BARON ZEMO imposter

Real Name: Franz Gruber

Identity/Class: Human, megalomaniac

Occupation: Would-be World-Conqueror; former pilot

Affiliations: Irma Kruhl; former pilot to and ally of Baron (Heinrich) Zemo and his Masters of Evil; utilized the Destructon and an army of mercenary soldiers

Enemies: Agent 13/Sharon Carter, Avengers, Baron (Helmut) Zemo, Black Panther, Captain America, Rick Jones, SHIELD (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law Division), Teen Brigade

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: Baron Zemo, Zemo's pilot

Base of Operations: formerly Zemo's South American base; a Wakandan base;
Isabella Federal Penitentiary, California

First Appearance:
(as Zemo's pilot) Avengers I#6 (July, 1964);
(as "Baron Zemo") Tales of Suspense I#97 (January, 1968)
(as Franz Gruber) The Avengers and the Thunderbolts novel (January, 1999)



Powers/Abilities: No superhuman powers. Gruber is a skilled pilot, marksman, and tactician. He carried a handgun and formerly used Zemo's Heli-Hovercraft.
He commanded an army of mercenaries, armed with conventional weaponry, as well as other devices, such as the Hypo-Light missiles, which could dazzle a victim into unconsciousness, and then make them unable to physically fight back upon awakening.
His major weapon was his orbiting

(The Avengers and the Thunderbolts novel) - Franz Gruber served Zemo for many years, as his pilot and loyal assistant.

(Avengers I#6) - Zemo's pilot brought him news of the outside world--Captain America was alive and back in action. Zemo then sent him to recruit three super-villains to become his Masters of Evil: the Black Knight (Nathan Garrett), the Melter, and the Radioactive Man. While the Masters of Evil fought the Avengers, Zemo's pilot coated the surface of most of Manhattan with Adhesive X, and then brought Zemo to New York after it had dried. As the pilot was reloading the canisters to trap anyone who had escaped the first spraying, he was ambushed by Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade, who stopped him and replaced the canisters with an adhesive dissolver (designed by good ol' Paste Pot Pete). Zemo himself immobilized the Teen Brigade, but was then attacked by Captain America. Zemo's pilot tried to shoot Cap from behind, but he managed to dodge, so that he was only grazed by the bullet--although he was still knocked out. Zemo told his pilot to fly him to safety, but the pilot sought to finish off Captain America while he was stunned. The Wasp deflected his bullet by jamming a nail in his gun, and Giant-Man captured the pilot.

(Avengers I#15) - Now somehow free, Zemo's pilot and a band of his mercenaries kidnapped Rick Jones and brought him to Zemo's South American base as part of a plot to draw (and hopefully slay) Captain America. Cap came as predicted, but freed Rick, and Zemo was killed in their ensuing battle.

(Captain America I#100 (fb)-BTS) - After Zemo's death, Gruber escaped capture. He waited until Zemo's death had been forgotten and then returned to his base. He studied Zemo's papers and learned his secrets. Eventually, he devised a plan to pose as Zemo and pretend he had somehow survived. He regathered Zemo's loyal troops and began a plot to use an orbiting Death Ray to take over the world.

(Tales of Suspense I#97,98 (fb)-BTS) - Zemo's Death Ray, or Solar Heat Projector, was completed and began test firing on a few unspecified sites. He also made contact with a German spy, Irma Kruhl.

(ToS#97/2-BTS, 98, 99/2, Captain America I#100) - Unbeknownst to Gruber's and his men, Kruhl was captured and impersonated by SHIELD Agent 13, Sharon Carter. Agent 13 made Kruhl's rendezvous with Zemo's agents and infiltrated his operation.
The Solar Heat Projector was detected by the Black Panther, who summoned Captain America to Wakanda to assist in disarming it. Captain America's ship was nearly destroyed en route by a blast from the Projector. Knowing that the Projector was protected from any direct attack, Cap and the Panther sought to infiltrate Zemo's base on Earth and disable its shields. Their approach was detected by Zemo's men, who caught them in a trap. Cap and the Panther nearly broke free, but were both incapacitated by Hypno-Light missiles.
When the two awakened, Gruber enjoyed pummeling them, as the missile had made them unable to fight back against them. He revealed his plans to use his orbiting Death-Ray to conquer the world, and then instructed his apparent ally, "Irma Kruhl," to execute his two helpless foes. Kruhl/Agent 13 instead distracted Zemo from this by discussing her information, including the locations of every missile base on Earth. As Zemo prepared to lock the Death-Ray on the first target, Agent 13 revealed herself, using a SHIELD weapon to blow up the Death-Ray's controls.

Cap and the Panther, now recovered from the Hypno-Light missile, joined forces with Agent 13, fought Zemo's troops, and escaped into the base. Gruber sent the Destructon to finish them, but Cap managed to disable it. As "Zemo" and his troops surrounded them, Cap leapt forward and removed Gruber's mask, revealing him to be an imposter. Furious at this betrayal, Zemo's troops fired on Gruber, apparently killing him.

(The Avengers and the Thunderbolts novel (fb)-BTS) - Gruber survived his gunshot wounds, and was placed in Isabella Federal Penitentiary, in California, where he remained for many years, fading into anonymity.
While imprisoned, Gruber had some of Zemo's technology sold to raise funds and bankroll his endeavors.

(The Avengers and the Thunderbolts novel) - Gruber was approached by Mark Evanier, a Hollywood executive who apparently wished to add Gruber's information to a documentary on Heinrich Zemo. Gruber refused to pass on any information on Zemo, at which point Evanier began asking information regarding the parties who had purchased Heinrich's technology through him. When Gruber again refused, Evanier grabbed him and injected him with some sort of truth serum. At the same time, Evanier deactivated his image inducer, revealing the horribly scarred visage of Helmut Zemo.
Helmut apparently obtained all of the information he had sought, and then infected him with Baron Strucker's Death-Spore virus. Gruber's comatose body was recovered and brought into isolation for care, where he was put into stasis.

Comments: Zemo's pilot and the Baron Zemo imposter created by Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "King" Kirby.
Named as Gruber and given a follow-up by Pierce Askegren.

Material which occurs in the Novels and other media is not considered canon unless specifically indicated. However, Pierce Askegren, who wrote the Avengers/Thunderbolts novel, consulted with Kurt Busiek, Tomb Brevoort, Steve Behling, and Roy Thomas, and he made every effort to fit the book in with continuity, such that it could take place shortly after the events of Avengers III#12. All it needs is the greenlight from someone at Marvel to make it canon.

Captain America apparently realized that Gruber was not the real Zemo, because his mask was not tightly adhered to his face (from Adhesive X), as was the true Zemo's. I can't tell the difference. They always drew the real Zemo's mask as sort of just hanging in front of his face, so it always seemed weird to me that is was supposed to be fixed to his skin. Artistic license, I guess.

I don't think they ever described Gruber as actually dying in the The Avengers and the Thunderbolts novel, but I don't think anyone normal had any chance of surviving the Death-Spore, either.

According to our own John McDonagh:
   The name Franz Gruber given to him in the prose novel was an homage to Tony Gruber, the villain from the Roderick Thorp novel NOTHING LASTS FOREVER-which was filmed as Die Hard. NOTHING LASTS FOREVER was a sequel to a previous novel, called THE DETECTIVE-a homosexual crime thriller.
This connection was made based on info from the Avengers Assemble website.

Further from Luis:

In regards to Zemo's orbital "death-ray": Interestingly enough, the July 23, 1945 (pgs. 78-80) issue of Life magazine featured an article on "The German Space Mirror," which told how Nazi men of science seriously planned to use a man-made satellite as a weapon for conquest -- U.S. technical experts learned that German scientists had planned to build a "sun gun," a large mirror in space which could focus the sun's rays to a scorching point at the Earth's surface.
--John Kaminski

Profile by Snood, correction by Markus Raymond (Deadpool issues included for the Death-Ray)

He should be distinguished from:

Zemo's Heli-Hovercraft


It allowed high speed, intercontinental travel


--Avengers I#6






A Solar Heat Projector, Zemo's orbiting Death-Ray collected energy from the sun and then focused it into an extremely powerful laser, which could target and destroy virtually any location on Earth. It was protected by a virtually impenetrable field of sonic force, and was operated via its Earthbound in its Wakandan base.
The controls were destroyed by Agent 13, which may also have disabled its force field.

Taskmaster tried to claim the tumbling Death-Ray with the help of Titania. She sent Deadpool to take her place and he got three students of Taskmaster as his partners. They failed to stop the Death-Ray from falling into the ionosphere where it was destroyed by SHIELD.


--[Tales of Suspense I#97], 98 (99, 100, Deadpool III#39-40


Zemo's agents


An army of mercenaries who utilized both conventional and unconventional weaponry. They were fiercely loyal to Heinrich Zemo, and turned on Gruber as soon as he was revealed to be an imposter.


--Avengers I#6 (7, 9, 10, 15, 16, [Cap#100(fb)-BTS)], [ToS#98(fb), 97], 98, 99/2, Cap#100






Avengers I#6 (July, 1964) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Jack Kirby (pencils), Chic Stone (inks)
Avengers I#15 (April, 1965) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Jack Kirby (pencils), Don Heck (inks)
Tales of Suspense I#97-98 (January-February, 1968) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks)
Tales of Suspense I#99 (March, 1968) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Jack Kirby (pencils), Syd Shores (inks)
Captain America I#100 (April, 1968) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Jack Kirby (pencils), Syd Shores (inks)
Avengers and the Thunderbolts novel (January, 1999) - Pierce Askegren (writer)
Deadpool III#39-40 (April-May, 2000) - Christopher Priest (writer), Paco Diaz (pecnils), Jon Holdredge, Rich Perrotta & John Czop (inks), Ruben Diaz (editor)

Last updated: 12/29/04

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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