Project Master Man, also known as Mastermann Projekt, was HYDRA' s response to the Allied Project Rebirth during World War II. The project was led by HYDRA's top scientist, Dr. Arnim Zola.
Zola sought to unlock the secrets of the human genome and ensure a lasting legacy. Using the blood of his benefactor Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull, Zola planned to replicate and surpass the work of Abraham Erskine. Through his alliance with Baron Heinrich Zemo, Schmidt secured Castle Zemo for Zola to research and experiment, outfitting it with HYDRA forces to assist and protect him. Schmidt even allowed Zola to use the Tesseract in his experiments.
Zola first experimented with common foot soldiers, increasing their combat speed. He outfitted them with new weapons and armor to make them more formidable. However, a side effect of this was that the soldiers were prone to violent psychosis and sadistic urges. Zola was able to remove these side effects with a targeted lobotomy, which also made the test subjects devoid of compassion. Zola found them better for handling prisoners in this state.
Through experiments on the brains of the test subject, Zola unlocked what he believed to be the fabled power of telekinesis. Direct connection of electrodes to the brain caused the test subjects to suffer seizures and violent vocal outbursts, which Zola contained by stitching their mouths shut.
Using the power of the Tesseract, Zola created the Satan Claw. Schmidt's head of security, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, became obsessed. Zola grafted it onto his arm, but regretted that there was not enough time to mass-produce it. Zola planned to go ahead with this eventually if Strucker proved it to be as deadly as expected.
Zola placed Ophelia Sarkissian, whom he awarded the rank of Madame Hydra, in charge of the cell blocks. She declined genetic augmentation, but Zola admired her knowledge of toxins and her desire to experiment on the prisoners.
Zola developed a powerful armor which he ordered Helmut Gruler to operate. He named it Iron Cross, with plans for mass production to ensure that it became the HYDRA foot soldier of the future.
Schmidt demanded further excavation into the castle's foundation, where the Sleeper was found. Zola planned to use the Tesseract to wake it fronm it's slumber.
After forcing Baron Zemo out, HYDRA began destroying his family's heirlooms and updating the castle to suit their purposes. They created a new cellblock, laboratories, transport routes and a self-sufficient power plant, all to provide the necessary materials for Zola's research.
Zola then used the Tesseract's power to create aircraft drones and robots to ensure his continued survival.
When Captain America arrived at the castle, he destroyed the Serum which Zola had developed for the Red Skull. Schmidt then ordered Zola to kill Rogers and drain the blood from his corpse to make more Serum. This did not come to pass, as Rogers defeated HYDRA's forces and the Sleeper.