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.
Back from the future, Captain America dealt with an unruly partner, a marriage proposal, and a showdown with his greatest enemy, all in the landmark year of 1984.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #289 detailed Cap’s return from a nuclear-devastated tomorrow and his urgent plight to not only inform his fellow Avengers, but also stem the tide of Nth Commandos from attacking such places as Avengers Mansion and the X-Men’s headquarters. Quelling that rebellion, our hero rushed back to his lady love, Bernie Rosenthal.
Mother Superior, the equally-evil daughter of the Red Skull, recruited the new Baron Zemo in CAPTAIN AMERICA #290, while Cap, Nomad, and the Falcon wondered over a strange attack by a giant crow. A new Tumbler, the brother of the original, accepted Cap’s aid in CAPTAIN AMERICA #291 to investigate a crooked scheme involving life insurance policies for super villains. The giant crows returned in CAPTAIN AMERICA #292, an extension of the mystic abilities of Black Crow, who tried to kill Cap, but ended up regretting his error. Bernie surprised Steve Rogers with a marriage proposal at Christmas time, but as Captain America, the living legend found much, much more to concern him in Central Park.
AVENGERS #242 revealed that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes—including Cap—had been whisked away to a strange planet called Battleworld. The cosmic entity known as the Beyonder forced Captain America and his friends to fight super villains on that world, as seen in SECRET WARS #1. After long, arduous months on Battleworld, the heroes returned to Earth, some of them changed.
In CAPTAIN AMERICA #293, the Red Skull began to train Zemo through skirmishes with Mother Superior. Cap and Nomad faced off against the Slayer, in reality Steve’s brainwashed friend Dave Cox. Nomad took up the fight alone when Cap fell in that battle, but Dave finally rejected Mother Superior’s brainwashing in CAPTAIN AMERICA #294, though he suffered horrific nerve damage by doing so. With all the turmoil fresh in his mind, Steve turned down Bernie’s proposal, only to be convinced to say “yes” through her romantic attentions and sensible talk.
Cap rejoined the Avengers briefly to square off against the alien Dire Wraiths in AVENGERS #244 and his old friend Arnie Roth fell prey to Mother Superior and Baron Zemo in CAPTAIN AMERICA #295. Steve and Nomad tracked them down, only to find themselves in the sights of the sinister Sisters of Sin. While a “guest” of the Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA #296, Cap aged by decades, the result of Nomad’s drugging of him. His muscles aching and his abilities deadened, our hero still battled Mother Superior, who defeated him with another bout of poisoning.
Forced by the Skull and his cronies to re-enact the death of his World War II partner Bucky in CAPTAIN AMERICA #297, Cap surprised everyone by actually changing history and saving the boy’s life. Then, the Red Skull himself confronted his longtime foe, and in CAPTAIN AMERICA #298 revealed even more unknown details of his origins and his true identity as Johann Schmidt.
Battling to the death in CAPTAIN AMERICA #299, both the Sentinel of Liberty and his enemy fought under the same conditions: aged and poisoned to die within hours. The Avengers attempted a rescue, but the Red Skull seemed to destroy his Skull-House and everyone in it with a fiery detonation. Cap bested his foe in CAPTAIN AMERICA #300, but refused to deliver a killing-blow. Schmidt finally expired and the Black Crow used his mystic powers to revive Steve Rogers.
Still old and infirm, Cap lifted up the lifeless body of the Red Skull and swore to bury the past and look to the future.