Last week, Mania readers were treated to the news that veteran British actor Toby Jones was in final negotiations to portray Nazi geneticist Arnim Zola in the big screen version of Captain America. Chris Evans as Cap and Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull? Those are both big announcements. A Howling Commandos cameo? Sweet. But it’s the inclusion of Arnim Zola that’s got our blood pumping.
Not that we like Nazi scientists. Far from it. The only time we like seeing Nazis is when they’re getting their faces bashed in by guys like Cap, Hellboy or Indiana Jones. But boy howdy, do we love seein’ Nazis get their faces bashed in! And when it comes to Arnim Zola, the guy’s got a face that takes up his entire chest. That’s a whole lotta face and a whole lotta bashin’ that can be done! And that’s exactly why we’re so excited.
If you read Comicscape on a regular basis, you know we love us some Jack Kirby. And if you know how much we love Jack Kirby, you undoubtedly understand that part of his appeal are the more outlandish costume and character designs the man came up with. Outside of M.O.D.O.K. and that Celestial with the teacup for a head, Arim Zola is about as outlandish as it gets.
Originally a biochemist during WWII, Arnim Zola was one of the first genetic engineers. One of his earliest accomplishments was a device that allowed someone’s mental essence to be projected into a cloned brain. Zola used this device to imprint Adolph Hitler’s brain patterns into the cloned body of the Hate Monger, a villain who basically looked like a purple Klansman. This was the Marvel Comics of the 1970’s folks – they actually did clone Hitler’s brain, and he returned on several occasions to do battle with Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four and of course, Captain America.
But it doesn’t end there. Zola’s next big step was to use this device to put his own brain into a modified body. Now, if you or I were going to put our brain into a new body, we’d probably try to level up to a bit, right? You know, maybe create a cloned body that was a little taller, maybe a bit better looking or at least in better shape. Not Zola! He opted to create a body that lacked a head and instead featured a little gizmo atop its shoulders. Zola’s face was projected onto a giant holographic projector that took up the majority of the body’s chest.
Seriously, Zola? With the fantastic technology of the Marvel Universe at your disposal, that was the best thing you could come up with? A body, sans head, with a huge face that encompassed its entire chest?!?! And this wasn’t just a one time deal, folks. Arnim Zola has “died” on several occasions, only to continue transferring his mind to other, similarly non-headed bodies with a little mechanical box on top that he uses to control his monstrous creations.
Arnim Zola created Primus, an independently-thinking android with super strength that could alter it’s form to appear human, yet he never bothered to create something a little better for himself. It’s not like we’ve seen any backup bodies that he keeps in storage for his day off. Nope, the guy spends all of his time keeping Hitler alive and trying to put the Red Skull into Steve Rogers’ body but never takes any time to hit the town and pick up some trim in a handsome new beefcake chasis.
It’s the truth. Most villains become that way after a terrible accident leaves them disfigured or bonds robotic tentacles to their body. The shock of the event scars their mind and drives them insane (or more insane if they’re already a little off kilter). Not so with Mr. Zola. He actually chose his hideous body and we love him for it. It’s true that he’s dedicated his life to the vilest of evils, but we thank the good lord and Jack Kirby that he did it with such awkward style.
So what does all this mean for the Captain America movie? Honestly… probably not much. Since the story takes place in World War II, we’re not expecting to see Arnim Zola depicted in all of his headless glory. Odds are he’ll just be some creepy scientist experimenting on lab rats and maybe creating some crazy weaponry (we’re crossing our fingers for giant Nazi robots). But with an Avengers movie in the works, it might not be unrealistic to expect to see Mr. Zola in a brand new body with a television screen embedded in it’s chest by the time that one (or a Captain America sequel) rolls around.
With Arnim Zola cast in Captain America and Hector Hammond slated to appear in the Green Lantern movie, could M.O.D.O.K. be far behind? It may just be wishful thinking on our part, but we know how Hollywood loves to milk a cash cow until it produces naught but powdered milk. Zola’s giant chest-face, Hammond’s enormous cranium… the only logical progression here is the biggest brain of them all and we’re hoping that we see a certain Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing in either the Cap sequel or the Nick Fury movie (assuming they make one).
We at Comicscape salute you, Arnim Zola. Though we disagree with your despicable Nazi ways, we admire the way in which you followed your dreams: with a giant face in the middle of your chest. You sir, are what weird old Marvel Comics are all about, and we look forward to seeing you in the Captain America movie.