With specialties in genetics and biochemistry, Swiss scientist Arnim Zola decodes Deviant technology and unlocks the secrets to artificial life-forms. With his knowledge, he joins the Nazis during World War II, lending his genius yet ruthless experiments, androids, and cloning technology to Hitler himself. He then extends his life by transferring his consciousness to robotic armor, making him one long-lived Super Villain.
Deviant Scientific Secrets
Born circa 1908, the frail, dwarfish genius Arnim Zola grows up to study with the brilliant Wladyslav Shinsky, founder of the Enclave over half a century later. In the 1930s, Zola discovers within his ancestral Swiss castle a cache of ancient documents detailing Deviant scientific secrets, which he decodes and puts to work in genetic experiments, eventually creating a tiny tentacled creature, his first artificial life-form. As years passed, Zola, using genetic material cloned from his own brain cells, creates other life-forms, but destroys those that become too violent.
When World War II breaks out, Zola, seeking financial support, travels from neutral Switzerland to its neighbor, Nazi Germany, where he enters Hitler’s service. It is not known if Zola participated in the mutation and/or creation of such superhuman Nazi operatives as the animated statue Sculpture, the amphibious Shark-Man, or the brain-transplant Corpse. Zola’s Nazi work attracted the attention of the Inhuman Phaeder and his half-Deviant son Maelstrom, who share additional secrets with him.
In early 1945, Zola completes a brain pattern-imprinting device, which can take one’s entire personality and memories and transfer them into the brain of a cloned body. Zola offers the technology to Hitler. Zola soon transfers his own consciousness into a new, taller body, its brain located within the chest cavity for better protection, with an ESP box for a “head.” As the war’s end neared, Zola completes the preparations for Hitler to transfer his consciousness after death, equips Johann Shmidt, AKA the Red Skull, with a serum to guarantee survival in suspended animation if necessary, then agrees to work with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, AKA Baron Strucker, and his subversive organization Hydra. On April 30, when Hitler’s physical body dies during a confrontation with the android Jim Hammond, AKA Human Torch, and Thomas Raymond, AKA Toro, his consciousness is then transferred into a disembodied brain prior to inhabiting a cloned body, although Zola keeps Hitler’s original brain for later use. Shortly afterward, a low-ranking German officer slays an independent Hitler clone.
Little is known of Zola’s activities, with Hydra or alone, in the following decades. He presumably maintains contact with Hitler, who often moves from one cloned body to another as circumstances require; in 1955, one such clone was slain by middle-aged American adventurer Ward Stocker. At some point, the mutant adventurer James Howlett/Logan, AKA Wolverine, interferes in Zola’s operations, although the pair never meet face-to-face.
Arnim Zola is perhaps the most brilliant human geneticist alive, rivaled only by the likes of Herbert Wyndham, AKA High Evolutionary, Dr. Miles Warren, AKA Jackal, and Nathaniel Essex, AKA Mister Sinister. He creates many artificial life-forms, ranging from animated furniture to fully sentient super-powered humanoids, as well as a wide array of advanced technology.
His artificial body is equipped with an ESP Box that converts telepathic input into sensory input, allowing him to see and hear; it is not known if he perceives odor or taste, nor how his body sustains itself with no visible means of consuming food. Because all of his creations originate as cloned cells from his own brain, he can establish telepathic contact with them and, if necessary, force their obedience or even take direct possession of them to control their every action. When linked to special equipment, he can project his senses anywhere within an indeterminate range. Zola wears an electronic chest harness which projects a three-dimensional image of his original face.
Monstrous Clone and Android Allies
During WWII, Zola allies with the Nazi Party and becomes not only a close ally to Adolf Hitler, but also one of Red Skull’s Division Chiefs. After the war ends with Hitler defeated and declared dead, he allies with subversive organization Hydra. However, Zola continues working with the seemingly dead Hitler, by transferring his consciousness into a clone body, known as Hate-Monger. His next creation which he transfers Hitler’s consciousness to is a genetic android called Nazi X. He also transfers the Skull’s consciousness into a clone of Captain America, and back to his body.
Eventually Zola creates the massive, putty-like Doughboy, the humanoid shape-changer Primus, and other such creatures to serve him. One creation, the Man-Fish, became a menace in the small nation of Rio De Muerte, and various monstrous creatures active during the 1950s and 1960s may also have been Zola’s work. Zola also builds several android duplicates of himself over the years for various projects, abandoning and forgetting them soon after they serve their purpose.
Using clone and android technology, Zola also creates additional allies to do his bidding, including Deltite, Man-Fish, and copies of Ben and May Parker and Gwen Stacy to be used later. He also forms the Corpse Corps, clone-like “proto-husks” animated by the DNA of supposedly deceased heroes and villains. He creates versions of Bucky Barnes, Red Raven (wartime), the Robert Frank, AKA Whizzer. Many of his clone and android creations, plus some of his mutates, are monstrous and carry out equally monstrous deeds.
A Mad Scientist’s Journal
In recent years, Zola created the Deltite, an android with brain patterns based on those of Baron Strucker, and sent him into S.H.I.E.L.D. as a Hydra sleeper agent. Soon afterward, Hitler, AKA Hate-Monger, was temporarily slain in an encounter with the Fantastic Four during his failed effort to conquer San Gusto. After a S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra confrontation months later left Strucker seemingly dead (although he later revived via Zola’s preparations), Zola left Hydra, eventually allying with the revived Red Skull.
In the identity of Cyrus Fenton, the Skull financed Zola’s reign of terror via the creation of genetic monsters around the world, many of them captured by S.H.I.E.L.D., which collected all relevant data in the mysterious File 116. Zola periodically checked on his many creations, including the Man-Fish, and thus it was he who encountered Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, and his ally Donna Maria Puentes after the pair’s battle with Rio De Muerte’s dictator, the Swine. At Zola’s command, Doughboy captured the two and returned them with Zola to his Swiss castle, which he had long since renovated into a series of animated rooms and furnishings. When Primus became drawn to Donna, Zola forcibly merged him with Doughboy, then gloated to his prisoners about his origins and activities. His oratory culminated with the presentation of Nazi X, a genetic android which was the latest body containing Hitler’s consciousness. Zola intended to transfer Hitler’s brain into Captain America’s body. Distracted by his own topic, Zola was interrupted when Donna hurled one of his laboratory’s vials of volatile material at him. She and Captain America fled while Castle Zola went up in flames, not realizing Zola had escaped the conflagration, as had Primus and Doughboy, who later allied with Helmut Zemo, AKA Baron Zemo, to mutate involuntary human subjects into monstrous forms, one such subject being Edward Whelan, transformed into the rat-like Vermin.
Zola later reunited with the Skull and the Hate-Monger on the Skull’s Isle of Exiles, where the trio used a biocomputer, empowered by enslaved captives, to calculate the re-creation of the Cosmic Cube from Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.). Completing the process via information extracted from A.I.M. founder George Clinton, they were interrupted by an invading S.H.I.E.L.D. strike force. During the chaos, the Hate-Monger used the mind-transference technique that had saved him from death so many times to enter the Cube itself, unaware that the creation process had been flawed, leaving his psyche to reside in a powerless container. Zola then broke ties with the Skull, next surfacing after the extradimensional banishment of Bruce Banner, AKA the Hulk, whose many scientific achievements remained in his Northwind Observatory. Zola sent a genetic duplicate of the Hulk himself to invade the observatory, but it was rendered inert in battle with the Avengers, who were slow in realizing that the Hulk-duplicate’s attire was actually a separate genetic creation, into which Zola projected his consciousness. Supported by additional Hulk-duplicates, Zola abducted Reed Richards, AKA Mister Fantastic, and Dr. Henry Pym, AKA Hank Pym, both of whom had been appointed by the government to investigate Banner’s findings, but Monica Rambeau, AKA Captain Marvel (later Spectrum), tracked Zola to his lair and sabotaged his equipment, leaving him at the mercy of the uncontrolled Hulk-duplicates.
Surviving the Northwind fiasco and reacquiring Doughboy, Zola re-entered the service of the Red Skull, who seemingly perished during an encounter with Captain America; in fact, Zola, operating out of the rebuilt Castle Zola, transferred the Skull’s consciousness into a clone of Captain America, in which form the Skull remained for some years. Zola also worked with Irish extremist Dennis Fitzgerald in a failed attempt to duplicate the powers of Molly Fitzgerald, AKA Shamrock. A Zola duplicate, who had spent years in the identity of Professor Scott Walshe, used mindless clones to determine the human body’s radiation saturation level via technology stolen from Symkaria. When Silver Sablinova, AKA Silver Sable and the Outlaws arrived to retrieve it, they clashed with Walshe’s former student Brian Braddock, AKA Captain Britain, and his own team, Excalibur, upsetting the apparatus and forcing Walshe to sacrifice his existence to end the threat. Widespread activities by Zola androids, less covert than Zola himself, may have prompted the formation of the Arnim Zola Defamation League, whose most prominent member is comedian Griffin Gogol, AKA Captain Ultra.
When not needed by the Skull, Zola pursued such projects as the mutation of the performers of der Jahrmacht, who hoped to thus better carry out their vendetta against the monstrous but peaceful Neuri, and the transformation of operatives of the Imperial Forces of America into the superhuman Brute Force. After taking over Victor von Doom, AKA Doctor Doom’s Adirondack castle, he hired the latest Rat Pack to abduct test subjects, including teenage Hallie Takahama, AKA Jolt, in the aftermath of the Onslaught disaster. Seeking both research and amusement, Zola transformed several children into monstrous mutates, although his work on Hallie imbued her with superhuman powers which she used to escape, returning with the newly debuted Thunderbolts. The mutated prisoners ultimately destroyed themselves and the Thunderbolts turned Zola over to the authorities, but he promptly escaped, although it is unclear if he returned to the Skull’s employ.
Operating from Dallas, Zola created clone-like “proto-husks” or Corpse Corps, by using the DNA of supposedly deceased heroes and villains; Zola also created duplicates of Ben and May Parker and of Gwen Stacy, presumably because he had learned Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker and hoped to use duplicates of his uncle, aunt, and girlfriend in the future. When Deadpool pursued a proto-husk of the Vamp to his lair, Zola unleashed over a dozen Corpse Corps members—versions of Bucky Barnes, Red Raven (wartime), the Whizzer, and others—to attack him, but they possessed little of their forebears’ talents, and Deadpool quickly slew the lot of them. Zola convinced Deadpool to depart via the gift of four Gwen Stacy duplicates, later reported dead in a plane crash.
Rejoined by Primus, the true Zola again unleashed monstrous creations worldwide, where they murdered various people and abducted others, including Viper, terrorist and ruler of Madripoor. When Zola’s creatures attacked the investigating mercenaries Bobbi Chase, AKA Blindside, and Amelia Greer, AKA Longbow, they attracted the attention of Wolverine and Nathan Summers, AKA Cable, who devastated the ranks of Zola’s monstrous servitors. Zola contemplated turning Ophelia Sarkissian, AKA Viper, over to “an old acquaintance,” but Viper soon resurfaced in Madripoor, Zola’s intended fate for her unrevealed. Zola, having acquired the services of the android Dragon Man, was later reportedly defeated by sonic-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson, AKA Quake.
When Hank McCoy, AKA Beast, contacted Zola and other criminal geneticists for input on reversing M-Day’s effects, Zola admitted he might be able to help but that he preferred to observe mutantkind’s supposed coming extinction.
Returning to the Red Skull’s service, Zola participated in a complex scheme to allow the Skull, then sharing a body with Aleksander Lukin, to instead possess Captain America, who was seemingly assassinated while his consciousness traveled through time. Forced to abandon the endeavor prematurely, Zola transferred the Skull into his own body and entered a backup, occupying his time by working with A.I.M. in weapon development and mutating abduction victims into superhuman operatives, uncaring that their mutations would ultimately kill them. After accepting a commission from Andreas von Strucker, AKA Swordsman, to clone Swordsman’s deceased sister Andrea, Zola rejoined Red Skull in Latveria, placing both Captain America’s and the Skull’s consciousness within Cap’s body, but with several allies’ help, Cap ejected the Skull.
Later, Zola hid in, Dimension Z, where time moved faster than on Earth. In a city-ship he ruled and dubbed Zolandia, he conducted heinous experiments where he created monstrous mutates, and genetically-engineered his own children, Jet Zola, AKA Jet Black, and her infant brother. Zola then kidnapped Captain America and performed experiments on him, which included surgically implanting an electronic version of himself into his torso. Without full knowledge of what he carried with him, Cap escaped Zola’s fortress and seemingly killed his infant son, but Cap had actually saved the infant. Over the next 12 years, Cap raised the infant as his own and named him Ian Rogers, biding time before the virus of Zola’s consciousness took over his mind. They survived thanks to an alliance with the Phrox, Dimension Z’s natives who opposed Zola.
When Zola discovered Cap was still alive, he sent his cruel and deadly daughter Black and the mutates after him, to avenge her “murdered” brother Ian. During a bloody battle between the Phrox and Zola’s mutates, under his daughter’s command, Zola and Black discovered Ian alive. Capturing him, Zola then threw Cap off a cliff. Zola brainwashed his son, whom he renamed Leopold, and sent the young boy to eradicate the good Captain. Zola next trained his city-ship on Cap’s reality, ready to use his mutates and spread his virus on Earth. Zola soon learned that his daughter betrayed him—her guilty conscience led her to side with Cap and the Phrox. Zola and Black fought as Zola attempted to kill the Phrox, but Black renounced her father. Unable to accept her deceit, he tried to bring her around, but was suddenly attacked by Cap.
Cap had survived Leopold’s attack thanks to the arrival of his lover Sharon Carter, who had killed Ian in defense of Cap and placed explosives all over Zola’s city-ship. Cap attacked and destroyed Zola’s body, but Zola promised he would live forever. Meanwhile, the city-ship was now a battle station filled with Zola’s Mutate Militia and it was jettisoning itself to Cap’s reality through a portal. Zola’s consciousness survived in his battle station and he reformed himself into a gigantic body. Zola attempted to stop Cap, Carter, and Black from leaving, but Carter sacrificed herself so the others could make it, and detonated the station..
Zola lived on and in a plan formed with Red Skull, opened a portal to New York, where he led an invasion. As he attacked the city, he found his daughter who had become close with Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon (later Captain America), and attempted to separate them by kidnapping her.
He then joined Elisa Sinclair, AKA Madame Hydra, and the High Council of Hydra to help the terrorist organization overthrow the United States government. With an altered Steve Rogers at their side, the group took over the U.S. while Zola ruled on the council. He attempted to steal Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube, from Wakanda but failed in his efforts.
When Hydra fell, Zola worked for Absolution Solutions under duress where he experimented on superhuman prisoners. He came up against a reformed Cain Marko, AKA Juggernaut, who helped liberate him and others from his captivity. Juggernaut offered Zola and the others a chance at reform, which Zola expressed zero interest in, but Juggernaut presented a compelling argument about using their collective power to keep others from being abused. Time will tell what Zola does next.