A lot of comic book readers know that Sam Wilson (The Falcon) wasn’t the first Black Captain America, but did you know that Isaiah Bradley was the very first Super-Soldier – even before Steve Rogers?
Isaiah Bradley: A Brief Overview
Isaiah Bradley was the first surviving recipient of the first version of the Super-Solider serum.
He fought Nazis and won. The he fought the US Government (in court) and lost, and was imprisoned for almost 20 years. During his imprisonment, the US Government cloned him. The clone escaped and became Josiah X, also known as the US-themed superhero, Justice.
After a years-long writing campaign by his wife, the US Government pardoned and released Bradley.
Sadly, the Rebirth serum was inferior to the Super-Soldier serum, and came with negative side-effects that would show themselves as he aged.
The end result?
Isaiah was a 60-year-old, with the body of a 30-year-old – and the mind of a 6-year-old.
Cared for by his wife Faith, Bradley is still considered a legend among Marvel’s Black community – both in-universe and in real life.
Isaiah Bradley: Origins
Isaiah Bradley was an African-American soldier who was experimented on in an unethical clandestine offshoot of the Super-Soldier project, named Project: Rebirth.
Although Project: Rebirth took 300 African-Americans to use as human guinea pigs, only a handful of them survived. After a few field missions (and other hazards), Isaiah was the only one left alive.
Eventually, he grabbed a Captain America costume (along with the shield), and headed off to Germany to make sure the Nazis couldn’t make any more Super-Soldiers – and to take out the ones they did have.
And that’s how he became the first Captain America – even if he wasn’t the first one to officially receive the title.
Isaiah Bradley: Powers
Similar to the Steve Rogers iteration of Captain America, Bradley doesn’t have ‘super powers’ as much as ‘almost-superhuman attributes’.
Simply put: The serum gives them both peak human strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility, reflexes, healing, sense, and longevity.
That last one’s a bit tricky though.
While Steve Rogers got the perfected version of the Super-Solider serum, Bradley didn’t.
This means that while his body is in great shape, he’s suffered brain damage due to the imperfection of the Project: Rebirth serum.
Isaiah Bradley: Equipment
Isaiah used the same equipment as Steve Rogers.
In his adventuring days, he used a Captain America suit/armor and a shield.
There’s one major difference though: Due to having been active in the 40s, Bradley uses the old-school heater-type shield (as opposed to Rogers’ more modern circular type). Bradley also placed some custom artwork on the shield, along with the words ‘Double Victory’.
As a US soldier, Bradley is also familiar with firearms.
Isaiah Bradley: Allies
Considering that he was the first Captain America, it’s surprising that most of the Marvel universe haven’t even heard of him.
In fact, even the 200+-year-old team-up aficionado and superspy Wolverine hadn’t heard of him until he attended Storm and Black Panther’s wedding. Even Steve Rogers hadn’t heard of him until recently.
Nevertheless, Bradley is considered a living legend and widely respected among the community of Marvel’s Black characters (such as Sam Wilson and Luke Cage).
He also has two superhero relatives: His son, Josiah X (Justice) and his grandson, Elijah Bradley (Patriot).
However, his greatest ally is his wife Faith.
Isaiah Bradley: Enemies
Bradley mostly fought against Nazis.
Isaiah Bradley: Common Themes
During the characters real-world inception, it was decided by Marvel that Isaiah’s story would include multiple reference to real-world events.
For instance, the 300 kidnapped African-American soldiers and the experiments performed on them are a reference to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in which the US Government lied to African-American men about being given cures for syphilis. They weren’t given cures because the study was actually concerned with the effects of the disease on their bodies, and the study continued for around 40 years.
Another example of this is the clearly unfair incarceration of Isaiah at the hands of the same Government.
The most obvious one, however, is probably how Bradley’s brain damage affected him in a manner similar the boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.
Isaiah Bradley: Cultural Impact
It depends on who you ask.
If you ask a Black comic fan about his impact, you’ll probably hear phrases like ‘I feel represented’ and ‘I can’t believe Marvel actually allowed this controversial story to be told, I’m glad they did it!’, or maybe even a casual ‘Oh, you mean the first Captain America?’
If you ask most other comic fans, you’ll probably get a curious ‘Ummm – who is that?’
Fortunately, it looks like this will soon be remedied by the MCU – rumours abound that Isaiah Bradely will be a character in the upcoming film ‘Falcon & Winter Soldier’.
Isaiah Bradley’s story, while using certain elements of Black History, is surely relatable to most people.
If you’d like a more in-depth look at Isaiah Bradley, why not check out our History of Isaiah Bradley article?