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.
Time-lost Steve Roger’s on-again-off-again partnership with the high-flying hero of Harlem, the Falcon, reached a critical juncture in 1973, made all the more difficult by the reappearance of the one person from Captain America’s past he couldn’t resist.
An attack by goons working for the “Cowled Commander” kicked off a year that’d prove to be no cakewalk for the Sentinel of Liberty in CAPTAIN AMERICA #157. When a bomb meant for him exploded in the Police Commissioner’s office, our hero’s flight path then put him in the sights of the deadly Viper and at the wrong end of one of the villain’s poisoned darts.
Through sheer strength of will, Cap crawled to snatch up the antidote for himself and the Falcon in CAPTAIN AMERICA #158, saving them both. Without a chance for a breather, he then found himself blackmailed by his landlord for suspicion that Steve Rogers moonlighted as the Cowled Commander. To make matters stranger, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #159, he seemed to have gained super-strength as a side-effect from Viper’s drug, a boon that aided Cap in the defeat of not only the Viper, but also the Scarecrow, the Porcupine, Plantman, and the Eel; and the mysterious Commander turned out to be little more than a disgruntled retired cop.
Falcon gained a healthy inferiority complex because of Cap’s new strength in CAPTAIN AMERICA #160, and a fight with Solarr the sun-powered criminal didn’t improve matters. When Sharon Carter, Steve’s lady-love, left him a “Dear Cap” note, Rogers took it out on her boss, Nick Fury, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #161. Though feeling pretty down, Cap patched things up with the Falcon—at least temporarily—and asked his partner to help him track down Sharon.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. agent’s trail led to the door of twisted psychiatrist Doctor Faustus in CAPTAIN AMERICA #162 and a terrifying trial of mind-games for Cap and Falcon that threatened their very sanity. At the end of Faustus’ gambit, the duo discovered the doctor’s hidden ace-in-the-hole: Peggy Carter, Sharon’s aunt and Captain America’s lost love from World War II.
The Eel and the Viper made a daring jailbreak in CAPTAIN AMERICA #163 to team up with the Cobra to attack Cap once more. Then, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #164, the Falcon found himself transformed into a hungry werewolf by the villainess Deadly Nightshade, which turned out to be test by the evil mastermind known as the Yellow Claw. Nick Fury ordered Cap to butt out of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s quest to capture the Claw in CAPTAIN AMERICA #165, but the Star-Spangled Avenger failed to listen and a death-match set up by the bad guy lead to the seeming murder of Fury.
Fury got better, as seen in CAPTAIN AMERICA #166, but the Claw raised ancient mummies from their eternal sleep to gain a cure for his grand-niece’s unnatural slumber, a situation not to the liking of Cap and the Falcon. Then, the villain attempted an aerial takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying helicarrier in CAPTAIN AMERICA #167, a wrong turn that backfired on him and provided the heroes with another victory.
Captain America’s year came to a weird conclusion when in AVENGERS #117 he confronted his old World War II ally the Sub-Mariner over an artifact sought by the Defenders. Our hero managed to cement a truce between the two teams in DEFENDERS #117, which lead to all out battle against Loki, god of mischief, and the dread Dormammu in AVENGERS #118.
As for Cap’s personal adventures, a meeting with a costumed criminal called the Phoenix brought him still one more tragedy when the lunatic stood revealed as Baron Zemo’s son out for revenge, a scheme that sent him plunging to his apparent death in a bubbling vat of his father’s own Adhesive-X at the conclusion of CAPTAIN AMERICA #168.