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Doctor Arnim Zola was a Swiss scientist working for HYDRA before, during, and after World War II. Originally an employee of the Nazi Sturmabteilung, in 1934 he was recruited by Johann Schmidt to become a lead scientist for Schmidt's HYDRA organization. During the war, he designed many advanced weapons to aid HYDRA in its quest for world domination. Despite being captured by the Allies shortly before Schmidt's defeat in 1945, he was offered a position in S.H.I.E.L.D., the newly formed peacekeeping organization, and he used that opportunity to secretly rebuild HYDRA.
When Zola received a fatal diagnosis in 1972, he transferred his mind into a complex computer system. His "brain" was destroyed when he caused missiles to be sent to Camp Lehigh, where he was stalling Captain America and Black Widow.
- "I am working on advanced exo-skeleton technology... To make o-one soldier fight ...like a battalion..."
- ―Arnim Zola
Arnim Zola became one of Germany's top scientists, and joined the Nazis during the rise of Nazism in Germany. In 1934, he worked at Sturmabteilung's Weapons Testing Grounds at Kummersdorf. His newest invention was the advanced exo-skeleton which could make one soldier fight like the battalion. In July, Kummersdorf was attacked by the SS troops led by Johann Schmidt. Almost the entire personnel of the base was killed, and he was spared only because he agreed to work on genetics. Schmidt wanted to use Zola's knowledge to turn himself into a superior man.
Working for HYDRA
Soon, Johann Schmidt organized his own SS division, HYDRA. Zola became HYDRA's top scientist. In September 1935, Zola was allowed to resume his work on exo-skeleton battle suits and various high-tech weaponry because Schmidt captured Abraham Erskine, a German scientist who worked on the Super Soldier Serum. By the time of the Spanish Civil War, Zola had created several advanced war machines. His finished exo-skeleton battle suit was used by HYDRA against the Spanish Republicans at Guernica in 1937.
- "How does it feel, Abraham? To have your hubris be responsible for the deaths of your wife and children?"
- ―Arnim Zola to Abraham Erskine
In November 1940, Zola was at Castle Kaufmann when Johann Schmidt tested the unstable Super Soldier Serum on himself. The serum enhanced his strength, but it also disfigured his face. Two days later, Zola visited Doctor Abraham Erskine in his cell and told him that Schmidt will kill him for failing to give him what he wanted. However, Zola and all guards in the castle were drugged by agent Peggy Carter who helped Erskine to escape.
Studying the Tesseract
- "The energy we have just collected could power my designs. All my designs. This will change the war."
"Doctor Zola, this will change the world."
- ―Arnim Zola and Johann Schmidt
When HYDRA forces found the Tesseract in 1942, Zola was ordered by Johann Schmidt to study and recreate its power. While Schmidt remained eager to begin the experiments to help his army defeat the Allies and win the war, Zola was more skeptical and insisted that they take their time as he was unsure if his machines would even work.
Eventually Schmidt forced Zola to begin the experiment and despite Zola's warnings, Schmidt pushed for an incautious approach the test the device's power. As a result, Zola accidentally discovered how to transform its energy into advanced laser ammunition and engines to be used against the United States Armed Forces. Zola designed advanced weapons for HYDRA, with his suits, weapons, vehicles and equipment helping HYDRA became more powerful than ever.
Later, Zola arrived in Johann Schmidt's office to find him having his portrait painted, using his true red face, while Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung played from the gramophone. Schmidt informed Zola that HYDRA had finally discovered Abraham Erskine's location. As Zola asked if he should give the order for Erskine's assassination, Schmidt responded that the order was already given before asking Zola's opinion on the painting, which Zola called a masterpiece.
Departing from the Reich
- "As you can see, production of the Valkyrie is progressing on schedule, even with components of this size."
- ―Arnim Zola
When three SS officers came to Johann Schmidt's base to question him about the progress in developing advanced weapons for Third Reich, Schmidt showed them Tesseract powered weapons made by Zola. But when they discovered that Schmidt intended to nuke Berlin, Schmidt vaporized them with his advanced cannon. Schmidt told Zola that HYDRA could grow no further in Adolf Hitler's shadow, to which Zola responded by saying "Hail HYDRA", despite his horror at the sudden violence against their former allies.
With HYDRA self-funded, Zola and Schmidt explored the Austrian HYDRA Weapons Facility where prisoners of war were being forced to build weapons powered by the Tesseract. Schmidt ordered that they increase their work load by an exceptional amount; when Zola warned that such an increased work load would very likely kill the men, Schmidt was not concerned, noting that they could always get more workers. Once Schmidt left, Zola contemplated this.
Captain America's Raid
- "No no no, what are you doing?"
"Our forces are outmatched."
- ―Arnim Zola and Johann Schmidt
In November 1943, the Super-Soldier Captain America, created by Abraham Erskine's successful experiment, arrived at the HYDRA base in Austria to rescue the Allied soldiers they were using as menial labor there. When Johann Schmidt saw this he immediately hit the self-destruct on the base, despite Zola's protests. Zola watched on a monitor as Captain America defeated their guards with ease.
With only minutes to spare, Zola ran to his lab where Bucky Barnes was being experimented on; he grabbed his documents for his many designs, including a battle suit. With everything he needed, Zola went back out to the corridor where he was spotted by Captain America. Zola made a run for it and, fortunately for him, the Captain let him go when he became distracted by rescuing Barnes, his friend, from the table where Zola's experiments had taken place.
Before long the base's self-destruct activated and much of the equipment exploded. As Zola and Schmidt made their escape from the base, they encountered Captain America and Barnes who were also looking for an escape. Both the Captain and Schmidt engaged in a brief battle where they showed themselves to be equally matched in strength, but Zola quickly separated them by pulling the bridge back. Schmidt then pulled off his mask and revealed his true face.
Schmidt and Zola then left the pair to die in the explosions.hile the base exploded and began burning to the ground, Schmidt prepared to take off in a single man rocket; upon seeing this Zola questioned how he would escape, Schmidt relented and gave Zola the keys to his coupe, mercifully allowing his top scientist to escape the self-destructing factory, but not before warning him not to scratch the car at all under the threat of death.
Schmidt then left on the rocket to regroup with Zola at another time in their HYDRA Headquarters while Zola made it to the car and, with a smile on his face due to driving such an impressive vehicle, made his escape as the facility was destroyed; however, Rogers and Barnes also escaped and rejoined the army, using the information stolen from Zola's lab to begin gaining an advantage in their war against the Red Skull and HYDRA's plans for world domination.
Losing the War
- "This is hardly my area of expertise! I... I merely develop the weapons. I... I cannot fire them."
- ―Arnim Zola
Captain America and his Howling Commandos progressively managed to destroy most major HYDRA operations, preventing Zola any real ability to work on his scientific projects. The more HYDRA facilities were destroyed, the angrier and more deranged Red Skull became. Zola witnessed Schmidt threaten his life before murdering his own soldiers with Zola's HYDRA Pistol for failing to defend his facilities.
In April 1944, Zola was in a castle on an island in the Nazi occupied Danish Straits. The castle was invaded by Captain America, who managed to destroy one of Zola's exo-skeleton suits and an armored vehicle.
- "Stop him! Fire again! Kill him now!"
- ―Arnim Zola orders his soldiers
Eventually Zola had to be moved via armored train to the HYDRA Headquarters to continue his work. However the train was attacked by Captain America, Bucky Barnes and Gabe Jones who were attempting to capture Zola under the orders of Chester Phillips. Having seen his attackers on the video feed, Zola sent in his soldiers and ordered them to kill them, separating Captain America and Barnes and attempting to overpower them in the unexpected ambush.
Captain America and Barnes soon managed to defeat most of their attackers in the ensuing battle, but while they took a moment to catch their breath, Barnes was seemingly killed when he was shot off the side of the train and fell from the mountain, disappearing from sight into a freezing river. Zola's victory over the Howling Commandos was short lived however when Gabe Jones jumped through the ceiling and captured Zola at gunpoint. Zola was then handed over to Allied forces for questioning about HYDRA's overall plans.
Zola was quickly taken to the Strategic Scientific Reserve's base and interrogated by Colonel Chester Phillips. Phillips noted that his lack of the Cyanide Pills normally used by HYDRA agents to prevent capture suggested that he did not want to die personally. Zola told them everything he knew about HYDRA and revealed that Johann Schmidt's plans were for complete world domination.
- "You had a vision, and it didn't come to pass. What is the point of anything now? But given time and a bit of quiet, new visions will arise. I am familiar with your work on matters of the mind, Herr Doktor. It would give me great pleasure to hear your thoughts."
- ―Arnim Zola to Johann Fennhoff
One year after the war, Zola was serving his sentence in a prison in the United States of America. One day, he was given the Leviathan scientist Johann Fennhoff as a cellmate when Fennoff's attempts to destroy Howard Stark were stopped by Peggy Carter and the SSR. Since Fennhoff mouth was muzzled so that he could not use his power, Zola requested that he write down exactly how his power worked.
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States of America started Operation Paperclip, a program used to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany for employment by the United States and deny their scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. As part of the operation, Zola was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D., the peacekeeping organization taking over from the Strategic Scientific Reserve. However, the leaders of S.H.I.E.L.D. were unaware that they were in fact growing a parasite.
Using S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resources, Zola continued his experiments on Bucky Barnes with other doctors to turn him into HYDRA's secret weapon/assassin. Zola also managed to build an entire computer system which his mind was uploaded into as an artificially intelligent user interface. Though Zola's body died in 1972, his mind continued to live in cyberspace, where he was able to provide easy passage into the agency for HYDRA sleeper agents that either managed to escape justice during the war or were corrupted from within.
Two years after the Battle of New York, Alexander Pierce, a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official who was one of HYDRA's undercover operatives, attempted to initiate HYDRA's new global rule by taking control of Project Insight under the noses of the World Security Council and all other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers, in their efforts to stop Pierce, discovered a bunker hidden beneath Camp Lehigh where the mainframe containing Zola's downloaded consciousness was located.
Zola revealed to them HYDRA's plans for Project Insight, its infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its long history with continuing to create chaos across the modern world. However, the entire time he was in fact stalling until HYDRA could attack. Shortly thereafter, Romanoff learned of Zola's deception and they attempted to escape, only for Zola to lock them inside. Moments later, the bunker was attacked and destroyed in an attempt to kill Rogers and Romanoff, with Zola's mainframe being destroyed in the explosion.
- "Captain, what a pleasure to meet you face to face. I am Arnim Zola. How wonderful that you have awoken in time for me to show off my laboratory facilities."
- ―Arnim Zola
A man of dubious morality, Dr. Zola was one of the most infamous scientific minds on the planet. There was no crime he wasn't willing to commit if that could help him in his scientific experiments. Despite his amorality, Dr. Zola wasn't sadistic, evident by the shock and fear he often displayed towards Red Skull's actions and megalomania. Zola's loyalty to HYDRA seemed to be slightly reluctant during World War II, although after being captured by Captain America and following the war, Zola was key to the survival and re-creation of the organization showing that he had become frantically loyal to HYDRA's goals and was willing to do anything to see those goals accomplished by creating world chaos, leading to the deaths of millions. Zola no doubt had a particular hatred of Captain America as he sacrificed himself in order to ensure that Captain America and Black Widow were obliterated in a missile strike by HYDRA. He seemed to be somewhat cowardly during the war, following HYDRA out of fear and willing to keep himself alive in a machine, although when death came he was willing to accept since he was "out of time."
- Master Scientist: Arnim Zola was the greatest scientist amongst those who worked for the Third Reich, and later HYDRA. He was interested both in technology and genetics, though he preferred making the new weapons to aid the Axis in world conquest instead of enhancing human bodies to the peak of human perfection.
- Master Engineer: Zola designed many weapons years ahead of his time. From his early experiments designing Exo-skeletons and battle tanks, to the breakthroughs he made once he was able to collect the energy of the Tesseract, Zola had a natural talent for designing advanced weapons systems.
- Computer System: With S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resources, Zola was able to build an entire computer system which his mind was uploaded into as an artificially intelligent user interface. Though Zola's body died in 1972, his mind continued to live in cyberspace. By the 2010s, though decades old, the computers were still operational.
Video Game Only
- In the comics, Arnim Zola is a geneticist whose consciousness is eventually transferred in to a robotic body. His first appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger as a close-up of his face on an old-style television screen, evokes his comic-book counterpart.
- The blueprints for Dr. Zola's android body can be seen when Zola is gathering his papers to escape the factory.
- In the non-canon video game Captain America: Super Soldier, Arnim Zola and Baron von Strucker are sent by the Red Skull to Castle Zemo to find the Sleeper and finish Project Master Man.
- In the archived photograph Zola shows to Captain America and Black Widow of the Operation Paperclip rocket scientists, Zola takes the place of Helmut Hölzer. Besides an uncanny resemblance, Hölzer also worked on advanced computer/targeting systems like Zola.
Behind the Scenes
- According to screen writer Stephen McFeely, the film makers wanted to give Arnim Zola a backstory rather than introduce him as he is in the comics where "he's a head in a TV screen in a big robot body."
- Screen writer Stephen McFeely stated that during the film, Zola serves as the audience's eyes to all the over-the-top evil that going on in the film."
- ↑ Zola S.H.I.E.L.D. File
- ↑ Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 4
- ↑ Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 2
- ↑ Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 5
- ↑ Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 6
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Captain America: The First Avenger
- ↑ Captain America: First Vengeance, Volume 3
- ↑ Agent Carter: 1.08: Valediction
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 The Art of Captain America: The First Avenger, pg. 68