- —Col. Helmut Zemo[src]
Baron Helmut Zemo was a former Sokovian colonel and commander of the EKO Scorpion, a Sokovian death squad. Zemo maintained a healthy relationship with his family. To keep them safe, he moved his wife and son to the countryside to live with his father. However, everything changed when Ultron, an inadvertent creation of Tony Stark, battled the Avengers in the small country. Zemo's family were killed when their house collapsed during the battle. He angrily blamed the Avengers for their deaths, and vowed to destroy the team to avenge his family.
Determining that attempting to overpower the Avengers would be a futile effort, Zemo orchestrated a series of events designed to have them turn on each other and tear apart the team from within. He searched through and deciphered the Hydra files Black Widow leaked following the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., taking particular interest in the Winter Soldier program. He discovered that the Winter Soldier was responsible for the deaths of Tony Stark's parents Howard and Maria Stark and the Winter Soldier was actually Bucky Barnes, Captain America's long-lost best friend.
Zemo launched his plan by stealing the Winter Soldier's activation code from Vasily Karpov, the Winter Soldier's handler during the Cold War. He then bombed a meeting of the United Nations in Vienna to sign the Sokovia Accords. Zemo wore a facial prosthetic resembling Bucky's face to implicate the Winter Soldier was behind the bombing. Captain America stood by his friend's innocence as Zemo planned. The split over Bucky's innocence only exacerbated growing tensions within the Avengers over the Sokovia Accords, with Captain America and the Falcon strongly opposed to the idea and Tony Stark, Black Widow, War Machine and Vision agreeing to the terms. Captain America and Falcon were arrested with Bucky while trying prevent his capture. Also drawn into the fight was T'Challa, the prince of Wakanda whose father was killed in Vienna and donned the mantle of the Black Panther to avenge him.
Bucky was taken to a Joint Counter Terrorist Centre facility in Berlin. Zemo posed as Dr. Theo Broussard, the psychologist who assigned to evaluate Bucky, but after detonating an EMP to take out the city power grid, Zemo recited the Winter Soldier's activation code, setting free the Winter Soldier and ordering him to escape the facility. Bucky fought the Avengers and their allies in his escape; however, they all believed Bucky simply took advantage of the EMP to escape. Captain America and Falcon eventually captured Bucky, but did not turn him over to the authorities. Bucky explained that Zemo was heading to Siberia to reactivate the other Winter Soldiers who Hydra put on ice because they are uncontrollable.
Zemo escaped to Siberia as Captain America assembled a team of superheroes to stop him. However, Tony Stark had also assembled a team of his own to apprehend Bucky and Captain America. The two teams of superheroes battled at an airport in Leipzig, resulting in the arrest of Captain America's team - including two Avengers, Falcon and Scarlet Witch - except for the captain and Bucky, and in War Machine's receiving serious wounds that left him paralyzed. Zemo exposed the body of Dr. Theo Broussard in his hotel room for Tony Stark to uncover his plot and head towards Siberia. Stark himself was followed by T'Challa, who was still seeking his vengeance on the Winter Soldier.
Zemo arrived at the Hydra facility in Siberia hours before any of the Avengers. He first killed the Winter Soldier test subjects in cryostasis and then waited for his pursuers. Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man, all working together, believed they had Zemo cornered, but he showed Tony Stark security camera footage of his parents' death at the Winter Soldier's hands. A distraught Iron Man turned on his allies when Captain America revealed he knew about this and kept it from him. As the three heroes fought each other, Zemo left the facility and sat at the edge of the cliff surrounding the base. He deleted a voicemail message from his wife on his phone - the very message he listened to to remind him of why he wanted to destroy the Avengers - and was approached from behind by T'Challa. Zemo apologized to the Wakandan prince for inadvertently killing his father. T'Challa took pity on Zemo, reconsidered his own objectives of revenge in the light of Zemo's efforts, and prevented him from taking his own life.
Zemo was taken back to Berlin, where he was imprisoned in the same high security cell the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre held Bucky. The JCTC agent Everett K. Ross delighted in informing his prisoner all the privileges and protocols designed to keep him inside the cell. When Ross asked him how he felt after spending so much time and effort on his plan only for it "failed so spectacularly", Zemo calmly answered, "Did it?"
Sometime later, Zemo was transferred to a different prison in Germany, where he was incarcerated until 2024, when he was visited by Bucky Barnes, now free of both his brainwashing and the Winter Soldier mantle. Zemo tried to use the trigger words on Barnes once again, but to no avail. Zemo expressed that he knew the words were unlikely to work, or Barnes would not have been standing so boldly in front of him, but went on to conclude that since Barnes was there anyway, he must need something. Barnes spoke conditionally with Zemo about getting information on a new group of super-soldiers called the Flag Smashers, and Zemo told him he could lead Barnes to an informant. Barnes orchestrated a prison break which would free the man, unbeknownst to Barnes' operating partner, Sam Wilson. Zemo rendezvoused with Barnes and Wilson, much to Wilson's distrust and anger, in an old garage owned by Zemo's family, who he revealed were incredibly wealthy barons within Sokovia, thus making him Baron Zemo. The three boarded Zemo's private jet and flew to a small island pirate nation called Madripoor, which Zemo told the partners was something like a haven for the lawless, and that it would be where they would find their information.
Upon their arrival in Madripoor, Zemo encouraged the two to remain calm and follow his lead, disguising Wilson as a criminal known by the street name "Smiling Tiger" and Barnes as his old alias, the Winter Soldier. The three met with a high-ranking criminal in the city-country known as Selby, who informed them that the new super-soldier serum was being engineered by former Hydra scientist Dr. Wilfred Nagel at the behest of the Power Broker. After a call from Wilson's sister exposed Wilson and Barnes as frauds, the three fought their way out of the situation, but Selby was shot and killed by an unseen assassin. The assassin later revealed herself to be Sharon Carter, who had been branded a traitor to the United States after helping Barnes, Wilson, and Steve Rogers escape from detainment during the Sokovia Accords fiasco, and had also stolen Cap's shield and Wilson's flight pack to return to their rightful owners. Carter made a deal with Wilson that she would lead them to Nagel's lab if he would get her citizenship returned to her.
The group made it to Nagel's lab, where they learned that he had created 20 vials of the super-soldier serum derived from blood samples of an American soldier, but that he had refined it so that it didn't change the appearance of the user, but still gave them all the same powers. Satisfied with this information, Zemo located a gun hidden beneath a desk in Nagel's lab and used it to kill him, much to the horror of both Barnes and Wilson. Carter warned them that bounty hunters had found them and that they needed to flee. Zemo uses a massive explosion caused by their bounty hunters to cover their escape, stealing a vintage car and picking up the group before driving them to safety, where Carter parted ways with the group and Zemo, Wilson, and Barnes continued to search for their next lead.
The three retired to a safehouse of Zemo's in Latvia, where Barnes temporarily split off from the group. Upon his return, Zemo confronted him on where he had gone, to which Barnes responded truthfully that the Dora Milaje had tracked him down and come to remand him into their custody for the murder of King T'Chaka at the UN conference on the Sokovia Accords. Wilson and Barnes argued before agreeing that keeping Zemo for as long as possible would be their best move since he was their only source of information at the moment. The three went into town to search for leads on the location of Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers, but only Zemo managed to acquire any information by earning the trust of some local children using candy. Upon finding out the location of Morgenthau and her group, Zemo planted the idea in the children's heads that Wilson and Barnes, who were out of earshot, were not to be trusted. He then returned to his handlers and informed them of Morgenthau's location, a funeral for a loved one.
The three were later confronted by Captain America and Battlestar while on their way to the funeral, and the two soldiers joined them. Upon arriving, Wilson insisted on having time with Morgenthau alone, to which Walker agreed reluctantly. However, during Wilson's discussion with Morgenthau, Walker decided to charge in anyway after becoming anxious and paranoid and convincing Barnes that Wilson may be in danger. During the ensuing chaos, Zemo hunted down Morgenthau and shot her twice, causing her to drop the remaining vials of super-soldier serum she was carrying. Zemo gleefully destroyed all but one of these vials while Morgenthau escaped before Walker knocked him unconscious with his shield.
Zemo, Wilson, and Barnes returned to the safehouse where Zemo nursed a headache while Wilson and Barnes argued with Walker and Hoskins when they barged in soon after. Walker and Hoskins attempted to remand Zemo into their custody but Barnes stopped them, having promised the Dora Milaje to turn the baron over to them instead. The Dora Milaje incidentally showed up almost immediately after Barnes saying this, which prompted a fight between Walker and Hoskins and the two Dora Milaje enforcers, with Wilson and Barnes joining in when they realized they needed Zemo still. During this commotion, Zemo took the opportunity to flee into the sewers below the safehouse.
Days later, Zemo visited the Sokovian memorial site, where he was tracked down by Bucky. Zemo urged Bucky to eliminate Karli, who he believed to have been too far gone, because he knew Sam would be too stubborn to do so. Bucky assured Zemo that they would do it their own way, which Zemo expressed his disappointment over. The Dora Milaje then arrived and took Zemo to imprisonment, this time on the Raft.
Powers and Abilities
- Master Strategist: Helmut Zemo is a strategist clever enough to orchestrate a series of events designed to fragment the world's premiere superhero team, the Avengers, all while keeping himself undetected by some of the world's biggest intelligence gathering agencies. He is not above personally committing murder, nor does he have any qualms about causing mass civilian casualties if such things suit his plans.
- Skilled Combatant: Helmut Zemo is a formidable skilled fighter as he was able to overpower Vasily Karpov, in brief combat.
- Baron Zemo's Suit: Zemo owns a particular suit and mask which he wears both to express his wealth and maintain anonymity in certain situations.
- Private Jet: Among many other vehicles owned by his exceedingly wealthy family, Zemo owns a private jet which he uses for quick transport.
- Daniel Brühl portrays Helmut Zemo in the film Captain America: Civil War and in the Disney+ mini-series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
- Ann Russo, the wife of Anthony Russo, who co-directed Captain America: Civil War, gave the voice of Zemo's wife in the audio message he listens to.
- 9 appearance(s) of Helmut Zemo (Earth-199999)
- 3 minor appearance(s) of Helmut Zemo (Earth-199999)
- 2 mention(s) of Helmut Zemo (Earth-199999)
- 9 image(s) of Helmut Zemo (Earth-199999)
- 2 quotation(s) by or about Helmut Zemo (Earth-199999)
- 4 victim(s) killed by Helmut Zemo (Earth-199999)