Doctor Nicolas Von Essen was a member of the German Empire's Starker Sturm project during the Great War. Described as "brilliant but evil-minded", Von Essen was focused on the destructive power of the technology his unit was developing.
Among the discoveries made by Von Essen's unit, none had more potential than the Wind Turbine, a device that had the power to generate storms by manipulating tropospheric conditions. This device was the invention of the equally-brilliant but more ethical Doctor Wilhelm Fassenbiender. In the confusion of the German surrender, Fassenbiender stole the Starker Sturm research and fled to America.
Furious at this betrayal, Von Essen chose to bide his time. The other discoveries of his wartime unit - primarily related to the researches of Nikola Tesla - permitted him to build up a considerable force in his new home of South America, boosted by covert support by the new German government from 1933. In 1938, feeling his power to be secure, Von Essen launched his assault on North America.
Reassembling his old unit and renaming it Die Spinne, Von Essen marshalled his forces and made his plans. His first contact was with Jonathan "Genghis" Kahn, leader of the Chicago Red Skulls. In exchange for the promise of power, Kahn agreed to provide Von Essen with support.
Von Essen next sent a force to the new home of Doctor Fassenbiender, in a effort to retrieve the research Von Essen needed to construct the Starker Sturm. While the Die Spinne agents sent in were unable to recover the blueprints, they did discover the missing detail of the plans - the light-but-strong metal require to build the Turbine. Titanium.
With this discovery, Von Essen dispatched his unit, escorted by Red Skulls, to the Arixo mine that Fassenbiender was using to supply his needs. Taking over the mine by force, Von Essen bought off the local Los Muertos gang to provide further protection, and immediately commenced mining operations. The burrowing machine Tunnelzug was the first application of titanium, and the Tunnelzug was used to extract considerable quantities of the metal before the Fortune Hunters were able to destroy the Tunnelzug during the Battle of the Titanium Mine.
With the titanium retrieved from Arixo, Von Essen fell back to his main base in South America, within the Lost City. Planning another attempt to retrieve the plans, he was saved by a offer from Maria Sanchez, the newest Fortune Hunter. Ine exchange for a considerable fiancial reward, Sanchez offered the Wind Turbine plans. Von Essen eagerly accepted, sending a Die Spinne Tesla zeppelin to extract Sanchez from Chicago.
Furious at Maria's betrayal, the Fortune Hunters attempted to track her to Von Essen's location. However, by the time they reached him, Die Spinne had already constructed the Wind Turbine and integrated it into the vast Starker Sturm superzeppelin. Von Essen fled back to Chicago, intent on using the Starker Sturm on that city to avenge himself on Kahn.
While Von Essen's Tesla zeppelins and a Tesla tank did considerable damage to Chicago, the Starker Sturm was able to destroy several buildings before Nathan Zachary was able to destroy the primary energy cell. The resulting explosion destroyed the Starker Sturm. Von Essen did not survive.