Isaiah Bradley

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Isaiah Bradley
Isaiah Bradley promotional artwork
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceTruth: Red, White & Black #1 (January 2003)
Created byAxel Alonso
Robert Morales
Kyle Baker
In-story information
Alter egoIsaiah Bradley
Notable aliasesCaptain America
AbilitiesTrained unarmed combatant
Peak physical attributes
Slowed aging
Extraordinary immunity to disease
Carries a convex triangular metal shield

Isaiah Bradley is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is depicted as an early product of the United States' Super Soldier program (codenamed Project: Rebirth) during World War II and known by the title of Captain America.

Carl Lumbly portrays Bradley in the Marvel Cinematic Universe streaming television series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021).

Publication history[edit]

As depicted in the 2003 limited series Truth: Red, White & Black, the World War II Super Soldier program of 1942, operated by "Reinstein" (Dr. Wilfred Nagel, employing an alias previously used by Dr. Abraham Erskine), uses African American test subjects to re-create the Super Soldier Serum that had previously been used to turn Steve Rogers from a skinny, but patriotic, army reject into Captain America. The clandestine experimentation that empowers Isaiah is reminiscent of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.[1][2]

Concept and creation[edit]

The original concept for the character came from an offhand comment by Marvel Comics' publisher Bill Jemas. Editor Axel Alonso was taken by the idea "inherent of politics of wrapping a Black man in red, white, and blue" and "a larger story ... a metaphor of America itself"; he also immediately thought of the Tuskegee Study. He proceeded to pitch the idea to Robert Morales, who was brought in to write the story, created the supporting cast and the ending. The idea of an African American Captain America made Morales laugh, but, once he heard the premise, he found it depressing. Morales originally envisioned the character as a scientist who experimented on himself, a reference to Silver Age scientist Bruce Banner; however, Marvel wanted a more explicit reference to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Morales was able to push through an ending in which Bradley suffered brain damage, a reference to Muhammad Ali that gave the character a tragic ending. Morales performed extensive research into the time period, which he balanced with editorial suggestions.[2]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Project: Rebirth begins as a collaboration between US, British and German scientists led by Dr. "Josef Reinstein" (real name Dr. Wilfred Nagel), and Dr. Koch. When World War II begins, Koch takes over the German program and Josef Reinstein takes over the American program. Each attempts to recreate the super soldier serum which had previously turned Steve Rogers into Captain America a year prior to Pearl Harbor. Reinstein's early attempts to refine the formula are tested on African-Americans. Three hundred of these soldiers are taken from Camp Cathcart and subjected to potentially fatal experiments at an undisclosed location, as seen in Truth: Red, White & Black. Only five subjects survive the original trials. In the name of secrecy, US soldiers execute the camp's commander and hundreds of black soldiers left behind at Camp Cathcart. The government tells the families of the three hundred subjects that their loved ones had died in battle.[volume & issue needed]

Due to field missions in Europe and internal strife, Bradley emerges the sole survivor of his test group. He steals a spare costume and a shield intended for Captain America before he engages in a suicide mission to destroy the Super Soldier efforts of the Nazis at the Schwarzebitte concentration camp. There, he is able to assassinate Koch, but the mission ends when the Germans capture Bradley. Nazi interest in the American supersoldier is high; he is even brought before the Führer himself, who decides to dissect him in order to reverse engineer his powers and send the spare parts back to America as a message. Bradley is later rescued by German insurgents, only to be court-martialed and imprisoned at Leavenworth around 1943. In 1960, Bradley is pardoned by President Eisenhower and released.[3]

Considered to be the "Black Captain America", Isaiah Bradley is depicted as an underground legend among much of the African-American community in the Marvel Universe. A number of the most noted Africans and African-Americans of the twentieth century's last four decades visit Bradley as a sign of respect and, in many cases, hero worship. He receives visits from Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis, Alex Haley, Nelson Mandela, and Colin Powell.[4] Outside the Black community, he remains largely unknown. When he arrives as a special guest at the wedding of Storm and Black Panther, several African-American heroes are awestruck, including Luke Cage (who describes him as "the first me"), Goliath, Monica Rambeau, Triathlon, and Falcon. Canadian-born Wolverine is totally unaware of the man's identity or importance.[5]

Josiah X[edit]

At the time when Isaiah was in prison for operating as Captain America, the government attempts to use his altered DNA to create another Super Soldier. After 39 attempts the result is a child named Josiah, Isaiah and Faith's genetic son. Josiah X, as he would later call himself, is born to a surrogate mother, who smuggles him out of the government's clutches.

Encountering Steve Rogers[edit]

Meanwhile, the long-term effects of the test serum severely damage Isaiah Bradley's mind and body, similar in part to the effects of various steroids and Alzheimer's. In 2003, Steve Rogers (Captain America) learns the truth behind the Super Soldier program and attempts a reconciliation with the now-childlike Isaiah Bradley.[2] Captain America never discovers that the true mastermind behind the Super Soldier program is the clandestine organization Weapon Plus and that Bradley is only one in a long line of Weapons, including Wolverine and Fantomex.


Isaiah is also the grandfather of Elijah Bradley (aka Patriot of the Young Avengers). Elijah initially claims that his powers originated from a blood transfusion from Isaiah, whereby he gained the abilities of the super soldier serum. However, it is subsequently revealed that this is a lie, and Elijah really gains his powers artificially from the drug Mutant Growth Hormone. The Young Avengers convince him that he does not need superpowers to be a superhero and he becomes the head of the Young Avengers using his intelligence and natural athletic abilities. After Eli is critically injured in a battle with the Kree and Skrulls, he gets a blood transfusion from his grandfather which enables him to have his grandfather's abilities.[6]

Powers and abilities[edit]

While Isaiah possesses no superhuman powers as such, the super soldier formula running through his veins means that, physically, he is the perfect human: his agility, dexterity, strength, speed, endurance, reflex and reaction time, coordination, and balance are superior to any Olympic athlete who has or ever will compete. Once it is metabolized, the super soldier formula enhances all of his bodily functions to the peak of human efficiency: his body eliminates any excessive build-up of lactic acid and other fatigue poisons in his muscles, which grants him phenomenal endurance; he has an extraordinary immunity to disease; and his aging process is also slowed dramatically. Isaiah is trained in unarmed combat by the US Army.


Isaiah carries a concave triangular metal shield, useful for either defense or offense, which he decorated with the Double V campaign eagle crest, a symbol of a victory against the Axis as well as a victory against racial discrimination at home.[7] For protection, he wears a loose chain mesh shirt over light padding; the shirt is capable of blunting the impact of most small arms fire.

Other versions[edit]

  • In Captain America vol. 4, #28, the Isaiah Bradley of an alternate Earth is Captain America and never marries. Later, he is elected President of the United States and serves two terms.[8] He travels back in time, incidentally crossing to Earth-616, and brings the mainstream Captain America and Rebecca Quan forward into his own time to prevent his daughter Rebecca "Becky" Barnes from traveling to Earth-616.
  • Isaiah Bradley doesn't appear in the Ultimate Marvel continuity. However, Nick Fury share many similarities the character (as well with Luke Cage):[9] he's unwillingly inducted into a United States government experiment during World War II to recreate the Super Soldier Serum where he's the only subject to survive an experiment with a healing factor, enhanced physical attributes and slowed or halted aging.[10] A 1980s-set flashback shows Jefferson Davis and Aaron Davis meeting Turk Barrett who says "Izzy" had just been "telling us what really happened to Captain America back in World War II."; It's unclear if Izzy would presumably be the actual character or one of several girls in the room.[11]
  • In the Spider-Gwen reality, Isaiah Bradley was mentioned to be a US Army Private who was one of the four candidates (consisting of himself, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers, and Samantha Wilson) for the Strategic Scientific Reserve's Project Rebirth. Like Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers, Isaiah was heavily damaged during the operation's sabotage caused by Nazi double-agents. With Bucky and Steve also in the same status, Samantha Wilson became Captain America.[12]

Captain America timeline[edit]

Clarifying the timeline for Isaiah Bradley and Steve Rogers—and who predates whom—Robert Morales states in his appendix to the Truth: Red, White & Black trade paperback collection (2004):

Truth was originally planned to be outside of the Marvel Universe's official continuity. The editorial decision to place it into continuity meant explaining Timely Comics' first publication of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Captain America in 1940—a full year before Pearl Harbor and the true start of our story.

Truth co-creator Kyle Baker further clarified the respective timelines of Bradley and Rogers in an interview:

With Captain America, people get on my case for 'changing' Captain America. We got a lot of grief from the Captain America fans on that series until the fifth and sixth issues came out; when it turned out that we hadn't tinkered with the continuity. Before that, everybody was very upset, because our story started with Pearl Harbor, and everybody knows that the first issue of Captain America took place before Pearl. Somewhere in the middle of the series, it's revealed that Cap already existed, and we hadn't tinkered with the timeline, and suddenly, the book is okay.[13]

Editor Axel Alonso felt that fans who criticized the series did so prejudicially, based on assumptions that it tarnished Captain America's legacy.[14]


The character of Isaiah Bradley could be decoded as commentary on race relations, conspiracy theories, and performance enhancement in sports.[15]

In other media[edit]

Isaiah Bradley appears in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe television miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, portrayed by Carl Lumbly.[16] Introduced in the episode "The Star-Spangled Man", this version is an aging, veteran super soldier who was active in the Korean War and defeated the Winter Soldier, but was imprisoned for 30 years after his service and experimented on by the government and HYDRA. All the while, his existence was kept secret. In the present, Isaiah lives in Baltimore with his grandson Eli Bradley. In the episode "Power Broker", it is revealed that HYDRA scientist Dr. Wilfred Nagel used Isaiah's blood to recreate the Super Soldier Serum while working for the CIA. In the episode "Truth", Sam Wilson revisits Isaiah with Captain America's shield, but Isaiah rejects it, expressing doubt over a black Captain America.

Collected editions[edit]

Stories he has appeared in have been collected into graphic novels:

  • Truth: Red, White & Black (collects Truth: Red, White & Black #1-7, by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker); published in 2004. Reprinted in 2009 as Captain America: Truth.
  • Captain America: Homeland (collects Captain America vol. 4 #21-28, by Robert Morales, Chris Bachalo and Eddie Campbell); published in 2004.


  1. ^ Ryan, Jennifer D. "Race and Ethnicity". In Booker, M. Keith (ed.). Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 498. ISBN 978-0-313-35751-0. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  2. ^ a b c Carpenter, Standford W. (2007). "Authorship and Creation of Black Captain America". In McLaughlin, Jeff (ed.). Comics as Philosophy. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781604730661. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  3. ^ "Truth: Red, White & Black" Vol 1 7 (July 2003) Marvel Comics
  4. ^ Truth: Red, White & Black #7. Marvel Comics.
  5. ^ Black Panther vol. 4 #18 (Sept. 2006). Marvel Comics.
  6. ^ Young Avengers #11-12. Marvel Comics.
  7. ^ Weinstein, Matthew (2010). Bodies Out of Control: Rethinking Science Texts. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. p. 125. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  8. ^ McDermott, Mark R. (2009). "History of the Marvel Zombies and Colonel America among the Marvel Zombies". In Weiner, Robert G. (ed.). Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero: Critical Essays. McFarland. p. 158. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  9. ^ Tabu, Hannibal (2008-06-05). "The Buy Pile". Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  10. ^ Ultimate Origins #4
  11. ^ Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #8
  12. ^ Spider-Gwen Vol 2 #2
  13. ^ Brady, Matt (2003-07-07). "Newsarama - Baker's Future In Plastic: Kyle Baker On Plastic Man". Archived from the original on 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  14. ^ Phegley, Kiel (2011-09-30). "Axel-In-Charge: Axel's Early Years". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  15. ^ Packer, Sharon (2009). Superheroes and Superegos: Analyzing the Minds Behind the Masks. ABC-CLIO. p. 148. ISBN 9780313355370. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  16. ^ Romano, Nick (March 26, 2021). "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brings in Marvel's first Black Captain America: What this could mean for the MCU". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 26, 2021. Retrieved March 26, 2021.

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