Some pop-culture legends are just that, legends. But then you have the ones that are so bizarre and out there that they just have to be true. One of those is the old notion that Captain America’s arch-nemesis, the Red Skull was inspired by an ice cream sundae.
At first thought, you’d figure there’s no way that a mainstay villain could have such a ridiculous origin story, but it’s actually true. A lot of you Captain America and/or Marvel junkies probably knew this, but it’s a pretty wild story… or mildly wild… it’s entertaining, is what I’m getting at. Anyway, it’s all thanks to the Joe Simon, the other half of the classic Simon and Kirby tandem that took the comic book world by storm.
Simon always had a keen eye for design and in his book titled “Joe Simon: My Life in Comics,” he describes how the classic villain came to be:
One day I was in Times Square at Childs Restaurant. It was a nice place to eat and to get away by myself for a while. I would go there for my lunch and desserts, and on this day I ordered a hot fudge sundae. Unlike Kirby, I could have eaten as many of those as I wanted. I was a pretty skinny guy – 153 pounds and six-feet-three – and I kept that weight pretty constant until I went into the service. Even sitting at lunch, I was always thinking about heroes and villains, with all sorts of ideas swimming around in my head. Next thing I know, I had a hot fudge sundae sitting in front of me, with the vanilla ice cream, and the hot fudge is running down the side. It was intriguing.
The hot fudge looked liked limbs – legs, feet, and hands – and I’m thinking to myself.
Gee, this’d make an interesting villain, I mused. We’ll call him Hot Fudge…Just put a face on him, and have him ooze all over the place.
You have to be stupid to be in this business. Nevertheless, I did some sketches, right then and there.
And I looked at them.
Nah, I thought. Who would believe anything like that?
But I looked again at the sundae, and I saw the big cherry on top. The cherry looked like a skull.
“Wow, I said to myself. “Red Skull…that sounds good.” And it made a lot more sense.
The Red Skull was only supposed to appear once. We killed him off in the very first story, and I never thought anybody would remember him. But they did – they clamored for us to bring him back.
And there you have it, the Red Skull was actually inspired by an ice cream sundae. That little passage is an amazing insight into the creative genius of one of the founding fathers of modern-day comic books. Even the silliest thoughts and observations can be manipulated and contorted to create something amazing, and that’s pretty awesome.