EDIT (2014-10-12): Originally posted 2010-12-01. Reworked, reposted.
Mr. Sinister! Not a fan of this character in the comics. Don’t “get” him. I’m aware of the character’s fictional history. I just don’t think much of him.
In 1933, British author Sax Rohmer created the “archetype” for the ” ultimate evil criminal genius”. Long-lived, scientific genius, occult genius, strategic genius, shadowy manipulator with a global reach, operating a complex web of organizations, often with those organizations and the public at large completely ignorant of his involvement, or even his existence. Mr. Sinister seems to be an attempt to be as chillingly an effective “supervillain” as the Fu Manchu archetype. In my [fanboy] opinion, he’s not as effective a character as Marvel’s Arnim Zola, he’s not Doctor Doom, he’s not Apocalypse, he’s not as scary-cool as The Mandarin. Or, like the most modern interpretations of DC Comics’ Lex Luthor.
[Aside: With Marvel’s Red Skull, there was a time when the Skull was *just* a very effective Nazi terrorist and schemer. Maybe a “genius” in the organizational sense. In the 1980’s he was “reborn” in a body cloned from Steve Rogers, the super-soldier that is Captain America, and his organization reach included a cover on K Street in Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist (all while influencing cells of HYDRA, creating the “militia” call the Watchdogs, the “Scourge of the Underworld” operatives, subsidizing the Taskmaster’s training academies, and on and on. And, now, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s being portrayed as a scientist, too. He may have hit “Fu Manchu” status. Just an observation.]
But, Mr. Sinister has been popular enough to have two incarnations in HeroClix, one from the ULTIMATES set and one from the more-recent CHAOS WAR. Here they be —
Concerning the “venerable” unique from the ULTIMATES set, I was going through ye olde “tinkering notebooks” [back in 2010] and ran across the notes for Mr. S.: “Cost: 106 points. Pros: “Longevity” in the form of 10 clicks of life, some protection in the form of damage reducers, Shape Change and Regeneration. Psychic Blast. Perplex up front and Outwit in the back. Cons: Low stats all around. Not a good attacker for the cost. Seems to be meant for a “leadership role” but doesn’t do that well.” Adding any Feats is the HC equivalent of “throwing good money after bad”. This version, though, could use some “Ret-Con Traits” to emphasize his “leadership role”.
Homemade Trait “Mr. Sinister” Mr. Sinister may use Leadership, but may only remove action tokens from characters with which he shares a keyword. Mr. Sinister may use Phasing/Teleport and Willpower. He may use Mind Control, but only to target friendly characters with the Marauders keyword.
Yeah, it may seem like I made him too good, on the surface. But, he’s still not an attacker. He’s still an expensive-yet-durable support role clix.
Here’s a “phoned-in collage”. Yep, I cared enough about the clix to take a swing at making it “worth the points”, but I didn’t care enough about the character to really hunt down some better images. Again, *shrug*. YMMV.
EDIT (21 MAY 2013): Originally posted on 11 FEB 2010. Nearly-yearly revisions and re-postings of it. Re-posting now with a “thank you from a fan” to WizKIds for the very cool update we just received in the 2014 Marvel HeroClix DEADPOOL set. Some of Arnim Zola’s “biological/technological creations” as generic soldiers would make great additions to a “Marvel Monsters & Villains” set. Would really like to see Doughboy or Primus, a couple of his creations, make it into the game. Other weird creatures, visible in the “main collage” would be appreciated as well, though. Also noted elsewhere, He once had Red Skull’s mind transferred into on of his spare android/cyborg bodies during Brubaker’s run on the Cap comics, and at one point “giant-sized” that body. Some potentially fun stuff here. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have only added to his suite of abilities, while upping his profile.
Arnim Zola! One of Jack Kirby’s odder creations (and that’s saying something), and a great if heavily underrated villain of Captain America’s gallery of rogues. Jack Kirby could come up with the most bizarre concepts, blending myth and sci-fi. Stuff most creators today would be too cynical to attempt. Depending on who’s doing the writing, sometimes Zola’s Nazism is played-up, sometimes it isn’t. His colossal ego as a “creator of life” always is, though. “Creator” or not, he’s all about control of life. He’s at the top of his own self-created hierarchy. He’s a blend of concepts, from H.G. Well’s “Island of Doctor Moreau” to real-life Nazi SS surgeon/scientist, Josef Mengele.
Please hear me: I have enormous respect for real-life scientists and what they do.
There is something to the “evil scientist” trope, though: Corruption. Knowledge that could be used to help all, twisted by megalomania to horrifying extremes. It’s as popular a trope as the “crime boss” and “corrupt businessman”.
Arnim Zola: Make no mistake, he’s a “ret-con” character. He originally appeared in the late 1970’s, but his “history” has ties back into Cap’s WWII adventures now. And, well, comics is always “revising” a character’s history. Modern creative teams have managed to keep Jack Kirby’s influences, though: the fear of Nazism/Fascism and the brutality of such authoritarian ideologies, the fear of potentially beneficial technologies being twisted into weapons and used for evil ends. (All Hail, King Kirby! New Yorker of Jewish heritage, co-creator of Captain America in the days prior to the U.S.A’s entry into World War II, and a veteran of that war himself (drafted into the U.S. Army infantry, IIRC, serving in Europe in the later half of the war), member of “The Greatest Generation”.)
[EDIT: The following bits were originally posted in 2011, with revisions here and there in 2012 and 2013. The “Ret-Con Trait” shown is not the original I posted, just the most recent version. 2013. FYI.}
Ret-Con: I liked his FANTASTIC FORCES (2005) version (FF#087, a Unique clocking in at 82 points), even if it is expensive points-wise for what it does. It was derided at the time, considered overpriced for a support-role figure. That’s true. That’s why I made some homebrew “tinker’s tweaks” for him.
The FF#087 has 8 clicks of life. Stats-wise, he’s not a fighter. Slow, no move and attack abilities. Attack values start “average” and decline to “nearly unusable”; no attack powers. Defense values are lowish to begin with; he starts with 4 clicks of Toughness, ends with 4 clicks of Mastermind. That MM does protect something, however: Perplex and Probability Control. He has a “two by two” alternating thing going on, starting with 2 clicks of Perplex, changing to 2 clicks of PC, then back to 2 clicks of Perplex, then ending with 2 clicks of PC. Keywords are “Psychic” (not seen too much these days) and “Scientist” (a more popular keyword). He’s been hampered by the 2013 changes to Perplex and Probability Control, which I’m going to take care of today.
He’s not a “threat”. He’s 82 points of “support/utility powers” that can be found cheaper elsewhere. He was in need of some help.
First, I added “monster” to his keywords. My reasoning: This particular Nazi mad scientist’s original body is long gone, or at least in storage. Arnim Zola creates monsters, often from his own heavily manipulated tissue samples. The body he’s typically built for himself is part living tissue, part cybernetic implants. His brain is hidden in the torso. Where his head should be is his “psi-box” which he uses to control/communicate with his creations. The “face” on the torso is a holographic projection. He’s a form of monster, physically and mentally. He should have the keyword.
In keeping with the “monster making monsters” theme, I am using the Monster keyword for his homemade Trait (which has seen a lot of revision) —
Mental Energy Prod and ESP Box When Arnim Zola uses Perplex or Probability Control and draws lines of fire to friendly characters with the Monster keyword, his range value becomes 12 and his line of fire is only blocked by walls and blocking terrain.
Yeah, just emphasizing what’s already there. Nothing too complex or ground-breaking.
WISH-LIST: Could really use a new Arnim Zola, one in at least the 150 points range, maybe with alternate starting lines at the 100 and 75 point levels. Things to keep in mind: The bodies he uses are enhanced for survival, but he himself is not a fighter, not a physical combatant. Yes, he’s traded punches with “peak human super-soldier”, Captain America. Held his own. But that speaks more to the durability of the body he’s designed for himself than anything else. So, the original FANTASTIC FORCES version’s dial length and defense slot power selection was spot-on.
Existing HeroClix pieces to draw ideas from: The Chief (DC CRISIS #036 @ 63 points); Dr. Sivana (also from DC CRISIS, #020 @ 111 points); Mole Man (Marvel GALACTIC GUARDIANS #026 @ 47 points); Red Skull (Marvel AVENGERS MOVIE #016 @ 85 points); and Skrull Emperor (Marvel SECRET INVASION #053 @ 140 points); Egghead (Marvel CHAOS WAR #004 @ 50 points); Dark Beast (Marvel MUTATIONS & MONSTERS #061 @ 69 points).
Arnim Zola qualifies for: Leadership, Empower, Enhancement, Probability Control, Perplex, Outwit, Support. He’s all about being the “mad scientist”.
With the Ret-Con, experimented with his role as “Master of Monsters”. All that did was make me want to see some of his monstrosities appear in clix-form, with some appropriate “Minion” special powers. Have no idea what I want to see, though. Except, would like WizKids Game Design to make sure they are multiple starting line designs, preferably “split-dial”. One “side” has the “Arnim Zola’s Minion” special power, the other “side” does not (so it can be used as a “generic monster” on a broader swathe of team/force builds). The crazier looking the better.
Would like to see a “Unique”, specially-tailored version of Doughboy, the amorphous “Ubu” to Zola’s “Ra’s al Ghul”. Wouldn’t mind seeing an Arnim Zola & Doughboy Duo figure either.
Considering Zola’s ability to transfer his mind/soul/essence/whatever from body to body, Should he have some sort of “Morph” ability? Or, maybe just a “if K.O.’d, place a new ‘X’ in your starting area on click #’Y'” or something similar? Or the ability to draw lines of fire or use abilities through “surrogates”, similar to versions of Professor X and/or Mandarin? [EDIT: Holy Crap, I’d forgotten I wrote that. I can only hope, as a rabid fanboy, that I helped put that idea in some designer’s head for that DEADPOOL version of the character. Because that would be cool. Something to be happy about. Can’t get my hopes up, though: In a world of 7 billion people, the same idea is bound to crop up millions of time to many different people across time. It would be cool, though, to think “I helped!” ]
Hmm. Can’t decide.
EDIT (21 MAY 2014): This post originally “nailed to the door” 13 FEB 2011. Revised and re-posted about once a year. Really, really, really want to see this bunch of weirdos. “Monsters & Villains” set material.
“Headmen mash-up”, which includes the excellent Dave Wachter art —
- The Headmen are very “collegial” with one another. Something that tends to set them apart from other villainous groups. The seem to genuinely like and respect one another. “Birds of a feather flock together”, I guess. They’re the MENSA of Villainous super-scientists.
- Dr. Arthur “Gorilla-Man” Nagan, guy who managed to put his own head on the body of some (apparently genetically modified) great ape. So, basically, superhuman strength and agility to go along with his insane brilliance.
- Ruby Thursday, cutting-edge computer engineer, who (depending on the current writer/creative team, it would seem) either replaced her own head with a plastics-based supercomputer, or simply encased her head within one. (One might assume she was unhappy in some way with her appearance, despite having the body of a super-model.) She can interface with just about any system, and the head can change shape; she’d formed tentacles with them. Freaky. Plus some Force Blast style of energy projection.
- Dr. Jerry “Shrunken Bones” Morgan, chemist extraordinaire. Accidentally shrunk his own bones, experimenting with Pym Particles (the Marvel Universe’s bit of pseudo-science used to shrink characters). How his brain didn’t shoot out of his ears or his lungs and heart didn’t get crushed is a bit of the old superhero fiction conceit. Big on poison gases, and “transmorgrifying” compounds.
- Chondu the Mystic. Minor stage magician, apparently with some modicum of psychic abilities. Never really can tell what he brought to the group, except he seems to be regarded as a friend by them all. Hasn’t kept them from using his head for experiments. His noggin has been stuck onto a lot of shit. Obviously, he’s never happy about whatever form he wakes up attached to. For HeroClix, Chondu might be a neat character to see a version of at every level of rarity in a set, each time in a different form with different abilities. His original human form could be a Super-rare, interacting with the team’s abilities much more differently than his more monstrous forms.
I want to see these guys even more now, what with the incredible dial designs WizKids is pumping out. Take a look at this recent Bruce Wayne, previewed for the 2012 BATMAN set —
Great Googlie-Moogly, look at that. Great options for 50 points. (Odd choices with the TK and Barrier, but still, kinda cool.)
Every one of the Headmen I’d like to see done with a two or three option “multiple starting line/split-dial” design. Powerful enough for each to be a Unique. (But, not a “Chase” Unique. Regular rarity levels.)
As far as “inspiration”, I’m hesitant to suggest specific powers. WizKids’ Game Design Team has come up with some awesome and quirky stuff. Would be neat if they had “Elaborate Death Trap” options, for example. Plenty of other existing HC pieces to draw inspiration from: Hugo Strange, Egghead, Dr. Hurt, Johann Schmidt, Arnim Zola, Mr. Sinister, and so on.
Also, before I forget: Also please take a look at my “Wish-List” post for the old “Marvel Monster”, Orrgo. He’s been a “thrall” of The Headmen before, so I suggested there about making him a “team base” for the Headmen, as well as a Colossal in his own right. Maybe Orrgo could have more than one base? Like the X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Sentinels?
Also, “Dear Marvel Editorial”: I don’t read much in the way of comics anymore, but it would seem to me the weirdness of The Headmen remains largely untapped. Also, I think the Headmen would benefit with “collegial associations” with other, just-as-strange Marvel criminal scientists. Doctor Sun and Arnim Zola spring immediately to mind.
Doctor Faustus. He’s “Mysterio with a Freudian twist”, IMHO. “Criminal mastermind” type. Unfortunately for both the character and for the Captain America “mythos”, he’s yet another living villain that was physically present at some point for World War II. (I like, in theory, the “Man Out Of Time” theme for Cap. But, it’s harder to swallow as part of the character when so many enemies and allies and others who lived through the period of WW2 are still around. But, I digress.)
Johann “Dr. Faustus Fennhoff here is a guy who build up small, seemingly temporary, profitable criminal enterprises. Sometimes these scheme are done for larger organizations (“The Corporation”), sometimes they seem done as a way for him to finance his own research. In recent years, writer took this character I kinda didn’t care for and turned him into someone I wanted to read about.
I slapped him with the “Mysterio” label because of Mysterio’s own history of doing what Dr. Faustus does: Trying to drive our intrepid heroes nucking futs. He’s done so using narcotic gases and compounds on his target in conjunction with actors, props, and elaborate scenarios recreating traumatic events, in order to get information from his victims or push them to suicide. He’s done so using narcotic gases and compounds on his target in conjunction with sophisticated holograms and robots. He’s done so using narcotic gases and compounds on his target in conjunction with cutting-edge virtual reality “immersion”. This guy doesn’t do anything “on the cheap”. Or without drugs.
When I did the “Wish-List” for The Slug, I brought up the “comic book thematic coolness” that I think it the NML007 The Penguin piece from the 2012/2013 DC HeroClix NO MAN’S LAND Organized Play release. The dial design is such that you can use the piece and a character on your force, or “off board” as one o’ them new-fangled “Resources”. I also mentioned how I thought they (WizKids Game Design) might entertain the idea of combining the “Resource” idea with the “Countdown dial” idea we’ve seen with pieces like the BM203 Hired Goon and the CA060 Captain America.
I’m kinda in love with this idea. It would be great for villains that work mostly behind the scenes, then pop up conveniently near the end of the story in order for our heroes and heroines to more easily kick their butts. “Comic book accuracy” some fanboys might say.
I think it’s definitely something to look into for “Fat Man” here. As far as WHAT I’d like to see for “Resource” options? Not sure, yet. Basic idea here is: Resource/Countdown to Doc popping into your staring area in “Grand Reveal” fashion as a normal character.
It could be combined with the “multiple starting lines” technique, so we could have *just* a low-point, limited life, “basic” Mind Controller option as well. Even without the use of mind-altering gases, serum, or contact-poisons, he’s relied certain natural and practiced voice modulation to induce hypnotic effects.
Sometimes, in earlier appearances, he gets physical. He is not a trained fighter, relying mostly his imposing size and the fact that he drugs up his opponents before even attempting a physical confrontation. (Makes him a bit of a coward and sadist in my book.) WizKids may want to make use of Trait-based replacement attack values for using and Mind Control type powers or game effects, keeping the printed attack values low-ish.
Finally: Read a few posts around the net about him. I knew he had a hand in creating the white supremacist group called “National Force”, and obviously during Brubaker’s run he worked a lot with Red Skull and Arnim Zola.
I’m really stoked about the idea of a “Resource/Countdown dial super-villain”design, can’t say it enough. Would be perfect to see on Rare, Super-Rare, or “Chase” SR pieces in some sort of “Marvel Monsters and Villains” themed set.
Sidenote: So, past couple of weeks, I made some “Ret-Con Collages” for Kingpin and Blob, and have also posted a “Wish-List” for The Slug. Probably time to peel myself away from the “fat villains” for awhile. Although, I have wanted to try posting about a Mark Gruenwald era Cap villain called “The Voice”. Hmm.