|This article is about the first Zartan. For his clone and successor, see Zartan. For a list of other meanings, see Zartan (disambiguation).|
Once just a street urchin from rural Europe, Emil Zartan grew up to become Cobra's premier assassin, a master of infiltration capable of taking down any target with deadly efficiency. His indulgent taste for the finer things in life and violent temper, however, threaten his position in Cobra's hierachy, and this sees him placed under the command of Laird Destro of M.A.R.S. Industries — a man in need of lab rats for his latest creation...
An orphan growing up on the streets of a Spanish city, the nameless boy would steal from tourists to survive. When cornered by police over his thefts, he gave them his name as "Zartan", taken from a film poster; after dropping his stolen money to the floor, he kicked one of the policemen in the throat when he bent down to pick it up, and fled.
As an adult, Zartan (now using the first name "Emil") worked for the Baroness as part of Cobra. On one of his missions, Zartan used a glider suit to descend onto a plane carrying President Rumanapar; murdering all the guards, Zartan forced the president to agree to the Baroness's demands that he not ease trade restrictions at the London trade summit he was attending, acting as his bodyguard at the summit to make sure that he kept up his end of the bargain. A week later, Zartan met with the Baroness at the Côte d'Azur, where he was paid his standard fee of one million euros, as well as being provided with a woman to help him spend it; that evening, however, a man named Raphael flirted with Zartan's companion at the casino he was gambling at, prompting Zartan to throw him into the table. Zartan left the gambling hall, but the woman refused to come with him, calling him an animal.
That night, Zartan was awakened in his bed by Raphael, who intended to have his men kill the man who humiliated him; Zartan, however, quickly dispatched his would-be executioners before pursuing the fleeing Raphael through the building, shooting him in the back as he plummeted through the window to the ground below. The Baroness retrieved the assassin before the Surete arrived, but was angry with him for threatening her position within Cobra High Command with such a public display. As punishment, he was reassigned to act as the Baroness's representative to M.A.R.S. Industries at Castle Destro.
At the casle, Destro put Zartan through his M.A.S.S. device teleporter, sending him to the villa of Nicodemus Mandirobilis to assassinate the arms dealer using specialised ceramic guns and a skintight suit provided by Destro. However, the teleporter was imperfect; though Zartan was able to terminate Mandirobilis's guards, his molecular structure failed and he disintegrated into dust before he could kill his target. The assassin's remains were found by rogue G.I. Joe commando Snake Eyes, who sent a sample back to his contact within the team, Scarlett.
Displeased with Zartan's death, Cobra Commander tasked Cobra scientists Dr. Taggac and Dr. Mindbender with recreating the assassin's genome using a genetic map obtained from the M.A.S.S. device's relay star satellite. With a genetic blank clone and a plasmid medium, Taggac was able to create a clone of Zartan with the ability to alter its skin color and appearance. The clone came to consider himself the same individual as the original Emil Zartan, only improved — his shapeshifting abilities giving him an extra advantage as an assassin.
Eventually, the M.A.S.S. Device relay satellite was inadvertently downed by the Chinese military and crashed in the Australian outback. Since the satellite still contained the genetic information of the original Zartan, the clone Zartan worked to retrieve this information so that he could use it to build an entire army of Zartan clones.
- A character based on the 1991 "Ninja Force" Zartan toy appeared in a flashback to Sgt. Savage's 1990s adventures in Revolutionaries #7. While he could be this Zartan, given their... drastically different fashion senses, it seems unlikely.