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"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.

Biography

Super Soldier

Receiving the Serum

"A couple of the boys get captured on a mission. I heard the brass talkin' about blowing the POW camp to hell to hide the evidence. But those were my men. My brothers. Not evidence. So I bust out of the facility one night and I brought them boys back."
― Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]

After the Super Soldier Serum worked on Steve Rogers in World War II, the US government tried to replicate the serum and create a new Captain America. Having produced several different versions, the US Army used African-American soldiers as test subjects, lying to the men that they were being given tetanus shots. Isaiah was used as a guinea pig and was one of the few successes. They sent the soldiers on missions, even though the others weren't stable.

Later, the other test subjects 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 U.S. Army 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.[2]

Encountering Winter Soldier

"We heard whispers he was on the peninsula, but everyone they sent after him, never came back. So the U.S. military dropped me behind the line to go deal with him."
― Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]

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 destroy 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.[3]

Imprisoned and Experimented

"For the next thirty years, they experimented on me, trying to figure out why the serum worked. There was a nurse. She took pity on me. Wrote up some fake reports, something. She had me declared dead."
― Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]

Despite his service to the United States of America in the Korean War, Bradley was put in prison for thirty years. During that time, scientists from both the US Government, CIA and HYDRA ran tests on him. They took samples of his blood from him trying to figure out why the serum worked. He wrote letters to his wife, but the government made sure they weren't seen by anyone. While he was in prison, his wife died. One of the nurses took pity on him and faked his death.

Upon being freed, he relocated to Baltimore, Maryland where his grandson, Eli Bradley, helped take care of him. Bradley instructed Eli not to let anyone know who he is or what he was.[3]

Reunion with Bucky Barnes

Bradley meets Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson

"You think you can wake up one day and decide who you wanna be? It doesn't work like that. Well, maybe it does for folks like you."
― Isaiah Bradley to Bucky Barnes[src]

Bradley's location was eventually found by Bucky Barnes, although Barnes chose not to tell anyone about it. One day in 2024, Bradley was visited at his house by Barnes and Sam Wilson, who asked for his assistance in their mission to fight the Flag Smashers. However, Bradley refused to help them, having only agreed to allow them entry to see whether Barnes had gained a new Prosthetic Arm since he had torn the last one off and in morbid curiosity in case Barnes had come to kill him.

Bradley furiously demands to be left alone

When Barnes asked for more information about the Flag Smashers, 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.[3]

Speaking with Sam Wilson

Bradley is visited by Sam Wilson

"You think things are different? You think times are different? You think I wouldn't be dead in a day if you brought me out? You wanna believe jail was my fault because you got that white man's shield."
― Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]

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.

Bradley speaks with Sam Wilson

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 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.[2]

Isaiah's Exhibit

Bradley watches the news

A couple nights later, as Bradley and Eli were eating dinner, they stopped eating to watch the news live feed of Captain America giving his speech to the GRC officials and the public.

Bradley speaks with Sam Wilson

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.

Bradley sees his exhibit

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.[4]

Personality

"You understand. Every black man does. Whether you wanna deny it or not..."
"Don't do that bitter, old man thing with me."
"If you ain't bitter, you're blind."
― Isaiah Bradley and Sam Wilson[src]

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

Powers

"A handful of us got shot up with different versions of that serum, but they don't tell us what it is."
― Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]
  • 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.

Abilities

"I took half that metal arm in that fight in Goyang."
― Isaiah Bradley to Sam Wilson[src]
  • 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.

Facilities

Relationships

Family

Allies

Enemies

Appearances

Trivia

  • 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.[5]

References

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