With three of the four largest names at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel Comics) being U.S. Army veterans, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the biggest names in their story lines center around U.S. Army veterans. Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Syd Shores all served in World War II. (The fourth? Joe Simon. And he was in the Coast Guard).
Whether they gained their powers through a Super Soldier project, magic, or even just skill — these Marvel super heroes proved to everyone the enduring strength of Army values.
Steve Rogers (Captain America) – World War II
In case you didn’t already know, the $12 billion film franchise and the most patriotic hero, Steve Rogers, was in the U.S. Army. Being a frail and weak soldier who still wanted to protect his people, he enrolls in the Super Soldier project. This grants him super strength, healing, and reflexes. He is also a master strategist and Earth’s greatest martial artist.
And if you’ve been reading the headlines and not the actual new comic storyline, no, the real Captain America is not Hydra, nor a Nazi.
Isaiah Bradley (Captain America) – World War II
Following the success of the first Captain America, Marvel tried to experiment again with another super soldier serum through an analogy of the real world Tuskegee experiment.
Isaiah Bradley was the only survivor. His powers mimic that of Steve Rogers, but his mind is constantly deteriorating and he became sterile (much like the effects of syphilis).
In the short lived but phenomenally written story “Truth: Red, White & Black” and then “The Crew” Bradley takes on the mantle of Captain America while Rogers was frozen in ice. Through it, the series ends with a man who saved countless lives, saved the world, and is now forgotten to history.
Josiah X “Bradley” (Justice) – Vietnam War
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Isaiah Bradley’s son when the story of “The Crew” shifts. Josiah’s story takes place in the backdrop of the Vietnam War and then ’70s violence in Brooklyn. His powers are still the same of the other Captain Americas, and he’s armed with his father’s shield.
Writer’s Note: Seriously, I can’t recommend Christopher Priest’s work on this series enough. It’s one of the best damned comics I’ve ever read.
Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) – World War II
Thought killed in the same issue that Captain America joined the Avengers, James Buchanan Barnes was unveiled as the Winter Soldier. The once sidekick to Captain America became a coldblooded assassin and spy. He later regained his humanity and joined his old comrade and friend on the Avengers.
The name “Winter Soldier” is from Thomas Paine’s “The American Crisis” and an organization of Vietnam Veterans against the war. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.”
Nick Fury (The Unseen) – World War II
From leading his Howling Commandos to become the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., to transforming into the silent observer of Earth, Nick Fury has done it all without any actual abilities — and with only one eye. He has the Infinity Formula which kept him from aging, but it was with his mind and skill on the battlefield that allowed him to take down nearly every superhero in the Marvel universe.
Nick Fury — in both the main universe and “Ultimate Universe” (where he’s redesigned to look like Samuel L. Jackson) — many of his Howling Commandos, as well as his son Nick Fury Jr., all served in the U.S. Army.
Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Cain Marko (Juggernaut) – Korean War
The story of both Professor X and Juggernaut’s time in the Korean War go hand in hand, with the stepbrothers both serving in the Army during the Korean war.
Charles had earned his Ph.D. in genetics before he was drafted and assigned to the same unit as his brother. When Cain deserted under fire, Charles went to retrieve him. He found himself in an ancient temple and gained magical powers of strength and immortality — making him an unstoppable force.
Charles, of course, has always had mutant powers.
Charles Xavier has been portrayed in the movies by Sir Patrick Stewart. The son of a regimental sergeant major in the British Army who’s unit was present in the Dunkirk evacuation, Stewart cites his father for inspiration for many of his roles on screen and stage.
Eugene ‘Flash’ Thompson (Agent Venom) – Iraq War
The former bully turned friend of the high school student Peter Parker (Spider-Man) enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in Iraq where he lost his legs on the battlefield saving his squadmate.
Dealing with depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress, Flash became the new host of the alien Symbiote “Venom.” Mixing the military knowledge of Thompson with the alien abilities of Venom, Agent Venom became one of the newest heroes to Marvel’s line-up in 2008.
I couldn’t tell you what Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have in mind for Agent Venom after Tom Hardy’s turn as Eddie Brock (Former host of Venom). But I can tell you that I would be 100 percent supportive of Tony Revolori’s depiction taking the oath of enlistment.
What other superheroes from the U.S. Army or military do you love? Let us know in the comment section.
*Bonus* Hal Jordan
He has no super powers, was only in one issue, and only helped Namor the Submariner fly a plane because he became a pilot for the Army Air Service. The only reason why this one-off character is even remembered is because his looks and military pilot background are the same as another character named Hal Jordan created 10 years later by DC.