The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 3 is now streaming on Disney Plus, and the new installment of the MCU show sends Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes to Madripoor, a comic book location with its own rich history, in search of the source of the counterfeit Super Soldier Serum used by the Flag-Smashers.
Along with opening the door to a new geographic corner of the MCU, the Madripoor excursion puts the heroes on the trail of the mysterious Power Broker, name-checked by the Flag-Smashers in episode 2, as the source of black market super powers.
That's a history the Power Broker carries over from comic books, where he is a villain who provides bootleg super powers at a great cost – even powering up John Walker, in comic books.
With the MCU just scratching the surface of its version of the Power Broker, who has still shown up in name only, we're digging into the twisted villain's comic book history, which is chock full of mad science, body horror, and numerous connections to Captain America.
Who is the Power Broker?
Created by Jack Kirby in 1978's Machine Man #7, the man who would become Power Broker started as Curtiss Jackson, a member of the villainous Corporation who fought not only Machine Man but Hulk and even Captain America and the Falcon themselves.
It wasn't until 1986's The Thing #35 that writer Mike Carlin brought Jackson back as the Power Broker, a mysterious crime lord who sells superpowers to those desperate enough to pay his prices, or even worse find themselves in his debt.
The Power Broker then teams up with a mad scientist named Karl Malus: a geneticist to be exact, obsessed with engineering superpowers and splicing animal and human DNA.
In comics, one of Malus' subjects was Joaquin Torres, who he spliced with falcon DNA. Subjects such as Torres gained superhuman strength and other abilities relative to their animal counterpart, but also became addicted to the chemicals that provide their strength – and which sometimes left their bodies horribly mutated, physically.
At first Jackson and Malus – the so-called Power Broker Corporation – provided super strength to fighters looking to join Marvel's Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, which only allowed entrants with superpowers. As Ben Grimm/The Thing was participating in UCWF at the time, in a feud with 'Dynamite' Dennis Dunphy (himself a future superhero known as Demolition Man or D-Man), he became embroiled in the scandal of the Power Broker's addictive super strength.
In a fairly dark and serious story for its time which tackled addiction and even sexual assault, Thing winds up teaming up with Dunphy and the newly crowned Ms. Marvel Sharon Ventura (the second hero to use the name, while Carol Danvers was depowered) to defeat the Power Broker and end Malus's experiments.
A few years later, writer Mark Gruenwald (creator of US Agent, Flag-Smasher, and numerous other enduring aspects of the Captain America mythos that have been adapted into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) brought the Power Broker back in 1987's Captain America #329, revealing that the Power Broker is the person behind US Agent and his sidekick Battlestar's super strength (which they are said not to possess in the MCU).
Power Broker remained a steady presence in Captain America's life, eventually falling prey to the Scourge of the Underworld, a violent vigilante who murders dozens of supervillains. Barely escaping with his life, Power Broker is forced to use his own process on himself, though as it does for many unfortunate subjects, the experiment goes terribly awry and Power Broker grows into a musclebound monstrosity so inhumanly huge that he can't move.
Power Broker and his former ally Malus then turn on each other, with Power Broker gaining the advantage and forcing Malus to build him an exo-suit capable of supporting his massive body and allowing him to harness its incredible strength.
Jackson continued his villainous career as the Power Broker for years, even teaming up with the evil fascist Red Skull in his attempts to conquer the world, and later bonding with a strange mind-controlling alien entity in his own attempt at conquest.
But it all came to an end in 2012's Punisher #13, when Frank Castle shot Jackson dead.
Power Broker in the Marvel Universe
Curtiss Jackson/Power Broker is responsible for the super powers of more than a few Marvel heroes and villains, including the aforementioned US Agent, Battlestar, and Sharon Ventura. But that's only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the characters he's empowered.
There's also Titania, once considered the strongest woman in the Marvel Universe (and a member of the upcoming Gamma Flight title); Screaming Mimi, who later became Songbird of the Thunderbolts; a whole team called the Power Tools; the villainous Vagabond, and more.
And of course, Power Broker has been a foe of not just Captain America, but the Hulk, the Thing, Machine Man, and more – though his connections to Cap run deepest of all, mostly thanks to John Walker.
Shortly before the Power Broker's death at the hands of the Punisher, a new Power Broker surfaced in 2007's Avengers: The Initiative Annual #1 as part of the origin of the Initiative hero Hardball.
This version was dormant for a few years, but after the original Power Broker's death, the new guy (whose real name has never been revealed) resurfaced in 2015's Astonishing Ant-Man #1, trying to get the villainous Darren Cross (known to fans of the MCU as Ant-Man movie villain Yellowjacket) to invest in an app called HENCH that would allow rich criminals to hire supervillains to do their bidding.
The second Power Broker became a primary enemy for Scott Lang during Astonishing Ant-Man, empowering his daughter Cassie Lang who previously used Pym Particles to shrink and grow as the Young Avenger Stature, before losing her abilities. Restoring her size-changing powers and giving her the codename and costume of Stinger, Power Broker attempts to turn Cassie against her father, only for Scott and Cassie to team up and take him down.
This Power Broker then changed his app to HENCH X, an app that would give anyone who could afford to use it super powers – though this also backfired, and Stinger eventually tracked him down and captured him, and that was the last time anyone saw the second Power Broker.
Power Broker in the MCU
So far, Power Broker hasn't appeared on camera in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – only by name, mentioned in the end-credits of episode 1, spoken in episode 2, with his involvement in the plot expanded on in the now streaming episode 3.
In the MCU, the Power Broker, whose real identity and even appearance have yet to be revealed – is one of the underworld leaders of the lawless island nation of Madripoor. Like in comic books, they are obsessed with developing super powers, in this case turning to a black market version of the Super Soldier Serum to develop them.
That serum was developed by Dr. Wilfred Nagle based on blood samples from Isaiah Bradley, himself a secret Super Soldier (in comic books, Nagle is the scientist who experimented on Bradley in the first place). Nagle crafted 20 samples of a designer Super Soldier Serum, all of which were stolen by Karli Morgenthau of the Flag-Smashers and presumably distributed among members of her group, resulting in the Super Soldiers fought by Sam, Bucky, John Walker, and Battlestar in episode 2.
Though the plot thickens by the episode's end, with Sam, Bucky, and company on the trail of the Flag-Smashers in Europe, the Power Broker's involvement only seems to be ramping up, placing whoever winds up being behind the moniker in the MCU on track to be revealed as one of the show's true big villains.
Interestingly enough, though Power Broker hasn't appeared in more than name yet, his comic book ally/enemy Karl Malus has, as the villain of Jessica Jones season 2.
Marvel Studios is unlikely to bring back a semi-obscure Netflix villain (though they could recast and reuse the name), meaning that some of Malus's own comic book history, most of which was left out of Jessica Jones, could be grafted onto Power Broker – including the mutation and creation of the second Falcon Joaquin Torres, who has appeared as Sam Wilson's Air Force liaison on the show.
The Power Broker has allied himself with some of the best Captain America villains ever.