Uh, no. Not that Avengers #15. I mean the one...
No! Absolutely no cheap Skrull alternate cover rip-off parodies...!
Look here, are we going to get to read a classic, regular issue of Avengers #15 or not? Because if you...
Now cut that out!
Great cover by the late, great Jack Kirby, huh? But tear yourself away for just a moment from the dramatic figures of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and the teeny-tiny itsby-bitsy Wasp and take a big steaming gander at those cover blurbs. "The thriller you never expected to see!" "Now By My Hand, Shall Perish a Villain!" "The world's mightiest super-heroes in mortal battle with the world's deadliest villains!" "The M.M.M.S. wants you!" Oh wait, you can ignore that last one. Despite what Benjamin Grimm tells you.
There's a few key words here that look like they might just be hyperbole: perish, mortal battle. Take these literally at their wordwhich, to be fair, is never a good bet with the covers of comic books that promise "nothing will ever be the same again!"and you just know one of Stan 'n' Jack's colorful cornball characters is going to be crooning the choir celestial (and I think we all know how painful that can be!)
Every time you see a cover like that, especially in the Silver Age, you're entitled to think "Yeah, sure...like that's really gonna happen. Mind you, it's not only in the cover. In the previous issue's blurb for Avengers #15, Stan gleefully proclaimed that only one person was gonna walk away from this fight under his own steam...and to quote Steve Rogers..."And it won't be me!"
Whoa. Heav-ee, man. So, somebody's gonna die, huh? Let's read carefully, panel by panel through the issue, gathering up all the clues and foreshadowing, to try and detect who will...
Oh, heck, let's just flip to the last page and see who buys the farm.
Panels from Avengers #15 (April 1965), script by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, pencils by Don Heck, inks by Mike Esposito (credited as Mickey Dimeo, letters by Artie Simek
Ah, it's Baron Heinrich "Ach, Mein Mask ist Verstucken" Zemo, Nazi super-scientist and inventor of
Anyway. Baron Zemo's dead. Well, yeah, but this is Marvel comics, where people come back from the dead so fast it makes Captain Jack Harkness dizzy. Zemo'll be back in ish #20 or 25 or so, right, Stan?
Wow! Mighty strong words from The Man in the letters column header of Avengers #15. From what Stan says, dead means dead...Zemo ain't coming back!
But surely...sooner or later...he's gonna pop up again, right? Give Stan a couple months and he'll realize that he could bring Zemo back by saying he was trasported away just as the rockslide hit, or that it was a clone or a robot who got trapped, or even that Zemo's still alive under that pile of rubble, living large with the Mole Man. Isn't that correct, Stan-writing-in- a-letter-column- in-Avengers-18?
Holy cow. You know, I'm beginning to think Mister Lee meant business when he snuffed the Baron. Herr Zemo not only merely dead, he's also most sincerely dead. This...is an ex-Zemo!
And here's the amazing thing: not a single Marvel writer has overturned that story. Sure, Baron Zemo appeared in Avengers #353, but he's a rotting zombie trapped in hell (ergo, still dead):
Panel from Avengers #353 (Late September 1992), script by Len Kaminski, pencils by M. C. Wyman, inks by Ariane, colors by Rob Tokar, letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Poor guy. His flesh rots from his face and that darn mask is still stuck on with Adhesive X. That's some great glue!
Oh ho, wait a minute...what the Sam Scratch is goin' on here in Captain America #362?:
Panel from Captain America #362 (Mid-November 1989), script by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Mark Bright, inks by Don Hudson, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by John Morelli
Blast you, Mark Gruenwaldoverturning the decision of Stan Lee to kill off Baron Zemo permanently! Why, haven't we already got his son, Baron Zemo II: Electric Boogaloo in the Marvel Universe and this very storyline, the haunting tale of a young supervillain in our modern age trying to recapture the memories of his deceased father by building a monument which will return him from the dead? Why, it's almost a Nazi version of Field of Dreams.
Oh, wait a minute. Clever, clever Mark Gruenwald! That isn't Der Baron after all, but simply an evil life force inhabiting the exhumed corpse of Zemo. Why, that happens every week in the Marvel Universe. Twice a week in Garth Ennis's The Punisher versus Resurrected Nazis.
Speaking of whom, here's Marvel's very own "I'm pretty much like the Punisher except I wear my skull on my face, hah, bite me, Frank Castle": Crossbones!:
You know Crossbones is a man of his word, because when Crossbones declares that this "son of a swirly star saturn shazamsymbol moonknightsymbol must die!", he means it:
Oooh! He can't take it there! And for those of you keeping track, this is the second time Cap's shield has killed Baron Zemo. That thing's just darn unlucky to have around if you're a Nazi, I think!
So, some surprising comic book history there, I think. Baron Heinrich Zemo goes down in the Marvel Universe Hall of Fame not for his invention of Elmer's Guide Extreme, not for his snazzy all-weather stripey ski mask, but for the distinction of being the only person in the Marvel Universe who died and didn't come back.
Except for Uncle Ben. Who, you gotta admit, you never saw at the same time as Zemo. And hey, you never saw Zemo's face...huh! And, when Zemo fought Spider-Man in Spider-Man and His Ginchy Gal Gwen #7 (September 1964), Baron Zemo did utter this immortal dialogue "Peter! Don't you recognize me! It's me, your Unc... AIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" before falling into a pit of tigers swimming in corrosive acid.
Baron Zemo: he was a rotten, no-good, dirty, murderous, Nazi dog. But unlike the rest of the Marvel Universe, at least he had the basic human decency to stay dead.
That's right, Hawkeye...I'm lookin' in your direction.