Arnim Zola was a Swiss scientist who was working for HYDRA before, during, and after World War II. Originally an employee of the Nazi Sturmabteilung, in 1934 he was recruited by Johann Schmidt to become a lead scientist for Schmidt's HYDRA organization. During the war, he designed many advanced weapons to aid HYDRA in its quest for world domination. Despite being captured by the Allies shortly before Schmidt's defeat in 1945, he was offered a position in S.H.I.E.L.D.S.H.I.E.L.D.]], the newly formed peacekeeping organization, and he used that opportunity to secretly rebuild HYDRA.
When Zola received a fatal diagnosis in 1972, he transferred his mind into a complex computer system. His "brain" was destroyed when he caused missiles to be sent to Camp Lehigh, where he was stalling Captain America and Black Widow. However, his consciousness survived and was able to transfer himself into a robotic body that he built during World War II, allowing him a form of immortality.
Attack on Camp Lehigh
Two years after the Battle of New York, Alexander Pierce, a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official who was revealed to be one of HYDRA's undercover operatives and leaders. He attempted to initiate HYDRA's new global rule by taking control of Project Insight under the noses of the World Security Council and all other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers, in their efforts to stop Pierce, discovered a bunker hidden beneath Camp Lehigh where the mainframe containing Zola's downloaded consciousness was located.
Zola revealed to them HYDRA's plans for Project Insight, its infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its long history with continuing to create chaos across the modern world. However, the entire time he was, in fact, stalling until HYDRA could attack. Shortly thereafter, Romanoff learned of Zola's deception and they attempted to escape, only for Zola to lock them inside. Moments later, the bunker was attacked and destroyed in an attempt to kill Rogers and Romanoff, with Zola's mainframe being destroyed in the explosion.
In the Shadows
While thought to have been gone for good, Zola's consciousness moved somewhere else at the time when the entire bunker was destroyed by HYDRA.
- "Captain, what a pleasure to meet you face to face. I am Arnim Zola. How wonderful that you have awoken in time for me to show off my laboratory facilities."
- ―Arnim Zola
A man of dubious morality, Dr. Zola was one of the most infamous scientific minds on the planet. There was no crime he wasn't willing to commit if that could help him in his scientific experiments. Despite his amorality, Dr. Zola wasn't sadistic, evident by the shock and fear he often displayed towards Red Skull's actions and megalomania. Zola's loyalty to HYDRA seemed to be slightly reluctant during World War II, although after being captured by Captain America and following the war, Zola was key to the survival and re-creation of the organization showing that he had become frantically loyal to HYDRA's goals and was willing to do anything to see those goals accomplished by creating world chaos, leading to the deaths of millions. Zola no doubt had a particular hatred of Captain America as he sacrificed himself in order to ensure that Captain America and Black Widow were obliterated in a missile strike by HYDRA. He seemed to be somewhat cowardly during the war, following HYDRA out of fear and willing to keep himself alive in a machine, although when death came he was willing to accept since he was "out of time."
- Master Scientist: Arnim Zola was the greatest scientist amongst those who worked for the Third Reich, and later HYDRA. He was interested both in technology and genetics, though he preferred making the new weapons to aid the Axis in world conquest instead of enhancing human bodies to the peak of human perfection.
- Master Engineer: Zola designed many weapons years ahead of his time. From his early experiments designing Exo-skeletons and battle tanks, to the breakthroughs he made once he was able to collect the energy of the Tesseract, Zola had a natural talent for designing advanced weapons systems.
- Computer System: With S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resources, Zola was able to build an entire computer system which his mind was uploaded into as an artificially intelligent user interface. Though Zola's body died in 1972, his mind continued to live in cyberspace. By the 2010s, though decades old, the computers were still operational.
- Ernst Kaufmann - Leader †
- Johann Fennhoff - Fellow Inmate
- Nazi Germany - Allies turned Enemies
- Strategic Scientific Reserve
- S.H.I.E.L.D. - Allies turned Enemies