Captain America is said to be the peak of human perfection, a man whose speed, strength and agility are the pinnacle of what the human body can achieve without crossing into the realm of next-level superhuman. He’s the perfect Super-Soldier, and the crown jewel of the American military. Unfortunately, the scientist who created the Super-Soldier process was killed shortly after Captain America was created, and took all his research with him.
Over the years, every country on Earth (and multiple branches of the U.S. government) have tried to duplicate the Super-Soldier serum. Some have come very close, creating men and women with incredible power. Others have failed horribly, creating monstrous abominations. Here are 15 characters who were created using some form of the Super-Soldier serum.
In 1971’s “Savage Tales,” the monstrous horror known as the Man-Thing entered the Marvel Universe. Created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow, the Man-Thing started out as Ted Sallis, a scientist working in the Florida Everglades on a research program by S.H.I.E.L.D. to develop a new form of the Super-Soldier serum. When he was attacked by soldiers of the A.I.M. organization, he tried to get rid of his experimental serum by injecting himself with it right before his car crashed in the swamp. The serum combined with the elements of the swamp to turn him into the Man-Thing.
Man-Thing is one of the worst outcomes of the Super-Soldier serum, creating something as far from the perfect human as we might imagine. He was nothing more than a mass of swamp muck with limited intelligence and a desire to burn anything that fears it. Recently, he’s regained his ability to think and speak, but he’s still a long way from Captain America.
His first appearance was in 2004’s “Captain America and The Falcon” #1, written by Christopher Priest with pencils by Bart Sears, where we saw what seemed to be Captain America performing all sorts of brutal acts. It turned out there was a fake Captain America, who the military called “Anti-Cap.”
Anti-Cap was an unnamed man whose girlfriend was killed at the Oklahoma City Bombing, causing him to try to join the Navy to fight terrorism. He was denied because he was found mentally unstable, but was recruited for a secret project called Protocol Six, another attempt to make a Super-Soldier. Anti-Cap was given a spinal implant and regular doses of a super-steroid that made him stronger and faster, but also insane. He eventually became an enemy and ally of the real Captain America and the Falcon until he decided to kill himself by jumping in front of a train rather than be captured.
13. MASTER MAN
There have been three supervillains called Master Man in the Marvel Universe, but we’ll focus on the first one for our next entry, Wilhelm Lohmer. Lohmer was introduced in 1975’s “Giant-Size Invaders” #1, created by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins, as a Nazi sympathizer who agreed to submit to an experimental Super-Soldier serum developed by scientists. The serum gave him strength, stamina and speed even greater than Captain America, and he took on the identity of Master Man.
Master Man is the Nazi version of Captain America, and fulfills the dream of racial superiority in the flesh, a blond white man who’s supposed to be the first of the new “master race.” In a later issue of “Cable,” Lohmer was shown to have grown old and regretted what he had done, giving his life to save Cable’s. He learned that it takes more than physical strength to be as great as Captain America.
12. THE DESTROYER
The Destroyer is our next entry, who first appeared in “Mystic Comics” #6 way back in 1941. That’s right, he was a Super-Soldier and a Nazi hunter before Captain America. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Binder, the Destroyer was a news reporter named Kevin “Keen” Marlow who was investigating a Nazi camp. When he was caught, Marlow was thrown into a cell with a scientist who had developed a serum to enhance his abilities. Marlow used the serum to escape and began fighting the Nazis as the Destroyer.
The serum was later revealed to be an early version of the Super-Soldier serum, giving him enhanced speed, strength and agility. The Destroyer was less of an American hero than he was a European hero who fought strictly Nazi villains such as Herr Sin and Von Maus. Also unlike the Captain, in later years he dedicated himself to killing all his enemies. At that point, he was an old man and a legend.
1972’s “Captain America” #155 (created by Steve Englehart and John Buscema) introduced Jack Monroe, but as a huge retcon to explain the stories of Captain America set in the 1950s. The post-war stories of Captain America and Bucky were supposed to be the original two heroes, but a later story said that Cap had been frozen shortly before the end of World War II and revived in the 1960s. To explain the gap, #155 introduced Monroe as part of a duo who took on the identity of Bucky and Captain America during the missing years.
When a professor named William Burnside inspired by Captain America stumbled across a version of the secret Super-Soldier formula, he and Monroe used it to become the new Captain America and Bucky, but Cap was mentally unstable. Monroe went on to become the superhero Nomad, and occasionally was Captain America’s sidekick when Rogers quit. Later, Monroe became the new Scourge of the Underworld, but was shot and killed by the Winter Soldier.
Barbara “Bobbi” Morse was a brilliant scientist who earned a PhD in biology, as well as being in peak physical condition as a champion high school gymnast. Her skills brought her to the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., who made her an agent. Created by Gerry Conway, Barry Windsor-Smith, Len Wein and Neal Adams in “Astonishing Tales” #6 (1971), she became more of a sidekick of the prehistoric Ka-Zar from the Savage Land until 1980’s “Marvel Team-Up” #95 (by Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant), where she first became the costumed hero Mockingbird.
She didn’t have or need powers until 2011. In “New Avengers” #13 (Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato and Howard Chaykin), Mockingbird was dying when she was injected with a secret combination of a Nazi version of the Super Soldier serum and the Infinity formula that is credited with slowing Nick Fury’s aging. The process revived her, and also gave her rapid healing, super-strength and agility. She’s now fighting crime even better than before.
Created by Chris Claremont and Pat Broderick, Warhawk first appeared in 1975’s “Marvel Premiere” #23, where Iron Fist met the psychotic Michael Tanner. Tanner was a soldier in Vietnam who got married and settled down in a local village, but was almost killed during an attack on the village. U.S. soldiers found him and an army surgeon revived him with an experimental Super Soldier serum that healed him, but also turned his skin blue and made him invulnerable. He became a trained assassin codenamed Warhawk, but the murders and trauma drove him insane.
Warhawk was a frequent enemy of Iron Fist back in the day, but also branched out to fight the X-Men and team up with Wolverine. He can shrug off bullets, Wolverine’s claws and even blows from the legendary punch of Iron Fist. Those powers, combined with his skill at combat and marksmanship, have made him a deadly enemy and an even deadlier Super Soldier.
First appearing in “Daredevil” #232 (1986), created by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Frank Simpson’s origin and background wasn’t explained. As Nuke, he was just a crazy Vietnam veteran for hire with an American flag tattooed on his face and a bad attitude. He was hired by the Kingpin to kill Daredevil, and later tangled with Captain America. He used a huge assault weapon that fired bullets and explosives, but would also keep count of his kills, after which he would reset the counter to improve his “score.” He could shrug off injuries, including the special nerve strikes Daredevil used.
It was later revealed in “Wolverine: Origins” that Nuke was abducted by Wolverine who tortured and carved a flag into his face. Wolverine also forced Simpson to become part of the Weapon Plus program, which enhanced his body and gave him cybernetic parts. At one point, he became a remote controlled warrior with no will of his own.
In “Captain America” #323, Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary introduced John F. Walker, a patriotic young man who joined the army to become an American hero, but missed the Vietnam War. Devastated, he turned to the Power Broker, who owned a company that would give people superpowers for a fee. Power Broker used a variation of the Super Soldier process to give him enhanced strength and speed, which Walker used to make himself a superhero who claimed to be more patriotic than Captain America: the Super-Patriot.
It wasn’t long before the Super Patriot was recruited to become the new Captain America after Steve Rogers quit to avoid being forced into the service of the government. Walker’s tenure as Captain America was controversial because of his warped views of American patriotism, and when Rogers took back his identity, Walker became the U.S.Agent. Most recently, he was injured and became the warden of the Raft, before then doing Black Ops missions abroad and confronting Sam Wilson.
6. ISAIAH BRADLEY
What if the first Captain America had been black? What if the Tuskegee Experiments had been about creating superheroes? That was the controversial idea behind “Truth: Red, White and Black,” a miniseries released in 2003. In the first issue, Robert Morales and Kyle Baker introduced Isaiah Bradley, a soldier who joined the military to fight in World War II. He and several hundred other black soldiers were forced to undergo a military experiment: the Super Soldier serum.
It turned out that Steve Rogers wasn’t the first to undergo the Super Soldier process. The US government tested it first on a black regiment, including Bradley. The results were disastrous with most of the subjects killed, and a handful of survivors left mutated. After being used as a covert black ops team, only Bradley remained. With his enhanced speed and strength, Bradley stole the Captain America uniform and used it to stop the German Super Soldier program. His reward was court-martial and solitary confinement, but he became an urban legend who inspired new generations.
5. BLACK WIDOW
In “Tales of Suspense” #52 (1964), Natalia Romanova first entered the Marvel Universe as a KGB assassin and an enemy of Iron Man. Over time, she was revealed to be Black Widow, one of the Soviet Union’s most ruthless agents. As a young girl, she had been orphaned and taken by the Kremlin to be a part of the Red Room, an elite training program to create the perfect female sleeper agent. She was given an experimental Super-Soldier treatment that enhanced her strength and speed, as well as caused her to age very slowly. Along with her native talents with martial arts and agility, Romanova became one of the KGB’s best agents.
The Black Widow later defected to the United States and became an agent of the super-secret S.H.I.E.L.D., and later a valued member of the Avengers. With her physical skills, elite training and electroshock bracelets, she stands side-by-side with superheroes and gods.
4. LUKE CAGE
Created by Archie Goodwin, John Romita, Sr. and George Tuska, Luke Cage was introduced in 1972’s “Luke Cage: Hero for Hire” as an attempt to join the blaxploitation craze in the 1970s. Carl Lucas was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to prison, where he agreed to submit to an experimental treatment based on the Super-Soldier program. It would have been fine, except one of the sadistic prison guards tampered with it, leaving him not just super-strong but also with bulletproof skin. Lucas escaped and took on the identity of Luke Cage, hero for hire.
Even though he started as a black stereotype, Cage has evolved into one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes. He’s been a member of the Avengers and the Defenders, teamed up with Captain America and Spider-Man, and also fell in love with and married Jessica Jones. He’s a force of nature, and we’re glad he’s on the right side of the law, especially having previously been a victim of its failings.
3. OMEGA RED
In 1992’s “X-Men” #4 by John Byrne and Jim Lee, Omega Red was released, and brought a new nightmare to Wolverine and the X-Men. It turned out that the Soviet Union had launched its own Super Soldier program, run by the KGB secret service. The KGB had taken a Russian serial killer named Arkady Rossovich to be one of their test subjects. It helped that he was a mutant who could drain the life force from his victims.
He was given their version of the Super Soldier treatment to give him superhuman speed, strength and stamina, and implanted with metal tentacles in his arms made of carbonadium, a super-strong metal that could also retard the healing process of other mutants. In the end, the Soviet Union thought he was too unpredictable, and put Omega Red into suspended animation. He was released in the modern era to terrorize a new generation, to varying degrees of success.
2. RED SKULL
In “Captain America Comics” #1 (1941), Joe Simon, Jack Kirby and France Herron introduced Captain America’s arch-enemy, the Red Skull. Once Johann Schmidt, a lowly bellhop during the Nazi regime, Adolph Hitler announced that he could turn anyone into a better Nazi and took on Schmidt as his protege. With ruthless training, Schmidt became the Red Skull, a figure of terror to Germany’s enemies and was so successful that he led the United States to create Captain America to defeat him.
For most of his career, the Red Skull was a normal human with a brilliant mind and inhuman ruthlessness who wore a mask of a skull to terrorize his enemies. It was only after Nazi scientist Dr. Arnim Zola transferred his mind into the cloned body of Steve Rogers that the Red Skull became a Super-Soldier. The clone had inherited Rogers’ stamina, speed and strength to become as powerful as Captain America with the evil genius of Schmidt.
In 2000, the miniseries “Sentry” by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee introduced a new superhero retroactively into the Marvel Universe. In the series, it was revealed that middle-aged Robert Reynolds was actually a god-like superhero with the “power of one million exploding suns” named the Sentry. As a young man, he was a junkie who took an experimental and more powerful version of the Super Soldier serum by accident, transforming him into the Sentry.
Sentry has incredible, reality-altering powers including speed, strength and flight, as well as heightened senses and the power to fire energy beams. Unfortunately, no one remembered Sentry, despite his being the greatest superhero of all time. Later, Sentry discovered that his mind had created the Void, an evil entity that would take a life for every one he saved. To stop it, Reynolds had to use his power to erase everyone’s memory of the Sentry, including his own.
Who’s your favorite Super Soldier? Let us know in the comments!