Steve Rogers is the most famous super soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there are many other characters who were injected with the infamous Super Soldier Serum. Developed by Abraham Erskine, the prospects of a serum that could give someone superhuman abilities made him a target of Adolf Hitler. Although he was forced to complete the formula for the Nazis, the experiments did not go as planned. Erskine was imprisoned for his failure, but later rescued by the MCU’s Peggy Carter, who helped make him an ally of the United States. It was in 1943 that the Super Soldier Serum was finally perfected and ready to use, and versions of the serum have since been used to create super soldiers in the MCU.
The success of Abraham Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum did bring about copycats and other attempts at creating super soldiers. Extremis and Calvin Zabo’s formula are just a few power-granting serums that tried to replicate Erskine’s but did not directly borrow from his science. Bruce Banner did come close to replicating it but added gamma radiation to the mix, leading him to become the Hulk. However, Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum is responsible for the creation of some of the MCU’s earliest and most prominent characters. With MCU Phase 5 underway, the Super Soldier Serum is still playing a major role in the MCU. Here are all the super soldiers created in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, and how their origin stories have played out.
Steve Rogers was the first success story of Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum and remains the most prominent MCU super soldier. After a rigorous evaluation process, Steve was chosen to undergo the experimental operation to gain superhuman abilities. Erskine’s formula and Howard Stark’s chamber worked to perfection. Steve emerged from the chamber several inches taller and more muscular, with the serum giving him super strength and more physical gifts. He could now run faster than the average human (but not as fast as someone like Quicksilver), had better reflexes, and even quicker healing.
Although Steve initially only suited up in the red, white, and blue uniform for performances, he later ventured into combat on his own to try and save his best friend, Bucky Barnes. Captain America would then be frozen in ice for nearly 70 years after defeating Red Skull only to awaken in the 2010s and become a member of the Avengers. After spending the next several years of his life saving the world on multiple occasions, Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter resumed their relationship beyond time to grow old together at the end of Avengers: Endgame.
Johann Schmidt was the original test subject for Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum. Schmidt was the one responsible for overseeing Erskine’s research when he was forced to work at Hydra and saw the Super Soldier Serum as the answer to his problems. Schmidt wanted to become more powerful and thought that the serum would make this possible. However, Erskine was not given the proper time or resources to complete his formula and refused to cooperate with Schmidt’s selfish desires. Instead of waiting, Schmidt forced Erskine to hand over an early version of the serum and injected it into himself, which, though fraught with side effects, ultimately helped Red Skull’s quest to obtain the Infinity Stone known as the Tesseract,
The early version of Erskine’s serum did give Schmidt superhuman strength, but it also changed his physical appearance in other ways as a result of the side effects. He lost his hair, his skin turned red, and his face became deformed to resemble a skull – hence his new name of Red Skull. Despite his super strength, Red Skull didn’t utilize his physical abilities that often, although he did hold his own in a fight with Captain America.
Bucky Barnes became a prisoner of war during WWII and was the subject of Arnim Zola’s experiments for Hydra. He underwent some early tests during his capture but was found again by Zola after Bucky was believed to have fallen off a train to his death. This was the real beginning of Bucky Barnes’ transformation into Hydra assassin Winter Soldier, as the fall not only resulted in Bucky losing his arm and getting the vibranium replacement on his left side, but also Zola giving him Hydra’s version of the Super Soldier Serum.
While Hydra brainwashed Bucky, the Winter Soldier completed several significant Hydra missions throughout the MCU’s history. It was only when Bucky saw Steve again during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier that his memory started to come back to him. He struggled to ditch the Hydra programming but managed to do so with the help of Shuri and Wakanda’s technology. Bucky is now fully reformed and working to be his own man and a hero. His story in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier showed him overcoming Hydra’s programming and highlighted the burden he carried as a result of Bucky’s Winter Soldier days.
Other Winter Soldiers
Bucky wasn’t the only victim of Hydra’s Winter Soldier Program. Flashbacks in Captain America: Civil War showed multiple assassins were trained during the 1990s and 2000s to obey Hydra’s commands. All of them were enhanced with a version of the Super Soldier Serum derived from samples possessed by Howard Stark before the Winter Soldier killed him. However, the impact of the other Winter Soldiers is limited in the MCU as they rioted against Hydra and were put on ice. It was only in 2016 that Baron Zemo tracked down the location of where they were held and killed the other five Winter Soldiers so they could not be used again.
Bruce Banner / Hulk
Bruce Banner is not a typical super soldier. He was a leading mind in biochemistry and Gamma radiation that happened to be manipulated by the MCU’s General “Thunderbolt” Thaddeus Ross into tinkering with a replica of the original Super Soldier Serum. Instead of Abraham Erskine’s Vita Rays, Banner employed Gamma energy to power the experiment, resulting in the creation of his monstrous alter ego, the Hulk. The Hulk ended up being much faster, stronger, and more durable than any super soldier that came before him. His healing factor is off the charts and, in short, he became basically unstoppable. The only caveat is that the Hulk can’t be easily controlled, as he possesses his own aggressive and unpredictable identity.
Eventually, however, Bruce Banner finds a way to merge his two identities into Smart Hulk. In She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, the MCU hinted that the internal battle between Bruce and Hulk is ongoing, and that Bruce’s Smart Hulk could be seeing his last days soon. Moreover, though the She-Hulk ending sees Hulk bringing his son Skaar to Earth, it should be noted that even though he’s related to Hulk and She-Hulk, Skaar is an alien who can’t technically be classified as a super soldier — at least, not yet.
As attorney Jennifer Walters gained her Hulk powers when she came in contact with her cousin Bruce’s blood in a car accident, She-Hulk can be considered a super soldier in the MCU. Though the circumstances of Jen’s origin have nothing to do with deliberate Super Soldier Serum experimentation, the fact she didn’t die and was instead enhanced by Bruce’s blood is relevant data for anyone engaged in such a program. The same can be said of the way Jen retains her original personality while willingly being able to transform into She-Hulk — and back to just Jen. In fact, this is why Jen’s blood was stolen by Intelligencia, who intended to turn themselves into super soldiers.
Moreover, in the comics, General “Thunderbolt” Ross’ Red Hulk transformation was also caused by Intelligencia, whose original sinister lineup — The Leader, MODOK, General Ross — are all coming in MCU Phase 5. With the She-Hulk series paving the way for the MCU debut of the Red Hulk, one of Marvel Comics’ most dangerous super soldiers – this further solidifies the argument that Jen belongs on this list. Apart from being a Hulk, She-Hulk’s first MCU outing sees her already becoming a crucial part of MCU Super Soldier history.
Emil Blonsky is another super soldier created from an inferior replication of Erskine’s serum. As an older special-ops commander, Blonsky was eager to enhance his body so it was paired with the mind of someone with his years of experience. General “Thunderbolt” Ross helped Blonsky receive an injection of the serum, granting him the usual array of superhuman abilities. However, his desire for more power led him also to be exposed to gamma radiation, which transformed Emil Blonsky into the Abomination, an even more brutal and aggressive version of the Hulk.
Blonsky only got to use these powers a few times as his first encounter with the Hulk nearly killed him. However, after being in SHIELD custody for more than a decade, Blonsky was sighted as a participant in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings fighting tournament as Abomination. Blonsky’s journey to control the Abomination was a highlight in She-Hulk, with Jen acting as Blonsky’s attorney for his parole proceedings and Blonsky operating a retreat for former villains like himself – on the legal condition that he is never to transform into Abomination. However, Blonsky gets around this rule by working with Wong. In the She-Hulk finale, after Wong made use of the super soldier for upkeep at Kamar-Taj, Wong and Abomination continued to work and live together at the sanctuary.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier brought Isaiah Bradley to the MCU and confirmed his place as another super soldier. Bradley’s story goes back to the 1950s and the U.S. government experimenting on Black soldiers to try and replicate Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum The lone “success story”, Isaiah Bradley became the original Black Captain America. However, rather than enjoying a long career as a superhero, Bradley was ultimately wrongfully incarcerated for treason. He faked his death and was left out of the history books until Bucky introduced him to Sam, who used his power as Captain America to put Isaiah’s story in the Captain America exhibit.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier introduced a new super soldier to the MCU with the modern-day war hero John Walker. The exceptional soldier was selected to be the new Captain America after Sam Wilson handed over the shield. While to start out he actually had no super soldier powers to speak of, John Walker’s hunger for power and respect pushed him over the edge. He eventually found a single vial of Super Soldier Serum that Baron Zemo failed to destroy. Walker elected to take the serum to increase his physical abilities, which also emphasized more of the darkness inside him.
Once Walker took the Super Soldier Serum, it didn’t take long for him to put his newfound abilities to use. His superhuman strength allowed him to take on the Flag-Smashers and brutally kill one of them after the death of his sidekick, Lemar Hoskins, a.k.a. Battlestar. He then took on Bucky and Sam at nearly defeated them both before Falcon and the Winter Soldier broke John’s arm. Walker did get a slight chance at redemption in the Falcon & Winter Soldier finale, putting his powers to better use. Now he’s positioned to do the same under the U.S. Agent alias as a member of the MCU’s Thunderbolts lineup.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier introduced a new type of super soldier: Karli Morgenthau. She received her powers from the serum developed by the Power Broker. While it gave her super-strength and other increased physical abilities, the version of the serum Karli took doesn’t change her physical appearance. With no growth spurt or massive muscles, she could blend in and strike when people least expect it.
Karli wanted to use her powers to help those displaced by governments after The Blip was reversed. Although she started off with good intentions, Karli’s determination to achieve this goal eventually led her to compromise on some beliefs and accept the loss of life if it meant getting her way. Karli’s Morgenthau’s death came at Sharon Carter’s hand in Falcon & Winter Soldier‘s finale since she knew Sharon was the Power Broker.
With Karli Morgenthau in the lead, the Flag-Smashers group was revealed to hold multiple super soldiers among its ranks. The anti-nationalist group’s cause resonated with people all over the world, but the core members of the team were also enhanced through the Power Broker’s Super Soldier Serum. These super soldiers include Matias, Nico, Dovich, Gigi, DeeDee, Lennox, and Diego. Matias died sacrificing himself so the rest of the team could escape early on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Nico was killed by John Walker, and the rest of the team was killed as part of Baron Zemo’s plan following the failed attack on the GRC. The Flag-Smashers may not have survived beyond the action of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but the MCU still has many super soldiers with their own agendas to pursue.
The interest in creating super soldiers is something that spread far and wide throughout the MCU with other countries repeatedly trying to replicate America’s success with Steve Rogers. This pursuit led Russia to do some experiments of its own and Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) is the only confirmed super soldier to emerge with powers from these efforts. It is not yet confirmed what exactly Russia did to change Alexei’s life and make him the USSR’s most popular superhero, nor is it known when Red Guardian received these powers. While Alexei’s origin story behind how he became the Red Guardian is still a mystery, the success of the experiments that led to his transformation is unquestionable given all the powers he displays in Black Widow.
Apart from providing comic relief to such a dark MCU movie, Red Guardian had plenty of opportunities in Black Widow to flex his superhuman strength. The very beginning of the movie shows him flip a tank using his bare hands to make a pathway for the plane he and his fake Russian spy family use when attempting to escape. Unfortunately for Alexei, this is the only action he’s received in recent years due to his Red Guardian’s undercover missions with Melina in America, and he’s eager to return to fighting when his cover is destroyed in 1995. The bad news continues, though, as Alexei isn’t permitted to be Russia’s version of Captain America and is thrown in jail for years. He makes good use of his powers during this time to win arm-wrestling matches and then leaps around the prison walls during the escape. Now that Red Guardian is free again, his Super Soldier Serum powers and origin could be explored in future MCU properties.
Animated Peggy Carter/Captain Carter (What If…?)
Marvel’s What If…? debuted with the introduction of Captain Carter, an alternate-universe version of Peggy Carter who replaces Steve Rogers as the first successful recipient of Abraham Erskine’s original Super Soldier Serum. Her decision to stay in the room while the experiment started ultimately led to her jumping in and receiving the serum, changing the course of history. The MCU’s Captain Carter sports a Union Jack-themed uniform and shield to fight the Nazis and Hydra, and since Peggy was naturally stronger and healthier than Steve before the experiment, it seems that her super soldier physiology became more powerful than the main-universe Captain America.
While Peggy Carter adapted to her super soldier abilities, Howard Stark manufactured a near-indestructible suit of armor for Steve Rogers, which he used to fight Shuma-Gorath alongside Peggy, Bucky Barnes, and the Howling Commandos. As every corner of the MCU multiverse seems to be ruled by fate, Peggy ended up in the present day after entering the portal that the Tesseract opened, allowing her to meet Nick Fury and Hawkeye.
Live-Action Captain Carter (What If?/Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness)
In addition to What If…?‘s iteration, a live-action Captain Carter super soldier joined the MCU in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as a member of the Illuminati of Earth-838. First shown fighting Scarlet Witch in trailer footage, this non-animated version of the character follows on from Peggy Carter’s What If…? storyline. However, she doesn’t fare quite as well outside What If‘s animated worlds, with an enraged Wanda completely destroying her alongside several members of the Illuminati. While it’s a shocking development, as a Variant who only appeared in a couple of What If‘s episodes, it’s easier for audiences to lose Captain Carter than more established MCU heroes. Plus, Endgame already showed Carter’s happy ending, growing old with Steve Rogers. It’s the duty of the Multiverse movies in the MCU to show audiences the other side of that coin.
Scarlet Witch And Quicksilver
Even though they’re not products of any version of the Super Soldier Serum, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff’s origins can be traced back to attempts to create a rival program in their home country of Sokovia, and just like Bucky, they were even used as super soldiers by Hydra. Specifically, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s powers are the results of Hydra’s experiments with Loki’s Scepter, which at the time was the containment vessel for the Mind Stone, later gifted to Loki by Thanos. Notably, Quicksilver died while trying to save Hawkeye in Age of Ultron, while Wanda presumably destroyed herself along with Mount Wundagore in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. While they didn’t get their powers from the same serum or process as Captain America, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver at least deserve a joined place on this list, as they share the Winter Soldier’s fate of being veterans of Hydra’s super soldier program.
Deadpool And Wolverine (By The End Of Phase 6)
Deadpool and Wolverine are set to make their MCU debut in Deadpool 3 — the movie that will kick off the MCU Phase 6 slate — and Wade Wilson and Logan are two of the hardest-hitting super soldiers in both the comics and the movies. Infamous for being government experiments-turned-antiheroes, Deadpool and Wolverine share certain abilities, such as enhanced strength, agility, and most notably, healing factors that are comparable to the Hulks — though Logan seems to heal instantly while Wade’s regeneration takes some time. In terms of this list, what makes Deadpool and Wolverine’s MCU entrance truly exciting is that, once the X-Men become canon, the MCU could introduce a whole bunch of new super soldiers, courtesy of the dreaded Weapon X program.
Next: Deadpool 3 Can Solve A Huge MCU Multiverse Problem