It costs $1 billion to make a super soldier in Marvel’s ‘What If…?’

Last week Marvel released the first episode of ‘What If…?‘, an animated show which looks at key moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and reimagines it. The first episode is about Peggy Carter becoming a super soldier in place of Steve Rogers, but we’re more interested in a throwaway line about money.

The character Colonel Flynn, voiced by Bradley Whitford, reveals that the programme to create a super soldier cost the government $60 million.

With YouTubers dropping millions of Dollars on Pokémon cards in 2021, $60 million may seem a bit quaint for a big military project from the USA. But we of course need to consider inflation because that money wasn’t spent in modern day.

Captain America: The First Avenger takes place in 1942 so it’s safe to assume that the first episode of What If…? also happens that year.

Using an inflation calculator for the USA and $60 million in 1942 is worth around $1 billion in 2021. The exact amount is $1 004 919 018.40.

At this point we have to wonder if the writers on the show planned this and worked backwards, thinking “$1 billion sounds about right” and then used a similar calculator to see what that figure would be close to in 1942.

We wouldn’t be surprised if said writers used the same online tool as we did to make the math work.

A point of comparison 

Most large numbers are useless in a vacuum so how does the super soldier programme compare in cost to another military project?

Throughout the episode many people refer to the super soldier as a tool to “end the war”. The phrasing here, of course, reminds us of the Manhattan project.

The commonly-referenced price of the Manhattan Project, in 1945, is $1 889 604 000. Adjusting that for inflation into 2021 brings the modern day cost to $28 659 308 934. If we’re doing some rounding the real world Manhattan Project cost $28 billion, meaning you could repeat the fictional MCU super soldier programme 28 times for the same money.

What If…? still has eight more episodes to go before its first season is up, so we’re looking forward to more fictional number crunching.


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