Who Is Isaiah Bradley?
Read the comics history of the Super-Soldier, and Captain America, on Marvel Unlimited.
A patriot. A veteran. A Captain America. While his origin story isn’t as well-known as Steve Rogers’ or Sam Wilson’s, Isaiah Bradley was one of Marvel’s first Super-Soldiers. And, for an important stint during World War II, he was also a living symbol. Embodying the values of courage, freedom, and truth, Isaiah was a steadfast Captain America who overcame a torturous past to combat injustice.
Isaiah may have come first, but over the course of Marvel history his name was lost to time. Until now.
Isaiah was a fun-loving man from the Bronx, deeply in love, and looking forward to the future. In 1940, he married the woman who would stand by his side through war and imprisonment: Faith Bradley. But the good times couldn’t last. Just two years later, in 1942, Bradley was enlisted to serve with the Allied Forces. Basic training in Mississippi was around the corner, and it would be unlike anything he had signed up for...
HE DIDN’T ASK FOR HIS POWERS
Instead, Bradley acquired his super-strength and durability via forced experimentation, a round of “beta testing” for the Super-Solider Serum. Under the lead of Dr. Josef Reinstein, “Project: Rebirth” exposed 300 Black soldiers from Camp Cathcart to a still-in-the-works serum, a disastrous trial that caused mass fatalities and gruesome side effects. Treated like human lab rats instead of soldiers, Bradley was one of the five survivors of “Rebirth.” Worse still was the news that was relayed to the home front. To cover their trail of unethical testing, the United States Army told all the family members of the Cathcart soldiers that their loved ones had perished in battle. But for new mother Faith, this revelation was too unbelievable to bear.
Having survived the unimaginable, Bradley was “rewarded” with a suicide mission by his superiors. Under the cover of radio silence, Bradley alone liberated the Schwarzebitte concentration camp, a one-man mission that brought him face-to-face with the Nazi’s horrific treatment of human life. It was at Schwarzebitte too that Bradley donned the Cap costume for the first time. Lifting the threads from his German base, Bradley dove into his mission with hearts, guts, and resolve. Incidentally, it was a delayed Steve Rogers who was supposed to wear the star-spangled suit, making Isaiah the very first Cap!
While he was unable to halt Schwarzebitte’s operations, Bradley did get some up-close and personal time with Hitler.
A VETERAN AND FATHER
Following Schwarzebitte and the dismantling of the German Super-Soldier Program, Bradley’s involvement was completely wiped from the record. And, in 1943, Isaiah was further “removed from the program” with a court-martial and a prison sentence. Serving time for over a decade for his “theft” of the Cap suit, Bradley emerged from prison a changed man in body and in mind. Thankfully, in present-day Bronx, Steve Rogers was catching on to the cover-up. Meeting with former Cathcart officials as well as Bradley’s “widow,” Rogers got the full details behind Project: Rebirth. Repulsed by the United States’ investment in such a corrupt scheme, Rogers vowed to make right with Bradley and his family.
ISAIAH BRADLEY: HERO TO MANY
The 2006 (royal) wedding of Black Panther and Storm was a celebrity/super-powered affair touting a guest list of A-list Avengers, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. Everyone was there. Including Isaiah Bradley. While not a recognizable name in mainstream circles, Isaiah’s historical role as one of the first African-American Super Heroes made him a legend to several guests. In the words of Luke Cage: “He’s kinda the first me.”
HIS GRANDSON IS THE PATRIOT
It’s true! Young Avenger Elijah Bradley carried on the legacy of his grandfather, and he’s not the only Bradley to do so. Wearing a uniform modeled after Bucky Barnes’ Golden Age era, Eli paid tribute to his grandpa's World War II history, leading the Young Avengers against a time-tossed version of Kang.
Although, the source of Eli’s powers was a point of contention. It was revealed that his super-strength was the result of artificial tampering, not a genetic boost passed down by his grandpa. But he did receive true super-soldier powers via a blood transfusion in YOUNG AVENGERS (2005) #12. Isaiah was the donor, beating Steve Rogers to the scene after Eli sustained fatal injuries during a (renewed) Kree/Skrull War.
HIS SON IS JUSTICE
Another Bradley to take the shield! Meet Justice, AKA Josiah X. A Muslim minister from Brooklyn, Josiah had a different approach to heroism, one more rooted in faith and community. While imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth following the war, Isaiah’s genes were replicated via surrogacy to continue the Super-Soldier Program. These cloning procedures produced 38 nonviable embryos... yet the 39th survived. Much later in life, (and after a tour in Vietnam), Josiah learned the identity of his biological parents, an answer to a question that had plagued him since birth. Uncovering the vast medical abuses inflicted on his dad and fellow Black soldiers, Josiah X swore to shed light on America’s misdeeds as a member of Black Panther's elite team.
Unlike Elijah, Josiah did inherit his dad’s powers. Read THE CREW (2003) for Justice’s first appearance and origin!
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