Baron Zemo is not out to bring the end of a realm or seek world domination — instead, he's one of the most human villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his motivations were clear and concise in Captain America: Civil War. Earth's Mightiest Heroes directly caused the death of his entire family in Avengers: Age of Ultron so, at the very least, it's easy to see why he did everything in his power to make them turn on one another. His villainous turn likely resonated with those who watch the MCU.
Outside of his radicalization, who exactly is hiding under that purple mask? Let's take a look at Baron Zemo, one of the antagonists for Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The Anti-Captain America
Throughout the history of Marvel Comics, if you see Captain America, Baron Zemo isn't likely to be far behind. As is the norm in the comics world, the villainous mantle is one worn by many. In fact, Helmut Zemo is the 13th such character to go by the name within the continuity.
The Zemo lineage first appeared in a flashback sequence in The Avengers #4 (1964), a creation of Marvel's most prominent duo — Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It's in this story that Zemo's plane explodes, seemingly sending Bucky plummeting to his death. While the character had nothing to do with Bucky's original accident in Captain America: The First Avenger, he debuted in Captain America: Civil War and is assuming his rightful place as a nemesis to Cap, Barnes, and now, Sam Wilson's Falcon.
The Zemo line is often associated with HYDRA comics in the source material, but that's simply not the case in live-action. In the MCU, actor Daniel Bruhl portrays Helmut Zemo as a retired soldier, having previously served as a Colonel in the Sokovian Armed Forces where he participated in a special ops strike team.
If you think back to Civil War, there's even a moment when Zemo drowned a HYDRA operative in order to get the book necessary to control the Winter Soldier.
Coincidentally enough, being powerless is what makes Marvel Studios' version of Baron Zemo one of the most powerful characters in the shared entertainment world. After all, outside of a character like Surtur, he's one of the few villains to actually succeed at his endgame.
On that front, Marvel Studios has paid the ultimate respect to the character's roots in comic history. Though he's possessed the otherworldly Moonstones at one point, he's largely been kept without traditional powers throughout the majority of his existence. This has let writers craft him as one of the world's master strategists and scientific geniuses.
There's a distinct possibility The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is far from the last time we'll see Brühl's take on Zemo. One popular theory surrounding the show is that it could result in the creation of the Thunderbolts — a government-sanctioned team made up of reformed criminals and villainous has-beens.
For the most part, Baron Zemo's always been a character to be included on the traditional Thunderbolts roster. In fact, if we go all the way back to Thunderbolts #1, it was Zemo who set the wheels in motion for the creation of the team as he turned his Masters of Evil group into the fan-favorite team. Hopefully, the Disney+ series is the beginning of a comic-accurate portrayal of the Avengers' villainous replacements in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuts on Disney+ beginning Friday, March 19th.
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