Classification: German (Nazi) technology
Creator: Baron (Heinrich) Zemo (based on Nikola Tesla's "teleforce" theories), unspecified Nazi technicians
User/Possessors: Baron (Heinrich) Zemo
Aliases: The Medusa Effect death ray, "some hellish device for Hitler"
First Appearance: Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (March, 1994)
Powers/Abilities/Functions: Based on Nikola Tesla's "teleforce rays" concept, the Medusa Cannon was a weapon that "accelerated pellets or slugs of material to a high velocity inside a vacuum chamber via electrostatic repulsion and then fired them" out of an aimed barrel at its targets. If Tesla's claims were accurate, then such a weapon would be able to "melt airplanes at a distance of 250 miles" but it is not known if Zemo's creation had such a range.
As a charged-particle beam weapon, Zemo's Medusa Cannon projected concentrated beams of non-dispersive particles in a directed stream that was thinner than a hair. The tremendous amount of energy with which those particles had been charged would have caused them to have a devastating effect on the solid targets that they impacted.
Although some newspapers used the term "death ray" when describing Tesla's teleforce concept, that weapon and the Medusa Cannon were completely different from Zemo's death ray which was actually a laser weapon which fired beams of coherent light that could be focused to a tight spot and were powerful enough to disintegrate their target.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) <1933> - Baron (Heinrich) Zemo visited the United States of America and conferred with several government scientists, including Dr. Nikola Tesla. Zemo used these meetings to secretly discover/deduce many of the secrets of Tesla's "teleforce rays," and -- when he returned to Germany -- Zemo began to construct a working prototype of what he called his Medusa Cannon. In Zemo's opinion, the fact that he had modified Tesla's creation into the basis of his weapon meant that he had proven himself to be more brilliant than Tesla.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Some of the materials needed for the making of the Medusa Cannon were only available from Russia, and Zemo's supply was always limited.
(Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos I#8 (fb) - BTS/Captain America I#168 (fb)) - "Years" before 1943, Heinrich Zemo began work on his own "death ray" which was actually the first (human-built) laser device.
(Thunderbolts Presents: Zemo - Born Better#3-4) <"Before World War II"> (c. 1935) - Baron Zemo conducted a test of his (very large) death-ray prototype for Adolf Hitler and his bodyguard (Johann Shmidt). Zemo's reluctant colleague Abraham Erskine protested using a human being as a test subject instead of a lab animal but was overruled by Hitler. Zemo stated that work was still in the early stages and that full-field deployment remained about five years away. The test subject remained alive because more power was needed to achieve complete disintegration.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, those special materials needed to make the Medusa Cannon were no longer replaceable until Russia had been conquered. As a result, Zemo only had enough on hand to make a single Medusa Cannon.
(Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos I#8/Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb)) <early 1942> - Soon after Zemo had completed his first (portable) version of the death-ray, his castle in Germany was invaded by the Howling Commandos who had come to kidnap him. Zemo attempted to kill them with his castle's death-traps but they avoided them. When Zemo finally confronted them with his death-ray, "Reb" Ralston used his lariat to snatch it from his hands. Panicking, Zemo then fled from his castle in a plane and, once he was a safe distance away, Zemo sent a remote control signal that caused his death-ray to self-destruct in an explosion that also destroyed the castle.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb)) - The explosion of the castle caused "death ray" beams to go wild and heavily damage a nearby town. A few days later, an American bomber dropped leaflets over that town to inform the townspeople of what had really happened to destroy their homes and endanger their lives.
(Avengers I#6 (fb)/Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb)) - The Allied propaganda campaign turned the German people against Zemo who became "the most hated man in Europe" and he began wearing a mask until his face was forgotten.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - On one occasion, Hilda Zemo visited her husband at his secret laboratory under the Berlin Zoological Gardens where he was building his Medusa Cannon. Unbeknownst to either of his parents, Helmut tricked his father's secretary into telling him where that lab was located and talked the secretary into making a copy of the key to the secret private entrance for him.
(Avengers I#6 (fb)) <1942> - During a confrontation with Captain America, some of Zemo's powerful new glue, Adhesive X, poured over Heinrich's head, seeping through his hood and bonding it forever to his face.
(Captain America I#168 (fb)/Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Having his hood permanently attached to his face drove Heinrich mad, and his madness caused him to rage and fume and even take his hatred out on his family.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) <late 1942> - Heinrich Zemo disappeared, leaving his wife and son behind. Hilda had overheard enough about her husband's latest "hellish device for Hitler" to know that it involved Nikola Tesla's discoveries, and she felt compelled to try to warn Tesla. Since the Nazis kept a close eye on both she and Helmut, Hilda chose to escape by sending her automobile into a rain-swollen river in order to fake her death. Hilda then made her way to Madrid, Spain where she wrote a letter to Tesla warning him that his life and secrets were in grave danger. Hilda signed the letter "Janice Dare" and mailed it on December 3rd, 1942.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) <late December, 1942> - As his Medusa Cannon neared completion, Baron Zemo sent Master Man (Willie Lohmer) to New York City to obtain Tesla's notes. During Master Man's absence, Zemo completed his ray-cannon.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) <January 7th, 1943> - With three Nazi agents assisting him, Master Man gained entry into Tesla's rooms at the Hotel New Yorker. As they gathered Tesla's papers, the spies were surprised by the arrival of Captain America and Bucky who swiftly defeated them. However, Master Man had started a fire in Tesla's bedroom, and he escaped with the notes after a brief struggle with Cap. Tesla died soon afterwards, apparently of injuries he received from Master Man, but not before warning Cap about his invention which could destroy airplanes at great distances and pointing at the letter he had received from Janice Dare.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Several days later, following Master Man's return to Germany, Zemo used some information from Tesla's stolen notes to make a few crucial last-minute adjustments to the Medusa Cannon. Suspecting that Captain America might somehow trail Master Man back to Berlin, Baron Zemo set a trap for him in his secret lab.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) - One night, while Zemo was waiting for an expected Allied bombing raid on Berlin, the trap he had set for Captain America caught not only the American Super-Soldier but Zemo's "dear departed" wife as well. Zemo ordered Master Man and some of his soldiers to kill the duo, but after Cap was wounded by a gunshot, Zemo changed his mind and had his soldiers take Cap alive but beaten into unconsciousness. Zemo then had Cap and Hilda imprisoned in a holding chamber until they could be made the very first victims of his Medusa Effect Death Ray.
Later, as they awaited the Allied bombing raid, Baron Zemo and Master Man were talking about how some of the materials that had gone into the making of the cannon were currently no longer replaceable when Helmut, who had sneaked into the base alongside Bucky, betrayed his companion by shoving him out from behind where they were hiding. After Zemo's soldiers swiftly overcame the American agent, Helmut asked if his mother was still alive. Baron Zemo lied to his son, claiming that his mother was indeed dead but that, in memory of her, he would allow Helmut to be the first person to fire his Medusa Cannon and shoot down any Allied bombers that might attack Berlin that night. Pleased by his father's reward, Helmut exclaimed, "Wunderbar!"
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Baron Zemo had Bucky's unconscious body tied in position across the cannon's muzzle so that he would be its first fatality.
(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) - A few minutes before the bombing was due to begin, Baron Zemo turned on the weapon's power and told his son that, when the bombers were directly overhead, Helmut would press the button that would fire the Medusa Cannon. Zemo then asked his son if he knew who Medusa was and Helmut replied that she just looked at people and they turned to stone, then asked if that was what the cannon would do. The baron stated that "the enemy (would) fall from the sky as if they had been turned to stone" but then interrupted himself to warn Helmut against accidentally changing the angle of the barrel because that would have been quite dangerous to all of them. Seconds later, Captain America attacked, retrieving his shield and using it to take Master Man out of the fight, then turning his attention to Zemo. During their struggle, Zemo fell against the cannon, causing the barrel to move from a nearly vertical orientation to a nearly horizontal one. This change enabled Bucky to revive and he began working to free himself.
As Captain America and Baron Zemo continued to battle, Helmut heard the bombers overhead and called out to his father that he would fire the cannon. Captain America called out "No!" but Baron Zemo said "Ja!" and so Helmut pressed the firing button. Bucky freed himself just before the cannon fired but its altered firing path caused its beam to shoot through the underground base and "a few square blocks" of Berlin instead of up into the air at the bombers.
Damaged by the misaimed firing of the cannon, the underground base began to collapse, and falling debris damaged the Medusa Cannon, causing it to blow up. Tesla's notes were also lost amid the rubble.
Helmut Zemo was knocked out by falling debris so Captain America and Bucky took him with them as they evacuated. Along the way, they went to get Hilda Zemo, whose hip had been shattered by a bullet when Cap escaped from the holding cell, but she had later been injured by falling debris and died seconds after Cap and Bucky reached her. Before they could do anything, more debris fell on her body and the Americans were forced to leave her corpse behind as they made their way to safety. Outside, Helmut revived and managed to get away before they noticed.
Baron Zemo and Master Man both survived and each made their own way out.
Comments: Created by Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and M.C. Wyman, and Jim Sanders III and Andrew Pepoy.
The third image in the profile is a close-up shot of the Medusa Cannon firing. What happened to the cannon after that was not depicted on-panel, but Cap and Zemo both referred to it as having been destroyed and Bucky later mentioned that it had blown up.
I've included information about Zemo's earlier "death ray" in order to provide some context for the development of his Medusa Cannon. The test which Hitler observed (in Thunderbolts Presents: Zemo - Born Better#4) was stated to have taken place before World War II and about five years before Hitler thought Germany would be launching a full-scale invasion of the British Isles. In the real world, the closest that Nazi Germany ever came to invading the United Kingdom was when Hitler issued Fuhrer Directive No. 16 on July 16, 1940, that was supposed to set in motion preparations for Operation Sea Lion. However, since none of Hitler's officers thought it could work without German air and naval superiority over the English Channel and the proposed landing sites, neither of which Nazi Germany ever had during the war, the operation was postponed indefinitely on September 17, 1940. I mention this only because I used the 1940 date to calculate an approximate year for when Baron Zemo demonstrated his death-ray prototype for Hitler.
As revealed in Captain America Medusa Effect #1, the MU version of Dr. Nikola Tesla was originally intended to have led a life that was identical (or at least similar) to that of his real world counterpart, one that ended with his death on January 7th, 1943 in his room at the Hotel New Yorker. However, later stories, some by Jonathan Hickman and others by Jeff Parker, have revealed that the MU Tesla had a much more adventurous life as a member of the Brotherhood of the Shield. Since Hickman's stories are complicated and interwoven with each other, I'm not going to say anything more about it except that I have not yet read any text that explains how his (apparent) death in 1943 can be integrated into the newly-revised story of his life.
The Teleforce really existed...sort of. It was a defensive weapon that the real Nikola Tesla claimed he would be able to create if he were given the money he needed to do so. More information can be found in this Wkipedia article. The quoted data in the first line of the "Powers/Abilities/Functions" section comes from this article while the quoted data in the second line is from Captain America Medusa Effect #1.
Profile by Donald Campbell.
Baron Zemo's Medusa Cannon is not the same as
Additionally, the Medusa Cannon has no known connections to
images: (without ads)
Captain America Medusa Effect#1, page 44, panel 1 (main image)
page 53, panel 1 (Bucky tied to muzzle)
page 56, panel 5 (cannon firing)
Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (March, 1994) - Roy Thomas (writer), Rich Buckler and M.C. Wyman (pencilers), Jim Sanders III and Andrew Pepoy (inkers), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
Last Updated: 06/07/04
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