14. ISAIAH BRADLEY
Before Steve Rogers took up the shield, there was another brave soul who did: Isaiah Bradley, a Tuskeegee Airman. Bradley was one of 300 African American soldiers secretly experimented on by the U.S. Army in Project: Rebirth, the government’s early attempts to create the Super-Soldier Serum. This was revealed in “Truth: Red, White & Black,” the 2003 miniseries written by the late Robert Morales and drawn by Kyle Baker.
Bradley is one of only seven survivors of the trials, but is the last one standing when he undertakes a mission behind enemy lines in Germany to destroy that nation’s efforts to create its own super-soldiers. To do so, he disguises himself with a spare Captain America costume and shield. After completing the mission, however, Bradley is charged with stealing the costume, court-martialed and imprisoned for nearly 20 years, until he is pardoned by President Eisenhower. Sadly, the unrefined version of the serum in Bradley’s system caused debilitating effects on his mind and body.
13. THE SPIRIT OF ’76 / THE PATRIOT
After several years during which Captain America was not featured in any comics, he was reintroduced to the Marvel Universe in 1964’s “Avengers” #4. However, the explanation for his absence (that he had been in suspended animation since 1945) didn’t account for comics that featured Captain America into the 1950s. “What If?”#4, “What If The Invaders Stayed Together After World War Two?,” partially retconned away that discrepancy. It revealed that after Captain America and Bucky went missing in 1945, the U.S. government covered up the incident and recruited replacements.
William Naslund, The Spirit of ’76, accepted the request, along with Fred Davis as the replacement Bucky. As Captain America, Naslund served through the end of World War II, sometimes with the All-Winners Squad. However, he was killed in action in 1946 while the All-Winners thwarted an attempt to kidnap a congressional candidate in Boston: future President John F. Kennedy. Right after The Spirit of ’76 was killed, costumed hero the Patriot, Jeff Mace, found his body and pledged to serve in his stead. Mace served as Captain America until 1950.