The Zodiac was the name of a criminal organization whose members were named and costumed after a sign of the astrological zodiac.
Over the years, there were various incarnations of the organization. The original Zodiac (also known as the Zodiac Cartel) was founded by the New York businessman Cornelius van Lunt and was interested in ruling humanity just as its leaders believed the astrological zodiac governed humanity's fate. The Zodiac's ultimate goal was that of world economic and political domination.
Van Lunt started his career in legitimate real estate dealing but branched out into various criminal endeavors. An ardent believer in astrology, Van Lunt amassed a fortune under the guidance of his personal astrologer. Van Lunt invested that fortune in the formation and outfitting of a nationwide criminal network, including a hand-picked elite group of leaders that served as the Zodiac. Van Lunt was originally the only member of the Zodiac who knew the true identities of all the other leaders, and he long concealed his own identity beneath his zodiacal persona of Taurus.
Each of the twelve leaders of Zodiac was born under the sign of the zodiac after whom he or she was named, and was based in a different American city. None of the twelve leaders possessed superhuman powers, but most of them employed technology to give themselves special capabilities. Generally, the Zodiac leaders each operated independently in the city that was his or her base of operations, but they assembled for matters of collective importance. Whenever there was a vacancy in Zodiac's leadership, either by death or expulsion, the remaining members accepted applications of membership from criminals who met certain qualifications, chief among which was having been born under the zodiacal sign of the vacancy. Traditionally, all of the Zodiac leaders were male, except for Virgo.
The first recorded activity of an original Zodiac member was the unsuccessful attempt of the original Scorpio to assassinate Nick Fury, the public director of SHIELD, the premier worldwide espionage organization. Scorpio wielded an ankh-shaped extra-dimensional power object called the Zodiac Key, which could fire energy bolts and teleport people and objects, even from one dimension to another. Scorpio was later revealed to be Fury's brother, Jacob Fury, who joined the Zodiac under unrevealed circumstances.
The Zodiac Key originated in another dimension where conflict, especially between the forces of good and evil, in which neither side entirely and permanently defeated the other, was prized above all else. However, when conflict had waned there over time, a cult of beings known as the Brotherhood created the Zodiac Key and sent it to Earth, believing that the Key would perpetuate the struggle between good and evil, as the battle was more intense on Earth than in their own world. The Key appeared to Jacob Fury, drawn to him by his great potential for doing evil, motivated by his intense hatred of his brother and of the society and governmental system that Nick Fury worked to protect.
When another of Scorpio's attacks on Nick Fury failed, SHIELD confiscated the Zodiac Key and presumed Jacob Fury dead. A short time later, Nick Fury feigned his own death at the hands of a member of the subversive organization Hydra, and he assumed the role of the second Scorpio in order to infiltrate the Zodiac, whose members were unaware of Jacob Fury's apparent demise. At this time, Zodiac was led by Aries, whose term of leadership under the rules by which Zodiac then operated, was much longer than a single month. In the guise of Scorpio, Fury captured the hero team the Avengers and summoned the rest of the Zodiac to their mansion headquarters, planning to free the avengers and have them help him capture the other eleven members. Unfortunately, the plan failed, although neither Fury nor the Avengers were seriously harmed, and the Zodiac escaped, with Aries taking possession of the Zodiac Key.
Sometime later, Aries, leading a small army, succeeded in capturing Manhattan Island and sealing it off from the rest of the world with a force field. This ransom attempt was thwarted by the Avengers and the hero Daredevil. Aries died in an explosion which apparently destroyed the Key. The Key was rediscovered, however, and used by the Zodiac in another crime scheme. In confronting various members of the Zodiac, Nick Fury, Daredevil, and Iron Man found themselves, along with Aquarius, Capricorn (Willard Weir), Sagittarius, and the villain Madame Masque, transported with the Key to the dimension from which it originated. The people were returned to Earth, but the Brotherhood chose to retain the Key after revealing its origin.
Van Lunt, as Taurus, assumed leadership of the Zodiac, and he recruited a new Aries and a new Scorpio. Van Lunt later embarked upon a scheme to display Zodiac's power with a so-called "Star-Blazer" device, powered by some manner of "stellar energy," to kill all the people living in Manhattan born under the sign of Gemini. However, the Avengers destroyed the Star-Blazer. An internal power struggle then occurred in which six of the Zodiac leaders turned against van Lunt, who induced the rebellious leaders and the Avengers into a death trap. But they survived, and the Avengers succeeded in defeating and capturing van Lunt, the Zodiac leaders loyal to him, and the dissident Zodiac leaders. The charges brought against the Zodiac leaders by the Avengers put them behind bars, but most of them have had their sentences commuted and returned to their home bases. It was at this point that van Lunt, who had been Zodiac's financier from the beginning, instituted the system of rotating leadership. Following his horoscope, van Lunt would relinquish control over the group, rotating leadership from month to month according to the prevailing astrological sign.
Shortly after the capture of the Zodiac leaders by the Avengers, Darren Bentley, the original Aquarius, learned that he was dying and made a deal with the demon called Slifer that enabled Bentley to take on the appearance and attributes of any of the other twelve Zodiac members. Aquarius was opposed by Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, however, and ultimately died when the demon Slifer claimed his life and soul as payment.
Months later, Jacob Fury, who had in fact not died in his last defeat, rediscovered the Zodiac Key, which had been sent back to Earth by the Brotherhood. Fury again assumed the role of Scorpio, but he did not rejoin Zodiac, as his place had since been taken by a new Scorpio, Jacques LaPoint. Jacob Fury used the Zodiac Key as an energy source for his "Theater of Genetics". In this laboratory he created eleven sophisticated androids known as Life Model Decoys (LMDs) to serve as members of his own new Zodiac organization. The Capricorn and Pisces androids, however, died due to imperfections soon after their activation, and the Virgo android proved to be impossible to activate. Fury again went after his brother, but the hero team Defenders and their ally, Moon Knight, defeated the Zodiac LMDs. Fury, engulfed by despair at the failure of his plans, committed suicide by shooting himself. Nick Fury came to the scene and found his brother's body.
But this was not the end of Jacob Fury. The sentient Zodiac Key constructed an LMD in his form. This LMD believed itself to be the original Jacob Fury and that the original Jacob Fury's spirit and consciousness were transplanted by the Key into this android form. It is not definitely known, however, whether this LMD did indeed contain the original Jacob Fury's consciousness or whether the Key actually gave the LMD duplicates of Jacob Fury's brain patterns and memories. The Jacob Fury LMD, retaining the identity of Scorpio, found the Zodiac androids that had escaped from the Defenders and created new ones to replace Capricorn, Pisces, Virgo, the Zodiac androids that had been destroyed by SHIELD after their capture.
The human Zodiac organization, in the meantime, was greatly weakened in power by the capture and imprisonment of its leaders, even when most of them regained their freedom. Van Lunt, as Taurus, planned to compete in certain criminal activities with one or possibly more of the New York City-based families of the criminal organization called the Maggia. Learning of Van Lunt's intentions, the Maggia somehow acquired the service of the android Taurus and sent it to wreak destruction at Van Lunt's new base of operations. Unable to defend himself against the android, van Lunt contacted James Rhodes, then secretly operating as the hero Iron Man, to defend Van Lunt's property. Although Rhodes managed to defeat the android, thereby saving his life, Van Lunt regarded Iron Man as a threat to Zodiac's future pans. Deducing Rhodes' identity of Iron Man, Van Lunt contacted Aries and Aquarius and assigned them to attempt to assassinate Rhodes. They failed, however, and were captured. Tony Stark, the original Iron Man, alerted SHIELD to the Zodiac's renewed criminal activity, but the human Zodiac remained largely out of sight in the subsequent months and years.
Suddenly, the new android Zodiac that had been building over the years battled the Avengers on behalf of the team's then-renegade member Quicksilver, who was temporarily insane. The Avengers defeated the android Zodiac, and two of the androids were destroyed. The others were taken into federal custody but were soon released, and the Scorpio LMD rebuilt a number of them. Scorpio used the Zodiac Key to create LMDs that exemplified the forces and personalities inherent in each sign, hoping to create great strength in the combination of all twelve traits of the Zodiac.
At some point the android Zodiac captured and presumably killed Jacques LaPoint. Jacob Fury's Scorpio android then impersonated him and infiltrated the original, human Zodiac organization. He arranged the ambush in which the android Zodiac killed all of the remaining human Zodiac leaders except Cornelius Van Lunt, alias Taurus.
Immediately afterward, Van Lunt sought out the services of the Avengers West Coast branch to confront and defeat the android Zodiac. In their initial foray, the Avengers failed, although several androids were destroyed. Sagittarius, in particular, was destroyed and replaced with an LMD replica of the Avenger Hawkeye. Hawkeye's LMD was used to infiltrate the Avengers' headquarters, and Scorpio also made a Leo LMD in the form of the Avenger Tigra for additional infiltration. This new Leo LMD helped the Zodiac gain an upper hand when the Avengers tracked the Zodiac to their refuge in Death Valley, California, but the first android Leo took offense at being replaced. He battled Scorpio directly, seemingly destroying him.
The Zodiac Key immediately resurrected the Scorpio LMD. Claiming superiority and believing that the Zodiac would eventually kill the Avengers as the androids could never be stopped, Scorpio wanted to use the Key to transport everyone on the scene to the Key's native dimension where the conflict, he believed, could be prolonged indefinitely. However, when the androids were in the other dimension, they ceased to function because each of them were aligned with a particular zodiacal energy, energy that did not exist in the other dimension. The Avengers found Hawkeye and Tigra had been sent to the same dimension and, reunited, the team was sent back to Earth by the Brotherhood so that someday they could also send the Key through as well and create new conflicts for them.
Van Lunt, while the Avengers were in the Brotherhood's dimension, had escaped to attempt to rebuild his Zodiac Cartel. Instead, he was tracked down by the Avenger Moon Knight, operating on his own motives. In the final battle inside a private plane, Moon Knight was pushed outside, but van Lunt, not knowing how to save himself, perished in the resulting plane crash.
Years later, another organization calling itself Zodiac appeared. Not much is known about the origins or details behind this organization. Apparently, the Zodiac hoped that by surrounding New York City with a force field, it might turn the night black in order to sever the stars' influence on humanity and thus enable them to take over the city and, eventually, the world.
The Zodiac had created an army to help accomplish their mission, but the army was confronted by members of the Avengers. After gaining help from their erstwhile ally, the Enchantress, the Avengers followed the trail to the dimensional portal causing the force field, forcing their way through growing darkness and legions of Zodiac soldiers. The remaining Avengers managed to breech the force field to join their teammates in a final pitched battle against the Zodiac army and their costumed leader, Libra. When the Zodiac's plans were thwarted, Libra escaped, but not before detonating small bombs in the Zodiac army's costumes and intimating that there may be other costumed leaders waiting to strike. To date, however, this version of the Zodiac has yet to reappear.
Another group took on the name Zodiac and battled Alpha Flight.
More recently, another Zodiac organization arose, making its public appearance by way of its member Scorpio. Scorpio, in possession of the Zodiac Key, claimed he was given the Key by the Brotherhood. He further claimed that there have been many Key-holders throughout history, including the Illuminati, but he was one of the so-called "Chosen".
Scorpio made his first pubic appearance by using the Zodiac Key to unlock the balance between chaos and order, splitting the cosmic being known as the Inbetweener into his two diametrical halves and keeping the chaos-side in the Brotherhood's realm. He then proceeded to throw nearly every major capitol city on Earth into the Brotherhood's dimension and threaten to drain Earth's oceans. The Avengers investigated, with one contingent of the team confronting Scorpio and the other confronting the Inbetweener's order-side. The Avengers thwarted Scorpio's plans by reuniting the Inbetweener. The Inbetweener recognized the Brotherhood's dimension as a place of his own creation, one formed for his own sanctuary but had grown a life of its own. The Inbetweener cleansed the dimension, destroying what seemed to be the Brotherhood and restoring the Avengers and the Earth's cities to their proper places. In the confusion, Scorpio escaped.
Scorpio returned to the Zodiac, claiming that he fed false information about his motives to the Avengers. The entire scheme was a plan to gather data on the Avengers on behalf of the Zodiac.
Later on, during the events of Dark Reign, it appears the the entire organization was killed in order to free up the name by the new Zodiac
Equipment: None known.
Transportation: None known.
Weapons: None known.
- No special notes.
- No trivia.
- Appearances of Zodiac (Team) (Earth-616)
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- Team Gallery: Zodiac (Team) (Earth-616)
- The Unofficial Handbook to the Marvel Universe