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.
Captain America entered the 80’s with a new life, but also jumbled memories of a confusing past. The living legend would dig deep to uncover the truth and try to hold on to everything he’d fought for since his awakening in the modern era.
A tense run-in with the Punisher in CAPTAIN AMERICA #241 created a conundrum for the law-abiding Avenger, but the vigilante managed to escape after aiding our hero against organized crime. Cap found little time to dwell on the matter during an attack by the Manipulator, sent to assassinate him by former cop Brian Muldoon in CAPTAIN AMERICA #242. In the end, the Manipulator turned out to be a robot, a scenario that would be repeated more than once as the year progressed.
Suffering from a debilitating disease, wealthy Eric Cameron stole S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Life Model Decoy Master Matrix in CAPTAIN AMERICA #243 to create a new, beautiful body for himself. Sabotaged by his greedy son, the process transformed Eric into a hideous monster ironically nicknamed “Adonis,” but it all lead to tragedy in CAPTAIN AMERICA #244 when Cap witnessed the man’s lethal electrocution at a construction site.
Steve Rogers’ landlord spotted a former Nazi concentration camp doctor in CAPTAIN AMERICA #245, so Cap looked into and discovered not only the truth of it, but Nazi hunters on the trail. In CAPTAIN AMERICA #246, an anguished father lashed out at the world for his special-needs son’s woes at school, but our hero talked him back from the precipice.
In AVENGERS #196, Captain America went one-on-one with the Taskmaster, a villain who possessed all the skills and abilities of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including our hero’s incredible agility and fighting prowess.
Cap demanded S.H.I.E.L.D.’s help in clearing up his jumbled past in CAPTAIN AMERICA #247 and found that during his original transformation in the early days of World War II, he’d been implanted with false memories of a non-existent family should he be captured and tortured. His old foe Baron Strucker then attacked with the deadly Satan Claw, but when defeated he too stood revealed as a robot.
Behind the scenes, the wily Machinesmith reactivated the hulking Dragon Man android in CAPTAIN AMERICA #248 and sent it to destroy Cap. Reeling from meeting Bernie Rosenthal, Steve Rogers changed into his alter ego and freed Dragon Man from Machinesmith’s influence in CAPTAIN AMERICA #249. Confronting the villain, who jumped from robot body to robot body, the Sentinel of Liberty destroyed a computer bank that housed Machinesmith’s consciousness, effectively freeing him from a horrible existence.
Captain America witnessed the bizarre birth of Ms. Marvel’s son Marcus in AVENGERS #200, but when time went haywire he and his fellow heroes learned that the child represented a force far beyond their mortal comprehension. When the dust from the debacle cleared, the Avengers bid a sad farewell to Carol Danvers as she accompanied the now-adult Marcus on his return to the Limbo that spawned him.
In CAPTAIN AMERICA #250, Steve Rogers considered a run for the Presidency in his masked identity, spurred on by the New Populist Party. Ultimately, Cap announced to the public that he would continue to protect the American Dream, leaving the task of directing the country overall to more experienced candidates.
Batroc the Leaper freed the brutish Mr. Hyde from prison in CAPTAIN AMERICA #251 and together the duo hijacked a Roxxon supertanker to blackmail the city of New York for a billion dollars. Cap woke up after his defeat by the villains chained to the bow of the ship as it plunged toward the city’s harbor and nuclear destruction. Batroc, feeling a change of heart, freed our hero and helped him defeat Hyde in CAPTAIN AMERICA #252.