Baron Zemo: Who is the Master of Evil?

Who Needs the Red Baron?

Meteorite:Citizen V?
Songbird: “Your face!
Citizen V: Not a pretty sight, is it? You would rather it was hidden behind a mask? Very well, but not the mask millions have come to trust today. Instead, I’ll wear a rather older mask. A mask with darker associations. The mask of Helmut, 13th Baron Zemo and leader of The Masters of Evil!

Thunderbolts #1

A squad of soldiers patrol a military base. The scientists there are designing a weapon that will make an atomic bomb look like a firecracker. An unseen figure watches from above, planning his approach. When the soldiers are at the furthest point from the laboratory’s entrance, he hurls a handful of capsules at the squad.

Goop covers them, jams their guns, and immobilizes them. One soldier, shielded by the bodies of men in his unit, aims his gun where the capsules came from. A laser punches a hole through his head as the figure rushes the squad. Two more shots reduce the squad to one soldier, who is then run through by a sword. Baron Zemo cleans his blade and enters the laboratory.

Baron Zemo is one of Marvel’s most versatile villains. He has served HYDRA, led the Thunderbolts, and founded the Masters of Evil. So who is he? Why do so many villains follow him? Why are there two Baron Zemos running around? Let’s find out.

Nazi Nobility: Baron Zemo’s Backstory

Heinrich Zemo: [Holding Captain America’s sidekick hostage] “I know how you agonized over the death of your first partner. Depriving you of another will only add to your misery.

Hulk Smash Avengers #1

Baron Zemo debuted in The Avengers #4 in 1968. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to serve as Captain America’s modern archenemy, since Red Skull was meant to be dead.

Baron Heinrich Zemo was a brilliant scientist and aristocrat who joined the Nazi Party. He created a wide array of super weapons, from disintegrator rays to android armies, and became infamous for testing his inventions on German civilians. Baron Zemo began wearing a purple mask to avoid being recognized by potential victims. 

His most successful invention was Adhesive X, an adhesive that was unremovable and unbreakable. Before he could mass produce the chemical, Baron Zemo was attacked by Captain America. The fight ended with Adhesive X permanently sticking the mask to Baron Zemo’s face.

Driven mad by this result, Baron Zemo became a frontline combatant and saboteur. He avenged his defeat by trapping Captain America and Bucky on a plane carrying a WMD, resulting in Cap being frozen for decades and Bucky becoming The Winter Soldier. His task complete, Zemo fled to South America to avoid the fallout following the war.

Baron Zemo returned to the public stage after Captain America was unfrozen. He tried to kill his old foe, but failed. Zemo had better luck when formed The Masters of Evil, but was never able to finish off the Avengers. Baron Zemo died fighting Captain America when he was buried in an avalanche.

Fifth Column: Baron Zemo’s History

Goliath:Hah! The Avengers and the Fantastic Four are gone? Maybe we should apply for the job! Gotta be money in there somewhere. The world needs someone to defend it from mooks like us.”
Baron Zemo: “…It could work… It could actually work.

Thunderbolts Annual ‘97

Heinrich may be dead, but his son Helmut is still alive. The current Baron Zemo was raised by his abusive father to believe in HYDRA’s ideals. Helmut blamed Captain America for his father’s actions, thinking he would have been a better person if Adhesive X hadn’t poisoned him. When Heinrich died fighting Cap, Helmut swore to avenge his father.

Helmut fought Captain America while using the codename Phoenix. He tried to dump Cap into a vat of Adhesive X, but fell into the vat himself. A hideously scarred Helmut emerged and took up the mantle of Baron Zemo. The new Zemo would launch countless attacks on Captain America and The Avengers, but never managed to kill them.

While reforming The Masters of Evil, Baron Zemo learned that The Avengers had died in battle with the monster Onslaught. Distraught at the loss of his enemies and primary motivation, Zemo found inspiration when a teammate joked about them becoming heroes. If you can’t kill the Avengers, why not replace them?

The Masters of Evil adopted new identities and debuted as a superhero team called The Thunderbolts. They earned the public’s respect and adoration. Zemo planned to destroy the remaining superheroes from the inside and conquer the world.

Baron Zemo’s plans soon went awry. The Thunderbolts found they liked being good guys and were convinced to become real heroes by their new recruit Jolt. Zemo’s second in command, Meteorite, pulled a coup d’etat and took over the Thunderbolts. Zemo tried to execute his plan, but was defeated by The Thunderbolts and forced into hiding.

Swashbuckling Scientist: Baron Zemo’s Powers and Personality

Baron Zemo: [holding Abomination at swordpoint] “You wish to know why I lead? Because I am better than you.

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes “Masters of Evil” (Season 1, Episode 14)

Heinrich Zemo had no superpowers. He was a brilliant scientist who could create technology decades ahead of his time. He was skilled enough to fight Captain America hand to hand, but much prefered using a sword or his latest creations.

Heinrich was already a madman before he was exposed to Adhesive X. His inability to remove his mask made him even crazier. Heinrich’s rage and insanity often blinded his intellect, ultimately leading to his avoidable death.

Helmut Zemo is an even better fighter than his father. He is considered one of the best swordfighters in the Marvel Universe and can duel most heroes to a draw. He is almost as skilled as The Joker at surviving certain death. Even if you see him die, you know he’ll be back with more Masters of Evil in a week or two.

A convoluted plot caused Baron Zemo’s mind to be transferred into a Captain America clone. This gives him all the strength, speed, and durability of the Star-Spangled Avenger. Mix that with Zemo’s own skills and weaponry to get an almost unstoppable villain.

Helmut Zemo was traumatized by his abusive childhood and indoctrination. He eventually realized that his father was a monster and moved away from fascism. He’s pragmatic, courageous, and able to come up with evil plans on the fly. Baron Zemo genuinely believes that the world will become a better place once he has conquered it.

The Actors Who Play Baron Zemo

Heinrich Zemo

Gillie Fenwick – The Marvel Super Heroes
Robert Atkin Downes – Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Danny Jacobs – Avengers Assemble
Taketora – Marvel Disk Wars: Avengers

Helmut Zemo

Phillip Sheppard – The Avengers: United They Stand
David Kaye – Avengers Assemble
Daniel Bhrül – Captain America: Civil War, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Didya Get All That?

A lethal lineage uniting villains through the decades.

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