After the World War II hero known as Captain America was found and revived into the modern world in 1964, his return as an Avenger would capture the attention of Baron Heinrich Zemo. Originally Zemo was a major threat during World War II and was the second most feared man throughout the Nazi regime, standing only one foot away from the Red Skull himself. Much like Red Skull, Zemo would also become a major threat for Captain America and Bucky. His hatred for the American hero would increase when his face was merged to the hooded mask that he was wearing during a fight against Captain America. Because of this incident, Zemo had long obsessed over the death of Captain America and was willing to cheat the Red Skull from doing it himself. After World War II was coming to an end and Red Skull was believed to have died, Zemo later lured both Captain America and Bucky into a trap that nearly killed both heroes. Believing that his nemesis and his annoying sidekick was finally dead, Zemo was unaware that both heroes managed to survive as Captain America accidentally went into suspended animation within arctic waters while Bucky was found by the communist Russians who brainwashed him into becoming their own assassin.
Zemo found himself avoiding capture for his war crimes after the war ended and relocated as a ruler in a South American tribe where he created his own private kingdom. After years of living in seclusion, Zemo would finally be shocked to learn of Captain America’s actual return and found himself dedicated to ensure that Captain America’s death would be more ensured once and for all.
Zemo knew that Captain America’s newest allies, the Avengers would prove to be a threat against Captain America’s death, which forced him to take an alternate method to take on the his old enemy. Studying each member of the Avengers, Zemo carefully formed his own incarnation of villains that was comparable to the Avengers and with each member who individually posed a major threat towards a certain member of the Avengers. Recruiting villains like the Melter who once was a serious threat for Iron Man, the criminal scientist known as Black Knight who tangled with both Ant Man and Wasp, and Radioactive Man who was a threat for the Mighty Thor himself. With each villain promised his rightful vengeance by strength in numbers, secretly Zemo dubbed this team as the Masters of Evil. Even though each member served together for their promised opportunity for revenge, Zemo cared less for the motives of his team seeing how the main goal of the Masters of Evil was to ensure that there would be no obstacles that stood in his way when killing Captain America once and for all.
The Masters of Evil were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964 and first appeared in The Avengers #6.
Major Story Arcs
Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil decided that the best approach against the Avengers was to draw the heroes into battle. Zemo and his team did so when he attacked New York City with his Adhesive X, a substance that was proclaimed to have no solution. With a majority of the population trapped by Zemo’s attack, the responding Avengers would find themselves unprepared against Zemo and the Masters of Evil because of the Adhesive X they were using. Capturing Giant Man and Captain America, the remaining Avengers was forced into fleeing and finds a way to fight against the Masters of Evil and the Adhesive X. Much like Zemo, Captain America was shocked to learn of Zemo was still alive and the hero wanted revenge for death of his partner Bucky. Elsewhere the Avengers located the Trapster, a villain who specializes in adhesive for a solution to Zemo’s Adhesive X. With the help of Trapster because of wanting a lighter sentence for his prison term, the Avengers would secretly replace Zemo’s Adhesive X canisters with solvent and manage to trick the Masters of Evil into dissolving the Adhesive X. This led to all but one of the Masters of Evil to face defeat and incarceration while Zemo escaped with no army at his side for his personal quest to kill Captain America.
With Zemo left with no army, no hopes with accomplishing his task on killing Captain America, and that a desperate Captain America was on his trail for murdering his partner Bucky, Zemo would finally catch another opportunity with the Avengers when encountering Enchantress and the Executioner who were both recently exiled from Asgard for their crimes against Thor. As both Asgardians joined Zemo and recreated a shorter version of the Masters of Evil, Zemo had Enchantress mystically force Thor into fighting against his own teammates. Nearly managing on destroying the Avengers, the arrival of Iron Man would release Thor from his hypnotic trance, which followed the God of Thunder individually sending the Masters of Evil into another dimension.
After Enchantress managed to use her magic abilities to escape the dimension, Zemo decided that his next attack against the Avengers is by attacking them from within. By doing this, Zemo needed to recruit another member into the Masters of Evil and somebody who could easily pose as a hero. Deciding that the best way to do this is by also using his technology to grant ionic powers and to ensure absolute loyalty. Zemo would find a possible candidate for his goals within Simon Williams, who was recently fired for embezzlement. Blindly accepting Zemo’s offer for freedom from his prison stint and gaining powers, Zemo turned Willaims into an ionic-powered being dubbed Wonder Man. Following through with Zemo’s plan by finding acceptance within the Avengers because of his heroic actions, Zemo would cue Wonder Man the precise moment to betray the Avengers and finally rid the heroes and Captain America once and for all. To ensure full loyalty from Williams, Zemo also advise Willaims that his powers are temporary and that his body would need a periodically serum dosage to stabilize his ionic physiology. However Wonder Man would change his idea of luring the Avengers into Zemo’s trap and sacrificed himself to save his teammates from Zemo and the Masters of Evil.
The Time Traveling Immortus
Zemo and the Masters of Evil would later be approached by the time traveling Immortus who offered his assistance on defeating the Avengers. With Immortus sending Space Phantoms disguised as historical figures of the past to attack the Avengers, he also managed to send Captain America back to 1760 London. With Captain America gone, the Masters of Evil made their attack against the Avengers and nearly succeeded on defeating them until Immortus returned Captain America to his rightful place in time because of how he was impressed with his display of heroism. With the Masters of Evil facing another defeat, Enchantress managed to restore time to before Zemo was approached by Immortus. Even though time was restored within Reality-616, another reality known as Reality-64110 continues on with the fight and capture of the Masters of Evil.
The Final Assault
After his repeated and unsuccessful attempts, Zemo became desperate with Captain America’s demise and decided to rebuild his Masters of Evil to directly attack the Avengers and find a way to lure Captain America away from the team and take on the hero himself. Managing to have Melter and Black Knight escape from their prison term, Baron Zemo was unable to have Radioactive Man rejoin his group because of him being deported to China after his recent capture. Still having an equal group compared to the Avengers, Zemo next kidnapped Rick Jones and took him to his secluded base in South America as a way to lure Captain America to Zemo. As the Masters of Evil launched a full-scale attack on the Avengers, Captain America followed Zemo’s trail to his base and found himself battling Zemo and his hired men. As Zemo attempted to use his Death Ray against the Avenger, Captain America reflected the attack and caused Zemo to be blinded. Blinded and angered, Zemo shot his pistol wildly, which caused a landslide to crush and kill Baron Zemo. With Zemo dead, the remaining Masters of Evil didn’t fare any better, as all members were defeated and captured besides Enchantress and the Executioner who managed to escape.
With one of the teams greatest threats finally coming to an end, Captain America would personally bury Zemo’s body, as he would be convinced that Bucky’s death was finally avenged.
The Mysterious Crimson Cowl
Secretly acting indirectly and strictly behind the scenes, the psychotic robot known as Ultron plan his attacks on the Avengers for the purposes of ruining his creator, Hank Pym. Adopting a criminal disguise as the Crimson Cowl, Ultron would recruit Radioactive Man, Melter, Klaw, Whirlwind, and a new Black Knight who was the nephew of the original Black Knight who recently died from injuries after a battle with Iron Man. To make his true disguise and agenda more hidden, Ultron dubbed and recreated the team as the Masters of Evil. Managing to kidnap Edwin Jarvis, who was the butler for the Avengers, Ultron would hypnotize Jarvis into taking the disguise of the Crimson Cowl to further avoid his involvement or suspicion. Not only did Ultron frame Jarvis for his crimes as the Crimson Cowl, but also used him to gain information on the Avengers security systems and how to easily gain access into the mansion. With this knowledge, Ultron guided his Masters of Evil into defeating and capturing the Avengers. With the Avengers captured, Ultron next directed his attention against New York City. Eventually members within the Masters began to disagree with their leaders goals, which caused Klaw into attacking him after being berated. Simply shrugging off Klaw's attack, Ultrons identity was finally discovered before Black Knight freed the Avengers and managed to defeat the criminal group after Ultron made his escape. With the Masters defeated, Black Knight would reveal himself to the Avengers as a hero who was following his uncles dying wish of not following the same footsteps as he did and decided to restore heroism to the Black Knight name by single handily defeating the reincarnated Masters of Evil.
Even though Ultron decided to move on without the assistance of any humans, this version of the Masters of Evil still continued to work together as they made another attempt against the Avengers. Yet, this version would prove less successful as they faced another quick defeat, which caused the Masters of Evil to part ways.
Egghead's Ultimate Revenge
A third Masters of Evil would be created when the criminal scientist known as Egghead sought assistance with his plot for gaining revenge against Hank Pym and manipulating him into serving him. What was supposed to be the ultimate plan against Pym who recently was shunned from the Avengers, Egghead broke Whirlwind, Scorpion, Tiger Shark, and Moonstone out of form his own criminal group. However Egghead's plan would find itself quickly threatened when Whirlwind anticipated his attack on the Avengers by trying to gain revenge against the Wasp for his prior defeats. Forcing the remaining Masters to attack the unsuspecting Avengers, the criminal group found itself easily bested by the Avengers and sent back to prison. However Egghead was far from giving up on needing a group and decided to free Tiger Shark and Moonstone, but replaced Whirlwind and Scorpion with the Beetle, Shocker, and Radioactive Man. After remaking the roster, Egghead sent the group to kidnap Pym from court and make it look like Pym was working with the Masters so that he could increase the damage on Pym’s reputation as a hero. Coercing Pym into creating a longevity serum, Egghead was unaware that Pym was secretly creating a device to use against him and that the Avengers have managed to locate Eggheads secret hideout. But before the Avengers arrived on the scene to rescue Pym, they found that Pym managed to single-handily defeat Egghead and all the Masters of Evil with the device that he made. With the Avengers arriving and seeing the victorious Pym standing over the defeated Masters, Egghead made one last attempt against Pym by trying to shoot him in the back with a pistol. However his attack was not only prevented by the arriving Hawkeye by shooting an arrow in the barrel, but also caused the pistol to backfire against Egghead that resulted with the criminal scientists death.
The next group of criminals that took the name Masters of Evil didn’t make another appearance until the son of Baron Helmut Zemo found himself continuing his father’s legacy and vendetta against Captain America for his prior defeat that also caused his entire face to be completely ruined. Baron Heinrich Zemo not only took up his father’s mantle as a criminal mastermind, but also followed his father’s very same footsteps by attempting to destroy Captain America and the Avengers. This time Zemo decided to take more calculating steps on bringing the Avengers to their knee’s by forming not only a new incarnation of the Masters of Evil, but also a massive army that consisted of the most dangerous and deadliest foes who individually posed a threat for the Avengers. Zemo’s army mostly consisted of villains that had brute strength and such as Goliath, Mr. Hyde, the Wrecking Crew, Absorbing Man, and Titania. Some members were specifically important for Zemo such as Blackout who displayed powers of manipulating the dark force and Moonstone who was the only one that could control him and his actions. Even though Moonstone did pose a threat against Zemo’s leadership, he still kept her at a close distance and hid the fact that he had Fixer implant commands in Blackout’s mind that could make him control Blackout if ever needed too. Aside from Moonstone and Blackout, Fixer also assisted Zemo for his abnormal mechanical skills that also proved very useful for Zemo. Prior to his attack on the Avengers, Zemo sent a few villains such Yellow Jacket, Absorbing Man, and Titania to find possible recruits to help him and the Masters of Evil storm the Avengers Mansion. Yet these attempts proved unsuccessful and ended with Grey Gargoyle and Screaming Mimi being arrested, also a meddling Spider-Man managed to defeat both Absorbing Man and Titania while trying to recruit Mongoose. During this time, Zemo amused himself by sending both Whirlwind and Trapster to attack Captain America for initiation within his group. Knowing that both villains would fail, Zemo specifically sent Whirlwind on this mission because of his prior incident with the former Masters group that caused their defeat and could be a threat for his plans.
With Thor, who was one of the Avengers most powerful members being absent, Zemo waited for the exact opportunity to strike and did so when seeing most of the Avengers away from the building. Zemo and his army of super-villains not only managed to successfully infiltrate the mansion, but also captured Captain America, Black Knight, and Jarvis, also using Blackout to send Captain Marvel into the Darkforce, and nearly beating Hercules to death. With the mansion completely taken over by Zemo and the Masters, Zemo used Blackout to shield the entire mansion with his Darkforce powers so that nobody would be able to enter or leave the mansion. With Hercules hospitalized, Zemo sent both Titania and Absorbing Man to ensure that his death was fulfilled, but this attempt found itself failing as both Ant-Man (Scott Lang) and Wasp managed to prevent both Masters from killing Hercules. With Captain America captured and taunted by Zemo, the Avenger found himself forced into watching Jarvis being tortured and beaten by Mr. Hyde. With the destruction of the Avengers almost complete, the arrival of Thor and the remaining Avengers proved successful on defeating most of the Masters as they managed to penetrate into the mansion. As Thor and arriving Avengers, Zemo were defeating most of the Masters retreated to the roof with Blackout as the released Captain America pursued against him. Zemo would also find himself unable to use Blackout with the implanted commands because of Dr. Druid who was mentally guiding Blackout to retaliate against Zemo; this resulted with Blackout dying from a brain hemorrhage. With the Masters facing defeat and the Avengers building being nearly destroyed, Zemo made his attempt on fighting against Captain America only to find himself falling to his seemingly death. Believing to be dead, Zemo managed to survive the fall and hid underground to rethink his plans against Captain America while the Avengers found themselves reorganizing and rebuilding the damages from Zemo’s attack.
The Raid of Dr Octopus
With a new cosmic threat arising known as Magus, this forced most of the well-known heroic teams to fight against on their attempts to save reality. After noticing the heroes taking absence, Dr Octopus decided that the time was right to raid the Avengers Mansion and steal any scientific equipment that would prove useful for research. Possibly influenced by Zemo’s prior attack on the Avengers, Dr Octopus made his attempt to follow the same footsteps by forming his own Masters of Evil to help him raid the mansion and handle any possible threats that they may encounter. Even though Dr Octopus made his attempt to follow Zemo’s same footsteps, his greatest flaw was his selection for the Masters, which half of the villains found themselves instantly defeated by the Avengers staff and the arriving Guardians of the Galaxy. Despite Dr Octopus and a few Masters being capable of handling themselves against the Guardians, their encounter was interrupted by evil doppelgangers sent by Magus. Forced into forming an alliance with the Guardians, both teams managed to fend off the doppelgangers. Yet Dr. Octopus was still reluctant to raid the mansion and found that his remaining team opposed him. With the Masters of Evil defeated and departed, Dr. Octopus was forced to flee as well one of the opposing Masters known as Yellowjacket found herself joining the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Justice, Like Lightning
Returning to his role as leader of the Masters of Evil, Zemo individually recruited each member of his newest formation of the Masters of Evil. It was during this time that the main heroic teams such as the Avengers and Fantastic Four perished during Onslaught's attack, forced Zemo to take another approach with his reformed Masters. Seeing the absence of Earth's mightiest heroes as an opportunity to have the world under his control, Zemo and his Masters took a unique step on accomplishing this by secretly posing as heroes to gain public trust, trust that would put Zemo and his Masters closer to their goals. With Fixer’s aid, the Masters found themselves re-equipped and taking different names as the entire group made their public appearance as the heroic Thunderbolts. In an ironic twist, Zemo and the Thunderbolts found themselves fighting another group who called themselves the Masters of Evil who was led by another mysterious Crimson Cowl. Even though Zemo’s plan was proving successful as the Thunderbolts were gaining public trust as heroes, a rising threat towards his goals of world domination began to rise within the group when some of the members began following their heroic counterparts. Taking notice as to how some members began to steer away from Zemo’s goals, Zemo pre-planned this by revealing their secret identities to public prior to his attempt for world takeover, forcing them into staying loyal to his plans and goals. As Zemo and the reluctant Thunderbolts managed to take over the world through means of mind control, the group found itself split apart as most of the Thunderbolts found themselves following their heroic identities by going against Zemo and Techno. With aid of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Zemo’s plan was foiled and his disguised Masters of Evil was now no more.
Justine Hammer's Masters of Evil
With Zemo and the original Masters of Evil no longer bearing the name as they continued to follow their heroic identities, only the mysterious villainous known as the Crimson Cowl found herself continuing her crime spree as leader of various incarnations of Masters of Evil. Deciding to blackmail the world with a weather-manipulating device, the Cowl assembled a large 25 member Masters of Evil as part of her own personal army to guard herself against any super hero attack. Things to a tragic turn when she was outsmarted by Moonstone of the Hawkeye's Thunderbolts who tricked her into thinking she would side with her, while the rest of her teammates defeated the large roster of super villains. However, the Crimson Cowl got the better of them when she teleported herself away and replaced herself with Dallas Riordan as a way to fooling the Thunderbolts and the super-human community in thinking Riohard and turned traitor, but she was soon freed by the V-battalion who broke out her out of prison. The real Crimson Cowl went into hiding for weeks before revealing herself to the public again by kidnapping Dallas who was on the run from the V-battalion after turning down an assassination plot against Peter Henry Gyrich who was secretly being controlled by Baron Wolfegang Von Strucker.
Dallas escaped the Cowl's clutches leaving her no choice, but to reveal her identity as Justine Hammer, the daughter of long time Iron Man foe, Justin Hammer. It was then that Hammer decided to enact what was left of her father's legacy with a bio-toxin that was created by Plant Man when he was in service of Justin Hammer and the Cowl reassembled another set of the Masters of Evil. However, most of them betrayed her and sided with Hawkeye when he restructured the Thunderbolts with Songbird and Plant Man chose to neutralize the toxin instead of releasing it. She was arrested and the Masters of Evil were finally put out of her control for several months.
The super villain, Whirlwind decided to reassemble the Masters of Evil in an attempt to corrupt Norman Osborn's version of the Thunderbolts, but failed when Mac Gargan betrayed the group and allowed Osborn to defeat them.
Secret Invasion and Dark Reign
The Hood assembled a new Masters of Evil, a street-level gang of villains, for aiding him in his quest to become the new Kingpin of All Crime in New York.
While villains all, the Hood's gang assisted the heroes of the Marvel Universe in repelling the Skrull invasion during Secret Invasion under the Hood's rationale that "no more Earth is bad for business". After the Skrulls were defeated, the Hood's gang retreated to safety and awaits further instructions.
When Norman Osborn is in charge of SHIELD and the Avengers and has the Hood on board as part of his "Dark Illuminati", ( Cabal) his gang will likely wind up being given free reign of the country and they might even all become registered "heroes" within the 50 State Initiative. As of recently, The Hood's gang has expanded. Villains would include old villains that were killed by Scourge of the Underworld and were brought back to life. There mission was to stop the Punisher. The Hood's gang would also consist of the paranormal group the Night Shift set out to stop the Midnight Sons.
The Hood was recently given the Norn Stones by Loki and uses them to power up his crew. The Hood has ordered his gang to hunt down the Avengers.
Red Light Nation
Displeased with the various attacks by Steve Rogers' Secret Avengers, the Shadow Council appointed Max Fury to create a new Masters of Evil that would not only take down the team, but also try and discredit Captain America. Max is able to recruit Vengeance, Whiplash and the new Princess Python onto the team before Cap and Hawkeye break into their operation. The Masters quickly capture Captain America and decide to use the footage of his attack in the foreign nation to discredit him. However, Hawkeye ends up defeating the various members and escaping with Cap in tow. Leading the Shadow Council to finish their Masters of Evil and launch them against the Avengers. Max Fury lead over 50 members of his new Masters of Evil to be the heralds of the Abyss, which was revealed to need the Serpent Crown, the Crown of Thorns and the Crown of Wolves to unlock the gateway back to the 616 Universe. However, after joining the crowns together, he was unable to use the powers of the Abyss since he was an artificial being. The Taskmaster, who was fatally wounded dawn the crown and became the herald for the Abyss and used the Masters of Evil and the Secret Avengers to spread the powers of the Abyss to the rest of the planet.
Venom and Ant-man who were unaffected by the Abyss due to the symbiot's powers and Ant-man being an LMD were able to stop the Abyss by using the symbiote on the Taskmaster and redividing the crowns. In doing so, the Abyss lost it's grip on the possessed Avengers and Masters and the crown was taken by the Secret Avengers and hidden in various pocket universes where they could guard them more closely. The Shadow Council as a result fell apart as both Thorndrake and Steel were killed and Max Fury fled back to the Decedents.
Masters of Evil Reunion
A very familiar lineup of Masters of Evil would return under the command of the Lightmaster in an attempt to steal a Quantum Energy Transporter. Consisting of the Wrecking Crew, Absorbing Man, Titania, Whirlwind, Blackout and Mr Hyde as well as a HYDRA Dreadnought the group fought Spider Man, Sun Girl and the Superior Six. Fighting as a team the Masters came close to gaining the upper hand several times in the fight with Titania and the Absorbing Man destroying a Spider Walker and Blackout managing to interfere with the Superior Spiderman's control of his 'allies'. In the end the Masters were temporarily defeated when Sungirl activated the device Lightmaster had stolen causing herself, the Six, Lightmaster and Spiderman to teleport to another location. It can be assumed that after Lightmaster's arrest the rest of the Master's disbanded or were apprehended by local law enforcement.
Baron Zemo would once again take control of the Masters of Evil and attempt to recreate a team worthy of using the title. He hired Madame Masque, Hellstrom and the Constrictor and was approached by the young hero Bloodstone in his search for Arcade. Some time later the five Masters appeared in Brazil and destroyed a SHIELD R&D facility.
The Marvel Super Heroes
Heinrich Zemo's original Masters of Evil appear in the episode "Zemo and his Masters of Evil".
The Avengers: United They Stand
A Masters of Evil team consisting of Baron Helmut Zemo, Tiger Shark, Absorbing Man, Whirlwind, Dragonfly, Moonstone, Cardinal, and Boomerang. They appear in the episode "Command and Decision".
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
This version of the Masters of Evil were brought together by Enchantress under the orders of Loki. Baron Heinrich Zemo is enlisted to the team by Enchantress and Executioner in the episode "Living Legend". Wonder Man is added to the team when he is promised he will be returned to normal in the episode "Everything is Wonderful". Crimson Dynamo is recruited off screen and is shown in "Gamma World part 2" when they enlist Abomination. In the episode "The Masters of Evil" Zemo leads the team in taking out the Avengers members one by one. Eventually only Black Panther, Hawkeye, and Ant-man are left. Black Panther and Hawkeye distract the Masters of Evil while Ant-man gets some items from his lab. Eventually the rest of the Avengers are free and almost defeat the Masters of Evil until Zemo tells Echantress to get them to Arnim Zola's lab. The Masters of Evil return with new members Living Laser, Chemistro, and Grey Gargoyle(it is implied he is killed by Executioner) in the episode "This Hostage Earth". They plan to use the Norn Stones to make Earth one with the various Asgardian Kingdoms. It is revealed that Enchantress has been working for Loki and is betrayed by Zemo. The Masters of Evil are defeated yet again. The Masters of Evil appear yet again in the episode "Acts of Vengeance". Enchantress plans to get revenge on Zemo and his Masters of Evil. She turned Chemistro to gold, killed Arnim Zola, and Trapped Living Laser in his light form thus leaving Zemo, Wonder Man, Abomination, and Crimson Dynamo left. They team up with the Avengers to defeat Enchantress. In the end Wonder Man and Enchantress disappear after being enveloped in the power of the Norn Stones and Zemo, Abomination, Crimson Dynamo, and Executioner remanded in Prison 42.
A version of the Masters of Evil appear, lead by Dr. Doom. The members of this Masters of Evil are Baron Mordo, Ultron, Enchantress, Loki, Arcade, Attuma, Bullseye, Byrrah, Crimson Dynamo, Executioner, Fin Fang Foom, Lizard, MODOK, Mysterio, Radioactive Man, Rhino, Scorpion, Shocker, Tiger Shark, Warlord Krang, Winter Soldier, and the Wrecking Crew. Mandrin, Grey Gargoyle, Dragon Man, and Ultimo were former members of this version of the Masters of Evil, but left when Mandrin tried to take control of the team and failed.