Real Life Proves Why Luke Cage Endures - In light of this week’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Joseph Illidge examines how Luke Cage continues to be relevant 42 years after his introduction.
I meant to post this on the 4th of July but I went home to Louisiana and spent time around family instead. Anyway I present to you all, the Bradley lineage. Marvel, by the way, is my favorite of the two major publishing companies (DC and Marvel) because they are ultra-sensitive to the topics of inequality, oppression, and minority groups as well as well researched in attempts to portray social commentary. This story is inspired by the Tuskegee Experiments.
Names: Isaiah Bradley (1st Generation), Josiah X (2nd Generation), and Patriot (3rd Generation)
• Isaiah Bradley: (The Black) Captain America
• Josiah X: Josiah Bradley, Josiah Smith, Josiah Al Hajj Saddiq, A-39, and Justice
• Patriot: Elijah Bradley, and Eli
Origins: All conceived in New York City, New York
• Isaiah Bradley: U.S. Army and Project: Rebirth
• Josiah X: U.S. Army and The Crew
• Patriot: Young Avengers
• Isaiah Bradley: Robert Morales, Kyle Baker, and Axel Alonso
• Josiah X: Christopher Priest and Joe Bennett
• Patriot: Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung
Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearances: Truth: Red, White & Black #1 (January 2003)/ The Crew #1 (July 2003)/ Young Avengers #1 (April 2005)
Biography/Story Line: Isaiah Bradley was born in New York City. He would later grow up and meet a woman by the name of Faith Shabazz, the two fell in love and were soon married in 1940. Unfortunately, the two were soon parted when the United States entered the Second World War after the attack on Pearl Harbor as Isaiah would join the army. This parting was compounded by Faith’s pregnancy with their first daughter, Sarah Gail Bradley. Isaiah Bradley was an infantryman at Camp Cathcart, Mississippi in 1942, during the first year of the United States involvement in World War II. Typical of the time, many in Bradley’s unit were subjected to violence and racism within the Army. The worst circumstances of all came after losing the secrets of the Super Soldier Serum. Even after the death of Dr. Erskine, the United States Army still wanted to produce more like Steve Rogers (Captain America). Col. Walker Price and Dr. Wilfred Nagel forcibly recruited Isaiah and 300 other unwitting African-American soldiers to serve as test subjects to recreate the Super Soldier Serum. To keep the operation secret, families were sent letters informing them of the soldier’s deaths. Although, Faith refused to accept Isaiah’s death, and continued to look for the truth. The truth was, barbaric medical practices were performed on the subjects, even such an instance as several test subjects were injected with the same lethal amount of serum to verify whether it had been a genetic rejection or overdose that killed the subjects. Eventually the correct dosage was found and given to the remaining test subjects of whom there were seven. The surviving seven were sent forward to Europe, one of their numbers dying on the boat ride to complications with the serum. The remaining six entered the war in July 1942 as part of a covert black ops team.
During a covert mission, the remaining six soldiers would have their numbers thinned again, leaving only Bradley, fellow soldier Maurice “Faunti’roy” Canfield and their sergeant Lucas Evans. Bradley is the first to question the reasons for their experimentation when he happens upon the very first Captain America comic that just so happened to be released a full year beforehand. Sgt. Evans suggests he not pay any attention to a “fictional” comic book, that if the Army wanted a Steve Rogers and a Super Soldier Project they would “move heaven and hell to get one” (a hint that Evans may have realized their connection to Rogers). It is at this time that Bradley and Evans are joined by Canfield and project assistant supervisor Lieutenant Merritt. Merritt begins to berate the trio over Canfield’s comments against Steve Rogers, who has become the public face of Project: Rebirth and America’s only known Super Solider. The ensuing disagreement turns violent; Bradley is injured by Canfield; Evans and Canfield are killed in the fight and Merritt is hospitalized.
Upon awakening in the hospital, Bradley is ordered to complete the now suicide mission alone, the promise of his family’s continued well-being being used to coerce his involvement. Bradley accepts the assignment and parachutes down to Schwarzebitte, Germany in October 1942 to eliminate the threat of the Nazi Super Soldier Project (SSP). He begins his mission clad in the spare Captain America uniform that was intended for Steve Rogers and an unpainted edged shield, Maurice Canfield’s Double V for Victory crest drawn onto it. Upon executing his mission, Bradley made short work of the Nazi SSP chief Dr. Koch, the base commander and set fire all project files. He set the explosives and made his way into the laboratory where he came face to face with the victims of the Nazi Super Soldier Project., Schwarzbitte’s prisoners. Identifying with those who were abused and murdered, Bradley with tears in his eyes, destroys the lab and fights his way through the camp. Seeing the camp guards shuffling a group of nude women around, Bradley breaks into the guards and begins to attempt a non-mission rescue. In trying to protect the women, Bradley has them enter a fortified room that is more than it appears. The women thinking the Nazi’s are trying to toy with them before they die, attack Bradley misunderstanding his intentions. The Nazi’s begin to release acid through the shower heads catching Bradley between the locked door and the attacking female prisoners. As the women die, Bradley is trapped underneath them and loses consciousness. He is captured by the Germans and taken to be interrogated. Bradley awakens to the sound of an American propaganda newsreel showing Captain America, Steve Rogers, fighting the Japanese and capturing Dr. Reinstein’s murderer. Bradley looks surprised to hear that Reinstein is dead and even more so that Bradley is now face to face with his interrogator, Adolf Hitler. Hitler and Goebbels attempt to sway Bradley to their side against America and the Allies. Replying that Bradley’s wife would kill him if he did, Hitler orders the guards to beat Bradley while Hitler and Goebbels try to figure out what to do with him. Goebbels mentions to Hitler that Bradley can be sent to Dr. Mengele to be dismembered and used as a demoralization tool against the Allies. Hitler loves the idea and tells Bradley that he is simply going to be sent to the doctor to have his wounds looked at. On the ride to Auschwitz, Bradley’s transport is attacked by the German Resistance led by Afro-German Klaus Spinrad. The German Resistance hides Bradley for five months, feeding and clothing him from within Nazi Germany. He was eventually passed on to the Belgian Underground which had ties to the Red Ball Express, an Army supply route run by black G.I.’s. The Red Ball Express was able to smuggle Bradley back from behind enemy lines. When Bradley reported into command he was arrested and court martialed, receiving a life sentence for stealing Captain America’s spare uniform.
Bradley was convicted in April 1943 and spent seventeen years in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He would not be released until outgoing president Dwight D. Eisenhower pardoned him on the day of President John F. Kennedy and swore him to secrecy. He was only released because Faith wrote President Eisenhower a letter every month for three years. It was later revealed that the serum Bradley and his platoon were given caused him to become sterile. His years in confinement with minimal medical care allowed the damage to affect his brain, slowly deteriorating it, turning the once strong, proud man into an almost mute man-child. Steve Rogers, Captain America, was the man to piece together Isaiah Bradley’s story and on behalf of the country and himself, apologized to Isaiah for everything that he and his family was put through. Bradley became an underground legend amongst the Black community, their Captain America. During his years after confinement he met many famous people including Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, Gen. Colin Powell and many others. His celebrity even reached across the ocean as T’Challa, King of Wakanda, secretly invited Bradley and his wife to attend T’Challa’s wedding to Ororo Munroe, Storm of the X-Men. Even Luke Cage acknowledge Bradley’s history explaining to the Avengers in attendance; as Luke had undergone similar experiments to gain his own powers.
Isaiah Bradley lives with his wife Faith and their grandchildren through their daughter Sarah Gail. Isaiah also has a biological son with Faith that is the product of artificial insemination and surrogate pregnancy named Josiah X…
During Isaiah’s imprisonment, the U.S. military began experiments to duplicate Isaiah’s powers and create more Super Soldier. To this end, they harvested semen from Isaiah (before the Super Soldier Serum made him sterile) and eggs from Faith Bradley during her appendectomy surgery. Thirty-eight failed attempts occurred before Josiah was finally carried to term. A young African-American girl matching Faith’s blood type served as surrogate mother, but when she discovered the truth about what the child would be used for, she escaped with Josiah and found Faith Bradley. Faith publicly told the girl she was stupid, that their house was watched, and with Sarah Gail’s doll in the basket she sent the girl out, screaming for her to run. Then, late at night Faith and Sarah Gail snuck out of the house and put the infant on a train. Sarah Gail left a note on her brother’s blanket, “My name is Josiah.” Josiah grew up in a Catholic orphanage outside of Boston during the early years of his life. Here he felt hopeless and abandoned by the God he was taught to worship. When Josiah’s powers manifested, he shoved Sister Irenia and accidentally knocked her unconscious. Fearing he had killed her, he fled. Not long after, Josiah lied about his age, and under the assumed name of Josiah Smith he enlisted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Josiah served several tours in Vietnam, becoming a seasoned and experience veteran. His combat unit, made up of primarily black soldiers, was nearly killed on a mission by an inconsiderate and racist officer’s order to bomb the area while they were still on patrol. He punched the officer and was court martialed, and sent back to the States to be held in military prison. While imprisoned, tests suggested Josiah may be the missing Super Soldier baby. Agreeing to what he was told would be minor tests in exchange for his freedom, Josiah willfully allowed his transfer from detainment in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to a secret research facility in Berkeley, California. It was here that blood tests proved he was the missing child and the only known subject that had survived. His surrogate mother, brought in to confirm a genetic match, again helped him escape and told him what she knew about his past.
Four years later, while Josiah was involved with the radical Black Panthers movement, he learned of the Super Soldier experiments on black enlisted men in WWII, and found the names of his parents. Mount Vernon, Virginia, Josiah returned to the Bradley home and met his mother, sister and childlike father. Unable to stay long for fear of being discovered, Faith told Josiah to return when it was time. Faith told him to leave promptly, as they were always being watched, so he left, and waited for a signal to return. For a time Josiah lived as a mercenary and killed for profit. Eventually, Josiah discovered the Islamic faith and found his purpose in it. He completed the hajj, the traditional Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Upon returning to the States, Josiah made his way to Boton to confess the murder of Sister Irenia. To his surprise, she was still alive and healthy, and the two began a deep and meaningful friendship. Upon her retirement, Irenia came to live with Josiah as his housekeeper and mentor.
Josiah became a Muslim minister, and opened a mosque in Little Mogadishu (“The Mog”) in Brooklyn. Josiah became involved with James “Rhodey” Rhodes after Rhodey’s sister died under mysterious circumstances. Eventually, Josiah came to join Rhodey’s “Crew” to bring down the drug-dealing, crime-lord, Triage and his 66 Bridge Gang. As Justice and armed with his father’s shield, Josiah determined to no longer turn a blind eye to the criminal activities in his community. Josiah continued to visit his father and the Bradley family after they moved back to the Bronx, Josiah came to visit periodically to spend time with the family he never had. Recently Josiah had stopped visiting, and has not been seen by the family in over a year.
The third Bradley to become a true American hero is none other than the son of Sarah Gail, Elijah Bradley. This makes him the grandson of Isaiah Bradley and the nephew of Josiah X. Eli was born with no powers as he was never experimented on and his genes were passed down even before Isaiah’s were artificially enhanced.
Shortly after the Avengers had disbanded, a younger version of Kang the Conqueror traveled to the present era with the goal of stopping his future self. Unsuccessful in his attempts to contact the Avengers, he downloaded the The Vision’s programming and operating system from the remains of the destroyed Avengers Mansion. Among the Vision files, he found the Avengers Fail-Safe Program. Dubbing himself himself Iron Lad, he began to seek Avengers recruits in the New York City area. One of these recruits was Josiah X, Eli’s uncle. However, Josiah had been out of contact with his family for years. Eli lied to Iron Lad, claiming to be a Super Soldier due to a blood transfusion from his grandfather, and volunteered for Iron Lad’s team. Eli then began using the illegal Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH) pills to fabricate superhuman abilities. Wearing a costume very similar to that of Captain America’s original sidekick, Bucky, Eli donned a full cowl and a set of five-pointed throwing stars as Patriot, and alongside his new teammates Hulkling, Asgardian and Iron Lad, formed the Young Avengers.
After several weeks of training, the Young Avengers began taking on super hero missions. Their second mission was an attempted to save two hundred guests at St. Patrick’s Cathedral when they were taken hostage during Susan Bishop’s wedding. Unfortunately, the Young Avengers were only successful in starting a fire and becoming hostages themselves. It was a bridesmaid, Kate Bishop, that actually saved them using one of Patriot’s own throwing stars. The Young Avengers were able, however, to escape the scene before the police arrived. After the attack, at the hospital, Kate was approached by Cassie Lang, daughter of the Avengers’ Ant-Man. Together the girls tracked down the Young Avengers at the ruins of the Avengers Mansion, where the girls confronted the Young Avengers and invited themselves onto the team. Not long afterward, the Mansion was attacked by Kang the Conqueror. To join the battle, Kate donned gear from the Mansion such as Mockingbird’s Battle Staves and Hawkeye’s Bow. She also found the original Captain America’s Shield for Patriot. After defeating Kang and saving the world, Kate and Cassie remained on as permanent members. Captain America and Iron Man ordered the team to disband and refused to train them. However, Kate used some of her family’s money and connection to procure a new lair, costumes and weapons for the team. With Iron Lad gone, Patriot and Kate took on the unofficial roles of co-leaders. Patriot and Kate even shared some chemistry and competitiveness.
Not long after entering their secret superhero lives, Wiccan discovered Patriot was using MGH to temporarily grant him superhuman powers. After taking MGH, Patriot fought Hyde one-on-one before injecting him with an overdose of MGH and knocking him unconscious. After being forcibly calmed by Wiccan’s magics, Eli woke up in recovery at Avengers Tower, with the new Vision taking care of him. After Eli revealed the true origins of his powers, he quit the team. The other Young Avengers unsuccessfully attempted to get Eli to rejoin them. It wasn’t until after Hulkling was captured by the Super-Skrull that Eli rejoined the team. During the subsequent battle between the Kree, the Skrulls forces, the Young Avengers and the New Avengers, Patriot used himself to shield Captain America from gunfire, and was severely injured. After the battle Captain America rushed to the hospital to give Eli a blood transfusion only to discover “another Captain America”, Eli’s grandfather, had already given Eli his blood. Since the transfusion, Eli has gained physical attributes and powers of a real Super Soldier.
Along with the rest of his team, Patriot sided with Captain America and the Secret Avengers against the Superhuman Registration Act, which led to the Superhero Civil War. When the Skrulls invaded Earth, Patriot joined the other Young Avengers and Runaways on the frontlines of the battle. Patriot along with the other Young Avengers helped rescue the fallen from Asgard during the Siege. After the story arc known as the children’s crusade, (that would involve the search for the Scarlet Witch, Doctor Doom’s attempt at his own Utopia, and a battle between Iron Lad and Vision that resulted in Vision’s death) Eli would leave the Young Avengers while all of the remaining members would become full-fledged Avengers themselves.
Powers/Skills: All have artificially enhanced super human like capabilities just like Steve Rogers as well as a shield.
It’s Time for An All-New Captain America.
About damn time if you think about it. Makes as much sense as Bucky taking the mantle.