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"The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because the strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows... compassion."
― Abraham Erskine to Steve Rogers[src]

Doctor Abraham Erskine was a scientist who created the original Super Soldier Serum. Whilst living in Nazi Germany, he was forced to use a preliminary version of the serum on HYDRA leader Johann Schmidt. Fleeing to the United States of America, Erskine joined the Strategic Scientific Reserve where he managed to perfect his serum, and chose Steve Rogers to be its recipient. However, moments after Rogers' transformation, Erskine was assassinated by Heinz Kruger.

Biography

Early Life

Adolf Hitler's Offer

"After the first war, my people struggled. They felt weak, they felt... small. Then Hitler comes along with the marching, and the big show, and the flags. And he hears of me, and my work, of what I can do, and he says "You", he says "You will make us strong." Well, I am not interested."
― Abraham Erskine[src]

Abraham Erskine was a German-born scientist from Augsburg, noted for his work in developing a serum to enhance human strength and abilities to superhuman levels. Erskine's work coincided with the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. When Erskine refused to cooperate with the Nazis and tried to escape with his family to Switzerland[2] in 1935[3], Hitler sent Johann Schmidt, the head of his SS research division HYDRA to force Erskine to finish the formula.[2]

In Captivity

"We know that the superior man will not be born, Professor Erskine. He will not be a member of any "master race". He will be a race unto himself. And you are going to help me make him."
"You... work with Nazis even though you do not follow their ideology?"
Johann Schmidt and Abraham Erskine[src]

Erskine is forced to work for the Nazi Empire

While Erskine was forced to continue working for the Third Reich, he came into conflict with Johann Schmidt who had intended to use the Super Soldier Serum for his own ends without Erskine's approval. Schmidt had also heard legends of an ancient artifact attainable only to a superior man and believed Erskine's formula would make him that superior man, although Erskine believed that his formula would not only enhance Schmidt's strength, but also his rage.

Erskine is threatened by Johann Schmidt

Erskine refused to hand over his formula until Schmidt threatened him with a gun and took an early version of the formula, which indeed gave him enhanced strength, but also demonstrated severe side effects. Schmidt would lose his hair, his skin would turn a deep red, and his face and head would also be deformed into a grotesque skull-like appearance. Erskine would later say the formula had also enhanced Schmidt's already-malevolent personality as well.[2]

Saved by Agent Carter

Erskine begins his new life inside America

"You are mistaken, Dr. Zola. My serum did not fail, it did exactly what I designed it to do."
― Abraham Erskine to Arnim Zola[src]

Furious because of his disfigurement caused by the serum, Johann Schmidt had Erskine thrown into the dungeon to die a slow and painful death. However, with the help of Agent Peggy Carter, Erskine managed to be broken out of his dungeon and escaped to the United States of America, where Colonel Chester Phillips employed Erskine into the Strategic Scientific Reserve to perfect his formula in order to breed an army of super-soldiers to fight the Nazis, while Erskine relocated to Queens in New York City while he worked.[2]

Project Rebirth

Meeting Steve Rogers

Erskine encounters Steve Rogers in the Expo

"Well, there are already so many big men fighting this war. Maybe what we need now is the little guy, huh? I can offer you a chance. Only a chance."
― Abraham Erskine to Steve Rogers[src]

While reviewing some more potential test subjects inside a recruiting station at Howard Stark's Stark Expo in 1943, Erskine happened to encounter Steve Rogers, who was having an argument with Bucky Barnes over his own right to go overseas and fight, showing himself to have a strong moral standing. As Erskine looked closer into his recruitment documents, he discovered Rogers had only recently attempted to enlist under assumed names in four different cities.

Erskine questions Steve Rogers' own morals

Intrigued by the lengths Rogers had gone to enlist, Erskine came to speak with him in private and asked Rogers if he wanted to kill Nazis during World War II, admitting that this was indeed a test for Rogers. When Rogers briefly questioned where Erskine was from, he claimed he came from Queens in New York City before admitting he was born in Germany. When Erskine asked his question again, Rogers claimed he did not wish to kill anyone but simply disliked bullies.

Erskine offers Steve Rogers a single chance

Rogers' answer satisfied Erskine enough to approve Rogers' draft card as 1-A and had him stationed at Camp Lehigh. As he signed the draft card, Erskine noted that he would be offering only a chance with Project Rebirth and no guarantees, but Rogers insisted that he would take whatever chance he was given. When Erskine questioned where Rogers was really from, he admitted he was from Brooklyn before Erskine called him a soldier and then left.[4]

Training Soldiers

Erskine talking to Colonel Chester Phillips

"You're not really thinking about picking Rogers, are you?"
"I am more than just thinking about it. He is the clear choice."
Chester Phillips and Abraham Erskine[src]

At Camp Lehigh, Colonel Chester Phillips did not like the idea of bringing a frail boy into the war, but Erskine was sure that he had made his choice for the Super Soldier Program. Though Steve Rogers struggled through basic training due to his small size and poor health, his perseverance and ingenuity impressed Erskine, who regarded Rogers as the clear choice. Erskine resisted Colonel Phillips' efforts to persuade him to select Gilmore Hodge, who was physically superior, but whom Erskine regarded as a bully. Erskine's confidence in Rogers was cemented when he witnessed Rogers throw himself on what he thought was a live grenade in order to protect his fellow soldiers.

Erskine shares a drink with Steve Rogers

The night before the test, Erskine came to the private quarters to offer Rogers a drink from Augsburg, but did not give it to him because the experiment was tomorrow so Rogers could not have any liquids. Erskine admitted his reasons for selecting him. Erskine told him about Schmidt and explained while someone like Schmidt, who had known power all his life, might lose respect for that power, a weak man like Rogers would know the value of strength. Erskine urged Rogers not to forget who he was, not a perfect soldier, but a good man.[4]

Transforming Steve Rogers

Erskine operating to start Project Rebirth

"Ladies and gentlemen, today we take not another step towards annihilation, but the first step on the path to peace. We begin with a series of microinjections into the subject's major muscle groups. The serum infusion will cause immediate cellular change. And then to stimulate growth, the subject will be saturated with vita rays."
― Abraham Erskine[src]

The next day, when Steve Rogers arrived at the Strategic Scientific Reserve Brooklyn Facility, Erskine, with help from fellow scientist Howard Stark, injected him with penicillin and multiple injections of the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded him with Vita Radiation. Erskine nearly stopped the procedure when it appeared Rogers was having difficulty enduring the procedure, but Rogers urged him to continue. Moments later, Rogers emerged from the chamber significantly taller and noticeably more muscular.[4]

Assassination

Erskine is shot and killed by Heinz Kruger

"Any hope of reproducing a program is locked in your genetic code. But without Dr. Erskine, it will take years."
"He deserved more than this."
"If it could only work once, he’d be proud it was you."
Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers[src]

Erskine's experiment was successful, but his satisfaction was short-lived as Heinz Kruger, an operative sent in by Johann Schmidt to sabotage Erskine's work, had infiltrated the facility disguised as an observer from the State Department, detonated a bomb, destroying Erskine's machinery and shot him before attempting to escape with a sample of the Super Soldier Serum. When Steve Rogers rushed to the fatally wounded Erskine's side, Erskine's final act was to point to Rogers' heart, to remind him of who he was inside.[4]

Legacy

Going Down in History

Abraham Erskine was memorialized in a mural in Midtown School of Science and Technology.[5] In 2015, Erskine was remembered by WHiH World News as "one of the brilliant minds that helped shape the world".[6]

Recreating the Serum

"So this Dr. Banner was trying to replicate the serum that was used on me?"
"A lot of people were. You were the world's first superhero. Banner thought gamma radiation might hold the key to unlocking Erskine's original formula."
Steve Rogers and Phil Coulson[src]

With the last vial destroyed during the pursuit of Heinz Kruger, who committed suicide to avoid capture, Abraham Erskine would take the secret of the formula to his grave, leaving Steve Rogers the only example of his realized dream. Immediately after Erskine's death, Peggy Carter acknowledged that the only hope to recreate the formula was locked in Rogers' genetic code, but it could take years without Erskine to aid them.[4] Nevertheless, scientists and military personnel would attempt to duplicate Erskine's work well into the 21st century, including Bruce Banner who believed gamma radiation held the key, and Thaddeus Ross.[1][7]

Between late 2023 and early 2024, through trace elements found in Isaiah Bradley's blood, the Super Soldier Serum was finally recreated successfully by Dr. Wilfred Nagel, a former HYDRA operative who was originally recruited by the CIA to recreate Erskine's formula and improved it before being claimed by Thanos' Snap in 2018, causing the loss of the project's funding, which led Nagel to work for the Power Broker before his serum was stolen by the Flag Smashers. Nagel took great pride of his work for succeeding in what no scientist since Erskine had failed to achieve, but his nefarious actions led to his death at the hands of Baron Zemo, killing him and, in a similar way to Erskine, sending him along with his formula to the grave.[8]

Personality

"Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man."
― Abraham Erskine to Steve Rogers[src]

Erskine was a scientist of integrity. He understood the importance of compassion for the weak, refusing to accept Gilmore Hodge as a candidate for Project Rebirth because of how the latter treated Steve Rogers in boot camp, referring to him as "a bully" despite his physical qualifications, which confounded the traditional Chester Phillips. His decision to elect Rogers for the Super Soldier operation was solidified when Rogers selflessly ran to cover a grenade, which was, in reality, a dud.

Abilities

Equipment

Other Equipment

Facilities

Relationships

Family

Allies

Enemies

Appearances

Appearances for Abraham Erskine

In chronological order:

Trivia

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Behind the Scenes

References

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