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Abraham Erskine

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"The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because the strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows... compassion."
―Erskine to Steve Rogers[src]

Dr. Abraham Erskine was a German scientist who created the Super Soldier Serum and was forced to transform Johann Schmidt into the Red Skull. Fleeing to the United States of America, Erskine joined the Strategic Scientific Reserve where he used his serum on Steve Rogers, before being assassinated by HYDRA.



Early Life

"After the first war, my people struggled. They felt weak, they felt...small. Then Hitler comes along with the marching, and the big show, and the flags. And he hears of me, and my work, of what I can do, and he says "You", he says "You will make us strong." Well, I am not interested."

Abraham Erskine was a German-born scientist from Augsburg, 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. When Erskine refused to cooperate with the Nazis and tried to escape with his family to Switzerland[2] in 1935[3], Hitler sent Johann Schmidt, the head of his SS research division HYDRA to force Erskine to finish the formula.[2]

In Captivity

"We know that the superior man will not be born, Professor Erskine. He will not be a member of any "master race". He will be a race unto himself. And you are going to help me make him."
"You... work with Nazis even though you do not follow their ideology?"
Johann Schmidt and Erskine[src]

Erskine is threatened by Johann Schmidt

Johann Schmidt coveted the formula for his own ends: He had heard legends of an ancient artifact attainable only to a superior man and believed Erskine's formula would make him that superior man. Schmidt took the an early version of the formula, which indeed gave him enhanced strength, but also demonstrated severe side effects. 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. Erskine would later say the formula also enhanced Schmidt's already-malevolent personality as well.[4]


Furious because of his disfigurement caused by the serum, Johann Schmidt had Erskine thrown into the dungeon. However, with the help of Peggy Carter, Erskine managed to escape to the United States of America, where he was employed by the Strategic Scientific Reserve to perfect his formula in order to breed an army of super-soldiers to fight the Nazis.[4]

United States

Project Rebirth

Doctor Erskine

Erskine first encounters Steve Rogers

"Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man."
―Erskine to Steve Rogers[src]

While reviewing test subjects at a recruiting station at Howard Stark's Stark Expo in 1943, Erskine encountered Steve Rogers, who had attempted to enlist under assumed names in four different cities. Intrigued by the lengths Rogers had gone to enlist, Erskine asked Rogers if he wanted to kill Nazis. Rogers said he did not wish to kill anyone but simply disliked bullies. Rogers' answer satisfied Erskine enough to approve Rogers' draft card as 1-A. At Camp Lehigh, Phillips did not like the idea of bringing a frail boy into the war, but Erskine was sure that he had made his choice for the Super Soldier program.


Erskine with Chester Phillips

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


Erskine and Steve Rogers

The night before the test, Erskine came to the private quarters to offer Rogers a drink from Augsburg, but did not give it to him because the experiment was tomorrow so Rogers could not have any liquids. Erskine admitted his reasons for selecting him. Erskine told him about Schmidt and explained while someone like Schmidt, who had known power all his life, might lose respect for that power, a weak man like Rogers would know the value of strength. Erskine urged Rogers not to forget who he was, not a perfect soldier, but a good man.

Erskine microphone

Erskine at Project Rebirth

The next day, when Rogers arrived at the Strategic Scientific Reserve Brooklyn Facility, Erskine, with help from fellow scientist Howard Stark, injected him with penicillin and multiple injections of the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded him with Vita Radiation. Erskine nearly stopped the procedure when it appeared Rogers was having difficulty enduring the procedure, but Rogers urged him to continue. Moments later, Rogers emerged from the chamber significantly taller and noticeably more muscular.[5]



Erskine is shot and killed by Heinz Kruger

Erskine's experiment was successful, but his satisfaction was short-lived as Heinz Kruger, an operative sent by Johann Schmidt to sabotage Erskine's work, had infiltrated the facility disguised as an observer from the State Department, detonated a bomb, destroying Erskine's machinery and shot him before attempting to escape with a sample of the Super Soldier Serum. When Steve Rogers rushed to the fatally wounded Erskine's side, Erskine's final act was to point to Rogers' heart, to remind him of who he was inside.[5]


With the last vial destroyed during the pursuit of Heinz Kruger, who committed suicide to avoid capture, Erskine would take the secret of the formula to his grave, leaving Steve Rogers the only example of Erskine's realized dream. Nevertheless, scientists and military personnel would attempt to duplicate his work well into the 21st Century, including Doctor Bruce Banner, who believed Gamma Radiation held the key, and General Thaddeus Ross. 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 Hulk and Abomination. [1][6]


  • Master Scientist: Erskine was an extraordinarily advanced chemist, having devised and perfected the Super Soldier Serum, something no one else was able to successfully recreate, even seventy years after his death.






Appearances for Abraham Erskine

In chronological order:


Dr. Reinstein
  • In the comics, Erskine went under the alias of Josef Reinstein in order to hide himself from Adolf Hitler and Baron Zemo, but no mention of his false name is made in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, this alias is seen on the cryo container in The Incredible Hulk.
  • Erskine's relationship with Rogers is similar to Tony Stark's with Ho Yinsen. Likewise, he also died imploring Rogers to be a good person.
  • Erskine's date of birth of September 14, 1869 (according to S.H.I.E.L.D. Files). This would have made him less than three months short of his 74th birthday at the time of his death. This is considerably older than actor Stanley Tucci, who was approximately 49-50 years old at the time of the filming of Captain America: The First Avenger.


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