The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is full of explosive and very impactful moments for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, few scenes so far have been as dense as the moment when Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes go to visit Isaiah Bradley, a black supersoldier who had his life marked by tragedy.
Played by actor Carl Lumbly, this is the first time the character has been portrayed in a live-action film. In the comics, the character has a similar story and is an icon for other Marvel heroes, besides having a family formed by other superheroes.
It’s no secret that Steve Rogers is far from the only Captain America in Marvel. Over the years, John Walker, Bucky Barnes, and Sam Wilson have all worn the supersoldier’s mantle, each with different motivations and approaches. However, one name goes virtually unnoticed when the legacy of the shield is addressed.
In the comics, Isaiah Bradley was the first person to assume Captain America’s mantle, right after Steve Rogers. He also fought during World War II, unlike the streaming plot, where the Korean War is mentioned.
It’s time to get to know a bit more about Isaiah Bradley, the first black Captain America in Marvel comics!
First Appearance and Creators
Robert Morales and Kyle Baker created Isaiah Bradley. He made his first comic book appearance in Truth: Red, White & Black #1, originally published in January 2003. The mini-series was initially conceived as a “separate” story but was soon incorporated into the main continuity of the traditional Marvel Universe
The character’s entire story was inspired by a real event, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, one of the biggest medical ethics scandals in the United States. In the actual case, 600 African-American men were deceived with the promise of free health care treatment but ended up being contaminated with syphilis so that doctors could study the effects of the untreated disease on human beings.
Isaiah Bradley was born in New York City, where he met Faith Shabazz, whom he married in 1940 and had a daughter, Sarah Gail Bradley. After Japanese forces attacked the Pearl Harbor base, Isaiah joined the U.S. Army, where he was part of an experiment to recreate the supersoldier serum after Dr. Abraham Erskine died.
He and 300 other black men were tested with new serum samples, resulting in many deaths and complete deformities. Isaiah survived and gained several unique abilities, becoming a symbol of struggle and resistance for his community. But this would take a dark turn soon after…
The New Captain America
As Isaiah Bradley‘s story was initially intended to be outside the Marvel Universe continuity, some chronological details have an inevitable misalignment with the publisher’s canon. However, this does not affect this story’s unfolding: Bradley became the first black Captain America in the comics.
He was sent on a suicide mission to Germany to destroy the supersoldier serum prototypes created by Nazi scientists. Upon leaving, he stole Captain America‘s uniform and a shield.
He was arrested but managed to save himself and still defeated the German scientists. But when he returned to the United States, he was not received as a “hero.”
Upon returning to the United States, Isaiah Bradley was seen as a thief for stealing Captain America‘s uniform. For this, he was court-martialed and arrested in 1943, sentenced to life in solitary confinement. Because of the highly unstable super-soldier serum in his blood, Isaiah’s mind began to deteriorate, and he narrowly missed becoming a vegetable.
In all, Isaiah spent seventeen years locked up in solitary confinement. He only got out of jail because of his wife. Faith wrote letters to President Dwight D. Eisenhower for three years. On John F. Kennedy‘s inauguration day, Isaiah was released, but his story was forgotten for several years while he lived happily with Faith and had several grandchildren.
Josiah X, Isaiah’s “son”
In 1953, years before Isaiah was released, a young woman showed up at Faith Shabazz‘s home, claiming to have Isaiah’s child. Faith soon discovered that the woman had been given an egg artificially inseminated with Isaiah’s semen in a government experiment. The idea was to determine if the serum in the supersoldier’s blood would be passed on genetically.
Thus was born Josiah X, Isaiah’s son “out of wedlock.” Josiah and Isaiah even met when the black Captain America was released from prison. However, inspired by his father’s story, Josiah also became a superhero, assuming Justice‘s identity. Even after he was old, the vigilante continued to visit his father and the rest of his family.
Patriot, the Young Avenger
Remember Sarah Gail Bradley, Isaiah’s first daughter, whom we mentioned at the beginning? Well, she had five children, giving her father a large family. Among those children is Eli Bradley, the boy who became the Patriot, one of the Young Avengers‘ founding members. He had no trace of the supersoldier serum in his blood since Isaiah was not experimented with until after Sarah was born.
Still, he lied to his teammates and used a synthetic drug known as Mutant Growth Hormone, which caused him to gain strength, endurance, and durability.
Once, while acting as a human shield to protect Captain America from certain death, Eli was brutally injured and needed a transfusion from his grandfather, Isaiah. Thus, he was finally able to get the serum of the supersoldier in his veins.
Powers and Abilities
Isaiah Bradley received doses of an unstable and volatile recreation of the supersoldier serum. Based on this, he gained powers and abilities very similar to those of the original Captain America, such as super strength, superhuman endurance and durability, and even a longer lifespan, as his body aged much more slowly.
He had an excellent knowledge of martial arts and combat, either with firearms or just mano-a-mano. On the other hand, the serum also brought some complications to the hero, deteriorating his mind and bringing severe cognitive problems. Besides leaving him sterile (even Josiah X was only born because he was inseminated and created in a laboratory).
Marvel Cinematic Universe
In the MCU, the character was introduced in The Falcon and the Invernal Soldier, being played by Carl Lumbly. In the second episode of the series, Bucky and Sam go to Isaiah Bradley’s house. Bucky, who already knew him from his days as the Winter Soldier, wanted to introduce him to Sam and show how the American government had neglected him.
However, in the series, Isaiah has not taken on Captain America’s mantle (that is, as far as we know). Instead, he is a supersoldier who fought in the Korean War and was eventually imprisoned and used for HYDRA experiments. In the series, it is said that his blood was used to create new supersoldiers. He currently lives in Baltimore with his grandson, Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson).