Red Skull decides to use the Cosmic Cube like an idiot and it backfires, the Joker has virtually no way of beating him in a face-to-face fight. Even so, this victory likely won’t be a lasting one since the Joker always comes back. The only conceivable way that the Red Skull could get rid of the Joker for good would be to kill off Batman, and that’s about as likely as the Cosmic Cube working as intended.