5704 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Captain America (Isaiah Bradley) (Marvel Comics Truth)

Captain America

(Isaiah Bradley)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Truth: Red White & Black was a 2003 Marvel limited series, written by Robert Morales. Its seed concept is that, given historical precedents with African-Americans being treated as Guinea pigs, it was unlikely that the Super-Soldier Serum would have been treated on a White man first.

It was far more probable that Black soldiers would have been sacrificed first. Isaiah Bradley is one such man.

This is our main Isaiah Bradley profile. There are two other – a briefly-seen version from a Marvel alternate timeline, and a version from a homemade campaign.

The term “super soldier” went unhyphenated in the Truth mini-series but is generally hyphenated when specifically referring to the Super-Soldier Serum. As a stylistic choice to reflect the original material I have retained that dual practice for this writeup, but I apologize if the discrepancy is annoying to any readers.


Background

  • Real Name: Isaiah Bradley.
  • Other Aliases: Sometimes referred to as “the black Captain America”.
  • Marital Status: Married.
  • Known Relatives: Faith Bradley aka Faith Shabbaz (wife), Sarah Gail Bradley (daughter), Josiah al hajj Saddiq (son birthed by surrogate mother), Elijah Bradley a.k.a. Patriot (grandson), Stephanie Bradley (granddaughter), Litigious Bradley (grandson), at least two more granddaughters whose names are unrevealed.
  • Group Affiliation: None, formerly the US Army.
  • Base Of Operations: New York City.
  • Height: 6’4” Weight: 260 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black (now bald)


Powers and Abilities

As a recipient of a modified version of the Super-Soldier Serum, Bradley has peak-human speed and agility as well as slightly superhuman strength and endurance. This included extraordinary resistance to toxins such as those used in Nazi gas chambers.

Isaiah’s healing was also greatly enhanced. This allowed him to recover from injuries that left him bedridden, including at least one broken bone, within a day or two.

Because of his status as a test subject he was not prepared for field operations as extensively as Steven Rogers, receiving little more than basic military training.

Captain America (Isaiah Bradley) wearing the costume

Though Isaiah lamented his lack of skill at drawing, he was able to quickly and accurately copy the “Double V” emblem onto his shield before going into battle.

Isaiah’s strength of spirit has seen him through incredibly challenging circumstances without a loss of his essential optimism.

Note

Most references assume Bradley’s abilities to only be peak-human. But there are numerous instances of him and the other Project: Super Soldier subjects demonstrating superhuman power and durability.

This is consistent with other depictions of the effects of the Super-Soldier Serum when applied without “Vita-Rays”. The subjects end up with even greater physical ability than Steven Rogers in some respects but suffer a concomitant range of mental health issues, which many of the test subjects also displayed.


History

Like many young patriotic men of his generation, Isaiah Bradley enlisted in the US Army in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Promising to his pregnant wife Faith that he would return, Bradley began basic training at Camp Cathcart in early 1942.

Though he was stationed too far away from New York City to visit his wife, he proudly showed his fellow troops the pictures she sent of his newborn daughter Sarah Gail.

At the same time former German scientist Dr. Josef Reinstein was heading the continuation of the US government’s Project: Rebirth, now dubbed Project: Super Soldier. Erskine’s Super-Soldier Serum was unstable without the Vita-Rays whose secret had died with Erskine, so the government needed expendable test subjects for variants of the serum.

Test subjects

Toward this end Reinstein selected three hundred soldiers from Camp Cathcart. To maintain the secrecy of their experiments, the Project: Super Soldier officers killed the remaining staff and soldiers of Camp Cathcart. The families of all the people stationed there were told that the deceased had died in an accidental explosion.

(Erskine had been referred to Reinstein in some prior accounts of Steven Rogers’s origin. The discrepancy was later rationalized by making “Reinstein” a code name used for both Erskine and his successor on Project: Super Soldier. Some on-line sources state that the real name of the doctor in Truth was Wilfred Nagel, but I was unable to find the original source of this information to confirm it.)

Of the three hundred test subjects, only Isaiah and six others survived the injections of the modified Super-Soldier Serum. One of those men died from a delayed reaction while on the transatlantic passage to Europe for the next phase of the program.

Experimental soldiers

Three of them were killed during their first deployment in July of 1942. It was an ambush of a Koch Pharmaceuticals shipment in Germany’s Black Forest. Though it was not explained to the soldiers at the time, the pharmaceuticals were supplies being used for the German super soldier program led by Dr Koch.

(Most references state that only five men survived the serum tests. This is likely based on a panel showing five of the survivors standing together in uniform. However, numerous other panels during the transatlantic crossing and the Black Forest operation confirm that there were in fact seven survivors of the original experiments and six men deployed together in the field for their first mission.)

Captain America (Isaiah Bradley)'s shield

The surviving three super soldiers were then stationed in Sintra, Portugal for the next two months awaiting further orders. In late September as they awaited the arrival of Steven Rogers to lead their next mission, a racist lieutenant taunted one of them, Maurice Canfield, about his parents’ recent deaths. Maurice snapped and attacked the officer in a blind rage.

When the other super soldiers tried to restrain Canfield, he flung Isaiah over a cliff and crushed the other soldier’s skull with a huge section of paving. The lieutenant then gunned Maurice down, leaving the injured Bradley as the sole remaining super soldier.

Author’s note about continuity, round 1

Bradley’s reading of the first issue of the Captain America comic at the start of the scene above, including the origin of Steven Rogers, was originally taken as a continuity error by some readers.

However, it was noted that the comic had been published “over a year ago”. This is consistent both with the original real life publication date of Captain America #1 in March 1941 and with the in-universe accounts that there was a propaganda comic featuring Captain America published during the war.

The only potentially conflicting note is that the comic book used Steven Rogers’s real name, but this can either be ignored for campaign purposes or explained as a double-bluff by intelligence.

If “Steven Rogers” was listed as a cover alias in the in-universe version of the comic, any subsequent references to Rogers would be assumed to be part of that cover rather than being his actual name.

One of the other super soldiers suggested that the government co-opted the comic book concept and created a “Steven Rogers” to become Captain America. But this was only random speculation on his part as he had no knowledge of the other super soldier programs.

The Black Captain America

The army had planned on sending the super soldiers as support for Captain America on a mission to destroy the Schwarzebitte military cam. This was where the German super soldier project was taking place. The mission was on a deadline as the brass wanted the camp destroyed before Koch Pharmaceuticals could send more supplies to continue testing.

With his fellow soldiers dead and Steven Rogers’s plane delayed by a monsoon, Bradley was sent in alone shortly after the tragic fight that resulted in his friends’ deaths. Before he left, Isaiah stole the incomplete copies of Captain America’s costume and shield at the base.

He thus went on the mission wearing the colors of the country he and his friends had sacrificed so much for.

Author’s note about continuity, round 2

Bradley is sometimes referred to as the first Captain America, at least once by Steven Rogers himself. However, even throughout various retcons of Rogers’s early career as Captain America, he has consistently been depicted as being publicly active as Cap before Pearl Harbor took place and serving with the Invaders in Europe by the beginning of 1942.)

As Bradley has just begun basic training at that time, he could not have preceded Rogers as Captain America. References to Bradley as the first Captain America can be treated as simple continuity errors or incorrect information which Rogers politely agrees to for the sake of respecting the ordeals Bradley suffered.

If the GM wants to depict Bradley as being the first Captain America, Rogers’s training period can be retconned to take a greater period of time than in the mainstream Marvel Universe, lasting until September of 1942.

In such a timeline the Schwarzebitte mission would have been his first while wearing the uniform, but Isaiah ended up wearing it instead and thus became the first person to assume the Captain America identity even though Rogers was altered first.

Raid on Schwarzebitte

Landing under cover of darkness in early October, 1942, Bradley infiltrated the Schwarzebitte facility. He demolished critical equipment and facilities with a supply of explosives procured on-site, and killed Dr. Koch. Halting his escape to attempt the rescue of women being loaded into a gas chamber at the camp, he was rendered unconscious by the same gasses used to kill the prisoners.

Hitler himself attempted to recruit the captive Bradley to the German cause. He pretended to sympathize with the oppression of African-Americans and promising them freedom when the Nazis ruled the world. Bradley refused outright.

A photo of Isaiah Bradley and Steve Rogers as Captain America

Hitler ordered that Bradley be studied to see how far the Americans had progressed with the serum. However, he balked at trying to use samples from Bradley to further their own research for fear of corrupting the resulting German super soldiers with Negro blood. Isaiah was then to be castrated, mutilated, and have his corpse returned to the Americans.

On the way to Auschwitz for medical experimentation, Bradley was freed by black Germans working for the anti-Nazi resistance. The group hid him for five months until he could be transferred to the Belgian underground. From there he was smuggled home from behind enemy lines.

Court-martial

Upon his return in 1943, Bradley was arrested and court-martialed for the theft of the Captain America costume. According to some accounts, Bradley was also charged with going AWOL for the mission, which would fit references in the Truth miniseries to his deployment being a deniable operation.

Sentenced to life, Bradley spent the next 17 years in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth. His wife’s tireless campaigning resulted in President Eisenhower pardoning Isaiah as he left office in 1961, on the day of President Kennedy’s inauguration.

Tragically, the privations of his solitary confinement and lingering after-effects of the serum had left him with the mind of a child by that point.

Let him go, let him go !

The government had Bradley and his family sworn to secrecy as part of his pardon. But rumors of Project: Super-Soldier and a black Captain America had been spreading. Bradley became a celebrity among the African-American community, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. By 2003 he lived in relative privacy, enjoying a quiet retirement with his family.

In 2003 Steven Rogers learned of Bradley’s story for the first time. This was while assisting in the interrogation of a neo-Nazi criminal who had collected the remains of Bradley’s costume among his memorabilia. This man also happened to be the same lieutenant who had triggered Canfield’s rampage all those years ago.

Rogers used this information to expose the wartime crimes of the last living commanding officer behind Project: Super Soldier. Howbeit, that man ultimately committed suicide rather than face punishment for his acts. Rogers then met with Bradley and his family, presenting Isaiah with the remnants of the Captain America costume as a small compensation for his efforts.

(Truth was based on the current continuity in which Steven Rogers was revived much later than the original 1964 date. This explains why Rogers was unaware of Bradley’s public prominence in the ’60s and ’70s. It doesn’t explain why none of his friends, reporters interviewing Cap, or concerned other parties ever mentioned it, though that could easily be covered by placing Rogers’s discovery of the project at a point relatively soon after his revival.)

Legacy

Isaiah’s legacy lives on in two modern-day heroes, Josiah X and Patriot.

Josiah was a fetus created in a government lab using harvested samples of Isaiah’s sperm and Faith’s eggs. He was carried to term by a surrogate mother who subsequently smuggled him out of government possession, allowing him to live a free life.

Patriot is Isaiah’s grandson Elijah, originally empowered by mutant growth hormone (MGH). He was later granted abilities similar to Isaiah’s after the elder Bradley provided blood to give Eli a life-saving transfusion.

Rogers subsequently met an alternate universe Isaiah who had officially served as Captain America and had even been President of the United States for two terms.


Description

Isaiah has a broad, brawny build as a result of the super soldier serum. His round face is very expressive, most notably so when he has his habitual warm smile.

When first deployed, Bradley wore nondescript gray fatigues and a gray wool cap. On his final mission, he wore an incomplete copy of Captain America’s original uniform with no helmet and the white portion of the sleeves missing.

Bradley instead covered the top half of his head with a blue bandanna that had eye-holes cut into it. He decorated the unpainted shield he procured with a “Democracy: Double V for Victory — At Home and Abroad” emblem.

(The “Double V” movement  was borne by newspapers run by African-American journalists (the “Negro press”, led by the Pittsburgh Courier). It was pointing out the blatant contradiction in fighting for democracy abroad whilst maintaining a disenfranchised population at home.)

(Though there were attempts to quash this movement (including, of course, Hoover’s FBI) and it didn’t last long, the 1942 Double V initiative was one of the historical steps in the march toward Civil Rights .)


Personality

Though he was often served poorly by his government, Bradley still took pride in serving for the greater good of the people of his country. He held out hope for a better day when racism would be a thing of the past.

Despite witnessing the horrors of Nazi experimentation and being captured by those same villains, Bradley’s resolve never wavered. He even managed a moment of dry humor in refusing the offer to defect to the German side, even realizing that the result would likely be a horrible death.

Isaiah’s and Faith’s marriage is a source of strength for both of them. Thoughts of her and their daughter helped him stay strong during his darkest moments. She never gave up on getting him released from prison in the course of almost two decades. Despite the trials they have endured they remain a strong couple more than half a century later.

In his current diminished capacity Bradley usually remains silent, though his facial expressions and body language still convey much of what he is thinking. When he does speak, it is haltingly and in short sentences.


Quotes

Sarge (seeing Isaiah reading Captain America #1): “Isaiah, what are you reading that *nonsense* for ?”
Isaiah: “I like funny books, Sarge. Be making my own if I could draw a lick.”

When asked by Adolf Hitler to join the German side: “Guys, no. My wife would kill me.”


DC Universe History

Isaiah’s place in history is unobtrusive enough to be inserted as is.

However, if Steven Rogers is not present in the campaign a suitable replacement should be chosen. Project: Rebirth could be inspired by Captain America as a fictional character, or other WWII government project heroes such as Archie Comics’s the Shield or the DCU’s Steel could have predated Isaiah and Rogers both.

The Project: Super Soldier experiments would likely have been the precursor of the experiments that created Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke. Wilson’s treatment was initially a failure as well with the side-effects often impairing him, which fits the concept of the Super-Soldier Serum being gradually refined.

Restored

A mentally-restored Isaiah could be featured in a campaign by some adjustments to his history. One means to this end would be a fairly recent adaptation of the cure that the Red Skull used to restore Steven Rogers’s immobility from serum-related neurological damage.

An unimpaired Isaiah would probably become more active in the community. This is especially true if he was able to successfully petition for a full pardon without the conditions of secrecy that were forced upon him. How the character grew from that point forward would depend on his place in the campaign.

Another possibility would be to have Isaiah placed in suspended animation during his years in prison just as the 1950s Captain America was. Without the deprivations of his solitary confinement Bradley may have remained healthy enough not to suffer mental impairment.

In this case his history would likely be much different after his release. See the alternate writeup for more details.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Captain America

Dex: 09 Str: 07 Bod: 07 Motivation: Upholding the Good
Int: 05 Wil: 07 Min: 07 Occupation: Soldier
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 020 HP: 050

Powers:
Regeneration: 05, Systemic Antidote: 01

Skills:
Artist (Drawing): 02, Military Science (Camouflage, Cartography, Demolitions): 03, Vehicles (Land): 02, Weaponry (Infantry Weapons): 03

Advantages:
Familiarity (Military Equipment and Protocols), Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Slowed Aging. He technically has Credentials (Military, Low) but given his low rank, his status as a secret test subject, and the stigma of his race at the time of his service, the chances of him getting much use from the Advantage are almost nil.

Connections:
Fellow survivors of Project: Super Soldier (High), though this only lasted for the brief period before their deaths.

Drawbacks:
Dark Secret — While Bradley served as a super soldier, the military ensured secrecy by means of mass murder, faking Bradley’s death, and even not-so-subtly threatening his family — which became Mistrust for the course of his federal imprisonment, Miscellaneous (As a black American in the 1940s, he was considered a second-class citizen for many legal and social purposes), Miscellaneous (The Super-Soldier Serum variant that transformed Bradley has rendered him sterile).

Equipment:

  • CHAINMAIL SHIRT [BODY 06, Skin Armor: 01, Drawback: Real Armor, Limitation: Skin Armor is not effective against blunt attacks, Partial Coverage (-1CS Trick Shot to Bypass)]. Isaiah wore an incomplete version of Captain America’s first suit when he went on his final mission, adding scrounged pieces to finish the ensemble.
  • MEDIUM SHIELD [BODY (Hardened Defenses) 12, EV 03 (08 w/STR), Recommended STR 03, Note: OV/RV bonus when using the Block Manoeuvre is 2 APs, Note: the OV bonus for the Shield Cover Manoeuvre is 2 APs]. This was a triangular shield of the same type as Steven Rogers first used. Though unpainted when Isaiah took it, he decorated it with a “Double V for Victory” crest.

Design Notes

The skills are a conservative estimate, sufficient to cover the few observed instances of Bradley in action and assuming he had only the minimal military training depicted in the mini-series. See the Isaiah Bradley (alternate) and (Universe AZ) writeups for examples of stats where Isaiah had the benefit of more comprehensive training and experience.

Bradley might also have additional Powers related to the Super-Soldier Serum such as Suspension (see the Captain America (Steve Rogers) writeup for details, though this should not be assumed given the alterations made to the serum before it was given to Bradley.


Underground Legend

Though Project: Super Soldier and Isaiah’s field deployments were both classified, rumors of the existence of a black Captain America had spread even before Isaiah’s release from prison.

Though Isaiah and his family were sworn to silence regarding Project: Super Soldier as a condition of his release (at which time he dropped the Mistrust Drawback), his story still became well known to black people across the world.

By the 1960s, he was a Local Hero among African-Americans, with some people in other countries also being aware of Bradley’s history. He had met international luminaries such as Nelson Mandella and T’Challa and was a guest at the latter’s wedding to Ororo.

Given the legal gag order, obfuscation by those connected to the project, and his family’s tendency toward privacy, Bradley’s story remained largely unknown outside of the African-American community. By the 1990s, as the Bradleys retreated further from public view, Isaiah was considered to be an urban legend by an increasing number of people.

Modern times

Bradley’s Local Hero status faded and some of the younger people acquainted with him in his neighborhood considered his time as Captain America to be a tall tale. By the mid-2000s, Bradley’s heroic career was largely unknown except to those who had a personal connection of some kind to him or the project.

This is why he does not have an Identity Drawback of any kind. His identity is public knowledge, but not widespread enough to garner any particular attention.

The combined tolls of years of solitary confinement, inadequate medical treatment, and delayed effects of the Super-Soldier Serum had drastically degraded Bradley’s mental faculties by the time of his release. His INT and INFL from that time forward are reduced to 01s, his Skills and Familiarity are gone, and his Initiative is only 011.

Isaiah is visited by various other super soldiers and fellow heroes on an infrequent basis, including Elijah Bradley, Steven Rogers, Josiah X, and James Barnes. Any of these people would likely be willing to offer High Connection-level help if requested, though contacting them might be a challenge depending on what they are doing at the moment.

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: Truth – Red, White, & Black, The Crew, and Young Avengers vol. 1 (Marvel Comics), character created by Robert Morales.

Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Azrael, Roger Cormes, Frank Murdock, Dr. Peter Piispanen, Loki from Marvunapp, Wikipedia and the Marvel Wiki .

Writeup completed on the 2nd of December, 2010.

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