JediCole here to share a few thoughts on Arnim Zola from Captain America: The First Avenger.
Just Add Tesseract
In the long and storied history of super-hero comic books there has been one endearing staple, the mad genius! But for the brilliant, if insane, minds of such notable men of science as Victor von Doom, Hector Hammond, Norman Osborn, and Elihas “Egghead” Starr, the lives of super-heroes would be dull ones indeed. Even more focused tinkerers like Gizmo and the Mad Thinker play their roles. And then there is Arnim Zola. In comics he was a genetically engineered cyborg with a cloned brain. This article, however, will focus on crazy super-genius Arnim Zola as he appears in 2011’s Captain America.
While Arnim Zola had the mental capacity to reason out the means by which to make the seemingly impossible not only plausible but possible with such certainty that there was no margin for error necessary, he lacked one crucial element to realize his dream. A source of limitless energy of a variety unknown to mankind which all of his designs required. Like the alchemists of old he toiled away at his work ever dreaming of the day he might stumble upon the hidden secrets of creation necessary to transform the useless prototypes of his every design into viable weapons of conquest. And then along came Johan Schmidt!
The deranged super soldier of the Third Reich harbored an obsession with the supernatural that exceeded that of his supreme commander. No mere Covenant bearing ark or holiest of grails would suffice for a man of Schmidt’s ambition. Only a mythic object, a geometric oddity imbued with the Power Cosmic, would sate his hunger for power through other-worldly means. While the “Red Skull” was mad, he was by no means anyone’s fool. Power of this magnitude is not the purview of mere mortals. It would take technology beyond imagining to both house and harness the boundless potential energy purported to ebb and flow within the cubic boundaries of the legendary Tesseract! Yet who could possibly conceive of, much less produce, such containment? And then along came Arnim Zola!
In what had to be a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment of epic proportions, two crazed dreamers crossed paths somewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe and discovered that they completed one another. Of course all they needed was the elusive Cosmic Cube, but that was only a matter of time. Schmidt had, by this time, established a godlike reputation for himself which he parlayed into the building of a private army to help him on his quest to find an object that may or may not exist. All the while he had Zola’s weaponry designs at hand to wave in front of der Furher’s nose in order to keep him at bay during his fruitless search. Luckily not even Hitler had thought to question why the mighty All-Father Odin would have simply brushed off the loss of the jewel of his treasure vault for so many centuries when he had a handy mystical telescopic view of Midgard available on demand. It must have been assumed to be likely that Odin simply couldn’t remember where he had seen it last or perhaps let it slip from his grasp Citizen Kane style during a previous Odinsleep.
Whatever the circumstances, an ancient order of holy men had managed to obtain the Cosmic Cube and lock it up in some form of entirely indestructible wooden box carved from a species of tree that must have gone extinct a good three centuries prior. While they had the good sense to hide the power object in plain sight and even commission a counterfeit to entomb with the remains of a Knight Templar, they did not count on the likes of Johan Schmidt coming calling in the night. Had they had such foresight they might well have moved their secret charge to an even more secure location that lacked a carving depicting a very Norse view of the universe. The ironic obviousness of the hiding place made it a poor choice at best. At the very least they should have chosen someone other than Brother Open Book to keep an eye on things. One wayward look from Schmidt and he effectively lost any hope of maintaining a poker face.
In the end Arnim Zola’s incredibly advanced designs for any number of military creations, while beyond the capacity of any other man of science in his day, had but one glaring theoretical flaw. Without exception each required a key element to fuel its purpose that was beyond his own ability to create. In fact it was beyond the ability of anyone on Earth to create. And this simply underscores the intrinsic difference between geniuses and mad geniuses. While insanity does serve to magnify and accentuate the inventive spirit, that augmentation comes at a terrible price. And that price is the unachievable. Unless of course, as luck would have it, you stumble upon a partner in search of the very thing you cannot create. And he finds it!