Marvel announced Friday that Daniel Bruhl was joining the cast of Captain America: Civil War, and the trades soon started saying he would be the villain. But what villain? I speculated here that he might be the Red Skull (and that's just speculation, not a sly scoop), and Variety said something profoundly weird: Bruhl would be A villain in Civil War but would actually be the main villain in Doctor Strange.
Well now. That doesn't really make a lot of sense; Doctor Strange's villains are quite different from the baddies Cap usually faces. I mean, Cap has fought vampires (Baron Blood) and been turned into a werewolf, but that isn't the standard Captain America story you expect to see on screen. But let's take this, for a moment, at face value. I - and many other folks who track this stuff - have heard that the villain in Doctor Strange is Baron Mordo, an evil wizard and rival student of the Ancient One, the wizened old warlock who trained Strange. If that's incorrect the other big contenders for villain in Doctor Strange are Nightmare, a pan-dimensional being who rules a dream dimension and The Dread Dormamu, flame-headed ruler of the Dark Dimension. Neither of those characters could possibly fit into the world of Civil War - it would be crazy to drop a flame headed occult ruler into the story of MCU Cap and Iron Man duking it out - but Mordo? Maybe.
Baron Mordo is Transylvanian, and Americans would easily accept German Bruhl as a Transylvanian. He's a nobleman, but his history has very little to do with that, as he studied the mystic arts for most of his life, much of it in Tibet under the tutelage of The Ancient One, then the Sorceror Supreme. Eventually Mordo decided to kill The Ancient One and take over for him, but Strange was able to stop him; Strange eventually took over as The Sorceror Supreme some years later.
Mordo isn't a player in the political/espionage side of the Marvel Comics Universe, so bringing him into Civil War just makes so little sense. Maybe he's a totally side character, a throwaway? Maybe the real villian hires Mordo to do some kind of spell on Tony Stark? That seems like it's breaking the tone of the Captain America movies, though. I simply don't believe it.
But what if Variety doesn't know what they're talking about? Hear me out here. What if Variety's reporters don't really know much about Marvel Comics at all, and they know that Baron Mordo is the villain in Doctor Strange and then they hear that Bruhl is playing a villainous Baron in Civil War and they assume it's the same dude. As any true geek knows, there are plenty of Barons in the Marvel Universe, and there's one Baron in particular who has menaced Captain America over the decades:
Now that's a good character to include in a Captain America movie. Zemo's history with Cap is rich - in the comics he's the guy whose buzzbomb ended the war for Cap and Bucky. In fact a lot of the Red Skull's plans in Captain America: The First Avenger are really just repurposed Zemo business from the pages of Sgt Fury and the Howling Commandos, including a death ray that he turned against Germany itself. Baron Zemo was a high-ranking Nazi scientist who worked on all kinds of super weapons, including Adhesive X (it was the early 60s, man). Adhesive X was the strongest glue ever, and in a battle with Cap Baron Zemo got it all over him. He was wearing this pink/purple flowing mask and Adhesive X permanently bonded it to his face. Zemo went nuts as a result.
After the war (and after seemingly killing Cap and Bucky) Zemo hid out in South America, returning only after Cap came back to life. He formed the Masters of Evil, a supervillain team that went toe-to-toe with the Avengers very often (and once roundly defeated them in the storyline Avengers Under Siege). Eventually his son took over the legacy, and at one point, when the Avengers disappeared for an extended period of time, the new Zemo took on a patriotic identity, Citizen V, and led a team of undercover villains called The Thunderbolts. They pretended to be heroes for a while, attempting to gain the world's trust so that Zemo could take it over. When the Avengers returned that all fell apart, and Zemo returned to being a hooded bad guy.
Obviously a Baron Zemo in Civil War would have to be a little different from the comic book version. For one thing, when Cap awoke in Avengers #4 it was only 20 years after the end of WWII; the idea that Zemo was alive, well and spry in South America wasn't crazy. Today it's 70 years later, and Zemo surviving all this time strains credulity. But could the original Zemo be established in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which sees Cap having a nightmare flashback to WWII? Could Zemo be revealed to have been involved in the testing done on James "Bucky" Barnes that augmented him enough to survive and become The Winter Soldier? And could Zemo's grandson be carrying on the family legacy in the modern era, perhaps operating out of a South American base? Maybe he's got Hydra connections himself? Or maybe he's doing a version of Citizen V in this movie - presenting as a hero, only to be revealed as a villain.
How would Zemo fit into the movie? Sources close to production tell me that not only is the Winter Soldier involved in Civil War, he's a central character in it. What if Zemo is, in some way, connected to The Winter Soldier's origin, and the newly-clear headed Bucky Barnes goes seeking revenge? Or if Zemo decides to get the Winter Soldier and use him towards his own ends? There are a lot of possibilities, and Zemo seems to make more sense to me than Mordo. Then again, this is Marvel, and they have again and again shown that they're willing to do things that I thought could never be done onscreen.
I don't have a lot of inside info on this, and to be honest I'm not hunting it down. Right now this is in the perfect area of speculation that is the most fun for me, and I'm excited to read your thoughts and comments.