"Greatness is not found in how you use strength for yourself. Greatness is found in how you use strength for others. That is why you were chosen, Steve, because your greatness comes not from strength of body, but from strength of heart."
Dr. Abraham Erskine was a German scientist and physician born in Augsburg, Bavaria in 1870, near the eve of German unification and the creation of the new German empire. Erskine's family was upper-middle class, though many of his genealogical details have been lost to history. It is known that he was in Berlin by 1890 and studying medicine there. Erskine would become quickly known for his breakthroughs in cellular biology and, specifically, in the early experiments he had involving what would become known as DNA (he was among the first to theorize, but not prove, the double helix structure of DNA). In his personal life, Erskine was married and had at least two children and an unknown umber of grandchildren by 1937.
Erskine served as a vice-chair of German frontline medicine on the Western Front during World War I. Erskine would later lament that he had met Adolf Hitler in one of his hospitals and had helped him survive a gas attack. Following the war, Erskine would continue his research into cellular change and how it related to evolution. He theorized that a serum, combined with an unknown form of radiation, could rapidly enhance human physiology to peak levels. Throughout the 20's, he attempted to create such a serum. However, when he was approached by Hitler and Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels in 1930 concerning his work, Erskine refused to help them. Following the Nazi rise to power in 1933, HYDRA scientist Johann Schmidt was sent to persuade Erskine further, threatening his family.
Erskine was eventually coerced into using an early form of his serum on Schmidt. While the formula did enhance Schmidt's strength and speed, it also had the side effects of turning his skull red and giving it a sunken-in appearance. Erskine fled from the Nazis in 1935 and hid with his family throughout western Europe. Eventually he secured passage for himself and his family to the United States, but was tracked down by Heinz Kruger before they could board the ship. Erskine managed to escape, but the rest of his family were left behind (it is speculated that his wife sacrificed herself to allow Erskine to escape, but this is conjecture) where it was presumed they all died under Nazi rule. Erskine reestablished himself in New Jersey, traveling the country and giving lectures concerning some of his findings, but keeping his serum to himself, to avoid attracting undue attention. Behind the scenes, though, he continued to work on the flaws, seemingly perfecting it. It was at this time that he first met industrialist Howard Stark and saw the potential in Vita-Rays to be used in the process. With World War II beginning, Erskine was eventually persuaded to join the SSR and launch into Project Rebirth, which would create the first ever true Super Soldiers for the Allied cause.
Erskine maintained tight controls over who was to be the first test subject for his new serum, eventually selecting a weak man by the name of Steve Rogers. Impressed by his willingness to fight, despite his lack of physical strength, as well as by his bravery and compassion, Erskine took up the difficult task of persuading SSR commander Chester Phillips to have Rogers be the first volunteer. Phillips relented after seeing Rogers' bravery in action by diving on what he thought was a live grenade to save others. The night before the procedure, Erskine shared his story with Rogers, telling him to be a good man before being a good soldier, and to never forget where he came from. The following morning, Erskine's formula and procedure worked to full perfection, as Rogers was transformed into a Super Soldier that would become Captain America. However, in the celebration afterwards, Erskine spotted the assassin Heinz Kruger, who promptly stole a sample of the serum and shot Erskine twice in the chest. Erskine died in the arms of Steve Rogers, the full extent of his formula dying with him.
Powers & Abilities
- Scientific Expert: Erskine's theories concerning microbiology and, in particular, DNA were well ahead of his time. He was one of the first scientists to propose the true nature of the DNA molecule and to theorize about how humankind could potentially manipulate this genetic power. He was able to craft the Super Soldier serum to this effect, something that many other scientists have tried to do in subsequent years with limited success (though both Dr. Arnim Zola and Howard Stark were able to at least partially replicate Erskine's original formula.)
Erskine was a bit naive in his youth when pursuing research concerning his serum, but that naivety quickly left him when the Nazis rose to power. He was also prone to drinking a bit too much, though not to great excess. Erskine didn't possess any special powers or abilities to make him superhuman, however, as he was killed by a gunshot to the chest.
Abraham Erskine appears in the following films within the Earth-11584 continuity. In all cases he is portrayed by actor Stanley Tucci.