Super Soldiers featured heavily in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but how did it all start, and where could it go from here?
The MCU has featured Super Soldiers since Captain America: The First Avenger debuted in 2011, and since then, the universe has been populated with various characters who’ve gained superhuman abilities in an attempt to recreate Steve Rogers’ strength and agility.
They did an entire movie on where all this started—who could forget Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine?—but the plot’s been a little difficult to follow over the years. Below, we’ve got a complete breakdown on the super soldier serum, the known super soldiers in the MCU, and where Marvel could go with this next.
What is the Serum?
Erskine initially developed the Serum to enhance Allied soldiers during WWII with the hope of using it to create Super Soldiers who could defeat the Axis powers. It is a chemical solution meant to enhance both the body and the mind, which is why it affects each person differently.
In addition to the Serum, Vita-rays, a type of electromagnetic radiation, is used to stabilize the serum and unlock its abilities. Many different forms of the Serum have been used throughout the years, which is another contributing factor as to why different people are affected in a variety of ways.
Timeline of the MCU’s Super Soldiers and the Serum
1930: Abraham Erskine creates the Serum
Erskine began developing the Super Soldier Serum in 1930 while living in Nazi Germany. Soon after, Wilfred Malick delivered the key ingredient to Hydra.
1940: Johann Schmidt turns into Red Skull
After years of work on the Serum, a prototype was developed and tested on Johann Schmidt, the head of Hydra. It burned away his skin and manipulated his personality, turning him into Red Skull.
~1943: Steve Rogers becomes the first Super Soldier
After Erskine escaped to the United States, he joined the SSR and perfected the Serum. As a result, Project Rebirth was born with the intent to turn Allied soldiers into Super Soldiers. The experiment was successfully performed on Steve Rogers, turning him into Captain America. Erskine was killed in the process, and Heinz Kruger destroyed the last remaining vial of the Serum, meaning the formula was locked away in Rogers’ blood.
1943: Arnim Zola experiments on Bucky Barnes
Bucky and other Allied soldiers were captured and forced to work in a weapons facility in the Alps. Arnim Zola also experimented on them in a bid to recreate Erskine’s serum. Bucky survived the experiment and was subsequently rescued. This experimentation is likely why he survived his fall in 1945.
1946: Peggy Carter pours Steve’s blood into the river
Peggy Carter discovers Howard Stark’s Blitzkrieg Button is simply a container to house a vial of Steve Rogers’ blood. In order to keep the Super Soldier Serum out of anyone else’s hands, Peggy pours the vial into the river.
1950s: Isaiah Bradley becomes a Super Soldier
During the Cold War, the United States government began experiments on soldiers in the Armed Forces in an attempt to recreate the Serum. Isaiah Bradley survived these experiments and became a Super Soldier. Despite loyally serving his country, Bradley was locked up for 30 years while various organizations studied his blood.
1991: Howard Stark recreates the Serum
After decades of failure, Howard Stark finally recreated the Super Soldier Serum in 1991. As a result, Hydra sent The Winter Soldier to retrieve the formula. Stark and his wife were murdered in the process.
1991: Hydra develops the Winter Soldier Program
Using Starks formula, Hydra began to create an army of Super Soldiers to do their bidding. While this formula was much stronger than Erskine’s version, it also made the subjects more aggressive and even uncontrollable. Hydra placed the soldiers in cryostasis and recruited Dr. Nagel to recreate a more stable Serum. Hydra was then disbanded before he finished his work.
~2001: Bruce Banner becomes The Hulk
Under false pretenses, General Thaddeus Ross recruited Dr. Bruce Banner to help recreate the original Serum. As a result, Banner used Gamma radiation instead of Vita-rays, which resulted in him becoming The Hulk. A variant of this Serum was also given to Emil Blonsky, who eventually turned into Abomination.
2013: Hydra creates the Centipede Serum
A combination of Extremis, Gamma radiation, and Chitauri technology created what Hydra called the Centipede Serum. This had a number of properties, including regenerative healing and enhanced strength. There were several variations, each of which was unstable in its own way.
2018: Dr. Nagel creates a superior version of the Serum
The CIA recruited Dr. Nagel to recreate the original Serum, which he was able to do because the CIA had vials of Isaiah Bradley’s blood. By 2018, he created a version that would not cause users to undergo a physical transformation, as Steve Rogers had. However, he was turned to dust due to Thanos’ Snap.
2024: Karli and the Flag Smashers become Super Soldiers
Nagel was restored to life and fled to Madripoor after learning the CIA had terminated their Super Soldier program. Thanks to the Power Broker’s resources, Nagel successfully recreated the Serum in 2024. However, Karli Morgenthau stole them and used them on herself as well as various members of the Flag Smashers.
2024: John Walker injects himself with the Serum
Zemo killed Dr. Nagel and followed Karli as she tried to escape John Walker. After destroying eight out of the nine vials, Zemo was knocked unconscious by Walker, who used the final vial on himself, successfully becoming a Super Soldier.
What’s next for the Super Soldiers?
Considering the desire for the Super Soldier Serum has been a motivating factor for various characters and organizations throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it stands to reason this is not the last we’ve seen of it.
While we’re not sure where the Serum will go from here, several Super Soldiers still exist within the MCU. We know we’ll see a few more of them in upcoming properties, which always leaves room for the Serum to make an appearance in one form or another.
With Captain America 4 reportedly already in the works, there’s a chance we’ll be seeing Bucky Barnes or John Walker again. And if not in Cap 4, then we might see them in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 2 (or, rather, Captain America and the Winter Soldier) or another property that will likely extend their story.
We also know Disney+ is developing a She-Hulk series starring Tatiana Maslany. In the comics, she gets her powers from a blood transfusion given to her by her cousin, Bruce Banner.
According to Marvel, Mark Ruffalo is set to return as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, as is Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination. The show is being described as a comedy.
The Marvel train will not be stopping any time soon, so it’s more than possible we’ll be getting other Super Soldiers in the future. ScreenRant has a list of which ones we could see next.