By Jim Beard
Over seven decades ago, history occurred with the debut of Captain America in 1941. 70 years later, Steve Rogers and his star-spangled alter ego have grown to iconic status, remaining a mainstay of the Marvel Universe while also expanding into the realms of television, film and more.
On April 4, 2014, the Sentinel of Liberty returns to the big screen in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" from Marvel Studios. As the countdown to Chris Evans picking up the shield once more heats up, we present the definitive comics history of Cap, from his debut to the modern day.
With a new super hero identity, Steve Rogers put his past behind him in 1988, allowing John Walker to forge his own path as Captain America. Of course, things didn’t exactly go the way either planned.
In CAPTAIN AMERICA #337, Rogers adopted a new costumed identity after resigning the role of Captain America under governmental pressure. Calling himself simply “The Captain,” he joined with friends Nomad, the Falcon, and D-Man to take on the new Serpent Squad. Meanwhile, John Walker and his partner went toe-to-toe with Professor Power in CAPTAIN AMERICA #338, leaving Rogers to deal with the Sidewinder’s scheme to bust his snaky pals out of jail.
The Captain took part in the Fall of the Mutants in CAPTAIN AMERICA #339, fighting Famine, then helped his old comrades the Avengers in their sprawling battle with the Adaptoid in AVENGERS #290. Maintaining his leave of absence status from the team, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #340, Rogers then dealt with the seemingly misguided efforts of Iron Man to bust several criminals—Mister Hyde, Titania, Vibro, the Griffin, and Armadillo—out of the high-security Vault prison.
Hoping to address the Armored Avenger’s “crimes,” the Captain confronted Iron Man in CAPTAIN AMERICA #341, resulting in a physical throwdown. Viper organized an immense Serpent Society of all the snake-themed villains slithering about, while John Walker stood stunned when two old partners of his, Right Winger and Left Winger, publicly revealed his secret identity. The Black Panther, monarch of far-off Wakanda, arrived in the United States to gift Steve Rogers with a new vibranium shield in CAPTAIN AMERICA #342, to replace his original, now carried by Walker.
Viper upped her ante by attempting to poison the Washington D.C. water system in CAPTAIN AMERICA #343, and the government tasked Walker with tracking down a new radical mutant liberation front called the Resistants. D.C. citizens began to transform into human snakes in CAPTAIN AMERICA #344, due to Viper’s poisoned water, and the Captain raced to face the biggest pseudo-snake of them all, the President of the United States.
With his secret identity public knowledge, John Walker’s parents fell prey to kidnappers in CAPTAIN AMERICA #345. When he faced off against the criminals, the group known as the Watchdogs, the new Cap lost control and killed them. Angered at his violent tactics, Walker’s governmental leash-holders threatened to retire him as the Sentinel of Liberty in CAPTAIN AMERICA #346, but then ordered him to bring in the Resistants with the aid of the so-called Freedom Force, a sanctioned team of mutant former criminals. Walker took on the task with his usual brutal touch.
In CAPTAIN AMERICA #347, Cap gained his revenge against Right Winger and Left Winger for the murder of his parents, while a new Scourge assassinated the man who posed as the Red Skull in the 1950’s. The idealistic Flag Smasher returned in CAPTAIN AMERICA #348 to discover an unfamiliar Cap, not the one he’d fought in the past.
In AVENGERS #298, Steve Rogers answered a call for aid from the Avengers’ butler, Jarvis, discovering the team disbanded and a great need for a new incarnation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.