Current Status: Unknown
Helmut Zemo was born to greatness-and great darkness. Both legacies began with Harbin Zemo, a minor official in the small town of Zeulniz who single-handedly fought off a band of Slav raiders in 1480. Rewarded with a title as the first Baron Zemo, Harbin became legendary for his bravery, but he also became infamous for his grandiose ego and bloodthirsty temper. In the early 20th Century, scientific genius Heinrich Zemo became the twelfth Baron Zemo. Heinrich and his wife Hilda had a son, Helmut. Born in the 1930s, Helmut spent at least part of his youth in Berlin, developing a fondness for American popular culture imports such as horror films, comic books and movie serials.
Meanwhile, Heinrich became a leading scientist and special agent in Hitler’s Nazi regime, inventing an early laser beam (his “death ray”), the super-durable Adhesive X, the age-retarding Compound X, and more. While his loving family worshipped him, Heinrich quickly became one of the most despised enemies of the Allied powers, and was also widely disgraced in his own country after a defeat by America’s Howling Commandos. Hated and feared both at home and abroad, Heinrich began wearing a hooded disguise almost constantly; he also began going mad, especially after his hood was permanently glued to his head by Adhesive X during a battle with the Allied super-agent Captain America. As Heinrich grew more unstable, he became abusive toward his family. Hilda died helping Captain America thwart Zemo’s Medusa Effect scheme, but Helmut remained loyal, helping his father battle the Captain and the hero’s young partner Bucky Barnes during that same incident.
In 1945, Baron Zemo seemingly slew Captain America and Bucky and went into hiding in the Amazon, carving out his own private kingdom with the aid of a mercenary army (including Erik Josten in recent years) and an enslaved native population. In Heinrich’s absence, Helmut led a more normal life for decades, studying science and becoming an engineer. Summoned to visit Heinrich’s Amazon stronghold, Helmut watched his father ruthlessly crush a native uprising, saw Josten’s fanatical devotion to the Baron, and heard Heinrich boast of killing the World War II freedom fighter Citizen V (John Watkins); Helmut was disturbed yet intrigued. Roughly one year later, news of Captain America’s survival led to a series of clashes between the Captain (backed by the Avengers) and the Baron (backed by his Masters of Evil). After Heinrich accidentally killed himself during a battle with Captain America, Helmut blamed the Captain for destroying their family. Studying and replicating some of Heinrich’s inventions and undergoing combat training, Helmut eventually attacked Captain America in the costumed guise of the Phoenix, also battling the Captain’s new partner the Falcon. In the end, Zemo was accidentally knocked into a vat of Adhesive X.
Helmut survived, but with hideous facial scars. As the new Baron Zemo, he targeted Captain America with the aid of his android ally Primus and various mutates created by Zemo’s mad geneticist associate Arnim Zola, such as the rat-man Vermin. Zemo also began menacing the Captain’s friends, notably Arnie Roth. Barely escaping with his life after Vermin turned on him, Zemo formed an alliance with Nazi mastermind the Red Skull and his daughter Mother Night, allowing them to mentor him in the ways of evil as they launched a series of attacks on Captain America and his friends. Zemo soon wearied of both his subordinate status and his mentors’ indiscriminately hateful worldview, so he turned against his allies. Narrowly surviving a psychic assault from Mother Night, the Baron decided to avenge the loss of his family by destroying Captain America’s adopted family, the Avengers. Zemo recruited the largest Masters of Evil team yet and led them in occupying Avengers Mansion, capturing and torturing several of the occupants. The Avengers soon retook the Mansion, and Zemo suffered a crippling fall in battle with Captain America.
Later, aided by the mercenary Batroc’s Brigade, Zemo battled Captain America and others on a futile quest to resurrect Heinrich with the Bloodstone. Further injured in another fall while escaping, Zemo subsequently tried to press Vermin and the other mutates back into his service, but Spider-Man opposed him, and Vermin ultimately turned on him viciously again. Sometime thereafter, Helmut married the Zemo-inspired terrorist known as the Baroness, who had once claimed to be Heinrich Zemo resurrected in female form. As the Baron and Baroness Zemo, the couple abducted a host of neglected and abused children to create an instant family for themselves, but Captain America freed the children and captured the Zemos with the aid of Diamondback (Rachel Leighton) and Free Spirit.