ch: isaiah bradley

Cap 4: Marvel’s big chance for important diversity

Captain America really doesn’t have a lot of iconic solo storylines, probably because he’s been a team player since before Mutants were an acknowledged thing. Which is probably why Marvel have mostly been using Cap movies to further their main Avengers storylines.

My suggestion for the next Cap film is to a) do an actual Cap film, and b) take the chance to explore the most important part of Cap mythology left unexplored in the MCU – Isaiah Bradley.

See, after the scientist who turned Steve Rogers into the magnificent hunk of all-American beef he is today was killed, it was discovered that he hadn’t actually written any of his notes down, because he was really fricken bad at science. No peer-review for you, Dr Erskine. The first Cap film dealt a bit with the Nazi’s attempts to recreate the formula, but so far the MCU has carefully avoided talking about the experiments the American government did to try and recreate it. (The MCU’s incredibly pro-America, USA-centric attitude is a discussion for another day).

Specifically, I’m talking about the experiments they did on a unit of African American soldiers, a fairly obvious reference to the actual experiments run on African Americans by their own government in the 40s. The one survivor of the unit was Isaiah Bradley, sometimes called the Black Captain America. He gained powers similar to Steve’s, and stole an old Captain American uniform to lead a mission to destroy the German super-solider research programme. He was successful, but one his return to the US he was court-marshalled for stealing the uniform and spent seventeen years in solitary, slowly getting sicker and sicker due to the corrupted version of the serum the army had given him.

He was eventually freed because of his wife, a Muslim professor of Comparative Theology called Faith Bradley, who petitioned the president tirelessly. He was free, but sworn to secrecy about what was done to him, and his health was rapidly deteriorating.

In an attempt to recreate the qualified success that was Isaiah Bradley, the army used genetic material (including sperm, because the Marvel military are the actual worst) from Isaiah and later also Faith, to attempt to create a child who would be born with the super solider abilities.

Long story short, he was named Josiah (and later took the surname Saddiq), raised in a Catholic orphanage, fought in Vietnam, and then later discovered the identity of his bio-parents.

He did eventually get to meet them, though by this point Isaiah’s neural damage had progressed and he was largely unaware of his son’s presence.

He converted to Islam shortly after, and was a member of the Black Panther movement for a time, before training as an Imam, opening a Mosque in Brooklyn, and becoming a Superhero by the name of Justice, who used his inherited powers to defend his community, using the shield his father had used.

I think you can all see why this is an important story for the Marvel universe to include.

How I’d do it is this – Isaiah, perhaps through his old military contacts, becomes aware that the military is restarting its Super-soldier programme. It’s important that this is the military, not Hydra, or AIM or any other monster. This is sanctioned. Obviously he wants to stop this, because he’s seen what this did to his father.

(This is also a chance to bring in the Weapon Plus programme, although probably by a different name because rights issues. You know how Wolvie is Weapon X? Cap is weapon 1. Weapon 2 is technically a super-intelligent squirrel with Cyclops eyes and wolverine claws, because comics are the best. Currently we’re up to weapon 16. The various Weapon Plus programmes are really major antagonists in the Marvel comics, and by focusing on Isaiah, Marvel have a way to bring them into the films without annoying Fox and starting another rights battle).

Josiah seeks out Cap, (he’s aware of Justice, who I would have introduced in the Defenders), and tries to tell him what’s happening. At first Steve is kinda suspicious about this random Imam trying to tell him about weapon plus, and he doesn’t believe him.

But Cap’s a good guy, so after Josiah leaves, he does some digging, and what he finds horrifies him. Everything Josiah said is true, and more. It’s not just those initial experiments on Isaiah’s unit, this shit has been constant for years. There’s the experiments on animals in the 50s, there’s the skinless man, there’s the experiments on prisoners in the 60s and 70s, there’s Bruce Banner, because that’s why his research got funding. And then he finds the references to Project Homegrown, most of which are recent, none of which mention it being shut down, and shit, maybe Josiah had a point.

Project Homegrown looked at the other weapon programmes, and decided they didn’t include enough child abuse. It produced on only result, from a starting pool of at least 15, but they’d been working on him since he was a child. His name is Frank Simpson, code-name Nuke, and he’s armour plated, part Cyborg, and has a pretty effective healing factor. He’s also been massively brainwashed, which seems unnecessary when his handlers are literally drugging him to induce the emotions they want him to feel, usually massive amounts of psychotic rage.

Cap and Josiah fight him, destroy the facility, because it’s a Cap film someone inevitably betrays them (probably whoever was Cap’s source for the information about Weapon Plus), and the film ends with Cap meeting and paying his respects to the other man who wore the uniform, and who gave up so much for it – Isaiah Bradley.

And our post credits scene? Isaiah’s grandson, playing with his Uncle’s costume, because that grandson is Elijah Bradley aka Patriot aka the leader of the young Avengers, and someone vital to the future of the MCU.

I’d like to talk about one of the best things that Marvel ever added to the Captain America mythos.  It’s called TRUTH: Red, White, & Black and it is wonderful.

Pitched by Joe Quesada, written by Robert Morales (who knows his Cap) with art by Kyle Baker (Eisner winner eight times to say the least) this is the story of the original Supersoldier Serum experiments, in a tale meant to parallel the Tuskegee experiments.  

A group of black soldiers are given version of the Super Soldier serum, resulting in death and all kinds of ugly consequences until only one man is left alive: Isaiah Bradley.  (He is the grandfather of Eli Bradley, one of the most boss characters on the Young Avengers.)

It is a fucking amazing story, one that uses real historical truths that were hidden for a long time, and incorporates (necessarily) a TON of black men into the Marvel universe starting in 1942.

It’s really hard to find a hard copy of this – hey, marvel, now is the perfect time to re-issue, don’t you think?  A nice trade paperback? – but I write this now because in the push to #DiversifyAgentCarter here is the PERFECT character to incorporate into that universe.

Peggy would be horrified to learn of the experimentation pre-Steve, I think, and Isaiah Bradley is a wonderful character to bring in to show what happened.  Hell, if Gabe Jones isn’t Tripp’s grandfather – what about Isaiah Bradley?  Working with the Commandos quietly after Cap died.  Tripp being Eli Bradley’s cousin.  This could be SO GOOD.


Rock and Hayley

Dwayne Johnson wants to work with Hayley Atwell.

Anybody else think it’s time to work Isaiah Bradley into the MCU? 

Marvel Black History Month: Captain America

In 1942 the American government placed 300 black soldiers into a top-secret program in which they were tested on to create a “super soldier” capable of reaching the full potential of what a human body can endure. Only five survived. Of those five soldiers, Isaiah Bradley was the only one that survived battle, donning the “Captain America” costume intended for Steve Rogers (whom the perfected super soldier serum was used on.) Isaiah became an iconic figure to the black community while his existence is not widely known to the general populace of the Marvel universe.

The long-term effects of the test serum has damaged Isaiah Bradley’s mind and body, leaving him in a state similar to that of an Alzheimer’s patient.