Frank Charles Simpson was born in the 1940’s in Dayton, Ohio. As a child, his home life was highly dysfunctional. His mother was a deeply unpleasant woman, an emotionally abusive alcoholic who constantly berated Frank and his father. Charles Simpson was a timid man unable to stand up to his wife, fearing she had all the control in their relationship because they lived off of her family’s money. Frank developed behavioral problems at an early age. He seemed emotionally detached most of the time, yet also had a history of trouble at school and apparently even attacked a doctor when he was sent to therapy for his aggression. Somehow, the immortal power broker named Romulus learned of Frank Simpson, and saw him as a potential asset to cultivate for future use when he became an adult. Romulus planted an agent in Frank’s life, his babysitter “Betsy,” who used psychological manipulation over time to make Frank loving and dependent on her.
In 1953, When Romulus gave the word, Betsy led Frank to the conclusion that life would be better if his mother were dead. Frank was left home alone with his drunk and nearly incapacitated mother while Charles drove Betsy home. Betsy then came on to Charles, getting drunk and propositioning him sexually on the car ride home. Posing as a police officer, Romulus’ agent Logan approached their car and shot Betsy dead with Charles’ gun. Realizing how compromising the situation was and knowing his wife’s family would never pay for an attorney, Charles was easily convinced to kill himself next to Betsy. Back at the Simpson family home, Frank had done what Betsy suggested and pushed his mother down the stairs, snapping her neck. With his family destroyed by murder and scandal, Frank was vulnerable to further conditioning by Romulus and his people. Logan came to pick him up, still dressed as a police officer, and Frank was further conditioned to have a strong attachment to authority figures. [Wolverine: Origins #3]
Frank grew up and enlisted for the war, going off to Vietnam like many young men his age. He was inspired by one of the last newsreel interviews of Captain America, who talked about how he became a soldier to aid his fellow troops and ensure they came home safe. For all his strength, the Captain saw himself as a support role for the true American heroes. [Captain America (7th series) #15] Thanks to Romulus, however, Frank’s unit was attacked and murdered by the Viet Cong in 1968, leaving him the sole survivor. He was captured and tortured by the Viet Cong for days, with Logan acting as a “Russian advisor” to make sure Frank got the treatment Romulus desired. With a hammer and knives, Logan carved the silhouette of an American flag into Frank’s face, constantly repeating “No V.C.” during the trauma. Once Logan left, Frank broke free and killed all the Viet Cong who had been torturing him at the hidden camp. Wounded and heavily armed, Frank emerged from the camp near the South Vietnamese village of Lai Chi. The South Vietnamese had a habit of shouting “No V.C.! No V.C.!” to American soldiers in order to show they weren’t the enemy, but Logan’s conditioning made sure it would have the exact opposite effect on Frank. Known as the Lai Chi Massacre, Frank single-handedly murdered hundreds of innocent civilians that day before he was finally extracted by the American military. [Wolverine: Origins #2]
Frank Simpson was now the perfect candidate for the latest iteration of the Weapon Plus Program, a shadow organization over which Romulus maintained covert influence. Weapon VII was also known as Project: Homegrown, officially spinning out of Vietnam-era projects to create a Super-Soldier for the age of modern warfare. [New X-Men (1st series) #145] At least twenty men underwent the Super-Soldier enhancement process for Homegrown, but Simpson is the only known survivor, taking the codename Nuke. [Daredevil (1st series) #233] Romulus had wanted to engineer Frank into a perfect test case for Homegrown – a psychopath with a massive body count to his name, yet also a fixation on the American Dream and the military which made him easy to manipulate. Initially, however, Agent Simpson was not the deployable “nuke” his superiors wanted. While in the field, Nuke’s focus was always on protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers rather than killing “the enemy.” He constantly went off-mission to put himself at risk getting injured troops out of the line of fire rather than fulfilling orders. When Agent Simpson was blown to bits on a mission, Weapon Plus took the opportunity to rebuild him further, rewiring his brain to make him incapable of ignoring orders from a superior officer. [Captain America (7th series) #15]
Nuke’s original enhancements came from another rendition of the Super-Soldier Serum, combined with hyper-amphetamines for chemical stimulation. [Captain America (1st series) #333, Captain America (7th series) #13] A control system was devised for Nuke using narcotics and behavior modification. Still obsessed with “our boys,” Nuke could be provoked into carrying out various atrocities if it meant bringing “our boys” home safely from war. Nuke had the American flag tattooed over his face as a reminder of his mission and the torture he suffered at the hands of the enemy. He kept track of his kills using a counter on his personalized multi-function rifle. As a sign of how deep his trauma went, the rifle was nicknamed “Betsy.” He was trained to make use of three types of pills: “reds” acted as an amphetamine to boost him up, “whites” brought him down from the high, and “blues” sent him into a fully calm state. [Daredevil (1st series) #233, Super-Soldiers #1] After being rebuilt, Nuke’s strength was mostly cybernetic and not chemical. He had metal components replacing much of his skeleton, plastics bonded to his flesh to make it more resilient, and his nervous system altered to nearly eradicate all sense of pain. Now, the “reds” were actually a placebo, installing a further level of control in Agent Simpson so he felt dependent on the pills to exert his full strength. [Wolverine: Origins #2]
[Note: Given the sliding timescale, it’s unknown how long Nuke was officially active as a super-soldier. The artificial nature of his body does make it possible he has been covertly active for decades ever since the Vietnam War. In New X-Men (1st series) #130, Fantomex reported the Weapon Plus Program began using mutant test subjects beginning with Weapon VII. This doesn’t necessarily imply Nuke was a mutant, however – the programs were known for using multiple test subjects in a single iteration.]
Project: Homegrown found Nuke suitable for actions overseas, defending American interests through the application of extreme force. In Central America, he destroyed a rival cocaine facility for America’s friendly dictator in Tierra Verde. [Wolverine (2nd series) #18] He was on a mission in Nicaragua killing guerrillas when he was called back to the States by his general. Deals had been made with Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, and so Nuke’s services were made available to Fisk for his private war with Daredevil. Kingpin was apprised of Nuke’s triggers, and so he literally wrapped himself in the flag for their meeting, redecorating his office in an extreme display of patriotism. Fisk portrayed himself as a loyal American capitalist and father of a veteran as he explained Nuke’s mission to bring down the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen for misleading the public about him.
Nuke’s helicopter escort dropped him in the middle of the street of Hell’s Kitchen, where he was ordered to cause property damage and as much chaos as possible to bring out Daredevil. Nuke never did anything by half measures, though, and the bodies soon began to fall as well. Daredevil quickly arrived on the scene and assaulted the super-soldier. Nuke’s reflexes and reinforced skin kept Daredevil from doing any harm at first, until the Man Without Fear went for his eyes. Once Nuke was blinded, Daredevil was able to get the upper hand, throwing Nuke off a roof into power lines before he crashed to the streets below. Nuke was relentless until Daredevil broke “Betsy” across his face, finally knocking him senseless.
Captain America and the Avengers arrived with federal authority to take Nuke into custody. Nuke’s face was plastered across the papers the next morning as a mystery killer who murdered dozens in the Manhattan neighborhood. Captain America took the issue of a deranged super-soldier personally, and he refused to accept the government’s official denials which claimed Nuke was a random terrorist. At the Department of Defense, they tried to arrange for Nuke to privately be sent back overseas, where he could do the most good. Nuke was still revved up from the battle, however – he wanted to stay in the States and fight back against the corrupt press telling lies about him. Nuke shook off his MPs and prepared to go AWOL.
Captain America was already at the DOD investigating Project: Homegrown when Nuke escaped. He fought to keep the super-soldier under control, and they both broke through the side of the building, plummeting several stories to a neighboring roof. Helicopter escorts were deployed to execute Nuke before he could be used as evidence in a government conspiracy, and he was shot through the chest several times. Daredevil arrived on the scene and got the badly wounded Nuke in a car while Captain America held off the military. The dying body of Nuke was deposited on the desk of Ben Urich at the Daily Bugle. The scandal which followed implicated the government and Kingpin in the Hell’s Kitchen massacre, thoroughly tarnishing the good name Fisk had tried to build for himself. [Daredevil (1st series) #232-233]
[Note: Nuke was reported dead after this, even by his general in a private meeting of the Commission on Superhuman Activities in Captain America (1st series) #333. This was presumably for plausible deniability or to secure him for even deeper shadow ops by Haywerth or Romulus.]