Super Soldier Serum was the name given to the chemical compound created by Dr. Abraham Erskine. Its exact chemical make up is a nearly complete mystery, the only known ingredient to the Serum is potassium. When ingested and injected in a series of treatments, the human body rapidly evolves, both physically and mentally, beyond the peak of its potential.
The Super Soldier Serum is actually only a part of the Super Soldier Process. The initial successful treatment was in three parts. Rogers was required to take the Super Soldier Serum, both orally and by injection. Once the proper dosage was reached he was exposed to several unknown bands of radiation called Vita-Rays. The Vita Rays stabilized the serum and allowed it to affect Rogers at an accelerated rate.
Variations of the actual Super Soldier Process have also been used successfully through the history of the Marvel Universe without the use of Super Soldier Serum, such as in the cases of how Luke Cage and Anti-Cap gained their powers.
Origin and History
Some time prior to 1939, Sublime, a sentient hive-minded bacteria that has existed since the beginnings of life on Earth and present in every living being became concerned with the growing number of mutants that were emerging on earth. Mutants, due to their X-Gene, were immune to Sublime’s infection and control, and their growing numbers threatened to make them the dominant species on earth replacing Homo Sapiens with Homo Superior, leaving Sublime without control of the dominant life form on Earth. In response to the threat to its domination of mankind, Sublime took the form of John Sublime and created the Weapon Plus Project with the aim of enhancing baseline humans to a level where they would become more powerful than mutants and continue their domination of Earth, providing Sublime with more powerful hosts under the pretext of “Addressing the Mutant Problem.”
The first projects, Weapons 0 and 1 respectively, fell under the name Project: Rebirth. Project: Rebirth began as a collaborative effort between eugenicists, scientists who study selective breeding in order to achieve the pinnacle human possibilities. Eugenicists from the US, Great Britain, and Germany worked under the manipulation of John Sublime to produce a so-called Super Soldier. Initially the project was headed up by Dr.’s Reinstein and Koch prior to the outbreak of World War II. Very little is known about the experiments prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, only that all attempts were unsuccessful.
Once World War II began the project split into two factions, one that moved to America to continue their research under Dr. Reinstein and one that moved to Germany under Dr. Koch to continue their research for the Nazi party.
In the American project, Dr Abraham Erskine - going under the codename Joseph Reinstein - began to achieve results using an injection of the serum as well as oral doses that advanced humans to their full potential physically, but the serum alone caused mental instability and ultimately death in the test subject, Clinton McIntyre, aka. Protocide.
This led Erskine to create the Vita-Ray machine, which emitted several unknown bands of radiation, as a means of stabilizing the drug’s effects and making it take effect more quickly.
The next subject, Steve Rogers, a weak and frail man who had been rejected by the armed forces, receiving both the injection and oral Serum and Vita-Ray exposure, was transformed into what Project: Rebirth had hoped to achieve, a man beyond the peak of human mental and physical abilities.
Erskine was killed almost immediately after Rogers’ transformation by Heinz Kruger, a Nazi infiltrator, and the Vita-Ray machine was destroyed when Rogers knocked Kruger into the machine while he was trying to escape, killing him.
Unfortunately for Project: Rebirth, Erskine never made notes on several key parts of the formula for the actual Serum, trusting only himself and committing the details to memory. With the destruction of both the only Vita-Ray Machine and the formula for Erskine’s serum, Project: Rebirth was left with no means of replicating the process that had transformed Rogers as they had originally intended.
Steve Rogers was taken in by the government and trained in hand to hand combat, tactics, gymnastics, and strategy and then took the identity of Captain America, the greatest hero and symbol of hope for the allies during World War II.
Erskine’s replacement Wilfred Nagel, the real Josef Reinstein who had founded Project: Rebirth with Dr. Koch prior to World War II, was tasked with duplicating Erskine’s research en masse by the US government.
Nagel’s research was conducted on 300 African American US soldiers out of Camp Cathcart. The subjects were forcibly experimented upon with fatal or unstable results on all but six subjects, Isaiah Bradley being the only survivor to come out of the experiments and test field missions in the Europe war front. The project, deemed another failure, closed down and the government executed the entirety of the population of Camp Cathcart in order keep their actions a secret from the people of the United States.
Bradley, wearing a stolen Captain America uniform, went on to single handedly destroy the Nazi Super Soldier program and kill Operation: Rebirth founder Dr. Koch, but was subsequently captured by the Germans who experimented on him in hopes of replicating the Super Soldier serum that had transformed him. He was later rescued but court-martialled and imprisoned. While imprisoned he was again experimented on, this time by the US Government. Bradley was eventually freed from prison by President Eisenhower.
The government was more successful in their experiments than the Nazis had been. Combining Isaiah’s DNA with his wife Faith’s and manipulating the embryo’s genetics, the government was able to produce an infant born with Super Soldier abilities. The child would be smuggled out of the hands of the government by his surrogate mother and raised in an orphanage as Josiah Bradley, later known as the hero Josiah X.
In modern times the side effects of the serum Isaiah Bradley was given have been shown. Bradley suffered a breakdown of his mental faculties, similar to Alzheimer’s disease, leaving him with the mental capacity of a small child.
Brian Falsworth, aka. Union Jack and the Destroyer received a variant of Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum from captured biochemist Eric Schmidt, while imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II. This variant seemed to be a perfected version of the Super Soldier Serum as it required no Vita-Rays to stabilize it and Falsworth suffered none of the psychological problems that the original serum created when taken by itself. Falsworth would escape from Nazi imprisonment and take up the identity of the Destroyer and later Union Jack and fight for Great Britain for the remainder of World War II. Post World War II Falsworth would continue to operate as Union Jack until his death in a car accident in 1953.
Roger Aubrey, aka. Dyna-Mite and Destroyer, was the lover of the second Union Jack (Brian Falsworth). Both were imprisoned near the start of World War II. Aubrey was experimented on and brainwashed by Nazi Scientists into becoming Dyna-Mite. Aubrey gained the ability to shrink to twelve inches tall while retaining his full strength. Later he would become a member of The Crusaders and fight against the Nazis on the side of the allies. At some point Aubrey received yet another variant of Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum. Yet again this appears to be a perfected version of the serum. This variant, besides granting Super Soldier abilities, also greatly retards the aging process allowing Aubrey to retain his physical abilities and youthful appearance into current continuity. When Brian Falsworth took up the mantle of Union Jack Aubrey took up his previous identity as the Destroyer and maintains that identity to this day.
Julia Koenig, aka. Warrior Woman, was a Nazi Spy during World War II. Upon capturing a US scientist who knew the formula for another variant of Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum, took it upon herself to take the serum and was granted Super Soldier Abilities. Again, this variant appears to be a perfected version of the Super Soldier Serum as it required to Vita-Rays to stabilize and Koenig has shown none of the psychosis associated with taking the Serum by itself. Koenig would go on to be a powerful member of the Nazi party and opponent of the Invaders. Post World War II she was placed in suspended animation until being woken some time after the German Reunification. She is currently a member of the Axis Mundi.
Wilhelm Lohmer, aka. Master Man, was the Nazi answer to Steve Rogers. Originally an American of German descent, Lohmer answers the Nazi call at the start of World War II and joins an American Bundist movement. Physically frail he volunteers for the Nazi version of the Super Soldier program. Lohmer is given a modified version of Erskine’s Super Soldier that grants him powers far beyond those of a typical Super Soldier. Lohmer gains not just peak human abilities but Super Human strength, speed, stamina, durability, and a form of psionic flight. Lohmer fought for the Nazis until the conclusion of World War II and was one of Captain America's main nemeses through out. Post-war he is placed in suspended animation along with Warrior Woman and remains there until sometime after German Reunification. Once awoken, Master Man along with Warrior Woman joins the New Reich as they battle the reunited Invaders. In the midst of the penultimate battle with the Invaders, Lohmer inexplicably loses all of his Super Soldier powers and begins to age rapidly. Lohmer eventually has a change of heart and sacrifices himself to save Cable.
In the 1950’s, William Burnside called himself and legally changed his name to Steve Rogers. The original Steve Rogers at this time was presumed killed in action at the end of World War II. Burnside was obsessed with Captain America and discovers a secret Nazi file that contained Dr. Erskine’s complete formula for the chemical portion of the Super Soldier process. Burnside takes the formula to the US Government in return for being made the next Captain America. Initially his plan goes as planned, but with the ceasefire in Korea the government decides they no longer need a Captain America and shut the project down before Rogers can be dosed with the serum.
When the Communist Red Skull emerges and threatens the UN, Burnside doses himself and his side kick, Jack Monroe aka. Bucky, with the Super Soldier Serum. Burnside and Monroe gain Super Soldier abilities and fend off the Red Skull, but the side effects of taking the serum without being exposed to Vita-Rays soon surface and Rogers and Monroe develop psychosis. The pair soon begin attacking innocents for their race and differing political beliefs. The government soon subdue Burnside and Monroe and place them in suspended animation.
The pair would be reawakened and manipulated periodically over the next 50 years, normally by Dr. Faustus and Red Skull. Under Faustus' manipulation Burnside adopts the mantle of the Grand Director and leads a group of super powered Neo Nazis. Monroe, who would be come the vigilante known as Nomad, is later killed by the original Bucky who at the time was brainwashed into becoming Winter Soldier. Burnside is presumed dead after being shot and falling off the Hoover Dam by the original Bucky this time in the guise of Captain America.
Robert Reynolds, aka. Sentry, received his powers when he ingested a variation of the Super Soldier Serum. After the failures of Project: Rebirth, Canada and the United States decide to once again recreate the Super Soldier Serum, but in turn they want to multiply its effects a thousand fold. Reynolds was a junkie who stumbled into Dr. Cornelius' lab looking for a fix. Upon finding the variant Super Soldier Serum and mistaking it for an illegal drug, Reynolds consumes it. With that, he is gifted "The power of a million exploding suns." Taking the mantle of the Sentry, Reynolds would go onto become the world's greatest hero. But as a result of the serum Reynolds developed extreme psychosis. This psychosis manifested itself as the Void. For every life that Sentry would save the Void would take one. The exact limits of Reynolds' powers are unknown.
Elijah Bradley, aka. Patriot, originally claimed to have inherited his grandfather and uncle's Super Soldier Abilities. It was later revealed that Bradley had merely been using Mutant Growth Hormone to gain super powers.
Later after a violent battle, Elijah required a blood transfusion, which he received from his grandfather Isiaih Bradley. The blood transfusion transferred Isaiah's Super Soldier Serum into his grandson who gained similar abilities to his grandfather in his prime. Patriot would then go on to be one of the founding members of the Young Avengers.
Taskmaster, aka. Tony Masters was a SHIELD agent on a mission in Bolivia, invading a replica of Heinrich Himmler's castle created by a Nazi like Militia.
Masters discovers a variation of the Super Soldier Serum granting him his "Photographic Reflexes" ability at the cost of his own memories.
This variation allows Taskmaster to recall and repeat any action he sees including motions performed at Super-Human speeds, activated by watching actions in fast forward.
Man-Thing, a human scientist named Ted Sallis, was charged with replicating the Super Solider Serum and achieved a fair amount of success in creating a nearly identical serum. His lab was attacked by A.I.M. and in an effort to save his research, he injects his variation of the serum into himself. In his attempt to escape the terrorists, Ted Sallis stumbles into a swamp and incidentally into the Nexus of All Realities. The combined burgeoning effects of this variation of the Super Soldier Serum on his body and the energies given off by the Nexus of All Realities transform a mere human into the undefeatable guardian/protector of the Nexus of All Realities, Man-Thing.
Man-Thing is granted super human strength, super human durability, healing factor, a telepathic link to the actual planet Earth/Multiverse, the power to set fire to those that fear him via eye contact, and the ability to teleport, and thus teleport those around him and know his exact location and how to return to his original location on instinct from anywhere in the Multiverse.
The exact extent of the full range of Man-Thing's powers granted by both the variation of the Super Soldier Serum and his contact with the Nexus of All Realities is unknown. Man-Thing's teleportation abilities, however appear to be a result of his contact/connection with the Nexus of All Realities.
When Captain America was suffering from a degenerative effect due to to super soldier serum, Rachel Leighton (aka Diamondback) went to Superia and asked her to develop a cure. Prior to this, the Red Skull had forcibly given Rachel a blood transfusion of Captain America's super-serum blood. To test the cure, Superia injected Rachel with the antidote she created. Superia's antidote worked, and she was able to synthesize an antidote for Steve Rogers in exchange for her service to Superia. However, upon Superia's death, Rachael was released from her contract.
All Super Soldier Serums are based on Dr. Abraham Erskine's original formula. The individual variations to the formula produce varied effects and powers in the individuals that receive the treatment.
The most common set of powers granted by is that of exceeding peak human potential. This means the individual is capable of lifting around 850 pounds over their heads, running at speeds up to around 60 miles per hour and higher, and due to the Super Soldier Serum's ability to counteract the acids in the muscle that cause fatigue, allowing the individual to maintain strenuous physical activity for hours on end before tiring. The serum also increases the individual's metabolism, allowing them to heal faster than a normal human, giving them enhanced durability. Along with increased durability, the increased metabolism Super Soldiers enjoy also grants them immunity from nearly any poison known to man, due to their body's ability to process it faster than the effects can cause harm to their body. This includes most known drugs and alcohol which have no affect on a recipient.
The serum also affects the mind, allowing the individual to retain and recall any information they take in. It also allows the individual's mind to react and process data faster, which improves their reflexes far beyond those of a normal human. For example, Steve Rogers has stated that he can dodge bullets because he can see faster than they move. In one recipient of a variation of the Serum, Taskmaster, it granted the ability to perform any action that is seen by the individual, i.e. Photographic Reflexes, although in return Taskmaster's memory is over-written with the actions that he witnesses due to the lack of the Vita-Ray treatment to stabilize the results.
Variations to the serums have granted everything from retarding the aging process in the case of Roger Aubrey, to super human strength and flight such as Master Man being capable of lifting upwards of 50 tons and psionic flight.
The most extreme case of this is Sentry/the Void whose variation granted him near limitless powers, from molecular manipulation, to faster than light speed flight, and even limited telepathic abilities.
As is the case with the effects of the Super Soldier Serum, the side effects vary depending on the variation given to the individual. The most common side effect of taking the Super Soldier Serum is psychosis. Due to the rapid evolution of the human brain as a result of exposure to Super Soldier Serum, the individual Super Soldier is far more susceptible to mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and paranoia than an average human.
Protocide, the first specimen experimented on during Project: Rebirth, suffered a near total mental break down prior to his death as a result of his exposure to the Super Soldier Serum without the stabilizing effects of the Vita-Rays. Upon his resurrection he showed some signs of mental instability but to far smaller degree.
The Grand Director and Jack Monroe appeared to be fine at first but soon succumbed mental instability in the form of severe paranoia.
Isaiah Bradley retained almost perfect health, both mental and physical, well into the later years of his life before side effects appeared. When the side effects finally surfaced, Bradley's mental faculties quickly degenerated until his mind could function no better than that of a small child's.
Master Man, due to his strain of the Super Solider Serum suffered complete loss of his powers and accelerated aging.
As a result of Taskmaster's treatment with a variation of the Super Soldier Serum he is unable to retain long term memories as his photographic reflexes over-write his memories with his ability to repeat any physical action he witnesses.
The most severe set of side effects shown thus far is with Sentry. Due to the near unlimited power granted to him by his strain of the Super Soldier Serum he was capable of manifesting a second personality in not only form but powers. Along with his manifestation of the Void Sentry also suffered from along list of mental disorders including anti-social disorder, agoraphobia and severe depression.
The Super Soldier Serum in Marvel Studios MCU, differs from its comic counterpart since in the movie verse the serum brings out what the person is in the inside e.g. Johann Schmidt who gains an actual Red Skull after kidnapping and threatening Abraham Erskine to use the serum on him(as seen in Captain America: First Vengeance). But the serum shows promise when it is used on a weak Steve Rogers whose unshakable morals turn him into the Perfect Super Soldier.
The Serum is also heard and seen in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, when Bruce Banner is working with Gamma Rays to recreate the Super Soldier Serum, but fails and turns himself into the Monstrous Hulk. It is later seen when General Thunderbolt Ross uses it on a British Royal Marine, Emil Blonsky, who later becomes addicted to the serum and the his enhanced body that he gained from it, Blonsky being a hard and tough nut in the inside starts to show on his outer appearance when his spine starts to grow outwards, but before his body could go through the process Blonsky has Samuel Sterns, inject him with Bruce Banner's gamma radiated blood which turns him in to the hideous Abomination