The Masters of Evil were a team of supervillains. There have been eight incarnations of the Masters of Evil, accumulating dozens of members in total. The Masters of Evil were primarily opposed to the Avengers, although they also battled the Thunderbolts (ironically consisting of former Masters of Evil) and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Baron Heinrich Zemo's Masters of Evil
The original Masters team was organized by Baron Heinrich Zemo, a World War II enemy of Captain America who gathered the Masters to get revenge on the Captain. Thor's enemy the Radioactive Man, Iron Man's adversary the Melter and Giant-Man and The Wasp's foe the Black Knight (Nathan Garrett) were all enlisted. When his accomplices were subdued by Captain America and the Avengers in the streets of New York, Zemo beat a hasty retreat. He then teamed with the Asgardians called Enchantress and Executioner. Their scheme to turn Thor against the other Avengers failed, as did their plan to use Wonder Man as a pawn to try and gain their trust and another scheme in which they were assisted by Immortus. Finally, Zemo had his Asgardian allies free Black Knight and The Melter from jail (though Radioactive Man had been deported to his native China.) While his Masters battled the Avengers, Zemo had captured Rick Jones, then acting as Cap's partner. Cap and Zemo dueled in South America. Blinded by the glare from his opponent's shield, Zemo fired his death ray wildly and died in the ensuing rockslide.
Ultron-5's Masters of Evil
The second team of Masters was organized by the android Ultron-5 (creation of the Avenger Hank Pym, himself previously Ant-Man and Giant-Man but then known as "Goliath") under the alias of "Crimson Cowl." Ultron planned to launch a surprise attack on the Avengers in their mansion headquarters, and maneuvered the Avengers' butler Edwin Jarvis into selling them the blueprints to the Avengers' security systems. Their raid was successful, and the Masters took the Avengers captive. However, the nephew of the Masters' first Black Knight (Dane Whitman) had joined the villains in order to betray them to the Avengers, initiating the Avengers' rescue. Thus, the second Masters of Evil were defeated by the Avengers, but Ultron-5 escaped, to plague the Avengers subsequently without human accomplices. Klaw, the Melter, Radioactive Man, and Whirlwind challenged the Avengers a second time, but were easily defeated.
Egghead's Masters of Evil
The third team was organized by the criminal scientist Egghead, enemy of Hank Pym and the Wasp. Looking for accomplices to aid him in his criminal ventures, Egghead broke Tiger Shark, Whirlwind, the Scorpion, and Moonstone out of prison. However, before they could be of much use to him, Whirlwind sneaked away to get revenge upon the Wasp himself. The others followed to try to keep him out of trouble, but they all ended up in combat with the Avengers and lost.
Egghead freed Tiger Shark and Moonstone, but replaced Whirlwind and the Scorpion with the Radioactive Man, the Beetle, and the Shocker. Egghead sought final vengeance on his long-time enemy Hank Pym, and sent the Masters of Evil to free him from the courtroom where he was being tried for certain crimes Egghead had framed him for. Egghead hoped to make it look as if Pym were a member of his criminal group in order to coerce Pym into working with him on a longevity serum. Pym pretended to go along with him but instead invented a device enabling him to defeat Egghead and virtually all the other Masters single-handedly. Egghead was killed when an arrow shot by Hawkeye caused a gun he was aiming at Pym to misfire.
Baron Helmut Zemo's Masters of Evil
The fourth, and arguably most effective, team was organized by Baron Helmut Zemo, the son of the previous Zemo. Inheriting his father's hatred of Captain America, the new Zemo sought to assemble the most formidable Masters of Evil ever. Rather than follow past practice with a team roughly the size of the active Avengers roster, Zemo decided to organize a veritable army of superhuman criminals, to assure victory over the Avengers. Zemo's long-range design for the largest assemblage of costumed criminals is not at present known, though he stated his intent to defeat the West Coast Avengers and the Fantastic Four as well.
This reformed version of the team took over Avengers Mansion, causing considerable damage in the process. Zemo, a master strategist, was able to play on the Avengers' relationships to pick them off one by one. Zemo sent several of his minions on scouting missions, performing various tasks in preparation for the assault on the mansion. Meanwhile he maintained his command by preventing subversion from Moonstone and giving his more physical recruits their promised action without striking too soon.
Sub-Mariner had taken a leave of absence to reclaim Atlantis, leaving the team one Avenger short. Black Knight and Captain America were captured, as well as Jarvis; Captain Marvel was trapped in another dimension by Blackout; and Hercules was beaten into a coma. This left the Wasp, chairman at the time, as the only remaining active Avenger to retake the mansion. Meanwhile Mister Hyde tortures Jarvis, leaving significant lasting injuries to the faithful butler. It took a hastily-assembled squad of reserve Avengers to defeat this formidable version of the Masters.
Doctor Octopus' Masters of Evil
Baron Helmut Zemo's second Masters of Evil
The sixth incarnation was again assembled by Baron Helmut Zemo, consisting of several of his former recruits along with previous Master, the Beetle. They were better known under the alias they adopted, the Thunderbolts.
Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil
The seventh incarnation was gathered by the mysterious Crimson Cowl. After the Avengers and Fantastic Four seemingly perished fighting Onslaught, she, the daughter of corrupt industrialist Justin Hammer, gathered the Masters as a group of hired muscle. First working for Hydra, they tried to garner the favor of the New York crime families. This incensed Citizen V and the rest of the Thunderbolts, seeing the Masters' legacy turned into mere mercenary work. When the Thunderbolts faced the Masters of Evil in battle she and her team escaped due to the blinding flash that accompanied the Crimson Cowl's teleportation effect. When next they fought Crimson Cowl escaped again.
The Thunderbolts eventually turned on Zemo and Techno, who found themselves fugitives hated by heroes and villains alike. The Crimson Cowl saw this as an opportunity to induct the remaining Bolts into her Masters of Evil. She sent Cyclone to bait the Thunderbolts into walking into an ambush. After defeating the T-Bolts, she made her proposal "Join her and enjoy all the amenities that come with being in her organization or defy her and she would tell all of the Thunderbolts enemies how to find them.
The Thunderbolts were given time to think over the situation but in the end decided they would rather take down the Crimson Cowl instead. When next they fought, it looked like the Crimson Cowl had won until Hawkeye, disguised as a new Dreadknight, saved the team. Hawkeye offered to become the Thunderbolts' new leader. One of his first actions as leader was to promise the media the capture of the Masters of Evil.
The Masters began a plan to use a weather machine to blackmail world leaders for a billion dollars. The Cowl's numbers had grown from 6 members to 25. Realizing they were outnumbered, Hawkeye decided to use Moonstone and her reputation as a traitor to infiltrate the Masters. Moonstone was tempted to side with the Masters for real but eventually decided against it and took the Cowl down instead. Moonstone unmasked the Crimson Cowl and the Thunderbolts were shocked to find the Cowl was Dallas Riordan, their former liaison to the office of the New York city mayor.
In reality, Dallas Riordan was actually the new Citizen V. She had been knocked unconscious when she began to interfere with the Cowl's plans for the weather machine. At the last moment Justine had teleported out of her costume and placed Dallas into it. Dallas didn't tell the Thunderbolts the truth because she was still bitter about being fired as the mayor's liaison because of the Thunderbolts deception as heroes. Eventually Dallas was rescued from jail by her team the V-Battalion.
Crimson Cowl's second Masters of Evil
The eighth incarnation, like the seventh, was recruited by Justine Hammer. Hawkeye, Songbird and Blackheath defeated most of them, and convinced several of them (Gypsy Moth, Cardinal, Man-Killer, and Cyclone) that the Crimson Cowl would kill them with a bio-toxin that Justine's father had surreptitiously placed in the majority of super villains he had employed over the years. Hawkeye inducted these Masters into the Thunderbolts. The Crimson Cowl was eventually defeated by Skein, who used her powers to deconstruct Justine's costume.
Shadow Council's Masters of Evil
Max Fury was able to recruit some other villains to join up with the Shadow Council's Masters of Evil at the time when Max Fury sets up a Shadow Council headquarters in Bagalia, an island nation run by criminals. While setting up in Bagalia's Capital City in underground at the bottom of a chasm and under complete video surveillance, Max Fury later recruits some more villains in order to expand the Masters of Evil. Max Fury and the Masters of Evil later stop John Steele when he attempts to escape from Bagalia with the Serpent's Crown and the Crown of Thorns.
Following the destruction of Max Fury, Baron Helmut Zemo regained leadership of the Masters of Evil and control of Bagalia, and continued to expand group membership. Including teenage villains like the defunct Young Masters and former Hellfire Academy students among others and organizing them as the reformed Young Masters, the teenagers were personally supervised by Constrictor and occasionally dispensed to do the Masters' dirty work. Zemo also included Madame Masque as his right-hand woman, Constrictor and Hellstorm in his personal Inner circle. Organizing the Masters from Tower Zemo. Hellstorm transformed his portion of Bagalia City in a place inhabited by dark wizards, vampires, demons, and monsters while Constrictor's portion became the headquarters of the teenage members.
Following the events of Murderworld, Arcade had an audience with Zemo, demanding a position of power in the Masters. Zemo refused, claiming that his crimes were simply child abuse and didn't deserve to join them. However, he recognized that the technology and design of Murderworld was impressive and claimed the person who built it would be an asset and deserves a place with them. He revealed that Arcade's assistant Miss Coriander, who built Murderworld, had already joined them.
Hellstrom created a meat puppet of Arcade to run his Massacre Casino in Bagalia with Coriander in order to make everyone believe he still ran Murderworld while the real Arcade was kept prisoner by them.  Later a Murderworld survivor, Cullen Bloodstone, began tracking down Arcade. He eventually tracks the fake Arcade to Bagalia, where he forms an alliance with the Masters. However, Hellstorm started influencing and controlling him.  Other Murderworld survivors teleport to Bagalia in an attempt to rescue Bloodstone, and locate him at a bar. After a small fight, Cullen reveals his membership with the Masters of Evil. Constrictor and Masque arrange for Cullen to teleport the group to a nearby swanky party at Massacre Casino hosted by Arcade so that they can get revenge.  The group disables Arcade's power supply, after which he is killed by Hazmat much to everyone's surprise.  The group tries to flee but S.H.I.E.L.D. arrests them under suspicion for being members of the Masters of Evil. After the framed teenagers are visited by friends and family, Hellstrom teleports the group back to Bagalia, where Zemo offers the group a chance to truly join the Masters of Evil.
Following the Avengers' attack on Bagalia, the Masters of Evil get away on a hijacked Helicarrier with Arcade strapped to the front of it.
Lightmaster's Masters of Evil
Lightmaster hired the Wrecking Crew to attack Alchemax and steal it's Quantum Machine. They were opposed by Sun Girl, and defeated when Spider-Man and his Superior Six arrive. After Wrecker reports back to Lightmaster, Lightmaster personally decides to become involved and brings his own Masters of Evil lineup for a rematch against Spider-Man and the Superior Six. In the battle, Absorbing Man and Titania destroy a Arachnaught dispatched to help the Superior Six and Blackout knocks Electro unconscious, disrupting his powers. At the end of the battle, Sun Girl, who Lightmaster realizes is his daughter, destroys the Quantum Machine and causes a mass explosion, in the process freeing the mind control of the Superior Six. It is unclear whether this lineup of the Masters of Evil is a second entity or simply members from Bagalia City on a job.
Baron Helmut Zemo's third Masters of Evil
Baron Helmut Zemo later formed his third incarnation of the Masters of Evil with Klaw, Man-Killer, Tiger Shark, Whiplash, and the Wrecking Crew (Wrecker, Bulldozer, Piledriver, and Thunderball). They attacked Atlas until Jolt showed up to help him. The Masters of Evil subsequently managed to capture the Thunderbolts. Atlas, Fixer, and Moonstone defected from the Thunderbolts and sided with the Masters of Evil following a battle with the Thunderbolts that resulted in the apparent death of Man-Killer. Afterwards, the new Masters of Evil joined the expansion Baron Zemo carried out for the enterprise of Hydra and its new leader, an alternate reality Captain America: the Army of Evil.
The Masters of Evil aided in Steve Rogers' plan to take over the United States by launching an attack on Manhattan along with the Army of Evil in order to lure out many superheroes as possible. The Masters were later teleported away while Baron Zemo used the Darkhold to boost the powers of Blackout and trap half of Manhattan in a Darkforce dome, trapping the superheroes who fought the Masters. The Masters later took part in a fight against the remaining superheroes in Washington, D.C. as Hydra moved toward the capital to secure its takeover of the country.
After Hydra took over the United States, the Masters of Evil along with the Army of Evil were all placed in stasis by Hydra out of fear of what they would do if they were allowed to remain free. When a contingent of America's superheroes who opposed Hydra's regime known as the Underground launched a massive against Hydra in Washington D.C., Baron Zemo was ordered to awaken the Masters along with the Army of Evil to turn the tide. He was stopped by Black Panther and Winter Soldier before he could accomplish his task. After the Hydra regime fell, the Masters were likely freed from stasis and either forced to disband or were arrested by the authorities.
Madame Masque's West Coast Masters of Evil
Equipment: Each teammates' equipment
Weapons: Each teammates' arsenal
- The story of the fourth incarnation of the team, "Avengers Under Siege", is generally considered the definitive Masters of Evil story line.
- 120 Masters of Evil (Earth-616) Members
- 97 Appearances of Masters of Evil (Earth-616)
- 8 Minor Appearances of Masters of Evil (Earth-616)
- 24 Media Masters of Evil (Earth-616) was Mentioned in
- 31 Images that include Masters of Evil (Earth-616)
- Team Gallery: Masters of Evil (Earth-616)
Links and References
- ↑ Avengers #6
- ↑ Avengers #7
- ↑ Avengers #9
- ↑ Avengers #10
- ↑ Avengers #15
- ↑ Avengers #16
- ↑ Avengers #54
- ↑ Avengers #83
- ↑ Avengers #222
- ↑ Avengers #228-229
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Avengers #273
- ↑ Avengers #274-277
- ↑ Guardians of the Galaxy #28-29
- ↑ Thunderbolts Annual #1997
- ↑ Thunderbolts #3
- ↑ Thunderbolts #19-21
- ↑ Thunderbolts #24-25
- ↑ Thunderbolts #39-41
- ↑ Thunderbolts #64-71
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 Secret Avengers #21.1
- ↑ Secret Avengers #29
- ↑ Secret Avengers #33
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 Avengers Undercover #1
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Avengers Undercover #2
- ↑ Avengers Undercover #3-4
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 Avengers Undercover #10
- ↑ Avengers Undercover #3
- ↑ Avengers Undercover #4
- ↑ Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #6
- ↑ Thunderbolts Vol 3 #10
- ↑ Thunderbolts Vol 3 #12
- ↑ Captain America: Steve Rogers #13
- ↑ Secret Empire #0
- ↑ Free Comic Book Day Vol 2017 #Secret Empire
- ↑ Secret Empire #1
- ↑ Secret Empire #9
- ↑ Secret Empire #10
- ↑ West Coast Avengers Vol 3 #6
- ↑ Introduction to the Avengers: Under Siege TPB.