It is nearly impossible to keep anything secret in today's digital age. In the 21st century, audiences have access to leaked set photos, contract details, and more secretive material than studios would like to be public.
While a more difficult task than ever, this had made truly unexpected moments all the more special. Avengers: Infinity War overflowed with surprises, with perhaps the most unforeseen being the return of the Red Skull. Emerging from the shadows of Vormir as a much more mystical version of the former HYDRA leader, Ross Marquand's take on the Captain America villain had audiences' gasping across the world. Despite not being shown on screen for seven years (and a nearly 80 year gap in MCU chronology), the once Johann Schmidt clearly had undergone significant changes since he was last seen disintegrating with the tesseract.
An alternate design of the Red Skull has surfaced online. Coming from concept illustrator Rodney Fuentebella's Instagram, the artist revealed a distorted version of the former HYDRA leader. In the image, the Red Skull's soul is being torn in and out of his body, with his signature crimson prosthetics glowing a familiar amber light.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Marvel Studios have never been shy to peel back the curtain of their films' production processes after their releases, with concept art typically being at the forefront of those infamous "What If?" discussions. Red Skull's alternate design further establishes the tone shift the antagonist went through in Infinity War, as evident by the soul stone transforming his physical form into something more mystical.
The once loud and chaotic villain appeared in Infinity War as much more stoic and collected, citing the soul stone as the item responsible for his character shift. Here, fans see the stone holding a more tangible control over the former HYDRA leader rather than the mental imprisonment exhibited in the crossover event. Beyond that, Red Skull appears to be in direct possession of the "treasure he cannot possess," a narrative that obviously changed once production began.
While details about Johann Schmidt may seem throwaway now, actor Ross Marquand has teased that fans have not seen the last of the now former Stonekeeper.