Imbued with an imperfect Super-Soldier formula from Project Rebirth, Isaiah Bradley proves his mettle on the battlefields of World War II to become a legend in his own time.
Duty and Devotion
Born on February 5, 1920, Isaiah Bradley grows up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He marries his sweetheart Faith in July ‘40. After the Pearl Harbor bombing in ‘41, he leaves her behind to enlist in WWII in February ‘42. He joins an African-American battalion at Camp Cathcart, Mississippi.
In May 1942, days after his daughter Sarah Gail was born, two battalions of Cathcart’s troops became test subjects for Project Super Soldier, a follow-up to Project Rebirth, which had turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. The project’s leaders massacre the rest of Camp Cathcart to keep the new project secret.
While the test subjects’ families are told their loved ones had died, the Project’s head scientist Dr. Josef Reinstein (the German defector Wilfred Nagel) directs horrific and mostly fatal clinical tests to perfect the formula. Only seven men survive: Isaiah, Sgt. Lucas Evans, Larry Pitts, Maurice Canfield, Jack Harvey, Dave Plumb, and Damon Larsen. When British intelligence reports the progress of Ernst Koch’s similar Nazi project, the seven are shipped to Europe, despite Reinstein’s protests that the formula remained imperfect. Jack Harvey dies en route, confirming Reinstein’s assertion.
In July 1942, the six survivors enter Germany to intercept supplies meant for Koch’s Camp Schwarzebitte; Pitts, Plumb, and Larsen perish in the battle. With the Nazi project slowed but not halted, the Allies plan to send in the others alongside Captain America to destroy Schwarzebitte. While waiting for a delayed Captain to arrive, the racist Lt. Phillipp Merritt tauntingly informs Canfield of his parent’s deaths. Going berserk, Canfield kills Evans before Merritt shoots him dead.
Schwarzebitte is then designated as a solo suicide mission. Before departing, Isaiah steals a Captain America costume and arms himself with his own shield, emblazoned with a Double Victory design. He destroys much of Camp Schwarzebitte, but while trying to free camp inmates, he’s captured. Isaiah resists both bribery and torture, so his captors send to Auschwitz for examination and maim him, but en route the German anti-Nazi resistance frees him. They later smuggle Isaiah back to the Allies and as soon as he gets to safety, his own country court-martials him for the costume theft. As such, Isaiah receives life in prison as a punishment that begins in April 1943.
Strength at Hand
Aging at a slowed rate, Isaiah remains physically in peak human condition. The super soldier formula provided Bradley with similar abilities to Captain America before him, including heightened reflexes, strength (lifting 1000 lbs.) and durability. Bradley also has the benefit of his Army training in physical combat and handheld weapons. He briefly wears an armored uniform, and wields a bulletproof shield.
Circle of Life
Isaiah Bradley treasures his small family above all, despite being separated from his wife Faith and his daughter Sarah, who was born after he’d been sent to Camp Cathcart.
Following the end of WWII, he meets his son Josiah, AKA Josiah X, though by that time Bradley’s extreme service to his country makes it nearly impossible for him to recognize the significance of the meeting. In addition, his grandson Elijah becomes a Super Hero to follow in his grandfather’s big footsteps.
Nazi Opponents and Former Allies
While it can be said that the Nazis were Bradley’s main opponents during the war, in truth his worst enemies include Dr. Reinstein of Project Super Soldier and the United States government itself, who’s callous disregard for human life plunges Bradley into misery, incarceration, and poor mental health.
A Super Soldier’s Secret History
Serving seventeen years in solitary confinement at Leavenworth, Isaiah was denied proper medical treatment while the still imperfect formula made him both sterile and brain-damaged. His wife Faith was informed he was alive, but only allowed three visits a year.
Despite Army secrecy, news of the “Black Captain America” spread through the African-American community. In the 1950s new experiments using Isaiah’s sperm (harvested before he became sterile) and Faith’s stolen genes produced a single success, Josiah, but the surrogate mother who bore him escaped and brought him to Faith. Knowing the military would hunt down Josiah and fearing for her daughter’s safety, Faith abandoned Josiah where he would soon be discovered, and hopefully, adopted.
Meanwhile, Faith sent President Eisenhower letters for three years until finally, on the day of Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961, Eisenhower pardoned Isaiah. The family was sworn to secrecy and Isaiah was released, gradually regaining his physical health, but remaining mentally childlike. In 1978, Josiah, who had inherited his father’s superior physique, tracked his parents down, and maintained intermittent contact thereafter.
In the modern day, Captain America finally learned of the experiments and tracked Isaiah down to return the costume he had worn while destroying Schwarzebitte, saying it was rightfully his.
Isaiah’s grandson Elijah, Sarah Gail’s son, was inspired to follow in his footsteps as the Young Avenger and became known as Patriot. When Kree soldiers shot Patriot, Isaiah provided a blood transfusion that saved Elijah’s life and inadvertently granted him superhuman powers.
Isaiah later attends T’Challa, AKA Black Panther, and Ororo Munroe, AKA Storm’s wedding in Wakanda, and, less happily, Steve Rogers’ funeral. Rogers’ former sidekick, Bucky Barnes, AKA Winter Soldier, subsequently visited Isaiah to pay his respects and talk to another who had worn Cap’s uniform.
Finally, after decades of living with the secrecy surrounding his war days, Bradley became known to the Black community and costumed champions, taking his place in the annals of the story of Captain America.