- "They were worried my story might get out. So, they erased me. My history. But they've been doing that for five hundred years. Pledge allegiance to that, my brother. They will never let a black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting black man would ever wanna be."
- ―Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]
Isaiah Bradley is a Korean War veteran, who was unwillingly subjected to human testings of the Super Soldier Serum in the 1950s. A survivor of the trials, he was assigned by the United States military to eliminate the Winter Soldier in South Korea, although he failed. When the government feared the ramifications of an African-American super soldier, he spent three decades in prison experimented on by the U.S. government and HYDRA. In the 1980s, he was freed and was relocated to Baltimore after his death was faked, during which he raised a grandson. In 2024, when Sam Wilson was named the new Captain America, Bradley's heroics were memorialized at the Smithsonian Institution.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Personality
- 3 Powers and Abilities
- 4 Facilities
- 5 Relationships
- 6 Appearances
- 7 Trivia
- 8 Behind the Scenes
- 9 References
- 10 External Links
Becoming a Super Soldier
Following Steve Rogers' apparent death during World War II, the United States of America attempted to recreate the Super Soldier Serum in order to create more super soldiers. During the Cold War, the United States Armed Forces produced several different versions and used African-American soldiers as test subjects, lying to the men that they were being given tetanus shots. However, out of all of the different serum versions they had created, only one was sufficiently recreated, which had been solely administered to soldier Isaiah Bradley.
Encountering Winter Soldier
With the United States now in possession of a troop of super soldiers, the men were sent on combat missions. In 1951, during the Korean War, the U.S. military found out that an enemy soldier managed to kill everyone they sent after him. As a result, the military deployed Bradley, their super soldier, to eliminate the threat. Bradley found his target to a bar in Goyang, who was none other than the Winter Soldier. While Bradley was unable to kill Winter Soldier, he was able to discover his identity and destroyed half of his metal arm, after which Winter Soldier fled. This incident, among others, gained Bradley a reputation as one of HYDRA's most feared enemies.
Liberation of the Super Soldiers
Bradley's fellow soldiers, who had received the imperfect variants of the Super Soldier Serum, found themselves becoming unstable and dying. No longer able to perform their combat duties adequately, they were quickly captured by enemy forces and placed in a POW camp. Realizing that their unethical experiments on African-American men could come to light, the United States Armed Forces decided to destroy the POW camp with an air strike to eliminate the super soldiers and hide the evidence. Wishing to save his friends, Bradley single-handedly infiltrated and liberated the camp, freeing his fellow super soldiers and returning them to their base. However, the soldiers whom he had saved quickly died, having succumbed to the side effects of the imperfect serum given to them.
Despite his service to the United States of America in the Korean War, Bradley was punished for disobeying orders and saving his fellow super soldiers. As a result, Bradley was put in prison for thirty years. During that time, scientists, including members of the CIA and HYDRA, experimented and took his blood, trying to replicate the version of the Super Soldier Serum he had been given.
While incarcerated, he wrote letters to his wife, although his captors did not send them to her. His wife, who had been pregnant with Bradley's child, had sent him letters as well, believing he was still fighting in Korea. In one of these letters, she included a photo of their newborn son, although Bradley was not made privy to this information as the military did not pass on her letters to him. Instead, they decided to inform his wife that Bradley had been killed in action. Sometime during Bradley's thirty year incarceration, his wife passed away.
In the 1980s, one of the nurses took pity on his fate and chose to ease his suffering. As the military had kept all the letters Bradley had tried sending to his wife along with the letters his wife had sent him, the nurse acquired them and passed them on to Bradley. Additionally, she faked his death and helped him escape the facility. Upon being freed, he relocated to Baltimore, Maryland where his grandson, Eli Bradley, lived. Living with Eli, who helped take care of him, Bradley informed Eli of his history and instructed him not to tell anyone of his existence.
Life in Baltimore
Reunion with Bucky Barnes
The location of Bradley's residence was eventually discovered by Bucky Barnes, although Barnes chose not to tell anyone about it, choosing to respect Bradley's desire to stay hidden. In 2024, Bradley was visited at his house by Barnes and Sam Wilson, who asked for his assistance as they wished to find out how the Super Soldier Serum had been recreated once more. However, Bradley refused to help them, having only agreed to allow them entry to see whether Barnes was still alive, noting that he had gained a new metal arm since he had torn the last one off and in morbid curiosity in case Barnes had come to kill him.
When Barnes asked for more information about how the serum could've been recreated, Bradley reacted in anger, using his enhanced strength to fling a metal can into the wall, embedding itself. He then demanded that Barnes and Wilson leave his house and Eli ushered the two outside.
Speaking with Sam Wilson
A few days later, Bradley was out watering his plants in his backyard, when Sam Wilson returned to see him. Bradley let Wilson into his backyard and then told Wilson not to get Captain America's Shield out of its case, after Wilson had asked if he wanted to see it.
Having let Wilson inside, Bradley and Wilson sat in the living room, and Bradley answered Wilson's questions. He also recalled his past having taken the Super Soldier Serum and what his life was like because of it, getting emotional at times. Bradley told Wilson that due to his Super Soldier abilities he was able to combat against the Winter Soldier when they crossed paths. When the subject of being Captain America came up, he told Wilson that no black man would ever hold that mantle and was convinced of that sentiment due to his past experiences.
Isaiah Bradley Exhibit
The next day, Bradley was out in his yard tending to his plants when Sam Wilson arrived. Bradley then walked over to talk with him, telling Wilson that he heard the GRC had halted on voting on the Patch Act due to Wilson's speech. He then told Wilson that he was no Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., or Nelson Mandela and that Wilson taking on the Captain America mantle wouldn't be easy. Bradley was then asked by Wilson to go with him to see something.
Wilson then took Bradley and Eli to Washington, D.C. and to the Smithsonian Institution. There they walked through the updated Captain America exhibit and in the next room, Bradley saw a statue dedicated to him and a memorial plaque detailing his past history in service to the United States. Upon seeing the exhibit, Bradley became emotional and hugged Wilson.
In his youth, Bradley was a patriot and deeply believed in American values. He was willing to join the Korean War and even fight and defeat another Super Soldier, deep behind the enemy lines. Much like his predecessor Steve Rogers, Bradley showed exceptional bravery, being willing to go behind the enemy lines once again without the knowledge of his superiors in order to save the captured American POW's before the U.S. Air Force could bombard the prison camps to hide the evidence of their experiments, believing that these soldiers were his brothers and not just evidence. This daring feat was enough for the U.S. government to imprison Bradley and run tests on him for three decades. His imprisonment forbid him from ever seeing his wife again, and the government also made sure that she never got the letters that he sent her over the years.
Due to both the government and HYDRA using him as a test subject for three decades, as well as witnessing his fellow soldiers perish, these traumas turned Bradley into a bitter and pessimistic individual. This caused Bradley to become deeply disillusioned with America and what the country represents. When Sam Wilson brought up Bradley's past, he angrily demanded Wilson and Bucky Barnes to leave his house immediately. Also, when Wilson spoke up about the shield's symbolism, Bradley looked at it with contempt, stating that America would never let a black man be Captain America, and that no self-respecting black man would ever want to represent America. Bradley's tragic past influenced him to live a quiet life, not wishing his story being brought up to the world, lest he gets targeted again.
Like Barnes, Bradley has a dry sense of humor. He was invited by Wilson to the Smithsonian, which he accepted and saw the memorial that included the biography about his past, which caused him to cry due to the sacrifices that he made for his country, including going to jail for thirty years.
Powers and Abilities
- Artificially Enhanced Physiology: The Super Soldier Serum enhanced all of Bradley' bodily functions, such as his strength. According to Bucky Barnes, Bradley was feared by HYDRA as much as Captain America.
- Enhanced Strength: As a super soldier, Bradley demonstrated increased strength. Even in his advanced age, he was able to fling a metal can into a wall with enough force to embed itself. He can also carry his heavy potted plants.
- Longevity: As a result of the Super Soldier Serum, Bradley ages much slower than the normal human, a trait he shares with fellow super soldiers Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. Despite having been born in the 1930s and living up to 2024 without being placed in cryostasis, he has the bearing of a man a few decades younger.
- Expert Combatant: As a former soldier, Bradley is trained in hand-to-hand combat. During the Korean War, he was able to defeat the Winter Soldier.
- Bradley Residence: Isaiah Bradley lived in this house with Eli Bradley following his release from prison. This is where he was when Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes met with him to discuss his past as a super soldier.
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
- In the comics, Isaiah Bradley was one of 300 African-American soldiers who were used as guinea pigs as part of the United States government's attempts to replicate the Super Soldier Serum. After surviving the procedure, Bradley took on the mantle of Captain America. This was seen as treasonous by the military, who sentenced him to life in prison as punishment, although he was released after 17 years.
- Bradley's past as an unwitting test subject for the recreation of the Super Soldier Serum is an allegory for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
Behind the Scenes
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier showrunner Malcolm Spellman stated in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Isaiah Bradley represents Sam Wilson's fears over taking the Captain America title: "Isaiah is the living embodiment of Sam’s doubt. Isaiah tells the truth. And at no point do we absolve this country for the sins that it committed against Isaiah and the sins that it will continue to commit against black and brown people. So Sam has to confront that fear, and what was interesting about it is that the hero normally slays that dragon in a “hero story”.". Spellman has also expressed interest in developing a prequel centered on Bradley if approached by Kevin Feige.
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier credits
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: 1.02: The Star-Spangled Man
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: 1.03: Power Broker
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: 1.05: Truth
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: 1.06: One World, One People
- 'Falcon and Winter Soldier' Boss Malcolm Spellman on Making the MCU's Heaviest Story: "Marvel Never Blinked"