Baron Helmut Zemo was thirteenth in the line of the Zemo Barony. He grew up as the son of a former Nazi whom had fought Captain America in World War II. When his elderly father Heinrich died in battle with a revived Captain America years after World War II, Helmut Zemo sought revenge. Helmut started planning his actions against the Super Soldier and used and started using the alias "Phoenix", which also came with a costume. After luring and battling Captain America and the Falcon as Phoenix, Helmut fell into a vat of Adhesive X which seriously disfigured his face. He would return years later and assume the family identity as his birthright.
Helmut Zemo was created by Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella and Sal Buscema and first appeared as Phoenix in Captain America #168. Nearly a decade later, he made his first appearance as Baron Zemo, in his now familiar costume, in Captain America #275 by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck. He made his first appearance as Citizen V, the leader of the Thunderbolts, in Incredible Hulk #449.
Starting off as a generic revenge-seeking "villain-of-the-week", Helmut Zemo went on to become one of the greatest foes of Captain America and the Avengers during the 1980's. It was however in the 1990's that his greatest plan came to fruition when he had his team, the Masters of Evil, masquerade as heroes, and so the Thunderbolts were born. Eventually, this plan failed because the Masters of Evil started to enjoy being heroes and actively tried to achieve redemption.
While Zemo seems to be 'the ultimate villain', there is more depth to his character. Much like the X-Men's Magneto, Zemo has shifted from villain to hero and back again. During his heroic period, Zemo rejoined the Thunderbolts and tried making amends for his former deeds. Recently, Zemo again drifted back into his more dark persona. This happened when he found out that Bucky (the hero that was killed by his father which was seen as his father's greatest accomplishment) was alive and well. Seeking revenge once more, he drifted back into darkness.
Major Story Arcs
The Death of the Red Skull
Zemo allies himself with the Red Skull and the Sisters of Sin in a bid to once again destroy Captain America. It becomes apparent that the Red Skull is actually dying, and is unhappy about his sole heir being a woman. After kidnapping, torturing and tormenting Captain America's closest friends, Zemo and Mother Superior fought for the right of succession and in the ensuing battle Zemo appears to be slain by Mother Superior. Red Skull reveals he has been playing the two against each other, but prior to his death, he ultimately rejects his daughter.
Baron Zemo's first crowning glory came when he assembled a group of Masters of Evil and led them on an assault on Avengers Mansion. The Masters of Evil severely beat both Hercules and Jarvis, as well as destroyed the mansion and several of Captain America's personal effects, including the last picture he had of his mother. Zemo sends the Absorbing Man and Titania to recruit the Mongoose, much as they had with Moonstone some time before, but the intervention of Spider-Man prevents this. Zemo's siege turns to the Avengers' favor after his most powerful lackey, Blackout, apparently dies, while his two most loyal allies, Yellowjacket and the Fixer, are captured. The siege climaxes in hand-to-hand combat between Captain America and Zemo, which ends when Cap reveals to Zemo that his father's death was his own fault, and Helmut Zemo falls from the roof of Avengers Mansion.
The Bloodstone Hunt
Baron Zemo, obsessed with raising his father from the dead, allied himself with Batroc's Brigade and set out on a world-spanning quest to collect the fragments of the powerful Bloodstone to do it. He was thwarted by Captain America and Diamondback, but not before Zemo momentarily raises his father only to learn that his father's nothing but disappointed in him. Zemo is portrayed throughout this story in a neck brace, the result of his fall in the previously described Avengers storyline. This story also features the debut of Crossbones, who shadows the globe-trotting villains on behalf of the Red Skull.
Justice Like Lightning
Zemo had abandoned Heike, "Baroness Zemo," in prison and organized a new team of Masters of Evil when the Avengers and Fantastic Four disappeared during the Onslaught crisis and were thought of as dead. These Masters of Evil took false identities and had named themselves as the Thunderbolts. Leading them under the alias Citizen V, Zemo planned to have the Thunderbolts gain the world's trust in order to conquer it. The public took a liking to the team much quicker than Zemo or any of the other Thunderbolts expected and soon most of the team began to actually take an interest and a liking in being heroes.
When the missing heroes returned, Zemo had their true identities leaked, forcing them to flee with him into deep space to assist his plan to conquer the world through mind control. However, most of the Thunderbolts rebelled and foiled Zemo's plan. Zemo went into hiding and plotted revenge on his former teammates (who were trying to win back the public's trust by being true heroes). After another of Zemo's plans were foiled by Captain America and a new Citizen V (Dallas Riordan), Helmut was killed by the new Scourge, though his mind was transferred via bio-modem technology into the body of a comatose John Watkins III, grandson of the original Citizen V. Now in possession of Watkins' body, Zemo again played the role of Citizen V, this time as a member of the V-Battalion until the Thunderbolts' final battle with Graviton, in which, his consciousness was removed from Watkins' body and transferred, in electronic form, into his ally Fixer's mechanical "tech-pack".
A Change for the Good
On the artificial world Counter-Earth - the same world to which the Avengers and Fantastic Four had previously vanished - the Thunderbolts encountered Zemo's counterpart in that world, Iron Cross. Fixer transferred Zemo's mind into his double's unmutilated body. Zemo then took up leadership of the Thunderbolts who were on Counter-Earth; when this group was reunited with their teammates who had remained on the normal Marvel Universe Earth, Hawkeye briefly resumed leadership but then left the team to return to the Avengers.
For a while, Zemo remained the leader of the Thunderbolts. In 2004's "Avengers/Thunderbolts" limited series, he attempted to take over the world again -- this time with the belief that he could save the world by taking it over. Zemo now seems to be motivated by a twisted altruism rather than his original selfish desires; he feels he has grown beyond his father and his outdated white supremacist views in that regard. However, the Avengers foiled his scheme, his teammate Moonstone went berserk, Zemo's new body was blasted while he attempted to protect Captain America, and he left the team and went into hiding after obtaining Moonstone's twin alien gems, two artifacts of great power.
Zemo later returned and manipulated various factions such as Ms. Marvel, Henry Pym, the Purple Man, and Squadron Sinister into harassing the new Thunderbolts. He stepped out of the shadows to stop Genis-Vell, whose powers had grown out of control thanks to energy Zemo had fed into his body. After killing Genis to save the universe, Zemo rejoined the team.
Then it appeared that Baron Helmut Zemo saved the world by fighting an alien threat to the world. He fought with the stolen cosmic powers of twin gemstones. It was thought that this fight had saved the world, but had cost Baron Helmut Zemo his life. This was not true because, instead of dying, the Baron had been sent back in time by the power of the twin gemstones.
He would travel back in time to the home of his ancestors, or near his blood. He would slowly make his way back to the present because he would make jumps from one period of time to the next; always going back to his ancestors.
He traveled through several centuries. He witnessed the lives and deaths of his forefathers. He saw how the people lived in the Hamlet that was controlled by his family. He learned many things about his family and about himself. He found answers to questions he had about what caused his family to be the way it was.
In his next-to-last jump through time he came face to face with his father. Heinrich was an intelligent scientist who worked for Nazi Germany in World War II. He performed barbaric experiments on human subjects while trying to invent a death ray. Helmut Zemo confronted his father and a fight broke out. Helmut beat his father and started to turn away when his father called out to the German guards that protected him. However before they could kill Helmut he jumped to his last place in time, back to the present. When Helmut arrived in the present he was greeted by a distant cousin named Wendell Volker. Wendell intended to kill Helmut. However when he was confronted by the Baron he could not go through with it. He then tried to kill himself, but the Baron stopped him. Wendell asked the Baron why he saved him and the Baron told him that enough Zemo blood had already been spilled. The Baron wanted Wendell at his side as he tried to prove his point.
Helmut later returns to the present after Norman Osborn's defeat following his attack on Asgard. There Baron Zemo discovers that Bucky Barnes, Captain America's partner whom seemed to have perished at the hands of Helmut's father during World War II, was still alive. Helmut felt that, with Bucky alive, his father's legacy had been ruined. Helmut then decides to go after Bucky, whom was the current Captain America, with assistance from the Fixer. Baron Zemo starts to target the Barnes and recruits Jurgen "Iron-Handed" Hauptmann (of Red Skull's Exiles) and Sin to help him. He orchestrates an explosion that ends up injuring Falcon. Then he sends Jurgen to attack Bucky while he is in the hospital while Bucky was drugged by nanites that was slipped in his martini. After the nanites were neutralized by Jane Foster, Bucky and Black Widow are attacked by a woman wearing the Beetle armor. But the extent of Zemo's treachery went as far as leaking to the public Bucky's identity as the Winter Soldier. This prompted Bucky to face Zemo alone, only to be captured and sent to the island where he was meant to die. When Zemo launched James on a recreated missile of his design, Barnes freed himself from the missile and landed safely. But Zemo had still won, as Captain America turned himself in for his crimes as the Winter Soldier. Zemo decided to implement his revenge schemes against Hawkeye as a result. Following the aftermath of the "Trial of Captain America", Baron Zemo freed Sin from her imprisonment and the two of them sought out the Book of the Skull in Egypt. The story of her father's greatest failure in trying to harness the powers of an ancient fear god for the Nazi's during the war. Sin takes the notes needed to find the hammer that was left guarded after the war ended and shoots Helmut's teleporter and steals his ship. Left alive in the desert, Zemo tells Sin that he hopes she succeeds where her father failed because today, she made a new enemy as he left to find his way out of the desert.
After years of plotting his revenge against Hawkeye (for his role in the Thunderbolts), Baron Zemo's plans begin to take shape. Zemo makes a deal with Hawkeye’s former mentor Trick Shot, whose cancer had returned, to train Zemo’s mystery acquaintance to become a master archer in exchange for medical care. When the training was complete, Zemo relented on the deal. Trick Shot, on the brink of death, was delivered to Avengers Tower to serve as a message to Hawkeye. Before he died in his former pupil's arms, Trick Shot warns Hawkeye of the threat he will soon face. Hawkeye decided to test out his new vision and prepare himself for Zemo's return but instead found his brother, Barney alive as the new Trickshot.
Following the return of Steve Rogers to the identity of Captain America, Helmut has renewed his quest to kill off Captain America.
With Rogers now rendered old and depowered thanks to the Iron Nail, Zemo has turned his sights to Sam Wilson, the new Captain America.
Recently, the new Captain America and the new Nomad, Ian Rogers, The biological son of Arnim Zola and adopted son of Steve Rogers, attempted to rescue a young man named Lucas from HYDRA. However, this was all a ruse and Baron Zemo was able to capture Ian. He revealed to Ian that Lucas was in fact a member of HYDRA, as well as an Inhuman whose blood could sterilize mankind. Zemo intends to use Lucas' blood for Hydra's future plans before silencing Ian by apparently killing him and takes a picture of Ian's mangled body as a " Christmas gift " for Steve Rogers.
His goal is thwarted, and Ian is later revealed to have survived. Zemo and Ian both seemingly perish in an explosion, but the heroes cast doubt as to whether they really died.
Some months later, Zemo wakes up not knowing who he actually is, in a nice little town known as Pleasantville. Although every resident is very kind and gentle to him, he knows something is not right. After a few escape attempts from the village, Zemo receives a strange message. He is asked to come to a certain location underground. Curious, Zemo follows the lead and meets up with a man that turns out to be the Fixer. Fixer explains to Zemo that he and all the other residents in the village are actually (former) supervillains that got arrested and, through the use of a fragment of the Cosmic Cube, 'received' a new life in a 'jail' village of S.H.I.E.L.D., in which they could become upstanding citizens. Fixer returns Zemo back to normal, whom is furious for what S.H.I.E.L.D. did to them, and plans an uprising.
The moonstones grant a multitude of abilities such as energy/gravity/light manipulation, phasing, flight and more. Even without his moonstones, Helmut is a genius leader and scientist. He is very skilled in hand-to-hand combat as well as being a very accomplished swordsman. Zemo is an Olympic-level marksman with firearms. He is very skilled in field tactics and even turning the tide of every debate that he is involved in to his favor.
Avataars: Covenant of the Shield
In this Marvel Universe,Baron Zemo's name is Dreadlord. He is the main villain of this universe. He was previously called Zymo of Z'axis, a general who fought in World War Two and after he lost the war he swore that he will never remove his hood until he is the triumphant again.
In the Spider-Ham universe, Baron Zemo is portrayed as a Zebra called Baron Zebro.
In this Marvel Universe, Zemo is working in a group of Nazis lead by Baron von Strucker who are fighting Tony Stark in the 1930's.In the end it turns out that Baron Zemo is actually Howard Stark who has been brainwashed.
Baron Zemo is shown in the Marvel Zombies Universe with his team of Thunderbolts fighting Thor. Thor smashes Moonstone's (known as Meteorite) head completely and the only thing Zemo says is 'Meteorite!'.
In the universe of Deadpool MAX, Helmut Zemo is an American white supremacist (with a costume designed to evoke the image of a Klansman) who runs a survivalist community in the wilderness of Wyoming. It is revealed that he harbors a grudge against minorities due to an affair his father had with an African-American woman, as well as the death of his mother, which he irrationally blamed on Jewish doctors. He attempts to poison his followers and blame their deaths on the government in order to incite a massive race war, but the plan is thwarted when Zemo is violently assassinated by Deadpool.
In the Ultimate Universe, Baron Zemo is a cover identity used by Loki during his exile from Asgard during World War 2. His second in command is a young soldier named Helmutt, who he entrusts with his ancient runes. Decades later, Helmutt uses the runes to release Loki from the Room With No Doors, setting the events of Ultimates 2 in motion. Helmutt is promptly killed by his former master.
In Other Media
Avengers: United They Stand
Baron Zemo appears in the Avengers: United They Stand episode "Command Decision", voiced by Phillip Shepherd. This version of the character is the leader of the Masters of Evil, and seeks to destroy Captain America and the Avengers in order to avenge the death of his father.
Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
Baron Zemo appears as a recurring villain in Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. This version of the villain is a composite character; he has the name Heinrich Zemo, but has the costume and characterization of Helmut Zemo.
Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers
Baron Zemo appears in Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, voiced by Taketora.
Baron Zemo appears in the third season of Avengers Assemble (which was renamed Avengers: Ultron Revolution) as a recurring villain, voiced by David Kaye. This version of the character is first introduced as a withered old man who is the son of Heinrich Zemo, a prominent HYDRA scientist from World War 2. After hypnotizing Captain America, Zemo is able to find his father's old lab, which contains two vials of the Super Soldier Serum. After injecting himsel with one of the vials, Zemo becomes young and strong, resembling his comic counterpart. The Avengers ultimately thwart his plan to take revenge on Cap and replicate the serum. He later returns and recruits the Masters of Evil, using stolen tech from Tony Stark to transform them into a team of "heroes" known as the Thunderbolts. His plan is thwarted when the Thunderbolts decide to become genuine heroes and turn on Zemo.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Helmut Zemo appears as the main villain in Captain America: Civil War, portrayed by German actor Daniel Brühl. This version of the character is radically different, but still maintains his comic counterpart's penchant for strategy and scheming.
In the film, Zemo is a colonel from the nation of Sokovia, and the head of an elite military unit. After his wife and child are accidentally killed during the Avengers' battle with Ultron, Zemo swears vengeance and sets out to destroy the team from within. After arranging a complex scheme, Zemo successfully shatters the Avengers and pits Captain America and Iron Man against one another. He is captured by Black Panther and is sent to prison, but takes comfort in the fact that his plan succeeded.
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher
Zemo makes a cameo appearance in the Japanese anime film Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher.
- Baron Zemo is a boss character in Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Mettle.
- Baron Zemo appears as a boss character in Marvel Avengers Alliance.
- Baron Zemo appears as a playable character in Marvel Avengers Academy.
- Baron Zemo is playable in the Thunderbolts DLC pack for Lego Marvel's Avengers. His Citizen V persona is playable in the Thunderbolts DLC pack.
- Helmut first received an action figure in Mattel's Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars toy-line, even though he does not appear in the comic.
- It should be noted that in the Toy Biz Marvel Legends Mojo "Build-a-Figure" series, a variant figure of the Baron "Heinrich" Zemo "Unmasked" was available. The variant was actually not of Heinrich, but rather Helmut as he appeared in an issue where he was tricked into posing as his father.
- When Hasbro took over the Marvel Legends line from Toy Biz, they released a Baron Zemo figure for the Mandroid "Build-a-Figure" wave.