Arnim Zola was a biochemist whose knowledge of genetics was enhanced by his study of deviant science via old handbooks he discovered. He has no powers of his own but has achieved much though his own extraordinary technology and ambition.
Zola was hired by the Red Skull to reverse-engineer some of Doctor Doom's time travel technology so that he could separate his consciousness from Aleksander Lukin's by aging Sharon Carter's child and placing his mind into the body. Sharon was able to break free from the device and kill Lukin, but as a fail safe Zola had the Skull's mind transport to one of his android bodies in the event of Lukin's death. Zola was killed by a mentally unstable Grand Director but it is believed that his mind was teleported to another android body, as Zola has escaped death before via this method. Zola would later join up with a alternative universe Captain America that had his whole backstory changed by a rogue Cosmic Cube to believe that he was a lifelong agent of HYDRA and would supply him with the suit that would house his Cube fragments.
Arnim Zola's original body was killed years ago by himself willingly as he was trapped with his own designed biological virus that horrifically mutated organic material and turned humans into unreasonable savages: to escape this he used robotic shells to house his consciousness. Since then he simply moves his mind from one android body to another, effectively making himself immortal.
Arnim has made his return in the recent Marvel Now Captain America comic, ruling his own "Dimension Z" which he has filled with many of his own strange creations. He captured Captain America and tried to perform experiments on him, implanting him with the Zola Virus, which is a biological weapon designed to overcome the immune system of the host and forcefully mutate them into Zola himself, even with a self-created "screen" of Zola much like his robotic suits have. Arnim was planning on invading Earth with his thousands of mutants armed with his virus to take over the world, until he was defeated by Captain America and Arnim's own son, whom Steve had taken on as his own for years in his world, but merely 30 minutes in actual Earth time. He would try again to invade Earth with his "Unvengers" but was forced to retreat.
Arnim Zola was created by Jack Kirby in 1977 and first appeared in Captain America # 208.
Powers & Abilities
Arnim Zola possesses the ability to mentally control his various genetic creations by means of the ESP Box mounted atop his torso and surgically attached to his central nervous system. Although most of the creatures possess limited intelligence and the capacity for creative thought, Zola can override their mental processes if he so desires for his own desires. The ESP Box is a retractable device that can convert brain waves into electronic signals for transmission as telepathic commands within ordinary radio range. Normally, Zola is capable of controlling only his own organic creations, but if he remains linked to his support equipment, he can stimulate his own mental power to such a degree that he can create a psychokinetic network able to animate inorganic matter within radio range. Zola is unable to control natural organic life.
Where Arnim Zola's head should be is located in a device called the ESP Box. This device allows him to gain mental control of others, fire mental blasts or even transfer his consciousness into another android body if need be. His shells are usually not that strong, but fast enough to move in micro-seconds. Some of his later suits are more prone for actual combat and can hold their own against Captain America or his allies.
Arnim Zola regularly has a number of super-powered androids that he can call upon to serve him.
In Ultimate Enemy, Arnim Zola III is a member of Roxxon Corp's brain trust. The original Arnim Zola was also a WW2 biochemist that experimented on as many innocent people as per possible to create super-solders for the German Army, apparently dying when his "Siegsoldat" ("Victory soldier") fell on him after fighting the Captain America of that world. His body almost dead, he would be brought in covertly by US forces to take his information and experience on creating biological weapons. An A.I. would be made of his brain before neurological damage would kill him.
His A.I. stolen by a white power terrorist group in the modern day, Zola would convince the leader to go under experimentation of his own, turning the normal man into a 20-foot monstrosity dubbed "Siegsoldat-X" and applying armor and Zola's own A.I on the top of the monster, creating a weapon that would terrorise the South, with Zola killing many to continue his research. Captain America and Falcon would later find and destroy the Siegsoldat-X, with the people who had been maimed by his torture ripping him and the creature apart, destroying Zola for good.
In the 2011 film, Arnim Zola, played by Toby Jones, is a meek scientist working for the Red Skull's HYDRA. Zola is in charge of making HYDRA's advanced weaponry, using the Cosmic Cube as a power source. Zola is portrayed more sympathetically than his comic book counterpart, being afraid of the increasingly unstable Red Skull. Zola is captured by the Howling Commandos on a train transporting weapons. The raid leads to the death of Bucky. The captured Zola reveals the location of the secret HYDRA base to save himself.
At no point does Zola transcend his human body, but he is first seen on a green tinted monitor, hinting at his comic counterpart.
In the 2014 sequel, Arnim Zola appears in his computer form in a bunker during the events of the movie, as an advanced Artificial Intelligence. It is stated that Zola was a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. after World War 2 ended, and worked for the organization for decades before he was diagnosed with a fatal illness in the 1970's. He chose to live on in a computerized form hidden from most of the organization, all the while secretly helping HYDRA infiltrate and take hold of the group, developing a algorithm to detect future criminals via past actions and public records. He is supposedly killed once and for all after the bunker is destroyed in an attempt to kill Captain America and Black Widow.
Toby Jones reprised his role.
- Captain America: Super Soldier - Arnim Zola is the primary antagonist in the Captain America: The First Avenger tie-in video game. At first he appears as he does in the film, but as you progress through the game, you must fight his robot-forms. However, it is revealed in the end credits, that he was merely controlling the robots from a distance, as Red Skull asks him if he is done playing games. He is voiced by
André Sogliuzzo. This game is non-canon to the MCU universe due to existing MCU characters appearing when they shouldn't (Zemo appears in his old comic appearance when he's from the modern day in Civil War)
Lego Marvel Super Heroes - Arnim Zola appears in the game.
Avengers Alliance - Arnim Zola appears as a boss character.
- Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 - Arnim Zola appears as a playable character.
Arnim Zola appeared in the film as an elderly, wheelchair-bound scientist. He was portrayed by Peter Haworth.
Arnim Zola makes a surprise appearance in the Season 1 finale, which takes place after the events of The First Avenger. He is shown imprisoned in the same cell as Doctor Faustus, and tells the villain that the two of them can work together to strike back at the Americans. It is implied that this led to the eventual brainwashing technology seen in The Winter Soldier.
- Zola appears in the Ultimate Spider-Man episode "S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy," voiced by Mark Hamill. In the series, it shown via flashbacks that Zola was a prominent Golden Age villain who faced Captain America and the Whizzer during World War 2. In the present, he hacks Amadeus Cho's Iron Spider armor, but is defeated by Spider-Man. He returns in the episode "Attack of the Synthezoids," where he replaces the academy's staff and students with Synthezoids. He is again thwarted by the heroes.
- Arnim Zola appears in Marvel Future Avengers, voiced by Volcano Ota in the Japanese original and by Kirk Thornton in the English dub.
- Mark Hamill reprises his role as Zola in the Avengers Assemble episode "Avengers No More" and the Marvel's Spider-Man episode "Spider-Island: Part 2."
- Toby Jones reprises his role in What If...?
- Hasbro released an Arnim Zola Build-a-Figure Marvel Legends wave.
- Arnim Zola was featured in Hasbro's action figure line for the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.
- Arnim Zola was featured in the HeroClix figure game.
- Bowen Designs produced an Arnim Zola bust.
- Arnim Zola was featured in Diamond Select's Minimates line.
- Hasbro later released an updated Arnim Zola figure as part of a Marvel Legends two-pack with Supreme Hydra.