Old school Marvel comic book readers will recognize the name Power Broker, but may not quite be able to place it. But Nerds on Earth writer Jaws instantly caught the name drop in episode 2 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and immediately texted me, “You catch that Power Broker reference, Clave?!?!”
Kevin Feige and company clearly love the Marvel Comics source material and use those old comic book stories generously and trustworthily, although they never follow the comic book stories beat for beat, they remix the stories and express them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in subversive and creative ways.
So you can imagine the glee in those white boarding meetings where The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (F&WS) storyline was outlined and an obscure comic book character like Power Broker was first pitched for usage. But you also understand that the character was going to get a fresh coat of paint for their MCU debut.
As of this writing, the identity of Power Broker hasn’t been revealed in F&WS but you suspect they’ll be “unmasked” before the series end. This, of course, leads to speculation on identify.
Is Sharon Carter the Power Broker?
My first thought would have been Zemo, because he’s an obvious candidate but that’s clearly not the case. It also looks like the Power Broker isn’t Sharon Carter, but what if that’s a red herring. She’s obviously gained influence while in Madripoor and she was branded a traitor when she helped Steve and Sam.
What if she took it upon herself to gather intel and resources to gather power for the purpose of tracking down the super soldier serum, only to have it taken away by Flag-Smasher and her crew. If that’s the case, she’s playing Bucky and Sam in order to take out a rival.
Is Thunderbolt Ross the Power Broker?
Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross might be the Power Broker. We know that Power Broker has access to some form of a fighting force and can mobilize them quickly. That could mean military.
2008’s The Incredible Hulk showed us that General Ross is obsessed with recreating the super soldier serum. Maybe he had access to the military’s intel on Isaiah Bradley. That combined with the failed serum that powered up the Abomination could’ve led to a breakthrough and to Ross becoming the Power Broker.
Is Justin Hammer the Power Broker?
This might just be my inner fanboy coming out, but I’d love to see Justin Hammer return to the MCU. Maybe instead of developing shoulder-fired weaponry for War Machine, Hammer pivoted into different techniques to create human weapons, no longer relying on the drone robots of Iron Man 2.
And we know Justin Hammer has a hankering for power and influence, so it’s plausible. He’s also the type who would name himself “Power Broker.”
Moving on, the Power Broker could be one of the above or an entirely new character we haven’t seen in the MCU before. So let’s just hold on and watch the show to find out, which frees up my precious word count to provide more context on the character by examining Power Broker’s comic book roots.
The Comic Book Power Broker
Power Broker’s name is Curtiss Jackson and first appeared in Machine Man comics in the late 70s. But it was in The Thing solo series where the character really began to take shape. In Thing #35 (1986), for example, Power Broker hires Dr. Karl Malus, a mad scientist whose experiments on superhuman individuals resulted in the ability to augment the strength of paying customers to superhuman levels.
Sure, that’s not exactly what we are seeing in F&WS, but if you squint you certainly see the contours of the comic book character in the augmentation of Flagsmasher from F&WS.
Power Broker’s augmentation process was tremendously risky in the comics and the formula was a closely guarded secret. It was also highly addictive, which Power Broker and Dr. Karl Malus used to keep the subjects working for the Power Broker.
As a result of the Power Broker’s services, wrestlers would wind up indebted to them. Well-known wrestlers in the Thing comics were a group of female wrestlers known as The Grapplers, and it was this connection that made me think we could see The Grapplers as characters in F&WS.
The 80s Thing comic was basically a wrestling comic and the story goes that Power Broker augmented the strength of many wrestlers of the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, an organization that was only open to wrestlers with super-strength and eventually boasted a membership, interestingly enough, of a few members of the Eternals, characters who will be featured in an upcoming marvel movie.
But Power Broker had more storylines in the comics and one in particular is quite relevant for F&WS. Beginning in Captain America #375, the Power Broker was augmented by his own process, but things went awry and Malus tried to try to cure the Power Broker’s condition. To do so, Malus experimented on several already augmented individuals in order to perfect a de-augmentation process.
These experiments included Battlestar, which obviously raised the ire of U.S. Agent, who teamed with Battlestar to free the captured wrestlers, restoring their strength. Alas, no Grapplers in F&WS thus far, but I think these comic book storylines spark our imagination to what could happen if Power Broken would augment those characters on the show.
I don’t know if Power Broker is even active in the comics anymore but I do recall there was maybe a 2nd version of the character at some point. Honestly, he wasn’t even that compelling as an 80s character, except he provided a nice stand-in for the steroid scandal that was sweeping through the wrestling world at the time.
But the takeaway is that the MCU does an excellent job of remixing their wonderful back catalog of comics into great stories that work today.