07 September 2012

FWS Topics: Super Soldiers

Storming across future off-world battlefields are the soldiers that are the advanced children of man. Genetically, technologically. socially, these future warriors are a breed apart, born and trained for warrior, designed to defend a society  that they have never been a part of. These are the super-soldiers of military science fiction, the symbol of future war and man's continued commitment to that bloody enterprise.
There seems to be no exhausting or fascination to the topic of super-human warriors that live through countless fields of slaughter, while maintaining their lives and nobility. Just as with ancient myths of great superhuman deeds done by Hercules and Diana, we have today our Master Chief John-117, Boba Fett, and Solid Snake. In this mega blogpost, FWS will be exploring the super-soldiers of science fiction, in the real world, and some of the ways that super-soldiers could come about., along with a list of some of the super-soldiers mentioned in sci-fi (not all, because the blogpost would be super-massive!) By the way, I'm hyphening the word 'supersoldier', simply for stylistic reasons in the body of the text.

When is a 'Super-Soldiers ' a 'Super-Soldier'?

Super-soldier is a loaded term in sci-fi along with being incredibly common concept that is widespread and it seems that every author as a different take on the sub-genre of the super-soldiers. This is also true of rumors or current military experiments into enhancing soldiers. So when is a super-soldier actually a super-soldier? There is little doubt that once genetic engineering, nanotechnology and cybernetics become commonplace, military organizations will altering their average combat soldiers with elements of these technologies.
It could be as simple as nano-machines that filter out weaponized biological or chemical agents out of the lungs, communication gear that is hardwired in the soldier's body, or directly mental link to their  machines. Then of course, you can expand the technological overhaul of the soldier to the extent of the SPARTAN-II Program. But, which is the 'real super-soldiers'? Easy answer is something like John-117, or the Jem'Hadar, or even Alice or the Resident Evil films.  They are warriors built from the DNA up to something apart from other humans, with augmented bodies and enhanced training well beyond the standard soldier, and wholly designed to fight and win via serious modification to their body, spirit, and mind. In keeping with that, super-soldiers, unlike the slightly modified soldier of the future, will be unable to reserve this process. It seems once a super-soldier, always a super-soldier.

The Roots of the Idea of 'Super-Soldiers'

It is believed that the concept of the super-soldier only applies to the modern world as its root of invention. However, I believe that the idea of warriors greater than moral men is old, to around the earliest prehistoric cave paints that depict hunting scenes. These early humans could have been merely documenting their conquests during hunting expeditions, or mythological connecting themselves to some spiritual idea that would act as a talisman.
Or they could have been art to accompany the tales told at night, forming the basis of ancient lore with the gods and goddesses we know today. Many cultures had their hunting gods, Khonvoum, Mixcoatl, Odin, Orion, Achilles, and Hercules, to name a few, but all represented an idea of super-human hunters and warriors, that are considered the apex of the traditional role for males: the hunter. There have has been cultures that place the value of hunting, killing, and defending above all else, the Native American warriors, Sparta, and the Samurai. To enhance that traditional value, that image has been seared into the culture of a society, whether it's early mans gathered by the fire, cooking meat, the stage of a Greek choregos, or me playing HALO last night. But why does every culture transmit this value into the minds of their youth via the storytelling media of the day? Maybe to excite the youth to pay attention to the lessons of their elders teaching the tradecraft of hunting/war, or mental preparing the younger generation against the true horror of war and killing. That value still live on even today. Popular culture still has tales of super warriors that appear in comic books, Anime, especially in video games and movies.

Real-World Super-Soldiers 

The possibility of real-world super-soldiers running around is not likely. After all, there wasn't a team of SPARTAN-IIs taking down UBL in Pakistan or a unit from FOXHOUND sneaking into Iranian nuclear sites for a sabotage mission. Truly science fiction super-soldiers like the SPARTAN-IIs are unlikely due to only recent understanding of the human genome and cloning. However, there are some historical examples of some like super-soldier. No more was that true in ancient Sparta, where their entire city-state society was constructed on weeding out the weak and building up the strong into the prefect warrior for the classical age. By the age of seven, boys were enrolled in the Agoge, for nearly the next ten years, they withstood some of the hardest military training that killing some boys or crippled them, but forging these few warriors into the most feared in most of the classic world. We all know the stories of the killer rep of the Spartan Warriors, after all, we are still talking about them today. The issue with the Spartans was the brutal treatment of their slave or Helot population, and the low number of Spartan Warriors the city-state could field. Simply put, there just was too few of them, and their entire society was constructed around them.
While I was never much for the Spartans, but the Samurai lit up my imagination, and only increased when I was in high school when I discovered Kazuo Koike's magna epic Lone Wolf and Cub. Much like the ancient Spartans, the Samurai wielded swords, devoted themselves to the art of war, and were members of the upper echelon of their classed societies, and they started the journey of their children into the ranks of the warrior-elite at a very age. By the age of three, a Samurai boy would have his first wood sword (bokken), then by age five,  he would ship off to Martial Art schools that were called ryu and given his first metal sword. For the next ten to fifteen years, the Samurai would master the deadly arts via three ryu, but not all roles of a Samurai were war, but politics, diplomacy, and the arts. Not only were Samurai deadly with the blade, bow, and hands, but also able to compose poetry, paint, garden. It is devotion to their craft of war, their acceptance of death, and the focus of decades of training that made them a pattern for super-soldiers. The rein of the Samurai ended when their world moved beyond them, wanting a modern military. As good as the Samurai were, they could not compete with a gun. The next mention of military super-soldiers, came prior to the Nazi medical experiments and breeding programs, the USSR under the tyrant madman Stalin trying their hand at a 'half-ape half-man living warmachine'. In the mid-1920's Stalin wanted warriors that could survive bitter-cold temperatures, living off of bad-food, and less sensitive to pain. In 1926, the Soviet Academy of Science embarked on an experiment of injecting human females with ape sperm. No shit. And as all of us that passed high school biology know, the DNA, despite being close, is not a ball game, so the experiments failed.
The only known modern government to embark on a society-wide eugenics project was the 3rd Reich. It's disturbing goal was to weed out Lebensunwertes Leben and form the Volkisch movement, including the disgusting T-4 Euthanasia Program and unwanted sterilization.Their mad vision was some sort of racial purity, and they even tried extended into the lives of their SS corps, by screening their partners prior to marriage and then using the Lebensborn as a breeding and raising program for the master race children. During the war, it is known that Nazi line soldiers were given pills to allow them to fight longer without sleep. In reality, this drug was a form of crystal meth, and was led up by the drug called D-IX at the end of the war. The goal of D-IX was to create temporary super-soldiers using a combination of drugs, chief among them was cocaine. It was tested on inmates, and found to boost performance. Some believe that this was the first goose step into a more wide ranging super-soldier program, but fortunately we stopped the twisted darkness of the Nazis from encompassing the global.
When the United States smuggled Nazis scientists out under Operation: PAPER CLIP, the US Military gained their dark research, and by the 1950's the CIA was using this data for the MKUltra project that ran through 1973. This was no so much of a super-soldier project, but an attempt at mind-control (a key element in super-soldiers), more interrogation techniques, and behavior modifications. The project was exposed during the Frank Church Committee, and the surviving 20,000 documents not destroyed by President Nixon after Watergate. MKUltra demonstrated to the American public that the CIA for a period of 20+years illegally experimented on unwilling American citizens with the use of drugs (LSD especially), mental, sexually, and physical torture, and has been a frequent topics among conspiracy-theorist.
In the late 1970's, Lt. Colonel Jim Channon developed the First Earth Battalion project that wanted to field a different type of soldier into the battlefield to solve problems without the use of guns. According the material of the 1st Earth Battalion, soldiers would have been more akin to warrior monks than stormtroopers, devoting themselves to Martial Arts, alternative Eastern battlefield medicine, meditation, yoga, and using lethal force as the last option on the battlefield. Some of this was patterned after the focus and devotion of the ancient Samurai warrior, but other portions of the 1st Earth Battalion were committed to solving problems with the enemy via negation and understanding, and even hugging (I shit you not). There were attempts in Channon theory of a new age warrior monk that discussed developed of the  mind for remote viewing and the always-awake-warrior mindset.
While funny now with enemies like the Taliban, some of Lt. Colonel Channon's theory panned out, with the use of psychological warfare, winning the hearts and mind via understanding of the enemy and the civilians trapped in the middle. Even the Army slogan of "Be All You Can Be" comes from elements of the First Earth Battalion. There was hard research into remote viewing and the concept of training warfighters in Eastern Martial Arts and mental techniques was undertaken by US Special Operations for a group nicknamed "the Jedi Knights". There little on this attempt at elite black ops unit, there is some connection to the term 'Jedi Knight' and DEVGRU. This attempt at different kind of soldier was seen in the 2009 film The Men Who Stare at Goats.
The only thing close to super-soldiers in today's military is the most elite black operations warfighters. These Tier-One operators are often the byproduct of a decade of more of military service and some of the finest training in the world. In the 21st century, DARPA has been working on a upgrade program for US soldiers since 2008, and announced a program in August of 2012. One of the lanes of  augmenting soldiers has been exploring the possibility of maintaining soldier's peak battlefield performance preventing sleep for 40 hours with a pill.

The Perils and Rewards of using Super-Soldiers

There has been a balance in science fiction tales about the perils and rewards of fielding super-soldiers, some works detail the supremacy of these advanced soldiers, reaping death and destruction on their enemy, while other works show the inhumanity of these detached soldiers, living a life of military servant. On the reward side of the reality of super-soldiers, would be molding a fighting force based on your specifications, and not just the luck of breeding within the society at large. Often, the crop of special operators that populate Tier-One groups take years to disappear behind the black vale of clandestine operations, and while these units are able to fill their ranks, it can be a slow process.
Imagine if a future military could artificially create  or modify current soldiers (like the Space Marines or the SPARTAN-IV) to become elite special operators without the wait-time of selection, training, and deployment. Even genetic tailoring these super-soldiers to fit certain tactical considerations or environmental requirements. Need super-soldiers to operate on Mars or other non-atmospheric standard worlds, to breath underwater? Then the geeks in lab-coats will whip up a batch of super-soldiers for those conditions.    If we continue to compare super-soldiers with current Tier-One SOF units, then we see another advantage, they never leave the military. Most super-soldiers from sci-fi are on the level of slaves that are committed to the fight in a way that no normal human soldiers could be, and these government created soldiers are not emotion tied to a life back home, or torn apart when their sweetheart sends an e-mail telling them that they're banging the UPS man.
The only reality for these warriors is the war at hand, nothing more, nothing less. This commitment to the soldier's life allows for the continuation of their skill-set to be used in operations over the life of the soldiers, and not subject to a gap when the operator leaves or retires. That is one of the double-edged swords of Special Operators today, the government spends years and millions of dollars to trains them, and for ten-to-twenty years, they loyally serve, but for one reason or another, they leave the military, Whether it's family obligations, retirement, or money, the experiences and skills of that operator are lost when they chose to leave the service. That is not a consideration when it comes to super-soldiers, they are there for the long haul. Then there is easiest reason for developing super-soldiers, ability. Depending on the level of technology available to the future society in the areas of cybernetics, genetic engineering , and artificial breeding, a military organization could fashion these super-soldiers to be gods of war on the battlefield, able to seal-heal, lift Warthogs, see in the dark, breath underwater, smell enemies downwind.
However, there are downsides to the use of super-soldiers. First off, superior ability breeds superior ambition, and these soldiers could not be just satisfied with taking the orders from lower beings that command them to fight for a society that they do not know or are involved in, that is, if they can have a concept of this.
If the military was ever to lose control over these soldiers, it could spell a revolution, and this would breed fear. Slave owners in the American South lived under fear of a slave revolt, making them paranoid,of a ticking time-bomb within their own walls, and much could be the same of legions of super-soldiers. All it would take is someone like Khan, Spartacus, or even Nat Turner  to lead a bloody civil war with the rebels composed of the best-of-the-best. That would suck. Risk of breeding and keeping super-soldiers would if the program was exposed, leading to civilian government and social protest, a lot of official heads would roll of that happened, unless super-soldiers were the only way to win a savage war against invading aliens.

Are Super-Soldiers Slaves?

In the last real Bourne film, the Bourne Ultimatum, Jason asks another Treadstone assassin, Pez: "look at us. Look at what they make you give."That begs the question, what is the price of becoming super-soldiers? Are they just slaves subject to the whims of a government or corporation? Could there be super-soldiers that willingly giving themselves to the program? Science Fiction is split on the issue, while most super-soldier programs, like the SPARTAN-II of HALO were forced on the child subjects, or the soldiers were artificially breed specifically for war, like the Jem'Hadar, there are voluntary super-soldiers programs similar to Treadstone in the Bourne films, or the members of Strikeforce Moituri. In answer to Jason Bourne's question, the price would be high for volunteer super-soldier programs. Undoubtedly, volunteers would be giving up their ability to interact with normal society, given their enhanced abilities (imagine the bar fight and the mess afterwards!), their families, a great deal of freedoms, and possibly the ability to ever go back to something like a 'normal' life. This is true of some current members of Special Forces, they give up their freedom, time with their families, and some feel that they exist outside of normal civilian society, and can never go back. This a major theme in the Cobra books by Timothy Zahn, not the war, but want is to be done with super-soldiers once the war is over.
If we are talking about a military breeding programs that are designed to create super-soldiers that have never been connected to the civilian world, than I believe, in the simplest of terms, we are talking about slavery. It could be for the right reasons, alien invasion, preventing normal humans from suffering the effects of temporal dilation, but still, these artificially created humans would be without the basic rights that you and me enjoy, and we all know if people have power over people, the reasons are never good.

The Horror of creating Supersoldiers

While flipping through Doug Dixon;s excellent future of human evolution, Man After Man, I came to realize the terrible cost of creating ubermench and twisting them into true horror film monsters. All of this can be chalked up to simply going too far with playing a god. I talked about this earlier on the blog when I wrote Custom where in order to win a war, a human government recruiting citizens, altered their genetic structure to allow them to fight on alien world, a process was not reversible, robbing these soldiers of ever going home. If the government possesses the technology to control genes resulting in ubermench, it could easily field soldiers that were crossed with aquatic animals, eliminating the need for Navy SEALs, or tailoring their genes so much to specific planet or environmental, that these soldiers morph into hallow imagines,and being truly alien. In Marvel Comics Strikeforce Moritiuri number 17 when the desperate Earth Forces pushed the Moritiuri process and created nightmarish monsters that were barely human. This was also seen in the heresy that was ALIEN: Resurrection, with the corporate-military cross-breeding experiments to create a human/xenomorph hybrid.

Creating Super-Soldiers

Throughout science fiction works, there are several paths to the creation of supersoldiers:

Powered Armor

Could the powered armor technology that we witnessed in Iron Man be a pathway to fielding an army of super-soldiers?  Some works of sci-fi, especially the 1958 Starship Troopers book, give rise to the theory that a normal soldier, trained in the use of the powered armor, could be a super-soldier. And yes, this is true, something like an Iron Man suit would be much greater than the average foot soldier. However, while the power armor suit would not a true super-soldier in the classic definition. Then again, these soldiers encased in armor might would be the best of both worlds. They could all of the abilities of a biologic super-soldiers, without the mortal issues and the soldiers could go home without feeling like outsider. The issue with normal soldiers encased in expensive CLASS-ONE APS gear, is that once the suit fails or is out of juice, the wearer is still a normal soldier, and may not be able to handle the situation once outside of the armor.

Genetic Engineering

Undoubtedly. the most popular route to fielding super-soldiers is via genetic engineering. By adding modified DNA into the human genome, it is possible to augment the nature state of the human body. This increasing even more when the genetic engineering is applied during embryonic development. If we take the example of the Augments from the Star Trek universe, they were smarter, faster, and much stronger than the average human that they made into slaves. That is the risk of genetic engineering, we may not know where to stop, and how they may react to us. And if we have them, the other side will want them...sort of a 'genetics arms-race' if you will. But is it possible to construct super-soldiers from the DNA up? From the research I've done, it is possible, just not with current technology, to reconstruct the DNA for super-soldiers. The primary issue preventing genetic supermen is money, understanding the human genome, ethics, and artificial wombs.

Extreme Training/Psychological Modification 

Could supersoldiers be trained instead of created in a test-tube or fitted in an armored power suit? It could be said that the Japanese Samurai, the ancient Greek Spartans, or even the operators in DEVGRU, DELTA, or the SAS are a form of super-soldiers, give the level of their training, skill-set, and experience retooling their mental abilities beyond a normal soldier. Jason Bourne was a prime example of this method of extreme physical training and psychological retooling being used to forge normal soldiers into something more cold and deadly. Added to this list could be the Monican assassin Aeon Flux, who also was training, not breed for the life of assassin in a strangle world. Much like genetic engineering, the long-term effects of extremely psychological modification

The 'Magic' Method

Some sci-fi creators use a magic event or machine to create their brand of supersoldiers. In the 2008 B-movie British horror film, Outpost, the 3rd Reich attempted to use unified field theory for creating uber-Nazi soldiers that could not be killed. Yep, goose-steppin' zombie-Nazis (man, that movie is epic!). This magic machine method of minting supersoldiers was used in the 1980's Marvel comic Strikeforce Morituri and the recent Captain America film. It could be said that the mutants from X-men are a form of this magic method.

Artificially Created

Instead of abducting child like the SPARTAN-II Program, or putting your brain into an expensive cybernetic body, or even picking through the mob of humanity for candidates for a super-soldier program, and weeding them one-by-one; some geek in a lab coat could created the whole package via bio-engineer a custom designed artificially created super-soldier. Of course, having government hatcheries filled with battalions of soldiers loyal to the state and augmented well-beyond a normal human could led to a backlash by the civilian population along   with these soldiers being abused, then just thrown away by the military commanders during battles like some sort of organic robot.


Better living through cybernetics has a motto of science fiction for decades, and shows like the Six Million Dollar Man and Darth Vadar, started a trend where you could remake a broken soldier into a super-soldier via the use cybernetic systems to either replace or upgrade their original biology with technology. When applied to medical technology, this would allow injured soldiers to use limps that were taken from them in combat, but would it make super-soldiers? Maybe. It depends on how the cybernetics was applied and where. Masamune Shirow illustrated one of the problems of just attached cybernetic limbs to a normal human body. Take for examples a uber-cool cybernetic arm that can lift hundreds of pounds with no sweat is attached to your body. The moment you try to flip your Volkswagen Beetle, your cybernetic arm rips out of the socket. Not good. In order to transform a soldier into a super-soldier via cybernetics would take complete body transformation, similar to the characters in Ghost in the Shell. Cybernetics could be used to enhance a human's innate abilities, increasing hearing for examples.

The Combination Method

The shocktroopers of the Imperium of Man in the far future are a good example of the combination method, using hard training, genetic engineering with some sparkles of magic all wrapped up in armored power suit of badassness. This also true of the SPARTAN-II program, encasing its super-soldiers in power armor, and this would be a good way to protect your investment into the super-soldier. After all, even the most elite expensive soldier is still able to bleed, and has Mr. Schwarzenegger taught us, 'if it bleeds we can kill it'. There is also a fear factor to consider here, while the Master Chief or a Space Marine outside of their armor would be imposing, one clean shot would end them if it me or you, the armor, like being in full-tac gear adds something to the total package. It is likely that if a government underwrites the expensive of fielding super-soldiers legions, than they would pay for the armor as well.

The Super-Soldier Shopping List

Here's a list of what a government would want in their legions of Supersoldiers:

  • No personal lives or sexual desire
  • No thoughts of money or personal advancement, only a sense of team and mission
  • high pain thereshold, increased weight lifting capability, quick healing, reinforced bones and joints
  • Able to see in the dark, able to operate in extreme tempertures
  • More resistant to NBC threats
  • Increased lung capability for underwater operators, or even gills (Waterworld anyone?)
  • Cross trained ability increased, allowing for less soldiers and more depth, and greater memory
  • Lack of ability to have flashbacks, PTSD, question orders or get lost.
  • Staying awake for longer hours
  • Able to eat most or all biological matter (see the Nietzschean from Andromeda)
  • Able to be uploaded and downloaded via cybernetic implants
  • Ability to operate without a gasmask

Future Application of the Super-Soldiers

For those that are examining this blogpost for information on developing a fictional super-soldier organization, than look no further on how a future military could use the idea of a super-soldier. If the more classical view of super-soldiers becomes a reality in a hard-science universe, they would be a good choice for the years it would take to transverse the distances between the stars, and given the hardship impact that would have a normal soldier, super-soldier would be void of such emotions. Also, super-soldiers would make sense for a hard-science reality, these troopers would the most skilled for any exo-solar colony environment, no need to deploy different types of special forces or wait on specialized troopers. They could even be like my soldiers from Custom where they a bio-engineered onboard the transport ship for the local conditions of a certain world. The risk of using human beings in this manner, is that it dehumanizes war and its costs. These soldiers would be little more than slaves, and treated as such, despite being created by future human beings...people are people after all.

Sci-fi depicisions of Super-Soldiers

As I was researching super-soldiers and the ancient lore of super-hunters and gods-of-war that peppered mythology, I was reminded of a quote from the 2002 film Minority Report: "Science has stolen most of our miracles." Where as our ancestors created tales and myths, we create fictional works, like comic books, and video game that contain our own version of the super-soldier idea, and it changes with the advances in science. For examples, we had Superman appearing 1938 as a humanoid alien that had magically super-powers because of the differences in the suns,  then came Batman in 1939, fully human, but used technology and training to become a hunter of men. Cosmic rays, radiation would forge other types of superhuman fighters, the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and the Hulk, who is a super-soldier project gone wrong in some works. Science then gave DNA and genetic engineer to lit our imaginations will altering ordinary soldiers into gods-of-war, with super-soldiers like the SPARTAN projects of the UNSC, the Space Marins of WH 40K, Rogue Trooper, and the Clone Troopers of Star Wars...and how could we forget Khan!
Then there is the symbolism of the use of super-soldiers in some science fiction works. They are used as a symbol of the devotion that mankind as to war, and the evolution of that by altering our own bodies and DNA to field more advanced soldiers. Or even to enslave fellow, altered humans for the sole purpose of waging wars on behalf of a society they never known. Then some sci-fi creators use super-soldiers to make a point about the future society, or just because super-soldiers are badass in concept and make some elements of a story more believable, especially in the realm of video games. I have my own super-soldier book that is about half-written, and it is an original concept, but I did purely to explore something fresh in the genre.

Would You Chose to be a Super-Soldier?

Since so many of us have played super-soldiers in video games and RPGs, would you allow yourself to be mental, emotional, and physically altered to become a SPARTAN or eve Jason Bourne? My ass and soul belong to my wife, so, I'm out...but, what about you?

Examples of Super-Soldiers in Science-Fiction

The Tyrell Corporation NEXUS-Replicants from BLADE RUNNER

Replicants were artificially created human beings fashioned from a fusion of bio-engineering and cybernetics that were grown (according to Ridley Scott) to serve humanity as labor for their conquest and colonization of exo-solar worlds. They fought wars on these off-world colonies for their masters in different roles, everything from a commander (Roy Batty), to a combat starship nuclear artillery loader (Leon). Superior to the bulk of humanity in intelligence and greater in strength to all of humanity, they only lived four years to prevent a repeat of the bloody mutiny on Tanhauser Gate colony. In 2009-2010, I developed a book completely devoted to the war over the off-world colonies fought by Nexus soldiers and their human handlers. Give me a call, Ridley Scott, I've got your sequel right here.

The SPARTAN Projects from the HALO saga

There has only been one other super-soldier military project besides SPARTAN project from HALO that has been depicted in so many different types of media, the Space Marines from Warhammer 40K. Throughout the fictional history of the UNSC, there has been experiments in the field of super-soldiers. During the 23rd and 24th centuries about 300 volunteers composed from the UNSC Marines and Army Special Forces were augmented with biochemical engineers under Project ORION. The most famous members being Sergeant Major Avery Johnson. Effective as ORION was, it did not stop the anti-UNSC insurgency in the Outer Colonies, and unlike later super-soldiers, ORION troopers were not outfitted in powered armor.
In 2517, ONI decided to field another ORION project, later to be called the SPARTAN-II Project, and was headed by Dr. Catherine Halsey who wanted elite soldiers built from the ground up, but also to be mated to powered armor. When the project was finally approved it's funding was cut several times, pairing down the number of children taken by the UNSC, to about 75, and those were replaced by flash clones that would die soon after so no one came looking. Only 33 survived the medical augmentation and training to become SPARTAN-II soldiers. This was too few for the bloody alien war that made the Outer Colonies crisis look like a out-of-control classroom.
To help with war, the Beta-5 section of ONI developed the SPARTAN-III program to supplement the numbers and turn the tide of the war.
 The hard true was that SPARTAN-II's while effective, took too much time to field in a desperate war for the very survival of the human race. The IIIs were cheaper, faster, and in some ways, better and the IIs, given the high death rate of the children duirng argumentation . IIIs were not outfitted in the MJOLNIR armor as a general rule, due to cost, but in the semi-powered infiltration armor, and used the MA5K carbine, and served in companies of 300+. Unlike the carefully deployed SPARTAN-IIs, the IIIS were sent on suicide missions were nearly 100% died. And where did these recruits come from? SPARTAN-III soldiers were composed of vengeful orphans from glassed human colonies. Throughout the rest of the Human-Covenant War, IIs and IIIs fought to end the war, paying a high price for the victory. I have not discovered the number of SPARTAN-IIIs that survived the war, however, the ones that did were rolled into the SPARTAN-IV program.
In the next game, HALO 4, the Master Chief will serve along side the IVs, which are recruited from previous members of the SPARTAN Programs and other normal human military branches of the UNSC, mostly ODSTs and Marines, recalling the original UNSC super-soldier program, ORION. The bulk of the limited SPARTAN-IV numbers are stationed onboard the UNSC Infinity in 2557. There has been some rumors of the SPARTAN-IVs being using in a black operations against former Covenant aliens.

Genome Soldiers from the Metal Gear Universe

While the majority of the FOXHOUND are odd-ball and mostly completely unrealistic either from simply biology or in a military nature, there is the next-generation Genome Soldiers. According to Metal Gear wiki, these soldiers received gene therapy from Big Boss, increasing the reflexes, greater combat skills, and better senses. Due to these Big Boss genes, the FAMAS assault rifle becomes more deadly tool. Despite, their increased skills, the Genome Soldiers served has backup to FOXHOUND, because the bulk of the soldiers had no combat experience, only the VR combat training. I can clearly remember reading the manual for Metal Gear Solid and coming across the term 'space SEAL' when the Genome soldiers were discusses. The term fell out of use in later versions of the game, the term interest me, and I've come to believe that either the term was mocking, like calling them 'Buck Roger SEALs', or the Patriots had something more in mind for them.

The Les Enfants Terribles from the Metal Gear Universe

In the alternate history of the Metal Gear universe, the Les Enfants Terribles project was a military experiment to clone Big Boss, one of the greatest soldiers of the Post-War era. Solid Snake and Liquid Snake came out of the project   , but were not equal in their genetic gifts, Liquid received the more dominate soldier genes (whatever those are), and Solid got the recessive genes, making Liquid the favorite son of the Big Boss according to the Patriots. A third, more prefect clone of Big Boss, Solidus Sanke was created after Big Boss left the Patriots. Much like the Replicants from BLADE RUNNER, the sons of Big Boss experienced increased age acceleration and sterility.

The Ghosts from the Starcraft Universe

Even among the Terran Marine armored-clad shock-troopers, there is the more elite operators that strike from the shadows with their sniper rifles and their minds. These are the Ghosts of the Terran Confederacy. Originally, Ghost covert operators were children with greater psychic abilities. Taken away and trained by the state under the Ghost Program to serve the cause as an assassin or commando. On the alien battlefields of the Starcraft Universe, Ghosts work behind the enemy lines, take out specific targets, or guide nuclear munitions to their objective. Their glowing armor allows the Ghost  to have increased strength, but it is there mind that allows for a limited cloaking ability, reading of minds, and somehow using their mental abilities to be improved snipers.    

Galador Spaceknight from ROM Marvel Comic

In one of the more familiar faces of super-soldiers from my generation is Rom, the Galadorian Spaceknight that started off as a robot toy, and ended up as a beloved complex comic book character. In the mythos of the series, Rom and his fellow spaceknights are from planet Galador in the 'Golden Galaxy'. The very advanced humanoid society was invaded by the shapeshifting nasty Dire Wraiths. To stop the invasion, the Galadorian government developed the Spaceknights, and filled the ranks with 1,000 volunteering to fight in the long alien war as spaceborne cyborg-soldiers. They were promised by the Galadorian government that when the war was over, they would be converged back to flesh-and-blood.
The problem was that the Dire Wraiths, defeated in the Golden Galaxy, shattered to the Milky Way, where there less advanced cultures, unable to deal with the alien threat. Giving in to his sense of duty and honor, Rom and the remaining Spaceknights hunted down the Dire Wraiths over the next 200 years. This space trek and centuries long war was possible due to process that made them super-soldiers, their armored gave them everything, including interstellar travel, and medically sustaining their bodies. When the war was over, Rom returned home to find that a new generation of Spaceknights had staged a coup and taken control of Galador, massacring the entire civilian population and the the process to reverse the super-soldier ability. Rom was forever encased in his armor.

Nenosuits from Crysis Universe

The CryNet Systems nano-muscle suit seen in all of the Crysis games is an amazing achievement in super-soldier technology. Inside the layers of nano-material is a special forces operator that can use the suit's abilities to cloak, increase the armor protection, or greater increase in running and jump. Besides that, the suit is completely NBC protected, and features medically systems to keep the wearer alive. This maybe cooler than the Iron Man suit...maybe.

The Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000

As I said above, the Space Marines from the WH40K universe are a combination method to the genre of super-soldiers, not only these marines a byproduct of genetic engineering, but they go into battle wearing massive battle armor designed for their massive bodies. These Adeptus Astartes start off life as normal humans that are subjected to gene therapy from material  the twenty genetic supermen 'Primarchs' that themselves were developed from double helix of the God Emperor, to serve as general's in his army. This means that all Space Marines are descended from the God Emperor himself, making for a genetic loyalty. Besides the genetic seed and the 19 implants, the Adeptus Astartes are subjected to intense, brutal training that not all survive.     

The Prosthetic-bodied Soldiers from Ghost in the Shell

In the realm of the Japanese Public Security Bureaus in the mid-21st century, several sections encase their operatives in cybernetic bodies made by Megatech specifically for public security work. Unlike most other works on the subject, in the world of GITS, only the 'ghost' of the original body are left, which is the spinal cord and the brain. This makes it impossible for these agents of public security to ever fully leave Section Nine. Given the abilities of the cybernetic bodies seen in GITS, one might think that governments outfit their soldiers in cybernetic bodies as well. Wrong. According to GITS cybernetic bodies are not even used in long term out-of-the-country assignments due to maintenance issues, and then there would be the expense as well. Another issue with assigning prosthetic bodies is that they have to be upgraded often.

River Tam from Firefly and Serenity

Unlike the bulky, overly muscled profile of most super-soldier, the very thin, dancer-like River Tam was a welcome break. And unlike most super-soldiers, River Tam was out of her shiong mao niao mind from what the Alliance did to her. According to the series and movie, River Tam was intended to be 'a living weapon' that served the Alliance's dark motives to control the 'Verse in the role of an assassin. Due to River's extremely gifted mind, the Alliance courted her via a fake Academy for girfted psychic children like her, when in fact, it was an Alliance black site for transforming River and others with various techniques, including the Pax chemical compound. River's abilities were being a jack-of-all-trades, expert handling of firearms, and hand-to-hand combat, along with the reading of minds. By the end of the series and the film, River was starting to come out of the damage done to her.

Trans-Human Combine soldiers from the Half-Life saga

After the Seven Hours War, the Combine incorporated the remains of the Terran military into the fold. Part of this incorporation was to redeveloped the very biology of the human soldiers to serve not only on Terra, but across the Combine Empire. These are the transhuman soldiers of the Overwatch. They are barely human anymore, they lack sexual organs, Combine bio-tech devices are implanted, and with the Overwatch Elite, may have only one eye. It is the Elite of the Overwatch military community that could be considered super-soldiers.  

The Most Dangerous Soldier Project from MD Geist 

On the planet Jerra in the future is waging a bloody civil war over the role that Earth should have in their affairs, one being the Jerran government, and the other was the Nexrum Army. During this war, the Jerran government developed the powered armor wearing super-soldiers to deal with the rebels, the Most Dangerous Soldiers Program. These super-soldiers worked well, too well, they attacked and killed everyone, acting more like homicidal manics. One of the answees that the giovernment came up with was to put  MDS troopers  into GSO in cold cryo-satellite storage to wait the day for a 'cure'. Many years later, MD-02 or Geist crashed on a ruined Jerra, and Geist began his bloody trip across the Mad Max like world, meeting new people and killing them. Geist was a badass, could take a shot to the head and live, and often could the most bloody way to solve any problem. Most Anime sites detest MD Geist for its over-the-top bloody violence and 1980's cheesiness, but I think it is high time MD Geist gets a remake. BTW: I had to add MD Geist, or my friend Jeremy would never forgive me!

Qarlo Clobregnny from Soldier (1964) The Outer Limits

Here could be one of the original sources for super-soldiers, the 1964 Soldier episode were we met Qarlo Clobregnny, a hatchery-born, state-raised next-generation infantryman from the 38th century that is trained only to kill his enemy. In this dark future, men like Qarlo stalk their prey using their high-tech gear and powerful  DEW rifle. In these ruined no-man's land, Qarlo's side uses genetically modified felines as scout-recon elements for the troopers, relaying the information via telepathy. Paying through in their helmets is a voice droning: "Find the Enemy...Kill the Enemy!" They know nothing but war, service, and death. There will be more on this important 1964 episode of the Outer Limits in two weeks.

The CloneTroops from Star Wars

When the cloners got the order for a grand army of the Republic, they turned to genetic source that was perfectly suited for being close to as a prefect warrior as possible: the Mandalorian bounty hunter: Jango Fett. He and a few other surviving Mandalorians oversaw the training of the clones, including the famed Delta Squad Special Operations unit. Elements of their Mandalorian heritage were injected by Jango Fett, including the use of the Mandalorian language as their battle-language, Jaig Eye markings as a symbol of bravery. This, along with the armor, made the Clonetroopers close to combination approach to super-soldiers. However, given that they were clones, the Republic used them as such, allowing for high battlefield losses, thinking that Kamino could just pump out more. By the time of the Sith-run Galactic Empire, the Stormtroopers were drawn from the ranks of normal humans instead of cloned Fetts.    

The Mandalorians from Star Wars 

Mandalorians are not a singular race in the Star Wars universe, but a nomadic, clan-based society that was bonded by rituals, traditions, and society. Some fans have compared the Mandalorians to a space Spartans or even the Samurai given their hard training that began early in life and the code of honor that live by, or even how integral their armor is to their image.  Given the martial spirit and loose society with little or no government, the Mandalorians fought each other several times in their history, robbing them of becoming a galactic power. When they did side in galactic affairs, it was often on the losing side, causing the Republic to disarm them and scatter them into the wind. The path for most of the more martial Mandalorians were serve as a bounty hunter or mercenaries.
Behind the scenes, the Mandalorians were linked to the ancient Celts according to author Karen Traviss.  

The Jem'Hadar from Star Trek: DS9

Super-soldiers are nothing new to the Star Trek universe, but when the Jem'Hadar made their appearance in 1994 they changed the Trek universe forever and became fan favorites for years. Equal to the Klingon in close combat, fearless to a point of abandon in combat, and genetically program to treat the Founders as gods, the Jem'Hadar were believed to be the shocktroops for much of the Dominion's two thousand year rein, causing planets to fall back into line by just the mere threat of their use (similar to the Sardaukar from DUNE). They serve without question the will of their gods, but are controlled by their cloned Vorta handlers and the 'white'. That was one of the interesting angles that Trek took on the super-soldier genre, to addict these fearsome artificially created lifeforms to the Ketracel White. The White was actually a cocktail of nutrients, one critically needed enzyme, along with a narcotic, all wrapped in a small tube that feeds directly into the circulatory system via the carotid artery and dispensed by the Vorta handlers. According to the Jem'Hadar themselves, all they needed was the White. In the Dominion Empire, the Jem'Hadar are the complete military force of the Founders, serving in both planetary combat roles, and manning the warships of the impressive Dominion Fleet, however, Deep Space Nine never mentioned if there was a difference between the 'army Jem'Hadar' and the 'Navy Jem'Hadar.'
Raised in birthing chambers, and able to fight in a few days and are all male and programmed to obey their Founder-Gods. Besides the normal array of super abilities, the Jem'Hadar could cloak for a short time. The Jem'Hadar are good example of a cautionary tale of created bio-engineering super-soldier and how those in power treat those below them.
I always felt some pity for the Jem'Hadar, and the hollowness of their lives.

Riga Danar from Star Trek: TNG 

In the 1990, third season episode of Star Trek: TNG, 'The Hunted ' tells the story of prisoner and war-vet Roga Danar, who was a former war hero that had willing undergone modifications to make him and others like him, a super-solder during the Tarsian Wars. However, the effects were permit, causing major issues for the returning troops to readjust to normal society. After a few incidents, the remains of the super-soldiers were moved to Luna V penal colony. Angosia III was up for Federation admittance, and attempted to hid their legacy of using super-soldiers during the bloody Tarsian War. During a prison riot on Luna V, the Angosians asked for the help of the Enterprise-D. What they run into is a talented byproduct of Angoisan genetic engineering, and he completely owns the Enterprise crew, and beats up Worf. "My improved reflexes have allowed me to kill eighty-four times. And my improved memory allows me to remember each of those eighty-four faces. Can you imagine what that feels like?" 
'The Hunted' is  very good episode of ST:TNG and shows us is that super-soldiers don't have to be mindless biological killing machines or pumped up Schwarzenegger-looking supermen. They could use their brains to outwit an enemy even one more advanced technologically than your own planet. In addition, super-soldiers can feel guilt and out-of-place from normal society. One of my favorite episodes. 

The ALICE Project from Resident Evil Films

The very bad Umbrella Corporation, Dr. Sam Isaacs developed the Alice Project after the development of the T-Virus. Original, the T-Virus was to prevent cellular breakdown, but in some human test subjects, transformed them into flesh-hungry zombies, or in created super-soldiers, like Alice. For much of the films, Alice displays super-human martial arts skills, expert, very super-human gun-fu skills. I've never been a huge fan of the Resident Evil films or even the game, and the thin promise of the films were ruined time and time again by director Paul W. Anderson. I also think that the Alice character, despite the skill of Milla Jovovich, is flat and hollow.

The Suliban Cabal from Star Trek: Enterprise

In the best-Star-Trek-TV series-of-all-time, Enterprise, the Suliban are the main bad alien race that plague the NX-01 Enterprise. The Suliban, as a race, are not anymore evolved than humans, but when Archer and company encountered them, they were super-soldiers. What happened is that either portions of the Suliban government or a splinter group, called the Cabal, decided to pay a high price for evolution and become a faction in the Temporal Cold War. For their loyalty to their faction, the 31st century benefactors, gave the Suliban augmented abilities. Some of the new abilities were lungs that processed different environments, compound eyes, sheath skin, and extreme body control that would make any yoga instructor jealous! Of course, behind the scenes, the Suliban were patterned after the real-life events unfolding in Afghanistan with the Taliban around the time Enterprise was being aired.

The Augments from the Star Trek Universe

"On Earth, 300 years ago, I was a prince, with power over millions..." Save for the Master Chief John-117, Khan Noonien Singh is one of the best super-soldier characters ever developed, and of course it helps that the character is played by Ricardo Montalban. In the historical lore of Trek, during my high school years, 1992-1996, genetic supermen took control over the majority of Asian and the Middle East, running as kings or even gods. These Augments wre byproducts of 20th century genetic engineering, that sought the next evolutionary step for mankind via eugenics. During the late 1990's, these Augment rulers, some bad, some better, would wage wars between them, called the Eugenics Wars. Once the crack in their kingdoms was exposed, the normal human governments stepped in to end their rein. By 1996, the party was over the Augments, Khan and 88 Augment followers left Earth for another star system in the DY-100 sleeper-ship SS Botnay Bay. While most of us know and love the magnum opus  that is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 

Strike Force: Morituri

By 2069, the Earth was united under the Paideia government and it looked like finally humanity was going somewhere. Just as war was ended, and the nuclear arsenals dismantled, a massive alien fleet arrived at Earth. They were called the Va-Shaak, humans called them the Horde. They did not come in peace, but to rape and pillage our world with there stolen technology. The Paideia was on its collective knees, and could not response when the Horde occupied Capetown, South Africa as their homebase. By 2072, Paideia scientist Dr. Kimmo Tuolema had designed the Morituri Process, to take a select few with specific requirements to create super-soldiers with individual unique abilities. The drawback was that nearly everyone undertook the Morituri Process died within a year. They were living weapons, that threw their lives at the alien enemy, and it made for one of the greatest comics of all time. As soon as I get the money together, FWS will create a Forgotten Classics post.


My first exposure to the character of Riddick was from the excellent 2004 Xbox game: the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and his background reminded me a great deal of the Sardaukar from DUNE. Since the original film Pitch Black and the 2004 game, the backstory of Riddick has grown more complex and odd. Depending on what you believe, Riddick is either a bad-seed killer rejected at birth by his mother (who tried to kill him with his own umbilical cord!) and spend his life as a hardened killer and criminal that had greater abilities than the average man just by luck. In the other side of Riddick is that he is one of the last of a society of warriors from a harsh unforgiving world of Furya, and Riddick is descended from that warrior-genetic pool that allows him to be better than the average man. Personally, I find the killer-criminal angle much more interesting. But, either way, if Riddick carried a wallet, it would say 'Bad Mother Fucker' on it...you know it's true.

Rouge Trooper

From the same company that brought us the twisted world of the Cursed Earth of Judge Dredd, comes the saga of a dead GI wandering Nu-Earth during a interstellar civil war. Nu-Earth was subjected to a massive bombardment by both side of the war, creating a toxic world where soldiers were forced to fight in protective suits, nearly de-terraforming the planet. The Southerns answer was to take the bodies of dead soldiers, and reanimate with genetic improvements them into soldiers that could survive in the open air of Nu-Earth. These Genetic Infantry had brain-chips that could be recovered and surgically implanted into another zombie body, which came in handy during the G.Is space-drop on Nu-Earth. Someone betray the Southern plans, and had artillery waiting on the DZ at the Quartz Zone, killing most if not all of the GIs. Only Rouge was able to survive, and recovered the brain-clips of his buddies that lived in slots on his rifle, helmet, and backpack. For the rest of the series, Rouge wandered the wasteland of Nu-Earth.

The Alien Colonists 'Super-Soldiers' from The X-Files

According to the X-Files wiki, the alien colonists re-proposed several humans to aid colonization, preventing human interference of the project. These new human/alien hybrids were called super-soldiers by the alien intelligence, and were noticeably for their metallic spines. To transform the human bodies to alien henchmen, the aliens used the virus to work on the hosts in often brutal ways. Honestly, the alien bounty-hunter was a much more effective super-bad alien foe, along with the sweet Gimlet Weapon. For years, the X-Files teased us with grand alien conspiracy of colonization, and in the last season of the show, we got answers, and not good ones. I loved this show back in the day, watch religiously, even the night my daughter was born (true story), but left the show when David Duchovny departed, so I missed out the whole super-soldier plot of season eight and nine...thank god. 

The CDF Soldiers from the Old Man's War universe

In the world of the Old Man's War, the Earth's Colonial Defense Force recruits only from Terrans that are 65 and older, and once they join the CDF, they can never return from colonial service back to Earth. These elder soldiers have their minds transfer to new bodies based on their DNA, but much improved. Their new green bodies have nano-artificial blood, cat-like eyes, hardened skeleton structure, implanted computer systems, called a Brain-Pal. These bodily augmentations were   fueled by the fight among the stars for atmospheric-standard worlds between many different alien races. Normal humans would have been easy prey for the advanced alien races. 

The Sardaukar Terror-Troops from the DUNE Universe

In the pages of DUNE, were the Sardaukar Legions, soldier fanatics loyal to the Emperor, rasied on the Emperor's prison planet where only six out of thirteen died before the age of 11. These conditions forged these men into killers, able to subdue entire worlds that step out of line with the wishes of House Corrino. By the time of the DUNE novel, the mere threat of using Sardaukar caused the planet to fall back into line. While not genetically altered, they were conditioned by the cruelty of their surroundings to completely disregard pain and emotions, which fully demonstrated when they murdered Paul and Chani's first infant son. By the end of the DUNE novel, the remains of the Sardaukar were folded into one legion and exiled on their prison planet with their emperor. The role of the Sarduakar was taken over by the Fish Speakers during the rein of Leto II: The God Emperor. According to some of the text in the original DUNE novel and the dialog from the 1984 film,  in the year 10,193, during the Battle of Arrakeen, the Emperor depolyed fifty legions of Sardaukar, or about 1.5 million terror-troopers. The one thing I never really got about the Sardaukar terror-troops was the way they were represented on-screen. In the 1984 movie, they wore these heavy foam-less black environmental suits, in the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, they were these badly designed Italian Renaissance-theme suits, and then in the DUNE II computer game, they are seen wearing powered armor. Odd.  

The CORBA books by Timothy Zahn

In the 1980's books by Timothy Zahn, the CORBA are super-soldiers with super reflexes, nearly unbreakable bones, bionic implanted weapons, and brain embedded 'nano-computer'. However unlike many other super-soldiers on this list, the COBRA appear more or less like a normal human, allowing them to pass during low-profile operations. They created for the Human-Troft War, and the primary character of the book saw actual by supporting resistance movements on a Troft world, similar to US Green Berets. After the war is over, these COBRA super-soldiers are released into the population, and they cannot find work or adjust to normal human society, forcing them to seek out their own world. I've never read the COBRA books, never been a fan of Zahn, and the basic plot sounds illogically to me. No government would just turn out their super-soldiers, especially with major bionic implants and a nano-computer on the streets of Terra.  

The 'Wolves' from Jin-Roh: the Wolf Brigade

I originally was not going to put the Wolves, a sub-group of the Special Unit of the Capitol Police in the Jin-Roh: the Wolf Brigade, but then, I re-watched it, and something struck me. Often the commanders of the Wolves talk about some men being wolves among men, beasts that cannot lay down with the prey, and that hit me. While the Panzer Corps wear the fearsome Protective Gear armor, they are just specially trained soldier designed to broadcast fear, the Wolves were a breed apart, and via this mental attitude, they were super-soldiers of a fashion.       

The Nazi Zombies from The Outpost (2008)

In the low-budget Nazi-Zombie horror British film, the Outpost, the SS constructs a secret underground bunker in Eastern Europe to undergo experiments in Unified Field theory under the purported Die Glocke secret Nazi research group that explored the occult, Free Energy, and advanced weaponry or wunderwaffe. Inside this bunker, the SS unit successfully constructed a Unified Field Generator that allowed SS soldiers to survive death, becoming the walking dead. Hitler had envisioned storming Europe, then the United States under these new soldiers that could repeal all manner of weapons. However, the war ended before these undead legions could be used, and the zombies already created were trapped in the grounds surrounding the generator. Seriously, this is a great horror film that is completely worth watching.

Universal Soldiers

In the 1992 film, the US military experiments on the bodies of few Vietnam-era GIs, attempting to turn them the Universal Soldiers, an elite band of reanimated super-soldiers under (nearly) complete control of their handlers. Along with being reanimated tissue, the Universal Soldier counter-terrorism unit is augment in the normal biologically system, better hearing, increased strength, and so on. The weakness (besides the entire movie) was these super-soldiers had to be kept cool or they would overheat and shut off, along with regular injections of a memory-suppressing serum. According to the internal logical of the movie, the science of bring the dead back to life causes the body to need cooling beyond sweating. This was an interesting concept that was handled completely wrong. Even at the time in 1992, when I was in high school, I thought the movie was badly done. It has since spawned several weak sequels. 

The Nietzchean from Gene Rhoddenberry's Andromeda

Around the year CY 8400 (around 3477), Dr. Paul Museveni left Earth for deep space to continue his research that was not mainstream. At Fountainhead planet, onboard the Ayn Rand space station, Dr. Museveni and his staff created the next level of human evolution, the Nietzcheans. Their race is religiously devoted to the teachings of Nietzsche, very self-involved people, devoted to passing on their DNA, surviving above all else, and perfecting themselves, overcoming typical mankind. To outsiders, they are considered, selfish, arrogant, and devoted to conflict. It doesn't help that Nietzhceans have bone-like knives coming out of their forearms. As for being superhuman, Nietzcheans can digest any organic material, breath other atmospheres for a limited time, more medically resistant to viruses, toxins, and infections. What takes away from the Nietzcheans from ruling over the Andromeda universe is their own desire for control and the Pride system that makes a Nietzchean loyal to that first, and all else last. This divided loyalty, or disloyalty, caused the Nietzcheanian Prides to stage a surprise attack on the Commonwealth. 

Wolverine from X-Men

Now, I'm not much on the X-Men comics or films, but anyone that is a geek knows how cool Wolverine is, and Marvel knows it. While the character of Wolverine has various back-stories that span back to the beginning of the X-Men comics, a few have him as a byproduct of a military super-soldier experiment under the Weapon Plus Program of World War II.
Wolverine has been used by sci-fi creators as a pattern for their own super-soldiers, given Wolverine's exposure in media, and his 'cool' factor. If we examine his abilities, they would be on any wishlist for a super-soldier program: rapid healing, superhuman senses and abilities that touch on every biological function, dense skeleton and claws, easy mastery of Martial Arts and tactical skills, along with  a lack of attachment to normal people. Forgot Captain America, Wolverine is where it is at!

Various Super-Soldiers from the X-Men/Marvel Universe

Super-soldiers litter the Marvel Universe, especially being connected to the X-Men. Characters like Dead Pool, Cable, Shatterstar and Longshot are all examples of programs to construct the prefect warrior. Shatterstar and Longshot are from the same fucked up reality were the disgusting fat and immobile Spinless Ones species are ruled over by Mojo, who feeds their sick desire for constant entertainment at the expensive of other beings with gladiatorial bloodsport games. Fighting in these games, are their genetic engineered slaves, warriors like Longshot and Shatterstar, that are born to die in the games, but outside of the Mojouniverse, are excellent soldiers.
One of the more famous super-soldier characters is Deadpool, who came about after I left collecting comics, and is a byproduct of the Weapon X program. Much like Wolverine, Deadpool is an expert in Martial Arts, physical activities, but his abilities to heal led to cancerous growths that have scarred his body. Unlike, Wolverine, Deadpool makes his living being a nearly prefect assassin, due to a photographic memory that allows him to copy fighting styles.

Manticore Project from Dark Angel

In the 200-2002 FOX TV series Dark Angel, the US military experimented with a genetic engineering super-soldier/assassin under the Manticore Project. By 2009, these Manticore children were nine, and already soldiers. Seeing the injustice of their surrounds, they escape from the secret military base. Luckily, terrorist set off EMP that took out most of the US power grid, computers, and internet porn, throwing the US into third world status overnight. This terrorist attack, called the pulse, prevented the Manticore goons from recovering their lost super-soldier children. By the time of the series, the main character, Max (Jessica Alba), was eighteen and hiding the in post-Pulse Seattle as a bike messenger. According to the series, Manticore spliced DNA from cats into Max, giving her superhuman reflexes and abilities. Throughout the series, more Manticore X5 transgenetic soldiers are shown and not all have the same abilities. And besides that, any excuse to put pictures of Jessica Alba up on this blog is just fine by me!

The ADAM Project from Soldier (1998)

Much like 1992's Universal Soldier, 1998's Soldier starring Kurt Russell was another great concept, terrible movie. In this film, the US military took a group of infants for the ADAM Project, raising them in a military environmental where weakness and talking was unaccepted, service was the only thing. The movie focuses on Todd-3465 from his service in Earth-bound wars, to man's first conflicts in space. After nearly forty years of military service, a new generation of genetically engineered super-soldiers replace the aging first generation of the ADAM project. While Soldier is a half-baked movie, and is loosely connected to BLADE RUNNER, Kurt Russell's performance as Todd-3465 is a standout as a baby raised in the military and social skills were unneeded and love was a foreign concept. Also, members of the first generation of the ADAM project were only subjected to training and mental conditioning, not genetic augmentation. 


  1. I'm not sure that Tier-1 types (for lack of a better group but depending on the era would include the Spartans, Samurai, or Delta for example) should be considered "Super Soldiers". They're simply very well trained soldiers. From my perspective, a Super Soldier represents a creation, via biology or trchnological means that alter or improve a human. Your definition seems a little over expansive.

    In Soldier ( a movie I think was underrated) there was a difference between the earlier generation of Soldiers (represented by Kurt Russell's character) and the the later generation. The earlier generation was trained. The later generation ( represented by Jason Scott Lee) were different because they were genetically engineered as well as superbly trained. I think only the latter generation was a True Super Soldier because it was creating essentially a new species beyond which could be achieved through training.

    This is not to say its not a good article. It's another great piece.

    One other suggestion, why not include the Saurons from CoDominum/War World/Mote in God's Eye books (Jerry Pournelle) and the Jarnveld Jaegers. Pournelle essentially attacked the question of Super Soldiers from two directions with these groups as the Saurons were a deliberate attempt to create not only Super Soldiers but a Master Race while Jaegers were produced as a result of evolutionary pressures imposed on them by their colony world (although they did seem to retain some, but not all, of the bad bits of Affrikanner society).

  2. I read the Mote in God's Eye and the Hand of God in High School and felt that are some of the best sci-fi novels I've read. I almost included them on the list...but my copies are missing, and I felt like I had spent too much time without FWS being updated.
    FWS did a movie review of Soldier about a year ago, and I think it is a movie that could have been great, and I blame director Paul Anderson, I've never liked his films, and he ruined one of Kurt Russell's best performances since Snake. I think the basic idea for the film was underrated as well. Someone should do a remake.
    This was a hard blogpost for me, super-soldiers are a cornerstone of MSF/SF, and I struggled with how to make a blogpost on all of the topics about super-soldiers. While doing the research, I found that super-soldiers and how they are created vary greatly. While I firmly agree with you that 'true' super-soldiers are built from the DNA up to be superhuman GIs, I think there are patterns for super-soldiers in Bourne, the Samurai and DEVGRU for authors to follow. If I had to do over, I would stuck to fully created super-soldiers, because I agree with your point. But thanks for the kind words on the blogpost...and thanks for reading.

  3. Where the hell is the MI? Just kiddin', excellent post! Supersoldiers are a huge aspect of SF in general. Very informative post, thank you!

  4. Good post, William!! The term "super soldier" is applied to many different kinds of improved soldier in SF, but the main attribute of super soldiers is that some sort of technology has been used to augment or even artificially create them. Cybernetics, genetic engineering, extreme training, and psychological modification are common techniques- and a super soldier program would probably use several of them, especially the extreme training. After all, it doesn't matter how strong your soldiers are if they are poorly trained. A single highly motivated, well trained human soldier could probably kick a poorly trained, ill mannered hybrid man-ape soldier's ass. :-)

    You should note that higher order traits like musical talent or kindness are not controlled by genes. For instance, the clones from "Star Wars" may have been engineered to have the potential to develop into good soldiers, but without extreme training and possibly even psychological modification, they won't develop into the Republic's feared Clone Army. Probably those who didn't make the cut physically or psychologically were rejected.

    Remember what happened to the Romans when they started recruiting and training barbarians to defend their borders? I can't help but think this might happen to a society that artificially creates "super soldiers" to serve in their wars. Once you have a whole army made of virtual slaves who have no connection to the society they serve, will they choose to rebel?

    We can't ignore psychological conditioning, either. A lot of what makes one soldier succeed where another fails are morale, training, and following orders. If you can condition soldiers so that they will not fear death, question orders, worry about when they get to go home, etc. then you may be getting a lot closer to an ideal soldier than just giving your soldiers bigger muscles would.

    I think that super soldiers- like any other soldier- will represent the goals and ideals of the country that created them. Oppressive governments will want unstoppable war machines who will not question orders or feel any empathy for their victims, just like Stalin's absurd man-ape hybrids were meant to be. A republican government like the U.S., on the other hand, wanted solder-monks who would apply psychological techniques- even hugs!!- to end conflict, using violence only as a last resort. These examples sound absurd, but they illustrate that different ideals lead to different ideas of what constitutes the "perfect" soldier. The Federation from "Star Trek" would probably recruit volunteers who wished to become super-humanoids and defend the UFP from the Borg and the Jem'Hadar and whatnot if the Federation wasn't so leery about improving humanoids. The Dominion created the slave-like Jem'Hadar. Still other different SF societies may have their own ideas as to what an ideal soldier would be, ranging from an augmented human (or alien!!) to complete speciation. This gives a SF writer a lot of leeway in creating super soldiers.

    Christopher Phoenix

  5. I thought about including the Mobile Infantry, but I felt that FWS talks alot about SST, and that most of the MI in the book and films more common of standard soldiers than super-soldiers, partly because it seems that ALL of the MI are APS wearers.
    Training is a critical part of any soldier's life, including super-soldiers, even if you make a SPARTAN_II in a tube, you still have to teach them how to fire the gun. If we could upload critical data, like Neo from the Matrix, than a super-soldier could come out fighting. That is one element that ST:DS9 failed to discuss with the Jem'Hadar.
    That is a good point about super-soldiers being examples of the society that created them

  6. Hi, William!! Yes, training is perhaps the most critical element of creating a soldier, especially a super soldier. The human brain is not anything like a computer- it learns by reinforcing certain neural pathways, which can only occur with practice and training- so we will still have to train our super soldiers to fire a gun. Massive parallel-processing neural networks just don't behave like adding machines, which is all a computer really is. This is one aspect of creating a clone army that "Star Wars" got right- even with all that advanced genetic technology, Kamino still had to put their clone troopers through intense training, as we saw in "Attack of the Clones". I wonder about the droids, though- did they need to be trained in order to become good fighters? The terminators from Terminator learned as they went, like humans, that is what made them so dangerous. No amount of programming can hope to match the plasticity of a human brain or artificial neural network, but do such robo-soldiers need training like a human? I suspect so, but we never saw that in Star Wars.

    Christopher Phoenix

  7. Enterprise is the best Trek ever?

    Also, where is Captain America?

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I do not have a good excuse for not putting Captain America on the list. I never was into superheroes, and have not seen the latest film, so I felt very unqualified to speak about, especially when compared to some other sites. Upon review, I would have removed Wolverine as well, because I did a terrible job of it.
      To me, ST:Enterprise renewed my love of Trek, before Captain Archer and company, I had disavowed Trek after the bad job they did of the Dominion War and the abortion that Voyager was. Once I witness Space:Above and Beyond, I was done with Trek. For some reason, Enterprise really spoke to me and the way they presented the early years of Starfleet was done so well. To this day, Enterprise is the only Trek series I still watch. I really wished fans had believed in it more so that we could have seen the Earth/Romulan War. Pity. I vexes me that the J.J. Abrams Star Trek was praised and was successful, leading me further to the conclusion that my ideas about Trek are not in keeping with the majority of trekkies.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. Cap is an interesting exception to a lot of what defines a super soldier. He is physically at the peak of human ability, but he also has an extraordinarily strong set of values that has caused him to disobey orders on many, many occasions (if you haven't read it the Marvel Civil War is a good example).

    I do agree that Enterprise was one of the better Trek show; I was just surprised to see that anyone agrees. The pilot episode was just awesome, but I don't think it ever lived up to its expectations. DS9 was my favorite, but I struggled with so many fluff episodes in the middle of the Dominion War.

  10. Yeah...I've nearly been hung at ST cons for saying that. Too many Trekkies say that DS9 was the best future war ever done. That is so wrong it gives me hemorrhoids! Sometimes I think that the overzealous fans of ST and SW actually hurt their beloved program.

  11. Hey, in Metal gear Solid 4, shouldn't the guy who shits his pants count as a super soldier....i mean, he is with the patriots who took nano-techs and such while he was a normal human and managed to work at their pace....i mean even if he didn't take the implants and wasn't like warhammer 40k.....but come on, he is bad ass too.....

  12. In regard to a super-soldier (or robot rebellion) it would make sense to enable some sort of kill option in your soldier slaves so if they do revolt you activate it and they all die, problem solved (assuming it works.) Of course you may not want to do that because if your enemy finds out your soldiers have a ‘suicide switch’ then they could wipe out your army by activating it themselves.

    And regarding Anonymous' comment regarding the Star Wars battle droids, from what I can remember from the films (been a few years since I've watched any of the prequels) they fight in rather rigid formations, not that difficult to program I would imagine.

  13. Yeah, the Battle-Droids are NOT Terminators! Implanting your super-soldiers with a nanomachine that could end any type of Cylon revolt would be tricky if they or any political group learned of it and used it against the government.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  14. Creating super soldiers would be a mistake for any goverment,so maybe just like Star Trek and Blade Runner warned us perhaps,humanunity is doomed to face it's own monsters coming out of the R&D military labs until the sci-fi cursed earth becomes true.

  15. A good and fair point, the real monsters are not those that swim the icy waters of Loch Ness or walking the dark woods of the Pacific northwest, but in the heart of man...

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  17. I've been working on a story about Meta-humans vs Powered Armored soldiers that I hope to one day turn into an FPS. I wanted to say thank you this blog post and all the ideas of MSF it brings together!

  18. Glad FWS can be of some help! If you need anything more, let FWS know, and good luck! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  19. This was an awesome reading! Thanks a lot.

  20. The most ive experienced is similar to todd from soldier. Raised from birth like myself in combat and military doctrine ,mixed martial arts etc. I havent seen mutants so to speak. But i have seen perfection as far as our own dna and so on. There was no ritual abuse either with our class we just didnt know anything else. I mean we were taught about life through tv and books and internet i suppose what outsiders know as the real world. I saw salt and thats similar to how we viewed the outside world through media. But im sure they are working on it genetic manipulation i mean. Some do have psychic and psycho kinetic function but i dont. Three in my class were psychic and 1 out of 40 were psycho kinetic. He moved things like pencils and books but nothing like cars or trains that i ever saw. We didnt have numbers we had names and im joshua. We live ordinary lives among you. We are the shadow warriors. But you can spot us cause were always alone and a bit awkward at least i am. I get lonely alot but i cant help it. Anyway neat stuff.

  21. Cool, someone else who digs Enterprise. Also, mad props for the Strikeforce. Man, I miss those comics, dark stuff that, but oh so awesome.

  22. I really miss Enterprise, and I blame the Trekkie fans that bitched about for the cancellation of the series BEFORE we got to see the Earth-Romulan War. Strikeforce Morituri was one of my favorite Marvel comics, some excellent work there. As soon as I can get the money, I will be buying the entire series and forging an Forgotten Classics blogpost!

  23. Necro-commenting...but whatever. A common theme with SF super-soldiers is seeing them as 'lone warriors', who can fight incredibly efficiently on their own against larger numbers of enemies. However, modification or augmentation to allow better teamwork would be almost as effective, if not more so, in most combat situations. In one of the short stories I'm working on humanity is forced to use child soldiers to fight off an alien invasion - similar to the SPARTAN program, but without actually medical alteration, only mental conditioning. After the war humanity fought amongst itself, and the children were considered more dangerous than conventional soldiers because of their perfect coordination and teamwork.

  24. That was one of the elements I enjoyed about HALO:Reach and the SPARTAN-II unit seen in the cutscenes in HALO Wars. I like the angle of your short story.