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Arnim Zola in a Marvel pose and style

Arnim Zola


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game


“Only one man could have devised something this devilish ! Zola ! Show yourself !”
– Captain America


Context

Arnim Zola is a classic Captain America enemy. Though he feels like a 1960s character, he only popped up in 1977. Over the decades Zola has worked with many core enemies of Captain America, particularly the Red Skull.

Zola is an amazing genius in biology. One of this things is to create horrible monsters and many sorts of living structures and machines. There is little that he cannot do with DNA, flesh and sinews. He’s thus one of the top “mad scientist” types in the Marvel Universe.


Background

  • Real Name: Arnim Zola
  • Other Aliases: The Bio-Fanatic
  • Marital Status: Unknown, presumed single
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: Former member of the German National Socialist Party and of Hydra. Leader of the Corpse Corp, occasional ally of the Red Skull. 
  • Base Of Operations: Various secret labs
  • Height: 5’10” (in modified body with ESP Box) Weight: 200 lbs. (in modified body with ESP Box)
  • Eyes: Brown (originally) Hair: Reddish brown (originally)


Powers and Abilities

Zola is a genius in genetics, biology and chemistry, as well as a brilliant engineer. He was able to build artificial beings or transfer consciousnesses from one body to the next… in the late 1930s ! It is possible that he’s the most skilled biologist on Earth. Mister Sinister may have been more skilled in genetics, but he’s currently dead.

S.H.I.E.L.D. considers Zola to be a genius on the level of a Doctor Doom, though with less breadth in his fields. Zola is also a very skilled MD, though he rarely uses his talents to heal, and a superior technologist.

An early opus magnum of Zola was to grow a new, stronger body for himself. Intended to be practical and devoid of vulnerable areas, it is non-standard. For instance it misses a head – the brain is kept in the chest, and it is unclear how the sensory organs work and where they are.

How strong that body is is unknown (the stats above are guesses), but Zola seemed to assume he could beat up a well-trained man. Zola’s body has been referred as being “bio-synthetic‘, and since he’s seldom physically confronted it is entirely possible it might be more powerful than what’s in our game stats.

Zola’s ’enhanced‘ body includes some electronic and psychotronic  equipment. The most visible are his ’face circuits’, which display the image of a face over a flat screen built into his costume’s chest area.

This face is fully expressive and verbal – it’s just as if Zola’s face was a giant one growing over his chest, speaking, emoting and directing its gaze as a real face would. An impact can disrupt the face circuit, but there are multiple backups.

Man with a box

Another notable piece of equipment is the “ESP Box” – a box filled with electronics which stands where his head should be. The ESP Box can be very quickly retracted into the body, leaving a shallow hole at the base of the neck, if Zola is threatened. The Box behaves just like a head, and includes multiple sensors (though there are biological backups in the rest of the body).

It also includes psychotronics enabling Zola to project his consciousness into a suitable creation of his. Further psychotronics enable him to telepathically give orders to his creations, which they cannot normally resist. Those circuits need a relay to be fully effective, though – Zola usually uses a remote-like handheld device to project his orders.

The ’remote‘ seems to include backup psychotronics, so people other than Zola can use it to direct Zola’s creatures. The power of this feature likely has limited endurance.

Arnim Zola by Jack Kirby

Zola can ’evacuate‘ a bio-synthetic body within seconds. He’s reluctant to do so (the experience seems to be unpleasant if done in a rush), but if cornered he will do so after setting up some kind of explosion or other attempt to maximise benefits from the sacrifice of a body. Zola can live forever by projecting his consciousness into new bodies he built for himself.

When Zola needs to perform large-scale Control effects, he will usually have special machines extend from his lair, ship, etc. and plug into his ’head‘ to relay its internal psychotronics.

Those signals are apparently of an unique nature and very difficult to block. Even S.H.I.E.L.D. labs, with extensive ECM and some level of psi-shields, did not scramble Zola’s ability to Control a bio-construct.

Zola’s creations can be a real problem, and it is not rare that they overpower his opponents — even the assembled Avengers ! — forcing them to use special tactics and strategies to have a chance to prevail. It is common for Zola creations to be very hard to hurt using standard attacks, and/or to be able to multiply, adapt, be impossible to shake off, etc.

The so-called bio-fanatic seems very hard to intimidate. He’s loyal and professional, but even the Red Skull doesn’t seem to have much of a chilling effect on his demeanour.

Apparently, Zola is a also a very skilled… birds trainer. At one point, he had a small flock of birds trained to scratch the earth and bury capsules in the soil. I vaguely suspect that the birds may have been artificial or enhanced, but this is not established. I’m sure this crucial and fascinating aspect of the character will be explored by Marvel in the future, though.


History

There are a number of continuity issues around Zola. The retcons in Fury #1 (1994) were a tad ham-fisted, the flashback in Super-Villain Team-Up #17 contradicts on some points the account in Captain America #209, etc. So I’ve charted a reasonable course among those reefs – but slightly different accounts of his life do exist.

Arnim Zola was born around 1900, in Switzerland. Much of his early life is undocumented, though it seems he had a lifelong interest in life sciences – and in particular in the very young field of genetics. This interest in the field of heredity may have come from his physique, since Herr Zola was a dwarfish, frail man with severe near-sightedness.

Shy and reclusive, he spent much of his youth in the Zola ancestral castle in Switzerland. He eventually went out in the world when he became the student of a visionary Polish scientist, Wladyslav Shinsky, who would decades later join the groundbreaking Enclave research group. Zola and Shinsky were seen at a life sciences conference in 1928, with Zola still Shinsky’s student.

Zola apparently spent his life between Switzerland and Austria, and some contemporaries even thought he was Austrian rather than Swiss. Since the Zola family was apparently an old and wealthy one, it is entirely possible that they may have owned properties in both countries, and Zola may be a dual national.

I would hypothesise that Zola castles were in the Saint-Gall canton , near the Eastern Rhein and south of the Bodensee – since he mentioned he could see Germany from his window.

After learning as an assistant to Shinksy, Zola was able to use a great treasure of the Zola family. Kept in an iron box hidden in the Saint-Gall castle were age-old papers bought from the Middle East during the Crusades, which Zola could now decrypt. They held fantastic secrets about genetics and biology, and are now thought to have come from writings of the Deviants.

By the late 1930s, having constructed an extraordinary Lab, Zola was actually creating new life forms on a macroscale. In other words, he made monsters. Arnim Zola was long thought to have been the first man to be able to do so, though more recent information would indicate he was preceded by Nathaniel Essex.

Fed up with his body, Zola grew a new, stronger body for himself, with a more rational arrangement. For instance, the brain was not kept in the head, but well-protected in the chest. Through heroic effort, he built a machine that could actually transfer his consciousness, and he soon died and was reborn into his new, strange body.

He also developed a number of unique technologies, such as what would become his ESP Box, by the early 1940s.

The amoral — perhaps even misanthropic — Zola cared very little for politics or the very troubled situation in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Practically all he wanted from the world outside of his lab was resources to continue his experiments.

Looking for people interested in his unique brand of knowledge in return for sponsorship, he soon allied with the Nazis. This is presumably because they had become the dominant power in troubled Austria after the Anschluss. By 1943, Allied intelligence considered him to be a Nazi scientist.

Highway to the Reich

A time-travel mishap involving Deadpool allowed to document a first clash between Zola and Captain America (and Bucky) in Germany, presumably taking place in early 1944 in one of the heavily-bombed areas. At this point Zola had managed to turn a man (apparently an American or British POW) into a powerful mutate.

Zola was forced to flee, but chronal anomalies surrounding Deadpool left Bucky, Cap and Zola without any memory of what had happened.

Despite this setback, in 1944/45, Zola delivered on several important engagements for dignitaries of the Reich.

Arnim Zola is annoyed

The most high-profile one was engineering Hitler’s survival, by experimenting with growing clone bodies for the Führer. The goal was to use Zola’s consciousness-transplantation technology to allow Hitler to rise again after the war.

As Berlin fell, Zola surgically extracted Hitler’s brain from his body in great secrecy. With the brain preserved in a special container, he then flew away in a Nazi plane. For a decade and a half, he would toil to find a way to bring back the Fuhrer in an appropriate manner. Meanwhile, the original Human Torch killed one of the clones, and the Allies assumed that Hitler had been slain.

(An alternative account is that the actual Hitler was killed, but Zola had prepared a cloned brain into which the Fuhrer’s consciousness was immediately transferred. Zola then left with the brain.)

Arnim Zola also developed a suspended animation compound he gave to the Red Skull (Johann Shmidt). Presumably, the infamous war criminal intended to hide in a secret base, like his Sleeper super-robots. This proved impossible, as the Red Skull was trapped within a collapsing bunker during a fight with Captain America.

Most accounts report that the Skull entered suspended animation due to a seeping experimental gas. So the Zola potion may have not been used after all – or perhaps the Skull used the potion to escape from the gas’s effects.

Before Berlin’s fall, the Skull and a renegade Nazi, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, allied to turn a Japanese secret society into a terrorist organisation carrying on the legacy of the Reich. They enlisted Zola’s help to turn the organisation into a powerhouse.

Strucker took over this secret society, called Hydra, and likely helped Zola exfiltrate Germany with Hitler’s brain. Using Hydra labs, Zola toiled from the 1940s to the late 1960s, and his creations were instrumental to Hydra’s success.

In particular, using LMD  technology stolen from Stark, he built a special LMD called the Deltite, which was planted into S.H.I.E.L.D. during the earliest years of the organisation.

The Deltite would eventually awaken to consciousness and become one of the most successful conspirators of the XXth century. Among other things, it resulted in the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. decades later. There are conflicting accounts about the deeds and thoughts of the Deltite, however.

Arnim Zola shooting a pistol

In 1945, Zola was also seen doing something with the Gnobian queen, the ruler of a small population of extraterrestrials stranded on Earth. The Gnobians and their technology were instrumental to Strucker’s post-war projects, but Zola’s role in this is unrevealed.

Since the queen had been driven insane after experiencing mental contact with Strucker’s sheer evil, it is possible Zola was trying to heal her, or maybe he was just studying her. Some of his later creations did look vaguely like Gnobians, so he may have begun to use alien DNA in his work.

Finally, Zola gave Strucker ways to transfer his consciousness like Zola did. Strucker used it for serial immortality, living on through a series of LMD bodies and always coming back from defeat.

Into the modern era

By the early 1960s, Zola had finished a major project – Adolf Hitler was back in a cloned body. Furthermore, the Zola technology allowed Hitler to transfer his consciousness from one body to the next with but a thought. As the Hate-Monger, Hitler soon threatened the world anew, and was initially stopped by Nick Fury and the Fantastic Four.

Eventually, the Hate-Monger commissioned Zola to start working on a superhuman body for him, which Zola called his “Nazi X” project.

Zola’s first appearance in the modern era took place in one of his secret bases, built in an undisclosed Central American country. This hidden lab was near a river which became known as the Rio de muerte after Zola released a guardian creature, the so-called “Man Fish”, to attack and devour interlopers.

As the war receded into the past, Zola came to work in both Central America and Switzerland, using his creature Doughboy to travel between the two as needed.

At this point, Zola had been reunited with the Red Skull, who had become his main benefactor. The Skull had spent decades in suspended animation, but was now back and rebuilding his power base. Since Zola did not mention Hydra, it is possible that he largely lost his contacts within Hydra after Baron Strucker was seemingly killed by Colonel Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Zola continued his Nazi X work. Though he built a very strong, very fast body, and hooked up to it a brain in which Hitler’s consciousness could be transferred, he apparently had a problem with the head. For unrevealed reasons, the Nazi X body could not have a head and sensory organs.

Zola had also produced a number of unique monsters, which he likely delivered to the Red Skull as he finished them. S.H.I.E.L.D. started running into these horrors with some regularity by 1976, and saw enough similarities to postulate a common origin. This mysterious source of incredible, very dangerous creatures was documented in S.H.I.E.L.D. File #116.

In 1977, Captain America stumbled upon Zola’s Rio de muerte base as he clashed with local warlord the Swine. Interested in meeting the living legend, Zola abducted Cap and the woman who was accompanying him. He then flew with them to Switzerland. While the mystery of File #116 had been solved, Cap was now indirectly in the Red Skull’s hands.

Realising the power of Captain America, Zola decided that he had an unique opportunity to finally solve the Nazi X issue, and that he should just transplant Hitler’s brain into Cap’s body. Cap and the woman managed to set fire to Zola’s base using handy random chemicals, and fled from the exploding, burning living castle as per tradition.

In 1980, the Skull and Hitler secured Zola’s services again, as part of their mad project to recreate the Cosmic Cube. Though they had held the Cube in the past, it had since been destroyed by Thanos and Mar-Vell. The original team behind the Cube had used MODOK as a mega-computer, and the Nazis wanted Zola to design something similar.

Zola found ways to use a number of prisoners as computers, though their brains were fried by the power and they had to be killed off and replaced. Hitler’s men captured the scientific head of AIM, George Clinton, and Zola had his machines drain his knowledge.

Arnim Zola, Adolf Hitler, Hate-Monger

A new Cosmic Cube was seemingly created. As S.H.I.E.L.D. was storming the joint Red Skull/Hate-Monger base, Hitler greedily convinced Zola to let him transfer his consciousness into the Cube to become a god, like Thanos had previously done.

As it turned out, the Red Skull had double-crossed him. Zola had been on the Skull’s payroll from the very beginning, and the “Cube” was actually a well-crafted trap from which Hitler’s consciousness could never escape.

In the early 1980s, one of Zola’s finest creations, the bio-plastoid Primus, escaped. It had gone rogue years before, but Zola had then simply had it merged with Doughboy. Eventually freeing itself, Primus allied itself with the younger Baron Zemo, disguising itself as a perfect replica of Arnim Zola during much of the plan.

I have assumed that the bio-creations that Primus used during this story were Zola creations, and included them in this writeup. However, it is not entirely clear whether geneticist Edward Whelan was turned into the creature called Vermin by Zola, or by Primus pretending to be Zola.

In the mid-1980s, Zola was one of the numerous villains who developed an interest in stealing technology from a secret lab built by Bruce Banner, and stocked full of groundbreaking technology. Zola was of course after the biologically-oriented equipment.

He proved by far the most successful among the would-be plunderers. He started by unleashing a small army of pseudo-Hulks at the Avengers, who were securing the area. Though Zola generally had the upper-hand, the exceptional powers of Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) coordinated by Drs. Pym and Richards led to Zola’s defeat.

An increasingly close association with the Red Skull

Some years later, Captain America and the Red Skull had what seemed to be their last fight. The Red Skull’s body was ageing rapidly and he was on death’s door. He attempted to kill Cap by also bringing him to his chronological age, but it was the Skull who died first, and Cap was saved by magic.

However, the Skull had hired Zola again to ensure he would survive no matter what. The solution Zola employed was immensely pleasing for the Skull – upon death, the Nazi’s consciousness was automatically shunted to… a cloned body of Captain America. Zola even salvaged the Red Skull’s mask.

The Skull recuperated at Castle Zola in Switzerland as Zola checked the integrity of his employer’s new body. During that time, a group of mercenaries attacked the castle, and was almost entirely slaughtered by the automated defences. The lead mercenary attracted the Skull’s attention, and Zola had the man captured by Doughboy for examination.

The mercenary would soon become the Red Skull’s chief henchman as Crossbones.

(A 1988 appearance was one of these so-called comedy appearances of Deadpool, with continuity-free characterisation and events. Since it was a special issue jointly-published with Wizard, I’ve assumed it was more or less out of continuity, though this writeup includes notes for the Corpse Corps husks).

(Likewise, a 1989 appearance was inexplicably off in terms of characterisation, technology, ambitions, etc. The best I can do is that somehow a spare body of Zola developed an insane sentience due to a glitch, fled and attempted to steal Irish super-heroine Shamrock’s powers with the help of her father. The plot failed, and the rogue body was destroyed.)

Arnim Zola and the Red Skull

Zola continued to be an occasional, but exceedingly useful, ally for the Red Skull. When the Skull and his “Skeleton Crew” of specialists and henchmen was captured by the German super-team Schutz Heiligruppe, Zola was called for help and narrowly saved them, using a crew of bioplastoids to impersonate the Avengers.

The “Avengers” took custody of the villain from the German agents, then flew away in a “Quinjet” (actually a disguised Doughboy).

Zola even sacrificed his bioplastoids in a subsequent operation, to make it look as if the Skull, Mother Night and Crossbones had been killed by the Sourge of the Underworld. According to Zola, no amount of medical examination could tell the corpses were not the genuine article. Impressed again by Zola, the Skull made him one of his division chiefs.

Zola was soon sent on a minor errand, to recover the Skull House – the Red Skull’s previous base and home. Using some derivative of Pym particle, Zola shrunk the base to the size of a dollhouse and brought it back. Captain American and Thor II (Eric Masterson) tried to interfere, but were nearly killed by Doughboy.

In the mid-1990s, Zola conducted further tests on the Red Skull’s cloned Captain America body. He discovered a bug in the Super-Soldier Serum, which would in time trigger systemic failure of the body. Warning the Red Skull that it would likely kill Captain America soon, Zola started working on a cure.

Where all of Captain America’s scientific allies failed, Zola found a remedy. He cured the Red Skull before his body could degrade. The Skull then used his own blood and marrow, cleaned by Zola’s decoction, to save Captain America, who at that point had been declared clinically dead from the Serum’s bug.

(In 1996, Zola appeared in a plot, hired by Baron Zemo to help reconstruct a cosmic cube in collaboration with Crescendo, from the Valiant universe. This ended up briefly merging the two universes. However, there were… odd things, at least on the Marvel side, and I do not think it was supposed to be Earth-616 and thus ’our‘ Arnim Zola.)

In 1997, the Onslaught event left America without its key super-heroes. Seeing a chance to operate without being bothered, Zola hired the Rat Pack plunderers to kidnap a number of subjects in New York, in the areas reduced to lawless rubble by the Sentinels summoned by Onslaught. Though they were eventually stopped by the brand-new Thunderbolts, the Rat Pack gave Zola the contracted-for subjects.

The experiments killed most of the subjects, but the known survivor, Helen Takahama, developed superhuman powers as “Jolt”.

Zola continued what seemed to be the same program of human experimentation. He allied with the Imperial Forces of America and required tests for specific genetic markers among their membership. A number of youths proved positive, and Zola supervised injections and treatments of his design.

Though the mortality rate remained high, an entire cadre of superhumans, the Bruiser Brigade, resulted from those experiments. One of them, Charcoal, later went renegade. Coincidentally, both Jolt and Charcoal ended up as Thunderbolts members.

One or two years later, Zola was hired to capture the Viper (formerly Madame Hydra). Perhaps as part of this plan, he ’built‘ at least two monsters (“Gorilla Boy” and “Slappy the Lobster Boy”), and had several more basic creations accompany them.

These monsters were responsible for dozens of disappearance and even more murders.&emspPresumably, Zola was using brute force and torture to determine where the Viper was.

The Harriers were hired to investigate, but found the monsters to be too tough for them. Their friend Wolverine and his friend Cable clashed with Zola and his freak circus, forcing the Bio-Fanatic to leave several creations (including the two big monsters) behind. However, Zola had found and kidnapped the Viper at that point.

Who wanted the Viper kidnapped by Zola, and to what purpose, was never revealed.

The machination that killed Captain America

After the Decimation, Dr. Henry McCoy attempted everything to find ways to reverse the effects, to no avail. At one point, he contacted a series of villainous geniuses to enlist their help. Those included Arnim Zola, Pandemic, the Sugar Man, Dr. Doom, MODOK and Mr Sinister.

All refused to help. Zola in particular was fascinated by witnessing the extinction of a sentient race, and hoped to collect lots of data. It is likely that, at this point, Zola was already on a full-time engagement with the Red Skull anyway.

Arnim Zola, Doughboy and Captain America

Zola also continued to operate in the US, stealing subjects, materials, etc., perhaps as part of his work for the Red Skull. Considering him a serious threat, Norman Osborn sent his Thunderbolts to destroy known bases. Bases in Nigeria and Germany were found empty, but they caught up with him in China.

Thanks to his knowledge of Zola’s usual floor plans for his enormous labs, the Swordsman (Andreas von Strucker) reached Zola before he could flee.

His goal was to negotiate, though. He offered safe passage to the biology genius if he agreed to attempt to clone von Strucker’s deceased twin sister so she would be resurrected. Zola took the deal and a skin sample, and von Strucker reported that he had been unable to prevent the Bio-Fanatic’s escape.

(A perfect clone of Andrea von Strucker would later turn up at the doorstep of the Thunderbolts. Though it has not been formally established that it was Zola’s handiwork, it is nearly certain, especially given the quality of the work, the poor initial material and the extremely short delay.)

Meanwhile the Red Skull had assembled the highly skilled cadre of agents and specialists that ended up killing Captain America. Arnim Zola was of course part of his crew. The Bio-Fanatic spent much of his time on a long term project – to analyse and reverse-engineer Doctor Doom’s time travel technology.

Though such an endeavour was not part of Zola’s core expertise, the Skull likely considered that his ally’s engineering genius would eventually prove sufficient. Zola had repeatedly proved his worth and loyalty.

Since this enormous machination is still ongoing as I write this, the full scope of Zola’s assignments and goals are unknown. It seems that he has been put in command of AIM troops to serve as his foot-soldiers and assistants.

He also upgraded some of his co-conspirator Doctor Faustus’s devices, and healed and reconstructed the gravely wounded Captain America IV (aka the Grand Director), who had been placed in suspended animation by Faustus after his apparent death.

Another project of Zola was an invention to separate the Red Skull’s consciousness from Aleksander Lukin’s. The merge of the two men’s mentalities was imposing tremendous strain on them. Circumstances prevented Zola from using this machine as scheduled, though.

Apparently, the von Doom time machine (which Zola found hard to recreate) was intended to be used in conjunction with Zola’s biological expertise in some scheme involving Sharon Carter’s unborn child from Steve Rogers. However the pregnancy was accidentally aborted during a fight between Carter and Sin, apparently ruining whatever the Red Skull’s plan was.

The machination of the Red Skull was further thrown into disarray when Carter ambushed and killed him, a battle that also resulted in the destruction of Zola’s current synthetic body. Zola took the liberty of salvaging the Red Skull consciousness, however, and as a temporary solution, housed his employer’s mind in a spare Arnim Zola body (showing the Skull’s masked face on its chest screen).

How all of these events will be resolved is still unknown.


Description

Zola’s face, as displayed, seems to reflect what his face would like if he had a body ageing normally – he does look like a man well into his 90s on those screens. Why he does that is unknown.

I would assume that Zola has some level of Swiss German accent, but since he uses few German words in his dialogue I assume it’s meant to convey that his accent is noticeable but not strong.


Personality

Zola is an amoral recluse, none too concerned with the outside world. He dislikes conventional morality and human instincts, and wishes more people could see how incredible his bio-technology is, especially compared to conventional tech. He has a dream and a vision, and that is all that counts for him.

Zola is somewhat interested in any opportunity to pilfer knowledge, such as opportunities to easily kidnap truly great scientists (on the order of Dr. Richards and Dr. Pym).

His long association with Nazis and their ilk has warped him. It pushed him closer to an ethos where the ends justify the means, and individual lives are inconsequential. The Red Skull expressed some satisfaction at how ruthless Zola was becoming as they worked together.

However, Zola has not genuinely become a killer. He will not go out of his way to kill anybody, preferring prisoners (if only to use them in experiments). He has no qualms about killing research subjects or submitting them to fates worse than death to advance his research, though.

Zola does have the classic master villain tendency of explaining his plans, his genius and his intentions in great details. He seems convinced that any reasonable, intelligent person would certainly agree with him.

He’s not as verbose when he’s working for another person, though. He likely considers he’s bound by professional confidentiality, and not at liberty to rant and expound.

Gang of gross creatures from Arnim Zola

Zola is very smooth, calm and confident. He’s well aware of the power his creations wield, and he cannot really be killed or defeated anyway. He’s not really interested in field work, seeing himself as a researcher and scientific consultant.

If there is a narrow window of opportunity to get something done, he will fly in and intervene (what does he risk ?). But otherwise he’s just devising groundbreaking solutions for unusual problems plaguing unsavoury people. If he’s detailed to a field operation by an employer he will comply, but with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.

Zola’s not very good at working with other super-geniuses, either. He tends to think that he’s the smartest one in any case, and resents the egos and boasts of his few peers, though he’s not boastful himself. In fact, those situations tend to bring out his sullen, passive-aggressive side (he’s not a very social person in the best of days).

In any case, he hates having his genius being questioned, and will often react to such remarks in a curt, moody, stern way.

A recent remark implies that Zola might be a racist, though his choice of terminology (calling the Falcon “the black-skinned meddler”) may be normal for an European man whose formative years took place a century ago.


Quotes

“Bravo, Captain ! Well spoken ! You are indeed the living image of the legend known by all ! Still, there is no need to be wary of Doughboy ! You shall discover that he’s more a miracle than a threat !”

“Yours is a typically human bias, my dear ! His origin may differ from yours, but of all my products, Primus looks most human.”

“Biological technology is the answer to all the cumbersome, noisy, dirty and faulty machines of modern man… with genetic engineering I shall point the way to new directions ! But — I must not forget my benefactor ! Without his help, I would struggle for funds !”

“You flee to no avail ! Arnim Zola has the resources to meet any emergency ! You haven’t a chance, do you hear !? You can’t escape !”

“You are woefully uninformed as to the extent of my genius, aren’t you, Herr Crossbones ?”

(Having just captured Thor and Captain America) “Well, look what tide brought in, star-spangled flotsam and long-haired jetsam ! Don’t look now, Captain, but your partner’s head-wings are bigger than yours !”

“Oh, I’m afraid I’m quite well. A bit more forward-thinking than others in my specialised field, but I assure you, Wolverine, I’m altogether sane.”

“Have you no compassion ? You’ve injured innocent, peaceful Doughboy !”

“Some of his science is not science, if you get my meaning. But what von Doom can invent, I can likely reverse-engineer, given proper time.”

“As long as I have my work, I need nothing else.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Herr Zola

Dex: 04 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Science !
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 05 Occupation: Researcher
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 009
Init: 013 HP: 050

Powers:
Personality Transfer: 05, Speak with Animals: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Personality Transfer has a Special +10 Range Bonus
  • Personality Transfer and Speak with Animals only work on his own creations
  • Personality Transfer can be automatically triggered right before unconsciousness or death, but that (and the target for the Transfer) have to be programmed

Skills:
Animal Handling (Training): 05, Gadgetry: 11, Medicine: 07, Scientist: 14, Scientist (Computers): 07, Weaponry (Firearms, Exotic): 06

Bonuses and Limitations:
Gadgetry and and the main Scientist Skill both take a +2CS to OV penalty when applied to domains outside of biology (-2)

Advantages:
Genius, Headquarters (Extensive), Iron Nerves, Language (German, and may be able to read an unrevealed Deviant language), No Vital Areas, Scholar (Biology/Genetics, Chemistry)

Connections:
Red Skull (Low), Baron Strucker (Low), Adolf Hitler (aka Hate-Monger, Low), Hydra (Low), AIM (Low)

Drawbacks:
Distinct Appearance, Socially Inept

Equipment:

  • “Remote control” [BODY 04, Control: 05, Bonus: Control has a Special +10 Range Bonus, Limitation: Control only works on his own creations]. This handheld device contains psychotronics that give orders to Zola-spawned creatures.
  • Lab (about 16 APs for the main ones)
  • Consciousness transfer technologies. Zola has invented Personality Transfer machines with permanent effects, as well as means to siphon knowledge from living subjects.
  • AMORPHOUS BIO-CONSTRUCT [DEX 08 STR 07 BODY 06, Extra Limbs (x2): 08, EV 15, Fluid form: 07, Omni-Arm: 09, Self-Manipulation: 03, Stretching: 04, Limitation: EV can only be used as the EV for Grappling/Wrestling ; Fluid form and Stretching cannot both increase the CONSTRUCT’s RV at the same time – it’s one or the other (-0), Self-Manipulation is restricted to simple shapes, or to small gadgets that could credibly be hidden in the CONSTRUCT (-0)].
    This is an example of a ’blob‘ mass of tissue-like bio-matter, in which Zola can project his consciousness. The CONSTRUCT is very versatile, and can easily disguise itself as something else (in one case, a replica of the Hulk’s trousers !). It is usually equipped with a flexible, flat display showing Zola’s face – just like the unit on his base’s body torso. BIO-CONSTRUCTS will inevitably end up being called a huge pile of silly putty.

Bio-construct hosting Arnim Zola

  • Zola has access to high-tech vehicles and equipment – he has strong, though wary, relationships with AIM.
  • Arnim Zola carries a sidearm to deal with uncontrolled subjects, though he’s seldom seen using it. Very early on, it was but a service revolver. Much more recently, he has used what seems to be some sort of powerful plasma pistol, likely with a non-lethal setting. Possible stats [BODY 04, Energy blast: 09, Ammo: 15, R#02].

Headquarters

Zola’s long-term headquarters have some peculiar properties. They only look like they’re made of stone, metal and the like – everything is actually living matter, mimicking more mineral substances. Thus, when needed, Zola can actually use his Control power to animate parts of the walls, floors, doors, etc. The bio-matter can also heal, and I’d assume it’s self-cleaning.

The Headquarters can thus be considered to have Self-Manipulation: 07, Extra-Limbs (x5): 08 and Earth control (on itself): 07. A common trick is to use Self-Manipulation to duplicate DEX, then have this DEX be used through the Extra Limbs to engage in Wrestling or Grappling.

Note that, given the situation, the Extra Limbs will often enjoy surprise attack or blindside attack bonuses, since they can pop up from anywhere, at any time, quite rapidly. This may be facilitated by a nearby wall, floor, ceiling, piece of furniture, etc. distracting opponents from the real attack.

The masses of animated, living matter have a BODY based on their weight, with a minimum of 0 APs. A doorknob turning into a sort of small lariat could be broken by Cap using his bare hands, but large masses of lmaterial couldn’t be damaged by the star-spangled hero. Consider that animated living material has Skin Armor: 04 on top of a mass-determined BODY, being naturally resistant to Physical damage.

On the other hand, the material making up Zola’s living HQs is surprisingly vulnerable to flame (-2CS OV/RV vs flame attacks, worsened by 1 more CS if the flame is some kind of sticky chemical such as napalm), and fire will propagate through bases as if it were a wooden building without any modern fireproofing. Or at least, that was the case early on – this vulnerability may have been done away with.

Apparently, Zola later started working with materials that have Regeneration: 06 or so.

Arnim Zola's biological headquarters attacks the Thunderbolts

Zola’s living headquarters have incredibly sophisticated surveillance capabilities. How these work is rather unclear, but they can extrude screens and speakers and convey very clear sound and image from remote places. They seem to have a planetary range and ignore all conventional countermeasures – Remote Sensing: 20 with a +10 Special Range Bonus.

Some special boosters are also available, plugging into Zola’s ’head‘ to enhance the Range and possibly the power of his Control and/or Personality Transfer Powers.

Zola eventually added some conventional automated defences to his Swiss castle, presumably to stop intruder early enough to minimise the inconvenience. Those have AV 04 and Projectile weapon: 06, being generally assault rifles or arrow guns mounted on articulated mounts. Targets will usually have at least a 1 CS penalty to their OV, since they will likely be engaged by weapons popping out of the wall as they are busy climbing.

Bases lacking this type of defences will likely have Zola-engineered bio-constructs disguised as surrounding terrain — if a base seems to be built into a hollowed-out large hill, the hill itself might actually be alive !

According to Sharon Carter, any research facility Zola is working in will have at least one quickly-accessed, hidden passage for him to disappear. Those seem to be cleverly-placed and very well engineered, almost guaranteeing his egress.


Primus and Doughboy

Those two masterwork creatures from Zola are not covered here, and will eventually have their own writeup. The subsequent bioplastoids — Secondus, Tertius and Quatrus — will be rolled into Primus’s entry.


Random bio-experiment

Those humanoids are run-of-the-mill experimental results, viable but not especially powerful. They look very… varied (though nearly always monstrous), and may derive unusual abilities from their mutation-like features.

Adding a Power from the Mutation Power table is entirely kosher, and some GMs may draw inspiration from random mutation tables from other role-playing games (Gamma World comes to mind). The stats below are a statistical average ; variance of one or two APs is common.

Note that some of the bio-experiments, through crazed, aggressive and terrified, are actually warped people. They usually cannot speak and are irrational, but they retain a level of sentience and sapience, and Captain America once managed to talk to a group and convince them to stop attacking. Most people will not realise the bio-experiments are people, though, and Persuading them to calm down is 11/10 in terms of OV/RV.

Bio-experiment

Dex: 04 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Psycho
Int: 02 Wil: 01 Min: 01 Occupation: Monster
Inf: 01 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 010 HP: 005

Powers:
Skin armor: 01, plus possibly a roll on the Mutation Power table

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance, Serious Rage

Random mutants of Arnim Zola


Man-Fish

This is the savage creature that was guarding the river near Zola’s hidden lab, somewhere in Central America, in 1977. You can, of course, reuse the stats for all sorts of above-average Zola creations – if you need a crowd of Zola creatures, some will likely have Man-Fish-level stats.

Man-Fish

Dex: 05 Str: 08 Bod: 07 Motivation: None
Int: 02 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Guard animal
Inf: 02 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 009 HP: 005

Powers:
Skin armor: 01, Swimming: 04, Water Freedom*: 05

Skills:
Thief (Stealth – only in water): 05

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance, MIF of very loud noises (such as massed gunfire or explosions), Fatal Vulnerability (being out of water for more than 15mn), Serious Rage

Arnim Zola's Man-Fish creature vs. Captain America

The Man-Fish just swims around in his river, and attacks people (and perhaps large animals) that come close or try to cross. Its preferred tactic is the Grappling Attack, especially after he surprises people by silently emerging behind them from the water. This usually results in people rent into two or more discrete chunks.

The Man-Fish might fully amphibious, but I have postulated a time limit since that would be traditional. The Man-Fish is the big red thing illustrated below, and was called “a living bulldozer” by Captain America.


Hulk sprouts

The ’sprouts’ are just pharmacy-style capsules holding a unique biological compound. They have to be planted in the soil, and I suppose it helps if the soil has vegetation that has been exposed to the Hulk’s DNA and/or to doses of gamma radiation.

If this hypothesis is correct, a patch of grass upon which the Hulk has bled would be ideal. The compound is based on Hulk DNA samples stolen from the US government.

Within minutes, the compound will grow and become a lifelike replica of the Hulk. Those creature are strikingly similar to the genuine jade giant – even his cousin Jennifer Walters thought it was the real McCoy at first. And, yes, they come with purple trousers.

One of Arnim Zola's vegetal Hulk replicas

Those creatures are as big and massive as the Hulk, but ’only‘ 60% as strong, and lack spirit and intelligence. On the other hand, as long as proper soil is available, they can be mass-grown. I would assume they have a limited lifespan, perhaps as low as hours.

The pseudo-Hulks have a strange Attack Vulnerability – if hit by two different attacks in very short succession, they will likely perish through self-incineration.

Pseudo-Hulk [DEX 05 STR 11 BOD 12, Growth: 02, Jumping: 04, Growth Always On/Already Factored In, Attack Vuln. (Team Attacks, -2CS RV)]. The Jumping is an assumption on my part – you may decide they have further low-APs Hulk-like abilities.

When those pseudo-Hulks appeared, their torn purple trousers were all AMORPHOUS BIO-CONSTRUCTS – as each Hulk was defeated the CONSTRUCTS merged with each other to grow in size and strength.


Monkey Boy and “Slappy the Lobster Boy”

Those two monsters appear in 1999. They seem to have been designed for psychological impact, durability and strength. The creature with gorilla heads does call itself “Monkey Boy” (it can speak in a simple, halting way) ; “Slappy the Lobster Boy” doesn’t talk and was just called that by Wolverine.

These powerful, shocking creatures are likely special projects, not run-of-the-mill experiments. ”Slappy” is illustrated in the sidebar.

Big humanoid chimera

Dex: 05 Str: 10 Bod: 11 Motivation: None
Int: 02 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Monster
Inf: 03 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 010 HP: 005

Powers:
Skin armor: 01

Skills:
Charisma (Intimidation): 03

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance, Serious Rage

Arnim Zola's "Monkey Boy" creature vs. Wolverine


“Yeti-Bird”

There is a sidebar illustration for Zola’s creation, which I’ve named “Yeti-Bird” (since no name is given), but we know practically nothing about it. Feel free to give it campaign-appropriate stats.

The only known bit is that it seemed to behave like a generic bird, building a nest with huge tree trunks in the apparent hope of attracting a mate. The Falcon ran into out while following a File #116 lead ; what happened next is unrevealed AFAIK.


“Proxy giants”

Those creatures were actually used by Primus pretending to be Zola, but probably were Zola creations. They are not called anything special in the comics, but let’s call them “Proxy Giants”.

They seem pretty complicated. From what I can tell the ’core‘ of a Proxy Giant is a large mass of bio-construct matter, usually operating as a large humanoid with a putty-like, somewhat amorphous form. So far, so good.

A "proxy giant" of Arnim Zola

The trick is that those constructs are often covered with a sort of ’skin’, several centimetres thick, made of cloned brain tissues. Those tissues are remotely linked, using consciousness transferral technologies, to the donors of the tissue sample.

Thus, damaging the brain-tissue-like ’skin’ of a Proxy Giant directly damages the donor. The range for this is apparently fairly short – a few dozen metres, if that.

The construct, covered with the ’skin’, is fitted with a sort of suit, which I assume holds the consciousness transferral technology. My impression was that the suit also allowed the construct to move faster, perhaps by offering some sort of structural support.

Another feature is that the construct at the core of the giant can go dormant in a way that makes it seem almost completely inert, even to S.H.I.E.L.D.-level scans, though Zola’s Control can wake them up and give them new orders. The core construct will automatically become dormant when its donor dies.

It is also possible for a donor to force his or her giant to go dormant, but that requires reducing to zero an OV/RV of 04/04 using INT/WIL.

Proxy Giant

Dex: 06 Str: 12 Bod: 07 Motivation: Obey Zola
Int: 02 Wil: 01 Min: //// Occupation: Construct
Inf: 03 Aur: //// Spi: //// Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 010 HP: 005

Powers:
Fluid form: 04, Growth: 03, Running: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Growth is Always On and Already Factored In
  • When covered with the brain tissue ’skin’ and attacked, first check the RV without Fluid Form. Those RAPs are taken by the donor (who can LDD them away) as Killing Combat. Then check the RV with Fluid form – those are the RAPs taken by the core construct. It is likely possible to design attack forms that do not act as Killing Combat with appropriate gear and a 05/05 Scientist (Analysis) roll.

Skills:
Charisma (Intimidation): 04

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance

Equipment:
SUIT [BODY 05, Martial Artist: 09, Limitation: Martial Artists only useable by a complete proxy giant, Drawback: using the Martial Artist Skill automatically results in any attack done during that Phase being a Flailing Attack. Contains the circuitry transmitting the damage to the donor ; jamming those would be a 10/10 Scientist (Analysis) feat.


Chauffeur bio-mutate

Another example of a specialised Zola creation to help you folks get a sense of what the Bio-Fanatic can do. This guy (I assume it’s a brainwashed and heavily altered human being) is highly agile and mobile, and a solid pilot. Primus (posing as Zola) sent one, along with a small high-tech aircraft, to ferry Captain America to his hideout. The Chauffeur is illustrated in the sidebar.

Chauffeur bio-mutate

Dex: 05 Str: 05 Bod: 05 Motivation: Obey Zola
Int: 02 Wil: 01 Min: 01 Occupation: Construct
Inf: 01 Aur: 01 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 013 HP: 005

Powers:
Enhanced initiative*: 05, Running: 05

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Vehicles: 05

Drawbacks:
Distinct Appearance

Equipment:
Usually outfitted with some high-tech vehicle.


Proto-Husks

During events that likely are not quite in continuity, Zola used DNA samples from deceased superhumans and costumed adventurers to grow clones, which he called proto-husks. Though they look similar to the deceased subject, their powers and abilities are but if shadow of the actual persons – in particular their AVs all seem capped at 03, if that.

Several of the subjects were not actually deceased, there’s no way Zola could have procured DNA samples for several proto-husks, others were perfectly normal people that were only relevant from a meta-fictional standpoint, etc. This line of research from Zola has only been seen in that context.


Expendable super-humans

Continuing the line of research that produced Jolt and others, Arnim Zola has recently been documented as being able to endow people with superpowers. The success rate is not known (perhaps 1 in 5 ?). In all cases those person have a life span measured in days before their body completely breaks down.

For security reasons, those people are procured among populations nobody will miss – Chinese prostitutes, Nigerian vagrants, American and European homeless schizophrenics and drug addicts, etc. A rough profile for one would be:

Expandable super-dupe

Dex: 03 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Catspaw
Int: 03 Wil: 02 Min: 02 Occupation: Construct
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 008 HP: 005

Powers:
Two Powers or enhanced Attributes at about 6 to 8 APs

Skills:
Possibly one at around 2 APs

Advantages:
Likely a foreign language ; apparently Zola also mind-teaches them to be somewhat fluent in English, though they may lack some vocabulary. Likely a Familiarity with their former job, if applicable, and possibly an Area Knowledge.

Drawbacks:
CPR (drastically reduced lifespan)

Random disposable superhumans from Arnim Zola's lab

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Marvel Universe

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