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Essential Captain America

Essential Captain America

Get the full history of the Sentinel of Liberty in the premiere installment of Essential Captain America!

By Marc Strom

With the release of "Thor" on May 6, 2011 and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011, Marvel.com presents the Essentials, a series of articles showcasing each character's expansive history and mythology  in the Marvel comics. From character retrospectives to a look at memorable storylines and interviews with key creators, the Essentials will act as the perfect guide for fans both old and new! Look for new Cap Essentials every Monday and Thor Essentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!


How better to kick off "Essential Captain America" than to look back at the life of the man who first wielded that shield, Steve Rogers, the original Cap. While he may not currently hold that title, having passed it and the shield off to his former sidekick Bucky, Rogers created the identity of Captain America and the ideals for which it stood when circumstances thrust him into a position of power and responsibility unlike any other.

So look back with us and examine the fires and trials that forged the Sentinel of Liberty into one of the greatest heroes and leaders the Marvel Universe has ever known! Enjoy the premiere installment of "Essential Captain America!"

Super Soldier on the Front Lines

Cap on the front lines
Deemed physically unfit to serve in the United States military at the onset of World War II, frail Steve Rogers wouldn't give up his hope to help battle his country's enemies abroad. Rogers volunteered for the mysterious and experimental Project: Rebirth, where Dr. Abraham Erskine gave him a secret formula that transformed the young man.

Now with extraordinary strength and agility, Rogers took on the identity of Captain America. With his young sidekick Bucky, Cap tore through enemy lines in Europe, battling the evil Red Skull countless times and thwarting the Nazis' progress across the continent.

Captain America and the Invaders

Captain America would also fight alongside Bucky, Namor, the original Human Torch and Toro as part of the Invaders, one of the original super teams of the Marvel Universe. Together, the Invaders combated the super powered threats the regular army couldn't handle, and Cap started to grow into his eventual role as one of the greatest leaders the super human community has ever seen.

Steve Rogers' origin was first told in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1, collected in MARVEL MASTERWORKS GOLDEN AGE CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS VOL. 1, while the story of the Invaders' first mission was told in GIANT-SIZE INVADERS #1, collected in INVADERS CLASSIC VOL. 1.

Man Out of Time

Captain America joins the Avengers
Near the end of the war, Captain America and Bucky seemingly died trying to stop an explosive-filled drone plane sabotaged by Baron Zemo. Years later, the newly-formed Avengers discovered Cap's frozen body floating in the ocean. Reviving the hero from his state of suspended animation, the Avengers reintroduced Captain America to the world and gave him a home as he came to know this new world.

The apparent death of Bucky haunted Steve as he began to serve his country once more while enemies from his past, such as Baron Zemo and the Red Skull, resurfaced to menace him once more. Cap eventually became able to move forward, taking up a new partner in the novice hero Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon.

Cap joined Earth's Mightiest Heroes after they discovered his frozen body in AVENGERS Vol. 1 #4, collected in ESSENTIAL AVENGERS VOL. 1 and MARVEL MASTERWORKS AVENGERS VOL. 1. Steve first met the Falcon in CAPTAIN AMERICA #117, collected in ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 2, and Cap's series was renamed CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON from issue #134-222.

Becoming the Nomad

The birth of Nomad
The sense of alienation Cap felt upon finding himself decades away from the time he called home persisted until he came up against the Secret Empire. Confronting the shadowy organization's leader, Captain America discovered the villainous Number One was one of the highest government officials in America. Disillusioned with his country after realizing the extent to which it had become corrupted, Steve Rogers gave up the mantle of Captain America.

Rogers took on the identity of Nomad for a short time before a threat from the Red Skull forced him to put aside any doubts he had and once again fight as the Sentinel of Liberty. Finally coming to grips with the country America had become while he lay in suspended animation, Captain America recommitted himself to fighting the forces that would seek to destroy his home, no matter where they may come from.

Cap's battle with the Secret Empire ran from CAPTAIN AMERICA #169-176, collected in CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: SECRET EMPIRE, while his saga as Nomad and beyond took place in CAPTAIN AMERICA #177-186, collected in CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: NOMAD. Issues #169-186 are also collected in ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4.

Captain America: The Ideal and the Man

The Captain vs. Captain America
Over time, Steve Rogers came to see the identity of Captain America as something larger than himself. While others had taken on the role of Captain America during Steve Rogers' absence after WWII, he was first faced with another man taking his title when the United States demanded Rogers work for them, following their orders. Remembering his experience with the Secret Empire, Rogers decided to resign as Captain America.

The government gave Cap's shield and costume to John Walker, while Rogers eventually created another new identity, the Captain. Once Walker's actions became increasingly erratic, however, Rogers confronted his replacement and learned that the Red Skull had orchestrated the entire situation.

Steve Rogers unmasks

Once again taking back his rightful title, Rogers continued to fight his battles both on his own and alongside the Avengers. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, however, Rogers was forced to differentiate Steve Rogers the man from Captain America the ideal. This occurred after he killed a man named Faysal Al-Tariq to save the lives of two hundred people. Unmasking in front of a crowd of reporters, Rogers wanted to make it clear that, in his own words, "America didn't kill Faysal Al-Tariq. I did." The world now knew it was Steve Rogers under the mask, and that Rogers was ultimately just a man serving the ideal Captain America stood for.

Steve Rogers gave up the identity of Captain America and acted as the Captain from CAPTAIN AMERICA #332-350. His battle with Faysal Al-Tariq and its aftermath was chronicled in CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4 #1-6, collected in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE NEW DEAL.

War, Death & Rebirth

Cap vs. Iron Man: Civil War
When the United States government passed the Superhuman Registration Act forcing all super heroes to reveal their identities, Captain America led a band of underground heroes who refused to do so. The super human Civil War, with Iron Man leading the pro-Registration forces, ended in Captain America's surrender after a massive battle between the heroes showed him just how destructive they could become if unregulated.

Before Rogers could even stand trial, however, the Red Skull set into motion a plan that began with the apparent assassination of Captain America in broad daylight. While the world thought Rogers dead, Bucky took up the shield to become Captain America. With the help of Sharon Carter, Bucky and his allies realized that instead of dying, Steve Rogers had literally become a man out of time as the Skull had sent him jumping from one moment of his past to another.

The death of Captain America

After eventually finding his way back to the present, Rogers formally bequeathed the mantle of Captain America onto Bucky and, after helping the Avengers unseat a corrupt Norman Osborn as the head of H.A.M.M.E.R., became the top cop in America and leader of Earth's Mightiest Heroes once more.

For more on Cap's role in Civil War, read CIVIL WAR #1-7 in CIVIL WAR and CAPTAIN AMERICA Vol. 5 #22-24 in CIVIL WAR: AVENGERS. Steve Rogers' death and its aftermath was told in CAPTAIN AMERICA Vol. 5 #25-42, collected in THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 1-3, with the story of his rebirth chronicled in CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN.

Steve Rogers continues to serve America every month in SECRET AVENGERS and STEVE ROGERS: SUPER SOLDIER, while Bucky maintains Cap's mantle in CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Ultimate Captain America

In 2000, Marvel launched its Ultimate line of comics, contemporary re-interpretations of their most classic characters. Over the last ten years, the Ultimate Universe has grown to include new visions of many of Marvel's greatest heroes and villains.

Ultimate Cap: Ready for war
Unlike his counterpart in the traditional Marvel Universe, Ultimate Captain America is, first and foremost, a soldier. After serving in Europe during WWII, Captain America fell to the depths of the North Atlantic after disabling a prototype Hydrogen Bomb launched by the Nazis.

Once S.H.I.E.L.D. discovered his frozen body and revived him, Steve Rogers would go on to lead the Ultimates against a rampaging Hulk, alien invasion and the evil mythological forces brought together by Loki.

After surviving the events of Ultimatum, Cap learned he had a son born in 1945. Raised in a secret U.S. government facility, Steve's son eventually escaped to become the Ultimate Universe's version of the Red Skull. Upon learning all this, Rogers went A.W.O.L., going renegade for the first time in his career to hunt down his son.

Ultimate Captain America currently still leads the Ultimates, leading the world into a brighter future after the dark days behind it.

S.H.I.E.L.D. uncovered Steve Rogers body and reintroduced him to the world in ULTIMATES #2-3, collected in ULTIMATES: ULTIMATE COLLECTION, while Cap went after his villainous son in ULTIMATE AVENGERS #1-6, collected in ULTIMATE AVENGERS: THE NEXT GENERATION.


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      Marvel should put this whole Essential Cap series into a book when they're done like they've done with other heroes or the Marvel Encyclopedia. It could simply be titled "The Essential Guide to Captain America\


      ahem, and...uh, ESSENTIAL NICK FURY AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D when ?