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 count down 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.
In 1941’s CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1, the world witnessed the debut of a hero designed for the times.
Plunging headlong into World War II, the United States military set scrawny Steve Rogers on the path to becoming one of the greatest patriotic heroes of all, Captain America. After an incredible serum transformed him into a new, muscular form, Steve met Bucky Barnes and together the duo came face-to-face with the terrible figure that would soon stand as their worst enemy: the Red Skull.
That first year would bring a flood of adventures for Captain America, such as his battle with the Ringmaster in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #5, his rematch with the Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #7 and the mystery of the Black Talon in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #9. Cap also heard duty call in ALL-WINNERS COMICS #1 when he became one of the first zombie-fighters, and Bucky struck up his own team of youthful patriots in YOUNG ALLIES #1.
The following year, as the war grew to a fever pitch, Cap tracked down and confronted incredible opponents like the Medusa in USA COMICS #6 and Dr. Crime and his pygmies in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #12. The most earth-shattering moment of 1942 arrived with the return of the Red Skull and his gambit to steal his patriotic opponent’s identity and ruin his good name.
The mad romp of the Eraser in USA COMICS #7 characterized Captain America’s 1943 challenges, as well as the wily vampire he met in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #24 and the hero’s journey to China to stem the tide of Japanese incursion there in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #33. He also found a new home in ALL-SELECT COMICS #1. Then, in 1944, Cap caught the “Curse of Frankenstein” in USA COMICS #13, but triumphed over its evil.
By 1945, the Sentinel of Liberty’s campaign to stop the Axis Powers wherever he could brought him into conflict with the League of Hate, a group of Nazi troublemakers sent to the States by Hitler himself, in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #49. Beaten at every quarter, Der Fuhrer took one last punch to the jaw from the captain in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #51, in an adventure that revealed the existence of the atomic bomb to our hero and Bucky.
With the war finally brought to a close, Cap and his young ally helped bring relief supplies to the downtrodden nations, beginning in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #56, a tale that told of their flight to the famous Casbah in Algiers. Steve Rogers accepted his honorable discharge from the army and took up a post as a teacher. To ensure his post-war days would be filled with adventure, Cap formed a team of heroes in ALL-WINNERS COMICS #19 to combat evil: the All Winners Squad. In their first outing as a group, Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch, Miss America, and the Whizzer halted the villainous Isbisa’s scheme to steal an atomic bomb.
The Red Skull returned once again in 1947’s CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #61, the same year that our hero met the strange, bird-like villain called the Parrot, in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #63.
Then, in 1948’s CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #66, the unthinkable occurred: Bucky took a bullet during an adventure and found himself not only on the sidelines but replaced as Cap’s sidekick. Longtime ally Betsy Ross became Golden Girl and filled in for Bucky at Captain America’s side while the youthful hero convalesced. One of the new duo’s weirdest missions took them through the looking glass into Dimension Z, as revealed in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #67.
The decade wrapped up with such incredible stories as 1949’s Martian invasion in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #70, the last bow of Golden Girl in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #73, and a final 1940s strike by the Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #74.
After that, our hero and his costumed chums took a break and slumbered away in cold storage until the next Age of Heroes came along.