Marvel Database

Quote1.png Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man. Quote2.png
Abraham Erskine[src]


Doctor Abraham Erskine was a German born scientist noted for his work in developing a serum to enhance human strength and abilities to superhuman levels. Erskine's work coincided with the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism in Germany along with Nazi Germany's early attempts to breed Superior Men via racial eugenics. When Doctor Erskine refused to cooperate with the Nazis, Hitler sent Johann Schmidt the head of his research division HYDRA to force Doctor Erskine to finish the formula. Johann Schmidt coveted the formula for his own ends. Johann had heard legends of an ancient artifact attainable only to a superior man and believed Doctor Erskine's formula would make him that superior man. Johann Schmidt took an early version of the formula, which did indeed give him enhanced strength, but also demonstrated severe side effects. Johann Schmidt would lose his hair, his skin would turn a deep red, and his face and head would be deformed into a grotesque skull-like appearance. Doctor Erskine would later say the formula also amplified Schmidt's already malevolent personality as well. The Formula enhances the characteristics of the person in Doctor Erskine's words... "Good, becomes Great; Bad, becomes worse".

Doctor Erskine eventually escaped to the United States where he was employed by the Allies' Strategic Scientific Reserve to perfect his formula in order to breed an army of super soldiers to fight the Nazis. Not wanting to create another Johann Schmidt, Doctor Erskine would take great care in selecting a test subject with the correct qualities. While reviewing test subjects at a recruiting station at inventor Howard Stark's Stark Expo in 1942, Doctor Erskine encountered a frail, sickly looking young man named Steven Rogers who had attempted to enlist in the US Army under assumed names in four different cities, all failing due to being medically incapable. Intrigued by the lengths Steven had gone to enlist, Doctor Erskine asked Steven if he wanted to kill Nazis. Steven said he did not wish to kill anyone but simply disliked bullies. Stevens' answer satisfied Doctor Erskine enough to approve him as a possible test subject. Doctor Erskine chose Steven because he had the characteristics associated with the oppressed but still compassionate. Since the formula enhanced Johann Schmidt's malevolent personality, Doctor Erskine believed for Steven would not harm his benevolent personality. All the other candidates the Army selected in advance for Project Rebirth were, for lack of a better word, bullies and eager to fight, kill and had a grasp for power. Doctor Erskine selected a candidate who he believed would fight for "the little guy".

Though Steven would struggle through basic training due to his small size and poor health, his perseverance and ingenuity impressed Doctor Erskine, who regarded Steven as the clear choice. Doctor Erskine resisted Colonel Chester Phillips' efforts to persuade him to select another recruit, Gilmore Hodge, who was physically superior, but whom Doctor Erskine regarded as a bully. Doctor Erskine's confidence in Stevens' was cemented when he witnessed Steven throw himself on what he thought was a live grenade in order to protect his fellow soldiers.

The night before the test, Doctor Erskine visited Steven and admitted his reasons for selecting him. Doctor Erskine told him about Johann Schmidt and explained while someone like Johann Schmidt, who has known power all his life might lose respect for that power, a weak man like Steven would know the value of strength, as well as compassion. Doctor Erskine urged Steven not to forget who he was - "not a perfect soldier, but a good man."

The next day, at the SSR's secret facility in Brooklyn, Doctor Erskine, with the assistance of Howard Stark, sealed Steven in a special chamber, where Steven received multiple injections of the formula and was bombarded with vita rays. Doctor Erskine nearly stopped the procedure when it appeared Steven was having difficulty enduring the procedure, but Steven urged him to continue. Moments later, Steven emerged from the chamber significantly taller and noticeably more muscular.

Doctor Erskine's satisfaction was short lived however, as Heinz Kruger, a HYDRA operative sent by Johann Schmidt to sabotage Doctor Erskine's work, had infiltrated the facility disguised as an observer from the State Department, detonated a bomb, destroying Doctor Erskine's machinery and shot Doctor Erskine before attempting to escape with a vial of the formula. When Steven rushed to the fatally wounded Doctor Erskine's side, Doctor Erskine's final act was to point to Stevens' heart, to remind him of who he was: "not a perfect soldier, but a good man."[3]


With the last vial destroyed during the pursuit of Hans Kruger (who committed suicide to avoid capture), Doctor Erskine would take the secret of the formula to his grave, leaving Steven the only example of Doctor Erskine's realized dream. Nevertheless, scientists and military personnel would attempt to duplicate his work well into the 21st Century, including Doctor Bruce Banner and General Thaddeus Ross, who believed gamma radiation held the key. However the success of these experiments proved extremely dubious, as they resulted in Banner and Captain Emil Blonsky being transformed into the highly dangerous creatures known, respectively, as the Hulk, and the Abomination.[1]



Dr. Erskine was a genius in the fields of chemistry and medicine. He successfully developed a "Super Soldier" formula and is the only person ever to know the exact recipe, which scientists were unable to duplicate precisely, even decades later.

He was also wise enough to see the importance of choosing a candidate that was at his core a good man over a soldier who was fit, trained, and followed orders.


Stanley Tucci portrays Dr. Erskine in Captain America: The First Avenger.

See Also

Links and References


Like this? Let us know!