A Look Back At 80 Years of Captain America

by Amanda Sheriff


Since Captain America was introduced in March 1941 he has become the quintessential patriotic hero. The first wave of superheroes faced not only the burgeoning comic book villains but also real and fictitious figures among the Axis powers and Nazi regime. Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, represented the pinnacle of bravery and devotion to stopping those villains – real or created.

In the years since, Captain America has maintained and grown his reach as one of Marvel’s flagship characters. He outlived the more gimmicky patriotic wartime characters, endured when superhero titles temporarily lost their foothold in comics, and when Marvel entered a period of fruitful creation, Captain America was updated and brought along for the ride. He has been a consummate team leader across Marvel titles and reached new heights of visibility outside of comics thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and Chris Evans’ never say die performances. Through trends and transitions, Captain America has maintained his position among Marvel’s most valuable and loved heroes.

Captain America first appeared in Timely Comics’ Captain America Comics #1 in the months leading up to World War II. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, he was by no means the first patriotic superhero (Archie’s The Shield was months ahead of him), but he was the one with the most lasting impact.

Captain America was Steve Rogers, a young man who was desperate to serve his nation and yet who was rejected from military service for being unfit. He volunteered for a secret project and was injected with a super soldier serum. It worked and he became Captain America. With his teenage sidekick Bucky Barnes, he battled the forces of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and he found an arch-nemesis in the form of the Red Skull.

Following the war, as sales of superhero comics plummeted, Captain America Comics met its end in cancelation in 1950. The scarce last two issues ran under the title Captain America’s Weird Tales and were basically standard horror anthologies.

In 1954, Atlas Comics (Timely’s successor and Marvel Comics’ predecessor) brought Captain America back. The revival lasted only three issues (Captain America Comics #76-78) and would later serve as the basis for a storyline that explained the commie-smashing Cap of that era as a pretender to the name (that Cap’s “Bucky” would eventually become the hero Nomad).

After Marvel has successfully launched characters such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man and others, writer-editor Stan Lee decided to revive Captain America in the pages of Avengers #4. He concocted a story, illustrated by Kirby, in which a bomb explosion had catapulted an unconscious Steve Rogers into icy waters and eventually a bizarre suspended animation. The same blast, the story showed, had killed young Bucky Barnes.

It has long been the conventional wisdom of comic books that no character is dead forever. Heroes and villains alike (though mostly villains) are “killed” all the time, but only stay that way until a new story or new writer or new editor demands their return. While it may seem like the recent proliferation of “event” stories has driven this notion, it’s actually been that way for virtually the entire history of superhero comics.

With the launch of Marvel Comics in 1961 and its subsequent assent to its lofty position in the industry, one of the rules laid down by Lee in those early days was that a specific handful of characters were to be considered permanently dead. In his view, the rest of Marvel’s vast array of characters were fair game, but it was essential for the underlying realism of the Marvel Universe that some “true” death exist. The very small list included of those who were supposed to stay dead in perpetuity included Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben (from Amazing Fantasy #15) and Bucky Barnes.

As Steve Rogers adapted to the new era in which he found himself, he struggled with the memory of Bucky's demise, and further cemented it as one of the few untouchable events in the world of comics. Captain America quickly became the leader of the Avengers and a dominant figure in the Marvel pantheon.

As time marched on, other characters met their demise, some seemingly for keeps, but the original list remained inviolate. But, then came writer Ed Brubaker, with a compelling story that not only brought Bucky back, but convincingly filled the over 60-year time span since his apparent death, and planted him squarely and firmly in the middle of the modern day Marvel universe.

With his memory seemingly erased, he had been a pawn of the Soviets since they recovered him in the same icy waters that preserved Steve Rogers. He had become an assassin known as The Winter Soldier. He was only freed from that life – and his memories restored – by Captain America and another of his partners, The Falcon.

Not only was Bucky back, but suddenly Captain America was caught up in the superhero Civil War. Then, almost as soon as the Civil War was over, Steve Rogers was gunned down on the courthouse steps where he was being taken to be arraigned.

It created a ton of media coverage around the world. Many speculated about how long Steve Rogers would stay "dead," (hey, it's comics). Others debated who would fill his shoes.

Those who bet on their being another Captain America were, of course, correct, although it didn’t happen immediately. In fact, the ongoing Captain America monthly may go down as the longest running comic book that didn’t have its title character. Months went by before Bucky Barnes assumed the mantle of Captain America.

It’s been reported that this was supposed to only last a few months before Steve Rogers returned, but something odd happened along the way: fans liked Bucky as Cap. This isn’t to say that they didn’t want Steve Rogers back, but Bucky was as good a substitute as they were going to get. The situation went on for 26 issues before Marvel’s recent big announcement.

In a June 15, 2009 press release, Marvel confirmed that they were bringing back the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, in a six-issue miniseries, Captain America: Reborn, which debuted on July 1.

Steve Rogers’ return started in Captain America #600 (June 2009), revealing that he had been bouncing through time until he came back to the present in Captain America: Reborn. Steve suggested that Bucky continue being Captain America in the one-shot Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield? (February 2010). At Steve’s insistence, Bucky kept starring in Captain America while Steve got his own miniseries, Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier, and he joined Secret Avengers.

First as Agent Steve Rogers then as Cap, he was a regular character in Avengers Vol. 4 in #1-34 (July 2010-January 2013). He was also in Secret Avengers #1-21 (July 2010-March 2012) as Agent Steve Rogers and made multiple appearances as Captain America, including the series finale #37 (March 2013).

In May 2011, Marvel announced that Steve Rogers would resume his role as Captain America after Bucky died in Fear Itself. The sixth volume of Captain America #1 began in July 2011. The title resumed original numbering with #620 and for 20 issues it was briefly rebranded as Captain America and… featuring story arcs with Bucky, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Namor, and Black Widow.

When Steve Rogers grew old in this series, Sam Wilson traded his wings as Falcon for a Captain America shield starting in All-New Captain America #1 (November 2014). That was followed by Captain America: Sam Wilson which ran for 24 issues in 2015-2017.

In May 2016 Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 followed the events of Avengers: Standoff that saw Steve Rogers as a younger man again. That led to the Secret Empire event series which shocked Marvel readers by turning Steve Rogers into a covert agent of Hydra – well, a version of him.

Original numbering returned again with Captain America #695 (November 2017), which lasted through #704. The most recent series volume 9 of Captain America started with #1 in July 2018 and #28 will be released in March 2021.

The current Marvel Comics series Captain America is the 13th on-going title to feature the Star-Spangled Avenger. While some of them have been short-lived, others have spanned many years. They include Captain America Comics (1941-1950, 1954), Captain America (1968-1996), Captain America (1996-1997, "Heroes Reborn"), Captain America (1998-2002, “Heroes Return”), Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (1998-1999), Captain America (2002-2004, “Marvel Knights”), Captain America and The Falcon (2004-2005), Captain America (2005-2011), Captain America (2011-2014), Captain America: Sam Wilson (2015-2017), Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016-2017), Captain America (2017-2018), and Captain America (2018-present).

If you're looking to celebrate Captain America's 80th anniversary, then be sure to pick up a copy of Captain America Anniversary Tribute #1 (JAN210611). Available now at comic shops everywhere.

MARVEL COMICS
(W) Joe Simon, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (A) Various (CA) Steve McNiven
Captain America celebrates 80 years of battling tyranny this month! And what better way to celebrate than by having a cadre of Marvel's best artists redraw and modernize Captain America's origin and the debut of the Red Skull from CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 as well as Cap's return in the Marvel Age from AVENGERS #4! The legendary stories that changed the course of comic book history are presented in an all-new way for the current generation of Marvel fans!
Rated T
In Shops: Mar 17, 2021
SRP: $6.99
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #30
MARVEL COMICS
(W) Jack Kirby (A/CA) Jack Kirby
The Marvel Treasury Edition that celebrated 200 years of the United States of America is back, as big as life and better than ever! From the unparalleled imagination of Jack Kirby, it's a time-spanning adventure featuring Captain America on an incredible journey through his nation's past - from the American Revolution through two world wars...and more! Steve Rogers meets major historical figures, makes quite an impact on Benjamin Franklin - and takes inspiration from two centuries of American struggle and progress! Reprinted in all its oversize glory along with suitably patriotic special features, this is one of the Sentinel of Liberty's wildest adventures of all, without which no Cap collection is complete! Collecting MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL: CAPTAIN AMERICA'S BICENTENNIAL BATTLES and MIGHTY MARVEL BICENTENNIAL CALENDAR 1976.
Rated T
In Shops: Jun 16, 2021
SRP: $29.99
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #103
MARVEL COMICS
(W) Rick Remender, Dennis Hopeless (A) John Romita, More (CA) Stuart Immonen
ick Remender's shocking CAPTAIN AMERICA saga! Thanks to Arnim Zola, Cap is trapped in the nightmarish Dimension Z! With no country and no allies, what's left for Steve Rogers to fight for? Then, Cap faces the fury of Nuke and the machinations of the Iron Nail! But when Steve loses his powers, it's time to pass the shield - and the Falcon becomes the all-new Captain America! With a new Nomad by his side, Sam Wilson has his hands full with Hydra and the deadliest enemies in Steve's rogues' gallery! Plus: The Scarecrow brings the fear! The Winter Soldier goes on a thrilling Cold War mission! And on Battleworld, will Nomad hail Hydra? Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (2012) #1-25, WINTER SOLDIER: THE BITTER MARCH #1-5, ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA: FEAR HIM #1-4, ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA #1-6 and HAIL HYDRA #1-4.
Rated T+
In Shops: Aug 18, 2021
SRP: $125.00
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #90
MARVEL COMICS
(W) Ed Brubaker (A) More (A/CA) Steve Epting
The story that stunned readers, sent shockwaves through the Marvel Universe and made headlines worldwide! Captain America has been assassinated! And now Sharon Carter, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Black Widow and Iron Man come together in a desperate attempt to keep Cap's dream alive. But Steve Rogers' death was merely the first step in the Red Skull's wicked machinations. As the Skull's true plan kicks into motion and chaos takes hold of the United States, only one man stands in its way - but is he up to the task? Only recently known as the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes is called on to live up to the dream in ways he never imagined. Eisner Award-winning writer Ed Brubaker combines action, suspense and human drama in a saga that ties together all eras of the star-spangled Avenger's history! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (2004) #25-42.

Rated T+
In Shops: Aug 04, 2021
SRP: $75.00
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #78
RANDOM HOUSE GRAPHIC
(W) Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan (A) Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan
Is what I'm feeling normal? Is what my body is doing normal? Am I normal? How do I know what are the right choices to make? How do I know how to behave? How do I fix it when I make a mistake? Let's talk about it. Growing up is complicated. Covering relationships, friendships, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education, and more, Let's Talk About It provides a comprehensive, thoughtful, well-researched graphic novel guide to everything you need to know. Available in softcover and hardcover.
In Shops: Mar 10, 2021
SRP: $17.99
PREVIEWS Page #314
MARVEL COMICS
(W) Joe Simon, Steve Englehart, More (A) Jack Kirby, Sal Buscema, More (CA) Alex Ross
The many costumes of Captain America! The star-spangled costume of Captain America has been a timeless symbol of hope and freedom since his days fighting Nazism overseas and McCarthyism at home. This historical retrospective of Steve Rogers' various uniforms and super hero mantles is a showcase of America's ever-evolving sociopolitical landscape. From his early days fighting in overt patriotic garb as Captain America during World War II through his adoption of the predominately black uniform and title of the Captain at a time when he became a symbol of resisting absolute government control, Rogers has always worn his allegiance openly. Time and again, Steve has returned to Captain America's red-white-and-blue iconography, proving that the symbolic clothing of the Sentinel of Liberty stands for a higher ideal than any one person or government can achieve. Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #180, #337, #438 and #451; CAPTAIN AMERICA (1996) #3; SECRET AVENGERS (2010) #1; CAPTAIN AMERICA (2012) #1; CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1; CAPTAIN AMERICA (2017) #695; and material from CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1-2.
Rated T+
In Shops: Jun 05, 2019
SRP: $29.99
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #114
MARVEL COMICS
(W) Joe Simon, More (A) Joe Simon, More (CA) Lee Weeks
Steve Rogers might have been the prototypical 98-pound weakling, but that wasn't going to stop him from serving his country. Transformed by the Super-Soldier Serum into America's #1 fighting man, Steve became a symbol of patriotism, hope and perseverance on the eve of the nation's entrance into World War II. Never before and never since has comics seen a hero as timely as - Captain America! Now you can experience the original Golden Age adventures of the Sentinel of Liberty from his 1941 inaugural appearance! You'll meet Bucky Barnes and the Red Skull for the first time, behold Simon and Kirby's trend-setting brand of storytelling, and even read Stan Lee's very first comics tale! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1-12.
848 PGS./Rated T
In Shops: Mar 10, 2021
SRP: $125.00
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #84
MARVEL COMICS
(W) Stan Lee, More (A) Jack Kirby, More (CA) Ron Lim, Jim Lee
He's the most inspirational hero in the Marvel-Verse! Discover why Steve Rogers is a living legend with some of his most action-packed adventures! First, flash back in time for a thrilling re-examination of Captain America's incomparable origin story! See frail Steve Rogers become a Super-Soldier, and thrill to his first mission as the Fighting Avenger of World War II! Plus: The Black Panther and Agent 13 join Cap in battle with one of his greatest foes, Baron Zemo - but is more going on than meets the eye? And Captain America and Spider-Man team up on a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D.! Can the shield-slinger and the web-slinger stop the stony Grey Gargoyle? Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #100 and #255, CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIGHTING AVENGER and MARVEL TEAM-UP (1972) #13.
Ages 10 & Up
In Shops: Jul 29, 2020
SRP: $9.99
MARVEL PREVIEWS Page #156
TITAN COMICS
(W) Titan Studios
A collector's edition celebrating the 80th anniversary of one of the most iconic characters in the Marvel universe!
Featuring covers, comic art, behind-the-scenes facts and information about the authors and artists who brought the legend to life!
In Shops: Jul 14, 2021
SRP: $19.99
PREVIEWS Page #366
TITAN COMICS
(W) Titan Studios
A collector's edition celebrating the 80th anniversary of one of the most iconic characters in the Marvel universe!
Featuring covers, comic art, behind-the-scenes facts and information about the authors and artists who brought the legend to life!
In Shops: Jul 14, 2021
SRP: $19.99
PREVIEWS Page #366
TITAN COMICS
(W) Titan Studios
A collector's edition celebrating the 80th anniversary of one of the most iconic characters in the Marvel universe!
Featuring covers, comic art, behind-the-scenes facts and information about the authors and artists who brought the legend to life!
In Shops: Jul 14, 2021
SRP: $29.99
PREVIEWS Page #366

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Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.

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