A Tale of Two Zemos
Baron Heinrich Zemo is the villain who, arguably, caused Captain America the most grief during his stint in World War II. Appearing with a strange purple mask over his face, somewhat similar to GI Joe’s Cobra Commander, Zemo didn’t have any super natural abilities to threaten the Captain with on a regular basis, but he had a lot of guns and a lot of men. One of the biggest things Zemo created during his time in the Nazi party was “Adhesive X”, a chemical that was REALLY STICKY (Ok, they can’t all be winners but hey, it was used later by Marvel villain, Paste Pot Pete!). Well wouldn’t you know it, the adhesive spilled on Zemo in a battle with Steve and he was unable, from that time moving forward, to remove his purple mask from his face. It was here the Zemo swore revenge on Captain America, which was a hatred that passed down the generations, but not before Heinrich dealt a heavy blow to Cap.
Unlike in Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The First Avenger, Zemo was actually responsible for “killing” Bucky. As we know, Bucky didn’t really die for decades following, but he was believed to have been dead. In the comics, Zemo strapped both Captain America and Bucky to an “experimental plane”, rocketed it into the sky, and set it to explode. Bucky heroically broke free, saved Cap and pushed him to safety before apparently perishing with the plane. Zemo survived well past the war, and it was only after creating a team of super villains called “The Masters of Evil” in present times that he died in a battle with Cap, only to be succeeded by his son, Helmut Zemo.
Don’t Forget Your Helmut
With the past generation out of the way, Baron Helmut Zemo hit the scene and continued his father’s work of plaguing Captain America and his new teammates in the 21st century, The Avengers. Zemo had an accident quite similar to that of his father’s but rather than having the mask glued to his face, his visage was merely burnt beyond recognition into a horrible monster face. Lauded as one of the greatest Avengers stories of all time, Zemo assembled his own “Masters of Evil” team including the likes of Mr. Hyde, the Wrecking Crew, Moonstone, Blackout, and more to orchestrate a full out assault on Avengers mansion. Taking out each Avenger one at a time, things seemed lost for the team, until the Avengers’ reserve members saved the day—but not before Zemo destroyed most of Captain America’s old life. Zemo not only destroyed most of the keepsakes from Steve’s life during World War II, but also had his team horrifically beat the Avengers’ butler, Jarvis (who you can currently see on the ABC series Marvel’s Agent Carter).
From here, Zemo hatched arguably his greatest plan, and if you ask me, it’s the best plan a super villain has ever concocted. Following the apparent death of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four during the comic book event “Onslaught”, Zemo came up with the idea to masquerade his team of “Masters” as super heroes, to win over the trust of the public. Once the governments and the public had given them their secrets, the team would then spring their trap and reveal their true identities. And so the Thunderbolts were born. Though the plan was short lived, as is the case with most characters who appear to be dead, the Avengers and Fantastic Four returned, and the plan had to be put to an end early as Zemo tried, in earnest, to get his original machinations to bear fruit. Unfortunately for him, he was foiled once again.
From here, Zemo was a thorn in the side of many Marvel heroes, but he also tried to become a hero for a brief period of time. Being persuaded by the rest of his original Thunderbolts team, the good Baron tried his hand at being a hero, although his methods were usually quite villainous anyway, making it all somewhat moot. But you can’t fault the guy for trying!
Civil War: Zemo
Daniel Bruhl of Inglourious Bastards and Rush fame, has been cast in the third installment of Captain America, Captain America: Civil War, reportedly as Baron Zemo. In the comics, Zemo wasn’t that prevalent in the Civil War saga, not even appearing in the main series at the time. Rather, Zemo stuck to his group of Thunderbolts and was employed by Tony Stark to recruit other villains to the side of “Pro-Registration”. After all, nothing says trustworthy like having a group of murderers and thieves doing your fighting for you.
Zemo not only took advantage of this opportunity, he also secretly buried the hatchet with Captain America, travelling back in time and saving the artifacts of Cap’s life he had destroyed during the “siege on Avengers mansion”. Eventually though, Zemo falls back into his villainous ways, going from anti-hero into straight up antagonist once again.
Well I doubt that they would be able to establish the Thunderbolts in Cap 3, as we already have so much going on as it is, including the introduction of both Spider-Man and Black Panther to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. ButI could see Zemo having a similar role in the movies as he did in the comics. Perhaps Zemo is hired by Stark to give Tony an edge over Captain America or to rally some of the more undesirable elements of the MCU to his side. Captain America: Civil War is set to be one of Marvel’s most ambitious endeavors this side of Guardians of the Galaxy, and I can’t wait to see Bruhl’s portrayal of the good Baron.