Captain America is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941), from Marvel Comics' 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics, and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Over the years, an estimated 210 million copies of "Captain America" comic books have been sold in a total of 75 countries. Within the comics, the title "Captain America" applies to whomever is chosen by the U.S. government (which views itself as "owning" the persona) to wear the costume and bear the shield. For nearly all of the character's publication history, however, Captain America was the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a sickly young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States war effort. Captain America wears a costume that utilizes an American flag motif, and is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon.
An intentionally patriotic creation who was often depicted fighting the Axis powers of World War II, Captain America was Timely's most popular character during World War II. After the war ended, the character's popularity waned and he disappeared by the 1950s aside from an ill-fated revival in 1953. Captain America was reintroduced during the Silver Age of comics when he was revived from suspended animation by the superhero team the Avengers in The Avengers #4 (March 1964). Since then, Captain America has often led the team, as well as starring in his own series. Steve Rogers was killed in Captain America vol. 5, #25 (March 2007), although the Captain America series continues publication with Rogers' former sidekick, Bucky, having taken up the mantle.
Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941) — on sale in December 1940, a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and already showing the protagonist punching Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the jaw — sold nearly one million copies. While most readers responded favorably to the comic, some took objection. Simon noted, "When the first issue came out we got a lot of . . . threatening letters and hate mail. Some people really opposed what Cap stood for." Though preceded as a "patriotically themed superhero" by MLJ's The Shield, Captain America immediately became the most prominent and enduring of that wave of superheroes introduced in American comic books prior to and during World War II. With his sidekick Bucky, Captain America faced Nazis, Japanese and other threats to wartime America and the Allies. Captain America soon became Timely's most popular character and even had a fan-club called the "Sentinels of Liberty." Circulation figures remained close to a million copies per month after the debut issue, which outstripped even the circulation of news magazines like Time during the period.
After the Simon & Kirby team moved to DC late 1941, having produced Captain America Comics through issue #10 (Jan. 1942), Al Avison and Syd Shores became regular pencillers of the celebrated title, with one generally inking over the other. The character was also featured in All Winners Comics #1-19 (Summer 1941 - Fall 1946), Marvel Mystery Comics #80-84,86-92, USA Comics #6-17 (Dec 1942 - Fall 1945) and All Select Comics #1-10 (Fall 1943 - Summer 1946).
In the post-war era, with the popularity of superheroes fading, Captain America led Timely/Marvel's first superhero team, the All-Winners Squad, in its two published adventures, in All Winners Comics #19 & 21 (Fall-Winter 1946; there was no issue #20). After Bucky was shot and wounded in a 1948 Captain America story, he was succeeded by Captain America's girlfriend Betsy Ross, who became the superheroine Golden Girl. Captain America Comics ended with #75 (Feb. 1950), by which time the series had been titled Captain America's Weird Tales for two issues, with the finale a horror/suspense anthology issue with no superheroes.
Marvel's 1950s iteration Atlas Comics attempted to revive its superhero titles when it reintroduced Captain America, along with the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, in Young Men #24 (Dec. 1953). Billed as "Captain America, Commie Smasher!", Captain America appeared during the next year in Young Men #24-28 and Men's Adventures #27-28, as well as in issues #76-78 of an eponymous title. Atlas' attempted superhero revival was a commercial failure, and the character's title was canceled with Captain America #78 (Sept. 1954).
In the Human Torch story titled "Captain America" in Marvel Comics' Strange Tales #114 (Nov. 1963), writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby depicted the brash young Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, in an exhibition performance with Captain America, described as a legendary World War II and 1950s superhero who has returned after many years of apparent retirement. The 18-page story ends with this Captain America revealed as an impostor: the villain the Acrobat, a former circus performer the Torch had defeated in Strange Tales #106. Afterward, Storm digs out an old comic book in which Captain America is shown to be Steve Rogers. A caption in the final panel says this story was a test to see if readers would like Captain America to return.
Captain America was then formally reintroduced in The Avengers #4 (March 1964), which explained that in the final days of WWII, he had fallen from an experimental drone plane into the North Atlantic Ocean and spent decades frozen in a block of ice in a state of suspended animation. He quickly became leader of that superhero team. Following the success of other Marvel characters introduced during the 1960s, Captain America was recast as a hero "haunted by past memories, and trying to adapt to 1960s society".
After then guest-starring in the feature "Iron Man" in Tales of Suspense #58 (Oct. 1964), Captain America gained his own solo feature in that "split book", beginning the following issue. Kirby, Captain America's co-creator during the 1940s period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comic books, was illustrating his hero's solo adventures again for the first time since 1941. Issue #63 (March 1965), which retold Captain America's origin, through #71 (Nov. 1965) was a period feature set during World War II and co-starred Captain America's Golden Age sidekick, Bucky.
In the 1970s, the post-war versions of Captain America were retconned into separate, successive characters who briefly took up the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers went into suspended animation near the end of World War II. The hero found a new generation of readers as leader of the all-star superhero team the Avengers, and in a new solo feature beginning in Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov. 1964), a "split book" shared with the feature "Iron Man". Kirby drew all but two of the stories in Tales of Suspense, which became Captain America with #100 (April 1968); Gil Kane and John Romita Sr. each filled-in once. Several stories were finished by penciller-inker George Tuska over Kirby layouts, with one finished by Romita Sr. and another by penciller Dick Ayers and inker John Tartaglione. Kirby's regular inkers on the series were Frank Giacoia (as "Frank Ray") and Joe Sinnott, though Don Heck and Golden Age Captain America artist Syd Shores inked one story each. The new title Captain America continued to feature artwork by Kirby, as well as a short run by Jim Steranko, and work by many of the industry's top artists and writers. It was called Captain America and the Falcon from #134-222.
This series — considered Captain America vol. 1 by comics researchers and historians, following the 1940s Captain America Comics and its 1950s numbering continuation — ended with #454 (Aug. 1996). It was almost immediately followed by the 13-issue Captain America vol. 2 (Nov. 1996 - Nov. 1997), the 50-issue Captain America vol. 3 (Jan. 1998 - Feb. 2002), the 32-issue Captain America vol. 4 (June 2002 - Dec. 2004) and Captain America vol. 5 (Jan. 2005 - ).
There were attempts for a second series such as Captain America Sentinel of Liberty (Sept. 1998-Aug. 1999) and Captain America and the Falcon (May 2004-June 2005).
As part of the aftermath of Marvel Comics' company crossover "Civil War", Steve Rogers was killed in Captain America vol. 5, #25 (March 2007). Series writer Ed Brubaker remarked, "What I found is that all the really hard-core left-wing fans want Cap to be standing out on and giving speeches on the street corner against the George W. Bush administration, and all the really right-wing fans all want him to be over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam Hussein".
The character's death came as a blow to co-creator Joe Simon, who said, "It's a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now."
In August 2007, Marvel announced that the Captain America of the 1940s will travel to the present day in a 12-issue series drawn by Alex Ross. Marvel also announced that a new Captain America, with a costume designed by Ross, would debut in Captain America #34.
The 2007 miniseries Captain America: The Chosen, written by David Morrell and penciled by Mitchell Breitweiser, depicts a dying Steve Rogers' final minutes, at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, as his spirit guides James Newman, a young American marine fighting in Afghanistan. The Chosen is not part of the main Marvel Universe continuity.
Steve Rogers was born on July 4, 1917 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City, to Irish immigrants Sarah and Joseph Rogers. By the early 1940s, before America's entry into World War II, Rogers is a tall but scrawny fine arts student specializing in illustration. Disturbed by the rise of the Third Reich, Rogers attempts to enlist, only to be rejected due to his poor constitution. A U.S. Army officer looking for test subjects offers Rogers the chance to serve his country by taking part in a top-secret defense project — Operation: Rebirth, which seeks to develop a means of creating physically superior soldiers. Rogers volunteers for the research and, after a rigorous selection process, is chosen as the first human test subject for the Super-Soldier serum developed by the scientist "Dr. Josef Reinstein," later retroactively changed to a code name for the scientist Abraham Erskine.
The night Operation: Rebirth is implemented, Rogers receives injections and oral doses of the Super-Soldier formula. He is then exposed to a controlled burst of "Vita-Rays" that activate and stabilize the chemicals in his system. Although the process is arduous physically, it successfully alters his physiology almost instantly from its relatively frail form to the maximum of human efficiency, greatly enhancing his musculature and reflexes. Erskine declares Rogers to be the first of a new breed of man, a "nearly perfect human being."
At that moment, a Nazi spy reveals himself and shoots Erskine. Because the scientist had committed the crucial portions of the Super-Soldier formula to memory, it cannot be duplicated. Rogers kills the spy in retaliation and vows to oppose the enemies of America.
The United States government, making the most of its one super-soldier, re-imagines him as a superhero who serves as both a counter-intelligence agent and a propaganda symbol to counter Nazi Germany's head of terrorist operations, the Red Skull. To that end, Rogers is given a uniform modeled after the American flag (based on Rogers's own sketches) a bulletproof shield, a personal side arm, and the codename Captain America. He is also given a cover identity as a clumsy infantry private at Camp Lehigh in Virginia. Barely out of his teens himself, Rogers makes friends with the camp's teenage mascot James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes.
Barnes accidentally learns of Rogers's dual identity and offers to keep the secret if he can become Captain America's sidekick. Rogers agrees and trains Barnes. Rogers meets President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presents him with a new shield made from a mixture of steel and vibranium, fused by an unknown catalyst. The alloy is indestructible, yet the shield is light enough to use as a discus-like weapon that can be angled to return to him. It proves so effective that Captain America forgoes the sidearm. Throughout World War II, Captain America and Bucky fight the Nazi menace both on their own and as members of the superhero team the Invaders (as seen in the 1970s comic of the same name).
During the closing days of World War II, Captain America and Bucky try to stop the villainous Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. Zemo launches the plane with an armed explosive on it, with Rogers and Barnes in hot pursuit. They reach the plane just before it takes off, but when Bucky tries to defuse the bomb, it explodes in mid-air. The young man is believed killed, and Rogers is hurled into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Neither body is found, and both are presumed dead. It is later revealed through retcons that neither character actually died.
Captain America continues to appear in comics for the next few years changing from World War II era hero fighting against the Nazis to trying to defeat the United States' newest enemy, Communism. The revival of the character in the mid-1950s is shortlived though and events during that time period are later retconned to show that multiple people operated using the codename in order to explain the changes in the character.
The last of these other Captains was a man who was so devoted to emulating Captain America that he has his appearance surgically altered to resemble Rogers. Furthermore, he also treated himself and a protege to an acquired Nazi copy of the Super Soldier serum to become the new Captain America and Bucky, but were unaware of the necessary Vita-Ray component. As a result, the raw chemicals administered began to seriously affect the pair's minds, rendering them violently paranoid. After it became evident that the two were insane, they were captured and placed in indefinite cryogenic storage.
Captain America is plagued by guilt for having been unable to prevent Bucky's death — a feeling that does not ease for some time. Although he takes the young Rick Jones (who closely resembles Bucky) under his tutelage, he refuses for some time to allow Jones to take up the Bucky identity, not wishing to be responsible for another youth's death. Insisting that his hero finally move on from that loss, Jones eventually convinces Rogers to let him don the Bucky costume, but this partnership lasts only a short time; a disguised Red Skull, impersonating Rogers with the help of the Cosmic Cube, drives Jones away.
Rogers also reunites with his old war comrade Nick Fury, who is similarly well-preserved due to the "Infinity Formula". As a result, Rogers regularly undertakes missions for the security agency S.H.I.E.L.D. for which Fury was executive director. Through Fury, Rogers befriends Sharon Carter, a SHIELD agent, with whom he eventually begins a romantic relationship.
Rogers later meets and trains Sam Wilson, who becomes the superhero the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comic books. The characters established an enduring friendship and adventuring partnership, sharing the series title for some time as Captain America and the Falcon. The two later encounter the revived but still insane 1950s Captain America. Although Rogers and the Falcon defeat the faux Rogers and Jack Monroe, Rogers becomes deeply disturbed that he could have suffered his counterpart's fate.
The series also dealt with the Marvel Universe's version of the Watergate scandal, making Rogers so uncertain about his role that he abandons his Captain America identity in favor of one called Nomad. During this time, several men unsuccessfully assume the Captain America identity. Rogers eventually re-assumes it after coming to consider that the identity could be a symbol of American ideals and not its government. Jack Monroe, cured of his mental instability, later takes up the Nomad alias. During this period, Rogers also temporarily gains super strength. He also learns of the apparent death of Sharon Carter.
Long-time writer Mark Gruenwald explores numerous political and social themes, such as extreme idealism when Captain America fights the anti-nationalist terrorist Flag-Smasher; and vigilantism when he hunts the murderous Scourge of the Underworld. He takes D-Man as his partner. Homophobia was also dealt with as Steve Rogers runs into a childhood friend named Arnold Roth.
Rogers receives a large back-pay reimbursement dating back to his disappearance at the end of World War II, and a government commission orders him to work directly for the U.S. government. Already troubled by the corruption he had encountered with the Nuke incident in New York City, Rogers chooses instead to resign his identity, and then takes the alias of "the Captain". A replacement Captain America, John Walker, struggles to emulate Rogers' ideals until pressure from hidden enemies helps to drive Walker insane. Rogers returns to the Captain America identity while a recovered Walker becomes the U.S. Agent.
Sometime afterward, Rogers avoids the explosion of a methamphetamine lab, but the drug triggers a chemical reaction in the Super-Soldier serum in his system. To combat the reaction, Rogers has the serum removed from his body, and trains constantly to maintain his physical condition.
A retcon later establishes that the serum was not a drug per se, which would have metabolized out of his system, but in fact a virus that effected a biochemical and genetic change. This additionally explained how arch-nemesis Red Skull, who at the time inhabited a body cloned from Rogers' cells, also has the formula in his body.
Because of his altered biochemistry, Rogers' body begins to deteriorate, and for a time he must wear a powered exoskeleton and is eventually placed again in suspended animation. During this time, he is given a transfusion of blood from the Red Skull, which cures his condition and stabilizes the Super-Soldier virus in his system. Captain America returns both to crime fighting and the Avengers.
Following the events of Avengers Disassembled, again under the employ of S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers discovers that Bucky is alive, having been saved and deployed by Soviet espionage interests as the Winter Soldier.
In the 2006-2007 "Civil War" crossover, Captain America opposes mandatory federal registration of all super-powered beings, which he sees as an erosion of civil liberties for the superhero community, and leads the Anti-Registration faction and resistance movement. He becomes a fugitive and opposes the heroes of the Pro-Registration group, including his former friend Iron Man. He adopts the alias "Brett Hendrick", a mall security guard, to avoid government detection. As the War continues, Cap enlists the assistance of several figures whom he would not choose to ally himself with under normal circumstances, such as the Punisher and the Kingpin.
Captain America battles Iron Man during the climactic battle and has victory within his grasp when a group of civilians attempt to restrain him. Rogers realizes that he is endangering the very people he has sworn to protect. He then surrenders to the authorities and orders the anti-Registration forces to stand down. As Rogers is led away in handcuffs, the Punisher retrieves Captain America's discarded mask.
Following his surrender, Steve Rogers is indicted on multiple criminal charges. As he is brought to a federal courthouse, a sniper shoots him in the back. In the chaos that ensues, he is wounded three more times in the stomach and chest. Rogers is taken to a hospital, where he dies. The assassination, orchestrated by the Red Skull, involves Crossbones as the sniper and Dr. Faustus posing as a S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatrist, who gives Sharon Carter a hypnotic suggestion to shoot Rogers at a crucial moment.
The superhero community is shaken by the assassination. The Punisher temporarily adopts a costume similar to that of Captain America, while Winter Soldier and Wolverine seek to avenge Rogers' death. The Winter Soldier steals Captain America's shield, and the Punisher provides him with the mask from Steve Rogers' uniform. Captain America is publicly laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, under a monument built in his honor. The body in Arlington is a fake: Tony Stark, accompanied by Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, returns Rogers' body to the Arctic where Rogers had been found years before. Namor attends the small private ceremony and vows no one will disturb the site.
Stark receives a letter containing Rogers' final requests: Stark should "save" Bucky, and that despite his demise the world still needs Captain America.
Bucky accepts Tony Stark's offer to take on the mantle of Captain America in exchange for a promise of complete autonomy from Tony Stark. Bucky kept Steve Rogers' trademark shield, but donned a new costume and began carrying a pistol and knife.
Captain America has no superhuman powers, although as a result of the Super-Soldier serum and vita-ray treatment, he is transformed from a frail young man into a "perfect" specimen of human development and conditioning. Captain America's strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, and durability are at the highest limits of natural human potential. It has been established that Rogers' body regularly creates the super-soldier serum; it does not wear off.
The formula enhances all of his metabolic functions and prevents the build-up of fatigue poisons in his muscles, giving him endurance far in excess of an ordinary human being. This accounts for many of his extraordinary feats, including bench pressing 1100 pounds (500kg) and running a mile (1.6 km) in little more than a minute. Furthermore, his enhancements are the reason why he was able to survive being frozen in suspended animation for decades. Rogers is also unable to become intoxicated by alcohol and is immune to many diseases, as he also heals faster than normal.
Mentally, Rogers' battle experience and training make him an expert tactician and an excellent field commander, with his teammates frequently deferring to his orders in battle. Rogers' reflexes and senses are also extraordinarily keen. He is a master of multiple martial arts. Years of practice with his indestructible shield make him able to aim and throw it with almost unerring accuracy. His skill with his shield is such that he can attack multiple targets in succession with a single throw or even cause a boomerang-like return from a throw to attack an enemy from behind. In the comics, he is regarded by other skilled fighters as one of the best hand-to-hand combatants in the Marvel Universe.
Rogers has vast U.S. military knowledge and is often shown to be familiar with ongoing, highly-classified Defense Department operations. He is an expert in combat strategy, survival, acrobatics, military strategy, piloting, and demolitions. Despite his high profile as one of the world's most popular and recognizable superheroes, Rogers also has a broad understanding of the espionage community, largely through his ongoing relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. He occasionally makes forays into mundane career fields, including commercial arts, comic book artistry, education (high school history) and law enforcement.
Captain America uses several shields throughout his history, the most recognizable of which is a nigh-indestructible discus-shaped shield made from a fusion of vibranium with an experimental steel alloy. This alloy was created by accident and never duplicated, although efforts to reverse-engineer it results in the creation of adamantium. Cable reveals to Captain America that this shield still exists in one of the possible futures; Cable carries it into battle and brandishes it as a symbol. Captain America often uses his shield as an offensive throwing weapon. The first instance of Captain America's trademark ricocheting shield-toss occurs in future Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee's first comics writing, the two-page text story "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941).
Captain America's uniform is made of a fire-retardant material, and he wears a lightweight, bulletproof "duralumin" scale armor beneath his uniform for added protection. Originally, Rogers' mask was a separate piece of material, but an early engagement had it dislodged, thus almost exposing his identity. To prevent a recurrence of the situation, Rogers modified the mask with connecting material to his uniform, an added benefit of which was extending his armor to cover his previously exposed neck. Since then, events have forced him to reveal his identity to the world. As a member of the Avengers, Rogers has an Avengers priority card, which serves as a communications device.
Captain America has also used a custom special Harley Davidson motorcycle, modified by the S.H.I.E.L.D. weapons laboratory. He has also driven a custom-built battle van, constructed by the Wakanda Design Group with the ability to change its color for disguise purposes.